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Do A Home Inventory: 4 Financial Reasons

Do A Home Inventory: 4 Financial Reasons

    Stuff. We all have it: books, clothes, other items that just build up in our homes. Some of us have more stuff in the garage, in storage, in our parents’ basement. Stuff isn’t necessarily a bad thing — although too much stuff can be a major problem. But for many of us, the issue is that we don’t really know what stuff we have. Doing an inventory of our stuff, and keeping it up to date, can help us financially, as well as organizationally.

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    Why Bother?

    1. Knowing what stuff we have can be a life saver in an emergency. If there’s a flood or fire, the insurance company is going to want to know what you had before they’ll agree to give you a check to replace it. And if you don’t have insurance, taking an inventory can help you get an idea of whether you really need it.
    2. If you’ve got an idea of what you already have, you’re less likely to buy a second something you already have. I was routinely guilty of buying books I already had copies of until I went through and actually recorded all the books I have. It was a lot of work, but I’m saving money.
    3. Going through all your stuff can help you decide if you want to get rid of anything. While you may not be able to sell every piece of stuff you want to get rid of, you may be able to make money on some of it or trade it for something you really want. Those spare books I had? I traded most of them for other books on my wishlist.
    4. You may be able to slim down your stuff or reorganize it in such a way that you don’t need storage outside your home anymore. You can save money (or goodwill) on storage — and get more use out of the stuff you have without having to go root through storage to find something you want.

    How to Inventory Easily

    Doing an inventory can seem too huge to manage at first glance. Even if your home is relatively clutter-free, there’s a surprising amount of stuff in it. But an inventory doesn’t have to be done all at once — and it doesn’t actually have to include every single thing in your home. To get started, you need a plan of attack. Perhaps you’ll work on one room a day — or even one square foot. Perhaps you’ll start with a certain category of belongings, like electronics. You’ll also want to start with an idea of what you don’t want to inventory. You can use a lower dollar limit, or ignore those items that you wouldn’t want to replace if you lost them.

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    You’ll also need a system to use to inventory your stuff. While you can take the spreadsheet approach — meticulously recording every item and a description in a spreadsheet — that may not be a practical option in light of other limits on your time. There are plenty of options for creating an inventory of your possessions, however. Some are specifically designed for a certain type of stuff (such as books or DVD) while others are more general.

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    • Real Simple’s home inventory worksheets: If you want to take a ‘get in, get out’ approach to your inventory, these simple worksheets can be a great option. You simply write down what you see when standing in a particular room — and for some rooms, Real Simple has already listed some standard items so that you only need to add serial numbers and brands where appropriate.
    • The camera method: Got a digital camera? You can create a quick and dirty inventory by going through your home and photographing everything. You’ll want to back these photos up somewhere outside your home, in case of an emergency. It’s also a good idea to tag or label the photos in order to simplifying sorting through them.
    • Collector software: There are hundreds of applications for ‘collectors,’ software that you can input all the books, DVDs or other items of a certain type into. From there, you can print off lists or manage them online, as well as easily add new purchases. If one category of ‘stuff’ dominates your home, this might be the easiest approach to an inventory.

    It doesn’t really matter how you inventory your stuff, as long as you can easily save a copy of your inventory outside your home. Even printing off a copy and giving it to someone you trust can make your life easier in the event of a disaster, although using an electronic back up method has its benefits: it’s easier to update whenever you add something new to your home. If you do take your inventory as an opportunity to declutter your home, it’s also important to remove anything you get rid of from your inventory. It can also be a great opportunity to organize those items that you don’t necessarily have out all the time. As I was creating my own invenotry, for instance, I actually managed to get all the tools in my home into the same closet. It may seem like a small victory, but it saves me time when I’m hunting for something and when I’m putting things away. It also means that I can see what tools I have at a glance, reducing the chance that I’ll wind up with a monkey wrench I don’t need.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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