Roman Malanke

Inventorying Personal Possessions

Back in November 2010 I made my first concrete step towards minimalism in practice by making a categorized list of all the things I own. Since then I’ve been carefully updating the inventory, observing changes and contemplating the effect, which just having such list has on quality of day-to-day life and especially on buying decisions. Four months later I’m ready to share some results.

Now, before going any further, I’ll lay down the rules that I follow with the list of possessions. First, I include only durable goods (meaning no consumables like shaving cream or wine bottles). Second, I count only items that are my personal (since I’m living alone at the moment, it’s pretty much everything anyway, including dishes, towels, an so on). Third, I group some items as one (for example several identical pieces of underwear count as one item). Fourth, the list is exhaustive (meaning that even the pin from Radiohead’s concert in Prague, ivory elephant from India and fridge magnet from NYC are all counted).

So what are the current numbers? Okay, the total number is 183 and here’s the breakdown by categories:

  • Shoes: 13 items
  • Clothing: 33 items
  • Underwear: 9 items
  • Accessories: 14 items
  • Sport gear: 25 items
  • Tableware: 7 items
  • Linen: 10 items
  • Tools: 9 items
  • Souvenirs: 17 items
  • Gadgets: 16 items
  • Books: 31 items

Now that I have the numbers what do I do with them? What am I trying to achieve? Well, this is simple. My immediate goal is to reduce quantity while improving quality of things. For the nearest future I’m shooting for 100 items. I have already identified a big number of things to donate (like books that I’ve read and have no plans to read again or clothes that I almost never wear). So I’m sure the reduction of old unnecessary stuff will happen successfully.

Another thing I need to take care of is preventing new unnecessary stuff from coming in. There are two parts to this. First, I shouldn’t buy what I don’t need, and second, I shouldn’t get as presents what I don’t need. On the first one I can assure you that after composing the list I developed an incredibly strong immunity to any kind of impulse shopping. The second one is trickier. Isn’t declaring that you don’t wish to take any presents offensive to one’s friends and relatives? Well, I’m sure my friends will understand, and I’m sure they hate spending time trying to think of an affordable and useful present same way as I do.

This said, I should tell that it’s still possible to make my minimalistic soul rejoice with a material thing. It’s just that that thing should be exactly the one I really miss. For example on last Valentine’s day I got as present from my girlfriend a pair gorgeous Nike running shoes, which made me extremely happy, because these shoes were exactly the ones I wanted. Same way even now I wouldn’t refuse iPhone 4, Audi A3 and several other things. And of course I always happily accept quality consumable goods, like fresh fruits in moderate amounts, nice wine, cashew nuts and so on. But the best present still is just a good company of friends. So do come over and don’t worry about presents!

Well, there’s certainly more to say on the subject on minimalism and I’ve already had some interesting discussions with my friends on this topic. In future I hope to write more about both philosophical principles and practical advantages of minimalist. Stay tuned.