Guilt-Free Inventory (Mine’s Salvaged Metal)
Jun 1
This beautiful weather and the fact that I'm having a cocktail party on Thursday have me working in the yard. There's nothing like a party to get you motivated to get sh** done. Being a plant genius, I requested a friend stop by to help me with a super-serious question: Were my tomato plants in fact weeds, and not in any way, shape, or form actual tomatoes?

No joke. I'm a dunce in the yard, but at least I'm persistent. And every once in a while something grows that's intended to grow. My friend confirmed that my erstwhile tomato plants were weeds (my tomatoes have reseeded themselves for years - why not this year?), and got a good laugh out of my idiocy. She kept chuckling on her way out as she noticed the inventory pile behind my garage. She said my metal piles (see pics above) looked like they could be inventory, or they could be intentional as they are, just hanging out. And she was right! They're a bit artfully arranged, as I like to go back and look at what I have, imagine projects, take stock. The chains get picked up, put down, restrung on the ladder. They're fun to play with. Will they work for a zip line? No. Could I suspend doors from them as ersatz walls? Yes. And so it goes.

There is, however, a specific purpose to most everything in the pile, and it changes dramatically from year to year. The pile used to be mainly I-beams, but those are pretty much gone as I've used them in many projects. There's only one left, and there used to be ten or so. The signage inventory is low, too, as the accumulation was recently hung on my fence, and I've only bought one since. The ladder is relatively new to the stack, and it will be my fire escape ladder for the future tower. I've always wanted a fire escape situation. When will the tower get done? Someday. But I sure as hell will need a lot more inventory than this before I get started. For example, some serious metal paneling for siding for sure - not corrugated - must be found. So the pile is intentional and planned. It does not represent hoarding. Ahem.

Hoarding? Where did the H word come from all of a sudden? Well, folks, here's the deal: If you have a passion, it's likely you have a collection to feed it. I call mine inventory. Not-so-charitable people call it junk, and perhaps think I'm a hoarder. They're wrong. Here's another take: At a friend's the other day, I was examining her huge stacks of leather, studs, zippers, and sewing paraphernalia, including many sewing machines. She makes leather goods. As a non-sewer, I'm amazed by the amount of machines a seamstress finds essential, but I'm not skeptical. These are her tools! She confessed she had considered drastically downsizing her materials inventory as other friends gave her crap about it. She started to doubt herself, even though she knew she regularly dipped into old stock to make cool new stuff. I have serious doubts that these people are really friends.

Kidding aside, it's a fine line between hoarding and having inventory. That damn line is sometimes not clear to you, and it's really not clear to your friends and family. Let's discuss some guidelines for determining if your inventory has a purpose. For illustration purposes, let's use a large bin of casters I found in my dad's garage. You know casters, right? They're wheels that you can attach to the bottom of something (a bed, a coffee table) in order to make it mobile.

- Have you used a similar piece of inventory on a recent project? Seven or eight years ago dad used several sets of casters on one of my Halloween costumes. So they were not used recently, but have been used in the not-too-distant past.
- Is the piece of inventory beautiful? Do you like touching it or holding it? No, the casters are not beautiful, but he receives some comfort knowing he has them if he needs them.
- Can you envision a use for the piece of inventory now? Nope, dad has no current caster thoughts.
- Would this piece of inventory be hard to replace if you chucked it? Not even remotely.
- Do you need 40 of this item? This is a big issue with the casters. Does my dad need so many?
- Does the piece of inventory give you joy? This is Marie Kondo's trick, and it works for amassing inventory, too. I have a friend with beautifully organized quilting fabric. It's arranged by color and pattern on shelves, and it's lovely to view. It gives her joy. Do the casters give my dad joy? Not joy, really, but he likes having them available. They're comforting.

What's the call on the casters? I cannot say. Some combination of answers above can likely be interpreted as as downsize opportunity, but the joy question...that can trump a lot of logic. I find myself downsizing dramatically on clothes and shoes, DVDs and CDs, kitchen tools, but rarely on old metal. That's truly necessary inventory. And maybe that's the key? Maybe there's one area where you collect, but you're willing to get rid of everything else. If so, you're doing well. Here's one last thought: Even if you deem all your inventory to be essential, if you find a dead rodent amongst it, you've got too much stuff. It's time to downsize, at least to get rid of the hidden bodies.
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