The importance of counting things

I used to hate statistics in college but now in my work counting things and drawing stats is really important. Although I'm not an accountant, as a company owner I still need to keep track of revenue, costs, page views, signups and other numbers. In my professional life I'm counting all the time because based on these numbers I'm making decisions.
Counting
When scheduling workload for my team, we're counting hours it'd take to build a piece of software, days it would take to ship a new version of an app... we count things to keep our feet on the ground and know when stuff can be delivered to the users.

I didn't count things at home though.

We're not used to counting anything at home apart from our home budget. But that's it. I didn't realize I needed to count anything at home until I read on Leo's blog about his 50 things challenge.

OK, the concept of owning 50 things sounded to me a little extreme but when Leo actually admitted that it's just a tool to ask questions I started asking them... and counting.

1) Empty, clean space

I fired up a Spreadsheet and started counting gadgets and other stuff in my home office. I found out I had close to 200 things and only 120 of them I really needed (including 30 business books). I threw away the ones I didn't need anymore to a box (and later gave a way to people who needed them) or trashed worthless ones. Suddenly my home office was clean and spacious.

2) Urge to buy gadgets... no more

The second benefit came later - because I counted everything I had in my home office, I knew exactly WHAT I had. So when my wife went with me to an Electronics Store I didn't feel the desire to stroll around computer section to buy something new because I knew what I had and I knew I didn't need anything more. Liberating.

After my initial success with my home office I went ahead to count my clothes.

Well, I realized I had around 500 pieces of clothing and among these some pretty worn out ones I'd never ever wear. Sometimes I had 5 pieces of the same type of clothing when I really needed only one or two. And I had close to 20 elegant shirts. And I don't go to an office daily (I work from home) so I need only 3-5 shirts for my business trips. I gave away the rest to my brother who does go to office every day and he's the same size as I am.

Suffice to say I got rid of half of my wardrobe. Most of my clothes went to the poor and the really worn out ones went to trash. And then I went shopping. Shopping? That's correct. By counting and going through my things I realized my wardrobe was missing a few pieces of clothing I'd love to wear like a good pair of jeans for example. And I bought myself a great pair.

When you count things - you realize what's missing and what has to go out.

Now I know I will not buy myself a new pair of jeans. I bought the one that was missing and that's it. However because I knew what I needed I could buy myself a great pair and I'm happy wearing it. And I will not buy anything else because again, I know what I have. I didn't know that before.

Count things and live a happy life

No, you don't have to go to the extreme like Leo and go down to 50 things. But you should count your things nonetheless. This helps you realize what you have, what you need and what you can throw away. This will make you think twice before buying anything more and will teach you to buy good quality things that you'll actually enjoy using or wearing.

Did you try to count your things? What did you discover? How many pieces of clothing are you actually wearing?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Monday, January 30, 2012 (life)

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Luis José
Jan 31, 2012 21:11
Hi Michael!
Do you know Project 333? Since I took part of it, I am more aware about the clothes I need.
Good post.
Michael Sliwinski
Feb 1, 2012 13:16
Never heard of the Project 333 and I see it's quite extreme :-) But I like the idea. It's not about how many things you have, but that you're aware how many there are. This helps me a big deal. Good luck Luis Jose and thanks for your comment!