Overthinking Everything I Own
Matt Manhattan started tracking absolutely every physical possession he has in his life. In this video, he talks about his obsession with keeping a visual and textual diary of everything he owns. He pulled everything out from all of his drawers and cabinets and started an inventory list and made it public. Through this process, Matt shares how his life focus has shifted by taking deep inventory on material items.
Basically, four years ago I started tracking absolutely every physical possession I have in my life. And I put it into this novel, Quantified Self program called a spreadsheet. And basically I pulled everything out from all my drawers and cabinets ads you saw in that photo and started tracking all of this information. The brand, the official name of the item, the store got it from the address or the web address, the date, the price. How I obtained it which is in-store, online, gift, DIY. And additionally I also tracked the location in my home, the category like you can find on Amazon, the item type, which I’ll touch upon in a second and the generic item so I have a full check list of absolutely everything that I own.
So what do I track? I track all the apps that are on my phone. I also track all the objects such as my computer, which with the date and the price information I can generate the days owned and costs per day.
I track all consumables like aluminum foil. I put the unit type and the unit price so I can generate the cost per unit. For my wardrobes items I track the color and the size, and additionally I also track the gift givers, serial number notes and anything else that I might pertain to all the stuff in my list.
So the first thing I did after tracking all this data out was where the hell do I buy from. And 54% of my stuff comes from five stores, with 30% of all my items coming from Amazon. I have 13,069 items tracked so far and you know that number changes all the time.
First thing I did was figure out how to save money, and I got an Amazon credit card, which allows me to save 5% on everything at Amazon so that was a huge hack going forwards. Additionally, I also use an app called Raze, which allows me to get gift cards at stores on my phone, so I can be shopping in store and actually save money just by buying a gift card in that store. I also have some special EBay codes and things like that.
But after I did that I optimized my expenses. I then started looking at the stuff I already own and said, what is your purpose? Why do I own you? When did I last use you? And most importantly what the hell are you worth? Anything that did not make sense to own I sold and I got rid of it and put it on EBay, and I’ve been on EBay for well over a decade. But since 2014, I’ve actually tracked 100 specific items, from their purchase all the way through to their sale, and based on the average its 345 days owned, so the average return after I paid all the expenses is 55%.
Basically what that tells me is I can pretty much buy something and assumed this over the year and get about 55% back, which really taught me that I don’t really buy anything. I’m actually renting absolutely everything. And so when I saw that I was like, wow, my relationship with the stuff I own has dramatically changed because I knew that the time that I spent with it will be very limited and be very purpose driven.
And so the more I added to the inventory, the more I got out of it. And my goal was really to create 100% complete inventory so that I can see the holes and the pieces and it’s not 100% complete, but it’s pretty much there as far as being reasonably possible.
So the next thing I learned was that by tracking my expenses I became a more informed consumer. And so in the case of my hair balm is I knew I was going to get 2.66% for the five years that I was tracking them. Which doesn’t mean much until you look at the US annual inflation for those same five years and realized that my hair balm aid was going up three times faster than the inflation rate. So while you guys may look at the Wall Street Journal, I’ll be looking at my hair products and lean toward the US economy.
So additionally since I love buying stuff and have the latest stuff, I will buy something and use it sell that I don’t use. So in the case of the iPod Touch, I bought it. Two months later I sold it and paid a rental fee of $95.95. Two months later I actually needed it again. So I bought it on EBay, used and paid even less for when I sold it. So for me I’m actually saving money by re-owning the things that I previously purchased.
So in addition to having all this data, it’s really allowed me to utilize the data in very helpful ways. So every year, I will buy the appropriate item rental insurance because then tally up all of the things I own and come up with that figure. I make tons of business decisions like this because I have the data and can very quickly reference it.
And so really what the data taught me was that everything isn’t just money, the price you pay. The value is also something, the time and the energy and the quality, and the experience you get from that item.
And so realizing that I optimized my expenses and optimized all of the things in my home and believe me I have. I started looking at the future and saying, how can I not just improve myself but also like get paid to live this optimized existence.
And so I started looking at online stores such as ProjectSeptember, who are trying to sell you the lifestyle and thought well, I have all the data on myself, why don’t I just sell my own lifestyle.
And so thanks to the QS presentation for kind of kicking my butt to put everything on cohesive fashion. But, basically I have my own website Futur3getilmen, and I am in the process of putting every single item that I own, online and mapping all the connections. And so one of the things of putting my entire wardrobe, and this is literally available in real-time all of the time, it really made me focus on caring about what I have. And with my wardrobe especially, I take immense pride in just you know looking good whatever that means. But also just really being proud of how I look and how I represent myself to the world.
So in addition to my wardrobe I have my personal care line on my website. It’s not my personal care line, it’s my personal care products. Every personal care product I use, including what’s here is on my website. And you can see not just what I use but what I paid on that per unit basis, and most importantly, the connections.
So in the case of my toothbrush, which is electric, I have to buy toothpaste obviously, but also replacement toothbrush heads, which when I found out later they are ever so quite hard to buy and are very expensive, more expensive than just buying a new toothbrush.
So what that really taught me and the combination of this is that everything that I own and most likely you own has some effect on you in some way and will really impact you, especially when you put the time in to look at it and acknowledge it. And the more I invest time and energy in looking at my stuff, the more I see these connections I want to make more improvements.
Additionally, since I have this entire spreadsheet I have personally found a lot of truth in this inventory. Because as I would add stuff to the inventory, I would start seeing more things that were not in the inventory which I thought were part of my life. And so as I keep evolving and improving, I’m constantly trying to minimize myself to the most efficient version of me and enjoy it verbose as well, so that’s how I overthink everything.