Add value to your home, not just tchotchkes

Why you need to take a physical inventory of your home each year

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Feb 21 · 4 min read
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I painted this for my grandfather. He kept it on the tool wall of his basement. He cut those little wooden slabs up and put it in the ceramic man’s right arm. (Photo credit: Shamontiel L. Vaughn)

Every time I came over, I’d notice his home was getting a little emptier. I winced, knowing he was getting ready to remind me for the millionth time that he was going to die and needed to clean his home “of all this junk.” I hated these conversations with my grandfather, who loved to bring up death. There were a handful of times where I got up and left, dead tired (pun intended) of him reminding me he wouldn’t be around forever. I’m well aware that all human beings die, but I didn’t want to hear it every five minutes. As a homeowner now, I (grudgingly) get what he was doing far more now than I did as a renter. It’s a tip that homeowners should take each year, too.

When my grandfather first asked me if I wanted to have his home, I panicked and said, “Absolutely not! I don’t want this kind of responsibility.” For more than a decade, he kept asking me the same question every single time he saw me. No matter how many times he told me his home was paid off and I’d just pay taxes, I just kept seeing overdraft fees in thought bubbles. I didn’t understand how home ownership worked nor taxes, and not being able to call a landlord to fix things sounded like a lot of stress.

One year after he died, I bought a condo and realized just how ridiculous it was for me to repeatedly turn him down for home ownership. If I could rewind time, I’d have taken that house in a millisecond and rented it out, especially after learning a boatload of knowledge about property management in a year’s worth of being on a condo board.

But it was really his anti-junk stance that stood out to me. If he couldn’t find a use for it, he needed it to be gone. As a ceramics painter, that was the ultimate challenge for someone like me — considering most of the pieces that I painted and sold served no purpose other than decoration, give or take a few candy dishes, clocks and lamps. In fact, I was quite surprised to see a handyman ceramic piece I painted for him that managed to stay in place in the tool section of his basement. He even cut up little pieces of wood to add onto the foot-high handyman. I expected that crafty piece to disappear the millisecond I walked out of the door, but he seemed really fond of it.

But as a master mechanic and gardener who built his home, he was more focused on fixing something. Decorating to him meant buying a few nice towels, always having an aromatic lotion and soap in each bathroom, and fresh sheets. He would’ve made an excellent hotel owner. But just buying random things for fun? Whatever brain circuit activity happens that creates hoarders is something he’s missing. Although I didn’t consciously mimic him with this, I also have the same throw-everything-away habit.

Why you should do a physical inventory of your home each year

As much as I hate to admit it, he’s not wrong about evaluating your home each year as though you could die tomorrow. Why? If you’ve ever dealt with a family battle over someone’s home or their belongings, you already know how tedious it can be. People nitpick over the very smallest thing and somehow feel entitled to it. Or, everybody’s so attached to everything in the house that they feel disrespectful for parting with anything. And even worse, they’re all procrastinating about sorting through the homeowner’s belongings and just want anyone else to do it. The memories hurt too much. With the last group, you’d better write a will or your stuff will sit around collecting dust forever.

Meanwhile homeowners like my grandfather and I have a “meh” approach and would throw out pretty much anything if it didn’t prove to be useful. I might be worse than him. He challenged me to find someone who would buy his ginormous pool table, thinking I couldn’t. I logged into Craigslist and had a buyer in an hour. He immediately started making excuses about how it wouldn’t fit out the backdoor. Methinks he liked his pool table more than he cared to admit.

But whether it’s a pool table or ceramics or a bin of towels, just take one day of 365 and look around at everything in your home. Do you still like it? Do you still need it? If you moved today, would you take this with you? And if you did take it with you, would it serve any purpose at all at the next home? If not, ditch it. And no, don’t put it in a (rental) storage unit where it will collect dust, too. By doing this, you not only save your relatives the task of sorting through your things should something happen to you. You also maintain a clutter-free home full of essentials.

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Homegrown

A place for new homeowners, DIY enthusiasts and condo board reps.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

Homegrown

Homegrown

This is a place for homeowners, condo owners, board association reps and contractors to chat.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

Homegrown

Homegrown

This is a place for homeowners, condo owners, board association reps and contractors to chat.

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