Spreadsheets make me feel anxious these days. Not the ones from work; those just induce drowsiness. I’m talking about my life on a spreadsheet, or rather all my worldly belongings laid out in neat rows and columns, some of which have dollar amounts in the cells. Before I can be reimbursed, before I can begin shopping for replacements, I need to know exactly what was saved and what was not. This has not been as easy as it first appeared to be.
The first spreadsheet inventory I was sent to review was for all the electronics in the house. There were 24 items – wow, I never knew I had so many. Looking down the list, I saw that every little component of our computers was listed, so that accounted for a lot of items. After reviewing it several times, it dawned on me that despite the numerous listings, several major electronics were missing. I had two media stations set up at my house, the nicer flat screen TV and DVD player downstairs for me and cheaper versions upstairs for the kids. Both of us had satellite DVRs. Only one TV and one satellite box was listed. That’s a lot of reimbursement money missing. The contractor assures me that it’s probably a case of mislabeling boxes and he’ll look into it. I try to breathe in and out, slowly and deeply.
There are other items missing, but what is amazing are the items that made it to the spreadsheets. I think most people can list their big, pricey possessions, but how about the items in your desk drawers? What about that junk drawer? Come on, you know you have one. At least one. Could you write down everything in your bathroom closet? Linens are relatively easy, but what about bandages, lotions, cosmetics, pain relievers, bottles of nail polish, and more? And cleaning products? I forgot I had so many different kinds. And who knew that I had 48 baskets? I had no idea. The big items are often listed very plainly – brown chair, couch, large picture – but the smaller items are very specific by brands and sizes. It must have been tedious work, and it’s not much better reviewing it.
I wish I could say that I always have a balanced perspective about surveying my personal property. After all, the important thing is that my son is ok, the dogs are ok, and the house will be rebuilt. And most of the time I really can view the fire that way. At other times, though, I must admit to anxiously checking that every single thing I ever owned is accounted for on those darn spreadsheets. Starting over is hard; it’s also expensive. College tuition bills are about to arrive, and I never got to sell my house this summer and use some of the profit to pay them. I’ll be staying in the rental house longer than expected and won’t be able to use the substantial deposit money for the bills either. Most of my life I’ve lived from paycheck to paycheck and I’ve always managed to muddle through, I tell myself. Don’t worry so much; it’ll all work out in the end, and I do believe that most of the time. The other times, though, I just try to breathe in and out, slowly and deeply.