The Super-Simple Hack I Use to Keep Track of All My Household Supplies

published Jul 17, 2023
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A cleaning caddy filled with spray bottles, sponges, and other cleaning supplies is pictured in front of two white vases
Credit: Andrea Monzo for Apartment Therapy

Because I’m only one person (plus a pup) and don’t have a tendency to overconsume, I thought it would be silly to keep a running list of my household supplies, like cleaning, hygiene, and other necessary products. Besides, if I went to do a load of laundry and realized I’d run out of detergent, I could simply place a Target pickup order or run to my local Publix and have a replacement in no time.

As a professional organizer, though, my thought process is different for larger households. In the months after most quarantine rules were lifted, I was working with a lot of families who stocked up on essentials in fear of shortages. I suggested coming up with a system to track their supplies so they could have a clear picture of what they owned, had too much of, or would need in the future. 

It wasn’t until more recently — the beginning of this year, to be exact — that I started taking my own advice. It was bred out of two things: the desire to be more organized with my finances, and pure laziness. Allow me to explain.

I made it my New Year’s resolution to be diligent about tracking my money, and that included budgeting. Even though I didn’t think I was spending a whole lot of my income on consumables, they do add up. So, by getting an idea of how often I go through a roll of tin foil or a bottle of shampoo, I realized it could help me budget better for my essentials throughout the year.

Secondly, I rely heavily on online shopping. I found myself lounging in bed on weekend mornings and adding products to my Target or Amazon carts. Then I’d create my Costco list for the remaining things I wanted to buy in bulk so I could make a trip later in the day. As I was going through this process, I’d find myself wondering, “Wait, do I actually need more deodorant or am I set for a while?”

I’m of the mindset that putting a little upfront work into creating a system pays off in the long run. That goes for organizing my home, setting up investment accounts, and, now, tracking my inventory. The good news is that I’m going to take the brunt of the work out of it for you by explaining exactly how I did it.

Credit: Mary Cornetta

How I Track My Household Supplies

First, I opened a fresh Google Sheet in my Google Drive (Excel can work as well). I created tabs across the bottom for the following categories: kitchen, bathroom/linen closet, medicine/first aid, cleaning/laundry, and a miscellaneous section I titled utility/office/pets.

Next, I went through my apartment and noted the things that I use and replace regularly in each of those areas, plus which ones I was running low on, and checked to see if I had anything in backstock. This took me about 15 minutes, as I am obsessively organized, so items were easy to locate. If you’re a little disorganized at the moment, you’ll want to carve out a little extra time to find everything. (Remember that you can always add to the list later on.)

Lastly, I added all of the info into the spreadsheet and included a checkbox feature to mark off what I need to purchase soon. I also inserted a column to track the date I buy an item going forward (which will help me eventually understand my frequency of use) and another for notes (which I have yet to use but is there just in case).

How It’s Helped

It might seem like a lot of work, but in reality it didn’t take much effort to create and it’s saved me time, money, and stress since I implemented it into my shopping routine. I can access it on my phone, which is attached to me, so if I’m brushing my teeth and notice that the toothpaste tube is starting to feel empty, I remind myself to check it on the list right then and there. I’ll admit it took a minute to form the habit, but now it comes naturally and without much of a thought.

I’ve been placing orders approximately once to twice a month for the few things I need to replace as opposed to buying things sporadically or impulsively. This helps with my bottom line because it gives me time to do a quick scan for sales first. It also significantly reduces clutter in my small home because I don’t have to find space for a dozen backups I blindly purchased out of panic.

If you bulk buy more often than I do, you’ll most likely have to perform this process even less often. Plus, you can share the spreadsheet with your partner or roommates so anyone can confidently handle the shopping. Another beauty of using a digital spreadsheet? You can get creative, make it your own, and update it as your household needs change.