I Tracked All the Items I brought In and Out of My Life for 2 Years and This is What I Learnt

person writing on a notebook beside macbook

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may have noticed the monthly Inbound Vs Outbound series I have going on. This is where I track the items that I have brought in and decluttered from my life and I sometimes add a short reflection on the month.

August was the two year mark of me tracking, so I thought it would be a good time to really look through my previous posts and make one of those cool Sankey graphs I always see on reddit.

brown tote bag on white table
Photo by Vie Studio on Pexels.com

Small Disclaimer:

I am not, and never claimed to be a minimalist. I read a lot of minimalist/decluttering books, which is the main reason I started this blog. We don’t need to examine why I’ve decided this is the style of books I almost exclusively read, even though I don’t really live the teaching.

So the charts below should not be taken as an example of what a minimalist is doing. Take it only as a snapshot of the life of random twenty-something year old.

Methodology:

This whole process was done without any amount of scientific rigor. For tracking, I used the OneNote app on my phone, and would keep a page for each month, that I would update as I got or removed something.

I will fully admit there’s some stuff that I forgot. So take the content of the graphs with a small grain of salt.

If you read my other posts you might know this already, but there are some events worth nothing during the past two years. I had moved into a two bedroom apartment with a roommate two months before I started tracking, and I moved once over the reporting period in with my fiancé (cute).

My parents also sold their house and moved about 4 hours away from me (instead of 30mins). They asked me to take back most of my crap, since they didn’t want to move it (fair enough).

I didn’t count how many things I had before I started this process, which would have been neat to have just to get a % of how much my stuff grew over two years.

carts of stuff
Part of moving day 2021

Defining Terms:

Inbound:

This is items that are entering my life.

Things I excluded were: groceries, my roommates or partners stuff and most toiletries and cleaning supplies. I did include beauty products and toiletries that I would consider more of a upgrade/nice to haves.

Cat sticking head in backpack

So I didn’t count toilet paper, toothpastes, dish soap etc… in this list but I did include eye creams, artisanal body soaps and make-up. The area I labeled as ‘consumables’ is probably the area where there’s the highest level of miscounting. I would capture all the soaps and candles I would buy, but I rarely counted when I used them up.

Once I moved in with my partner, I did count a fair amount of communal items, mostly furniture and linens as items in this list. The main reason, is that I have more of the design eye in our relationship, so I was the driving force behind buying these items and felt that I should count them. I also counted the communal items that are for our cat. I guess mostly because the cat isn’t able to order stuff online by himself.

I broke down the inbound categories as the following:

Consumables: as explained before, consumables are physical items that can be used up. Mostly soaps and nail polishes cause that’s the kind of crap I like to buy.

Kitchen: this includes kitchenware, tableware and small kitchen appliances.

Plants:

Plants and generally anything required to keep them alive.

Clothing: this includes clothing, undergarments, outerwear, work PPE, jewelry and accessories

Furniture/Home Décor: furniture, linens, and home décor pieces (not included plants and pot covers which are counted in the plants section.

Books: I thought I had enough that it was worth separating it out, even if it’s the smallest section.

Candles: I have a junk load of candles.

Cat Stuff: Items needed to keep my cat alive and not bugging me constantly for food.

Other: Random bobs and ends that couldn’t be easily classified into other categories.

Outbound

Things that are leaving my home and life.

Buy Nothing: My neighborhood has a really active ‘buy nothing‘ Facebook group. The idea is that items can find second (or more) lives within the community and it reduce congestion to donation centers since the people that want a particular item are getting it directly. It’s a fantastic group and I’ve both given and received a lot of items this way.

I’ve also include returning or donating books to the Little Free Libraries under this section. Mostly due to them being grass roots programs that keep items in the community.

Gifted: I’m a super generous soul! 😛 But over time friends have shown interest in something I’ve looking to declutter, so they get first dibs.

Sold: Item sold either through Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Depop or others.

Recycled: One can argue that most recycling programs are basically ineffective and this should just count as garbage. But where possible, I tried to bring my items to specific recycling centers/organizations to get the best chance at being diverted from landfills.

Garbage: I threw it in the TRASH.

Dead plants: It happened enough that it got it’s own section.

Donated: Similar to recycled where possible I donated to specific organizations before donating to Value Village (which I avoid donating to since a lot of the material goes to landfill and it’s a for-profit corporation, it’s just the closest one to my house).

Used Up: consumables like soap or candles that I’ve finished

Okay now that I’ve put as much text you will scroll over as a recipe for a vegan lasagna, here’s the actual graph:

This graph probably doesn’t surprise anyone that’s ever lived with me. I brought more things in than taken out. More proof that I’m not a very much not a minimalist.

I think if I actually counted more accurately, the numbers would be more or less the same. I donated a lot of clothing and items that were still at my parent’s house when they were moving. I just counted each bag. Although, I might just be deflecting since I want to think that I got rid of a good amount of stuff over the two years.

How many items that came in stuck around?

Over 330 items over two years I brought into my home, what stayed in my life?

Reflections on both graphs in no particular order

  • The main take away from the past two years is that I’m very bad at keeping plants alive
RIP
  • I think the fact that most of the stuff I brought in is still around is a good sign?
  • Since my parents wanting me to take back my crap, I’ve really had to confront the type of person I want to be with regards to my objects. I can’t passively keep random stuff from my childhood or university since I literally don’t have the room to store it. I still have a couple small boxes in a closet of keepsakes that don’t fully make sense to display but I can’t bring myself to get rid of. But there was a couple of months in summer 2021 where I was mostly working on decluttering that stuff.
  • My closet has changed a lot. COVID was a non-trivial factor in that regard. I bought a lot more athleisure items, as I got more comfy with working from home. Additionally, my current company is bit more relaxed compared to the very corporate office culture I used to work in. I’m not saying I got rid of all my office wear as I still have a fair amount. But I parted ways with a lot of items that were older that I was no longer touching or no longer fit. I’m also not in my early twenties and some of the clothes naturally got rotated out.
woman using laptop on the floor
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

What was my best Inbound?

This one is a bit hard. There are items that I use every day, like my furniture, or kitchen stuff. I appreciate these items but it would feel weird calling them my best items, even if they’ve improved my life.

There are some clothes that I’ve gotten a lot of wear out of that I really like.

I have my engagement ring, which is gorgeous and a very meaningful symbol of the love my fiancé and I have for each other. You know, that cheesy stuff. So that would be the best item that came into my life.

What is my worst Inbound?

This is a lot easier. The top three worst items I brought into my life in the past two years:

3. The Rosemary Christmas Tree. It was an impulse purchase, at Farm Boy (basically Canadian Whole Foods). I loved the idea of having a small Christmas tree and that it’s something useful. The thing died within, like, a week of purchase. Later I saw a similar plant at Costco, with a cover pot for ~$3 less. It was just an unfortunate purchase. I’ve killed a lot plants but this one was extra disappointing, since it also killed the holiday spirit of the house.

This caption turned out to be a lie.

2. The Duvet Comforter From Maison Tess. I will spare you the details of my multi month search for a nice duvet comforter. Finally, I bit the bullet, and got one from Maison Tess. I like that it was a Canadian company and the reviews I saw were generally fine., much better than Amazon, Etsy or big box stores. So I placed order while it was on sale (and thus non-refundable 😭).

I liked the colour and it was very soft. But also the thing sheds like a husky in the spring. There were flecks of blue fluff on all the sheets, on me, my pajamas, the cat, everywhere. I made the mistake of doing the first wash with a towel and a couple other linens, and had to rewash everything since it got covered in blue. Not great, and none of the reviews mentioned this! I still have the cover and it’s been relegated to a guest linen, since it looks nice but is too high maintenance for regular use.

1. Skinny Jeans from Frank and Oak. I seriously need to stop buying clothes online and final sale. I measured myself like four times and placed the order for a new pair of black jeans. They arrived and they were nowhere close to the right size. It’s actually upsetting. I tried reselling them to no avail. I offered them to a few close friends and this is the reverse Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, since they fit no one. They eventually found a home with my friend’s sister. I’m happy I was able to find someone that can get use out of them. But they were a frustrating presence before that point, so big regrets. They made me feel bad about my body, and that’s lame as hell.

So what did I learn?

1. Stop buying things final sale.

I like a good deal as much as the next person. But the risk of buying something and not having the option to return it is not great. I’m a strong advocate for buying secondhand, and reviewing this list made me notice that I don’t practice what I preach as much as I would like too. For a while that was due to COVID restrictions since second hand shops were not letting people try stuff on. But after a certain point, I can look at this and see I’m just a hypocrite that is lazy and just impulse buys stuff online. Which is not a very minimalist or eco conscious thing to do.

2. Growing plants is hard.

It took a while and a lot of sacrifice but I can finally say with some confidence that I’m a plant person. I think if I had any suggestions in this area, it’s to built your collection slowly. Also to look at FB Marketplace or Kijiji for plants. The plant community is really active and you can typically get big common plants for a better price than big box stores or nurseries (milage may vary, don’t @ me).

3. Decluttering takes time, especially if there’s no deadline.

My most productive decluttering months were right when I gave notice to my landlords that I was moving. I don’t think I’m original in saying, I hate the idea of moving crap I don’t need. So the deadline is a great motivator. There were long stretches of time where I just had random junk in my trunk since I was waiting for the moment to drop off the stuff. Don’t be like me, please take the time to finish the declutter. I had the chance to do the drop offs, but I wouldn’t organize my life well enough to stop at the charity or recycling center on the way to groceries or something.

4. I own too many candles.

I’m not mad, but it’s the truth. I’m slowly making my way through them and gifting them to friends. At the moment I’m on a full candle buying ban, and plant to stay that way until I’ve finished all of them up. so that may be a while.

5. Teamwork makes the dreamwork.

I’m sure you don’t need a random blog post to tell you that friends are cool. They’ve been a great at talking me out of buying random crap. A few items have also been gifted their way. But just calling me on my shit when needed. Thanks guys!

I’ve also benefited immensely from living in a big city with really active communities for reduce waste. The biggest have been the Buy Nothing groups, which has been a great way to bring in and take out items from my life. There’s also more charities in my city where I’ve been able to be really specific with where the items I have are donated.

Sure this takes a bit more time to organize, but I’ve found that taking the time to actually care where my crap is going has made me more conscious of what I bring in. I don’t want to waste the time getting rid of junk in the future.

I know that might not work for every one, I’ve probably sunk a few hours over the past two years between meet ups, researching charities, figuring out drop offs and posting items online to resell that I know not everyone can afford to do that. But I would recommend looking into what your community has in regards to Buy Nothing groups, swaps, community run libraries and charities, just so it’s in the back of your mind if you are decluttering.

6. Nostalgia sells really well on eBay

I didn’t make a huge amount of money selling stuff. That wasn’t the main point for me, it was about getting shit out of my apartment. The exception being selling some of the toys and tech from my childhood on eBay. Even without being tested or graded, and sometimes with parts missing, I was able to sell stuff within minutes or days of posting it. Pokémon cards withstanding, that market is very competitive, and I just didn’t have good quality cards that were worth posting.

This might change with a looming recession, and people discretionary spending on nostalgia gets tighten. But if you have stuff from the 80s – 2000’s, I would definitely recommended trying to sell it online before other methods of decluttering.

Conclusion

If you actually read this all the way to the end, thank you! I believe this is my longest post to date, so I appreciate you taking the time.

I’m going to continue the Inbound vs Outbound series, I’ve gotten a hang of tracking stuff and I find it interesting to look back on it. I’m hoping one day to hit some sort of minimalism/decluttering Nirvana where there’s a month were there’s no items being brought into or out of my life expect for food. I don’t expect that moment will come any time soon, so in the meantime expect more updates on that front.

If you have any thoughts or have tried tracking your household items I would love to hear about it int the comments.

One thought on “I Tracked All the Items I brought In and Out of My Life for 2 Years and This is What I Learnt

  1. Love the article and the graphics! It was a great summary and reflection of the past two years. Some parts of this article genuinely made me laugh out loud “now that I’ve put enough text as you would scroll over for a vegan lasagna”. You definitely need to stop buying plants and candles for the next little while (but I think plant clippings are fair game?).

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