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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 August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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