Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Introduction to the Inventory: Why Bother?

If you've been in Second Life for at least a couple of months, you've probably been involved in or witness to a frequently recurring topic of conversation: the inventory. Someone mentions how their inventory size is getting out of control, item numbers get compared, a few people moan about how much they need to spend time unloading junk, and sooner or later some really annoying person chimes in about how theirs is, on the contrary, rather well organized thankyouverymuch, and possibly even how they enjoy their daily routine of invving.

Often, that annoying person would be me. And once I come out as an inventory obsessive, someone usually asks jokingly if I'd do their inv for them, and as a matter of fact I'd be happy to hire out my services. But since that carries along with it all sorts of issues of passwords and trust and, oh, Terms of Service, I'll do the next best thing and blog about it.

Before getting to the nitty gritty, let's talk for a bit about why inventory seems to give people so much grief and lay down a game plan. Yeah, I know, structure already. Like it or hate it, order is an inherent part of the process, as determined by LL and the little default folders they gave us to inspire organization and all that.

Why a messy inv is a pain in the butt

The main reason a disorganized inventory can be frustrating is simply that you can't find anything in it quickly or easily. You watch the total item number grow and grow while the number of those same items you can remember having shrinks and shrinks. It also gets harder to find items even when you know what folder they're in if you need to scroll through long lists of unsorted objects. If you build and aren't in the habit of relabeling as you go, you also might have numerous objects simply titled "object," and there is nothing useful about that.

Where the problem came from

We let our inventories get this way for a lot of different reasons. Keeping the inv orderly is just a plain old time investment. I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours on it a day and I still only make small dents each time. Why would most people start or end their SL day cleaning house when they could be shopping, building, exploring, or hitting events? There are some aspects of inventory organization that you can do at any time, but rezzing high-prim objects in the middle of a dance club or tai chi area is not generally one of them.

Another reason has to do with the natural progression of going from newbie to veteran in a world where accumulation comes more easily than you're used to. When you're a newbie and your inventory is a manageable size, you don't necessarily know which items you need or like the most or how they'll be easiest to find later on. A month and several thousand freebies later, you're more likely to have a clue. And by that time, the inv is somewhat less manageable and more daunting, and it's only going to get worse.

Injecting realism

However it gets that way, though, nearly everyone I know believes their inventory could be tidier. There's one important reason for this perpetual dissatisfaction that it's important to internalize if you haven't already: inventory management is ongoing. It's not something you spend one day on and then hope it stays neat. Such a statement might sound obvious, but the reason I mention it is that if you're a perfectionist or if you've put off starting to become organized because finishing seems such a long way off, well, it is... it's so far off, I'd venture to say it's unattainable. So get used to a new definition of success: when it comes to inventory, success isn't completion, it's continuous engagement.

That's actually the good news, believe it or not. If progress, rather than completion, is your goal, then success suddenly is attainable. Not only that, but the amount of attention you pay to organizing your inventory will fill in a lot of the gaps in your memory of what you have in there. You'll become able to find things that aren't organized into their proper subfolders because you'll have passed over them many times on the way to organizing or looking for something else. And if you can find what you're looking for, then getting the items into the right folders is a secondary concern.

Game plan

My recomendations are intended for people who aren't happy with the state of their inventories. They are emphatically not meant to criticize the means of organization that work for people who, like me, are comfortable with the way their inventories are laid out, or to suggest that mine is the only right way to manage possessions. There are as many ways of organizing as there are avatars (I myself have several different avatars, each with slightly different inventory needs), but some people haven't figured out what works for them yet. As is the case with many other activities -- cooking, RL housekeeping, learning a craft -- it's often helpful to see what works for those for whom something does. Similarly, if I make a suggestion that wouldn't be useful to you, it doesn't mean my suggestion is wrong. I welcome alternative recommendations in comments. I don't have the final say; I'm just the chick who decided to blog it (and I'm neither the first nor the last to do so).

So let's get started. My first and, I believe, most universally applicable tip for reducing excess inventory bulk has to do with landmarks. Stay tuned for a forthcoming post on how purging excess landmarks can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to begin streamlining your stash.



  1. I'm looking forward to the LM tips because I ignore those a lot. I found today that I had five of the exact same LM for the landing point at [Monochrome]. :-)

    p.s. - I deleted all but one. ;-)

  2. Thank you SO MUCH for starting this series of posts. I need inv help.

  3. Well, one of my pet peeves is how crappy the tools are. For instance, I have a mammoth folder of crap I picked up as a newb (let's call it Free Female Clothes). I want none of it. If I select the folder, the Delete command is disabled. If I select more than one of the *hundreds* of items in the folder, the Delete command is disabled. The only way I think I've found to delete it is to open a second inventory window, drag the folder to the Trash item there, then Empty Trash. But when I do that, my inventory count doesn't change, and if I search for the folder...guess what? There is it, in the Trash. Clearing cache does nothing. I have no idea how to delete this folder or half a dozen others like it. Sigh. So…will be watching these tips from a pro carefully. ;)

  4. Great post, Lette. I also get a kind of sick joy from having a clean inventory. I also like being able to utilize my Search function and have it actually work. I'd be curious to hear different peoples folder naming techniques. I tend to utilize asterisks for high priority folders, and end up creating a lot of folders (esp for things that otherwise won't let me rename). I've found that, after creating subfolders for each type of clothing (i.e., Tops->Sweaters->Cardigans), that placing color as the first word in each item's name makes it easiest to find "red plaid long-sleeve cardi w/ buttons CUTE".

    Lou, are you wearing something from the folder? The only time I've been unable to delete a folder is because I was wearing something hidden inside. Hope that works, otherwise, I have no idea what's up with that.

  5. Lou, when I have a folder that will not let me delete it, I click the top item inside, then shift click the last item inside, and it lets me delete the contents, leaving the offending folder. Then I rename the folder "x" and use it next time I need a new folder, renaming it again then. Sometimes it will let you delete it later, sometimes not, but I don't think there is anything in them, it just seems like a bug. I throw the extra "x" folders into folders where I know I will be subdividing the contents and want extra folders to rename. Karmel Kips

  6. Luce, I use color as the first word of apparel description, and my RL closet is sorted by color, too. I also use the subfolders by type as you do. I used to use the asterick priority system until it became a maintenance nightmare (somewhere around 30,000 items.) Now, I divide hair, for example into three folders... "favorite," second best variety," and "special purpose" and the astericked ones went into "best" so it's easier to move folders than rename w/wo astericks and decide just how many astericks-worth I like it, lol. Karmel Kips