Fine Tooth Comb

Right now I am working on our inventory of possessions, which is a task we have to do for insurance purposes when we are moving to a new location. This is in case something gets damaged during the moving process. If it isn’t listed on the inventory it isn’t compensated for as loss or damage.

This task gives me the opportunity to identify every item in our home and either add it to the inventory or make the decision to eliminate it. It is nice to know that I have been through the entire kitchen this week and have only felt inclined to declutter four little things. I am very happy knowing that this area is as I want it to be. For now anyway.

We are working off the previous inventory from our last move. The first thing I do is go through the existing list and delete the items that I know we no longer own. I have to admit that this action reduced the value of items in my craft area by $2500. Yikes. And that doesn’t include doing a recount on scrapbook paper of which I know I have sold or given away quite a bit of.

Since writing that last paragraph I have been working on the craft area inventory and am a little disappointed with the small quantity of things I have decided to part with. It seems I have not recovered completely from the I-might-want-it-some-day attitude in this area of my belongings. Mind you when you look at the comparison photos of my craft area now and what it looked like when I began decluttering, the reduction is certainly impressive. There is nothing wrong with maintaining the opportunities to be creative I guess. For now I will continue with the inventory and reduce where I feel comfortable. Then I will wait to explore what outlets for creativity there are in our new location, next year, before I make any more reductions in this area.

What I do know is that this is the only time I have actually enjoyed compiling the inventory of our belongings. In the past the list was extensive and took in inordinate amount of time to read through and update. This time around it is a joy in its simplicity. I tackle one area of the house at a time. I get great pleasure in the first step of crossing off all the things we no longer own. The next task is to add items to the list that we didn’t own when it was last compiled. Step three is to reduce the item count on the things that we now own fewer of. Then there are slight adjustments to be made on the replacement cost field. After those tasks I usually have enough enthusiasm remaining to rename items in the database so that they are easier to search for when doing future adjustments.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, doing the inventory is an opportunity to go over everything we own with a fine tooth comb, so to speak, and decide whether we want it or not. It is also a good chance to make sure that all items are stored in the most logical positions in the home. I am glad to say that so far, in the kitchen, all I have reshuffled are a few storage items and the craft area required a little reshuffling as I found items to declutter. Which just goes to prove that once the clutter is removed the organising takes care of itself, because things naturally find their logical position within the home.

This exercise will also give us a definite value of our home contents for insurance purposes. I have my fingers crossed that we can reduce and adjust that and get ourselves a small refund on our current policy. My husband however thinks that we may have gotten a little over zealous when we reduced the value when we last renewed the policy. Time will tell.

One thing is for sure, the pre-pack day for our move should be short and sweet, as should uplift day and the set down and unpack at the other end. Yay for living a more minimalist lifestyle. 

Today’s Mini Mission

Return something, whether that be to another person or to a store.

Eco Tip for the Day

If you use a printer in your workplace, only print what really needs printing and print double sided if you can.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • Mini Mission ~ Thursday 21Dec2017 Declutter your fridge of out of date items or by using up as much as possible before adding more. With the holiday season here you will likely need every inch of spare space.
  • How little we really need Every time I go on a long vacation I am reminded of how little one really needs to live a comfortable and functional lifestyle. My husband and I often stay in Airbnb places when on […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Colleen, this sounds like a truly daunting task. I admire your organizational skills, as well as your mental determination, to get this job done! I can’t imagine doing this – – maybe I should imagine doing it, though, as it would help with the decluttering process. I remember when you posted pictures of your kitchen – so nice and organized. It’s funny to hear that you struggle a bit with your craft area decluttering. I guess we all have our “areas” that we struggle with. Mine is “sentimental clutter”. Either you or Moni had suggested something along the lines of a test to see if I really wanted to get rid of something by setting it aside to see if I missed the item. That has been a helpful tool for me. The item in question was a set for four glasses that my mom had given me. I never use them. We were just at Mom’s and she has the same set and was commenting how useful they are. LOL I have set them in a box in a different room and I still think I’m not going to use them so they’ll probably be moving on. See there, you got me thinking again. If I had to catalog every glass and plate and utensil I own, I’d maybe cut down to one plate, one glass, one fork, etc., etc., etc. hee hee

    • Hi Michelle, so long as I have you thinking about decluttering that is a good thing. You got me thinking to that maybe I will do some mini mission centred purely around sentimental items. That will really get you thinking. 😉

  2. I agree. There is a move for me coming up (end of December/begin of January – so I’m having some time). I’m thinking of downsizing my possessions so I could move my stuff in one go – in a rented mini-van, or so (unfortunatly, there isn’t much space in my fiat cinquecento to move everything at once, plus, I don’t think a bike would fit in a car!)

    Perhaps creating an inventory would make me more conscious about what I own and what I can declutter.

    • Hi Dymphy, I wish you luck with your move. I have a hatchback car which, if one takes the front wheel off, a bike it will fit in just fine. However next weekend we are giving some of our furniture to our daughter and son for which we will also need to hire a van in which to deliver it. Only because we are transporting a queen bed and mattress and a bookcase. These most certainly would not fit into my little hatchback. I will be glad to finally have everything out of here that we intend to give them. What is left is what will make the move with us. That will be so much less than we have moved before.

      • I know! What a wonderful feeling is it that decluttering gives, isn’t it? For my move, I’m thinking of only taking books (my weak spot), clothes, my bike and hobby related stuff with me. I’m planning to furnish new home sparingly and, above all, ecological.

  3. Colleen, doesn’t it make you want to do a Happy Dance! Congratulations on having so much less. As I have slowly been doing my inventory of the house I am seeing more places we (Mom) can declutter. I am happy to say that I have been able to get rid of more scrapbook materials. I had cut a bunch of paper to the size for using to make card fronts. After going through and making 125 more cards for the card ministry and personal use I had several 100 more paper pieces. Those I am giving to a friend who makes and sells cards. I now have the cards for the card ministry in two boxes so that I can give them out to the card writers and all of ours in 2 other boxes and in the cupboard of the divider. That emptied 4 drawers in the desk so I was able to move other things into those drawers and empty out a 3 drawer storage unit that will now be sold. We are getting there. Happy Dance!!

    • Hi Deb J, the one area in my craft room that I went through with a fine tooth comb was the two paper and card stock drawers. I have set aside about 7lb of paper to give to a friend whose daughter does scrapbooking. That still leaves me with a lot of paper but I am satisfied with that for now. I dare say I will let go of more soon enough.

      • My mom told her sister today that she is thinking of getting rid of the set of clear glass dishes we have and some other things. WooHoo! I was researching some coins we had and while doing that thought I would look up the state, National park and territory quarters that have been coming out the last 10 years or so. Found that there were only a few exceptions that would ever be worth anything. Have decided to gather ours all up and put them in the bank account. One less thing to be keeping track of.

        • Hi Deb J,
          your mom is such a champion declutterer. She may be attached to some things more than others but she keeps making progress. Good for her and you. 😉
          I have two sets of State quarters. They are for the kids. I intend to frame them and give them to the kids to hang on their walls. Better get around to that before I leave town.

          • Yep. You had better get those done. That will be a nice momento for them.

          • I disagree on this one. My mother is doing the same thing, collecting all our U.S. state quarters that will go into a frame for each one of us.

            Though I appreciate her gesture, I don’t want to, and won’t, hang it on the wall, so it’s really a waste of her time, effort, and expense to collect these for me.

            Something like that is clutter to me, but everyone is different.

  4. Congratulations! My husband and I started packing over our long weekend. We haven’t been doing an inventory sheet, but that too is an oportunity to touch everything we own and decide if we want to keep it or not. It does make the packing process take a little longer, but we’re starting way early so that we have plenty of time. We haven’t even purchased a new place yet, but it makes me feel like we’re making progress to start packing up. We aren’t packing the kitchen yet, but I did take a few minutes to empty out one cabinet and elimated about 8 more pieces of barware and then put everything back in a more logical order. Everything we’re keeping fits better now with that other stuff gone.

    • Hi Melissa, I am glad that when it comes to moving that all the packing is done for us. I do make sure that little bits and pieces like pens, small tools, game pieces etc. are put into containers prior to the removalist arrive so things don’t get lost in the shuffle. And I believe we still have to pack our clothes, but that is it. We don’t even have to unpack at the other end although the removalist don’t actually have to put the stuff into cupboards but who would want them to as then you would know where to find anything.

      Decluttering the kitchen has been one of the best parts of my minimising mission. Everything is so much easier to get at now.

      • We could pay to have a company pack for us, but then I’d miss out on the oportunity to touch everything we own and make the decision to keep it or not. This move should be a thousand times easier than our last one. My husband and I have marveled at how much less furniture, let alone other items, we’ll have to deal with this time. It sounds like your up coming move will be your easiest one yet too!

        For today’s mini mission I don’t currently have anything to return except some library books, which will be done some time this week. I did declutter a comb from our bathroom drawer this morning that nobody uses. I’m not even sure where it came from.

  5. Oooo where are you moving to?

    Thanks to some of your posts I’ve started my own inventory. Behind the scenes I’ve been collating reciepts and the like and then on my blog creating a pictorial reference for rooms and items of storage furniture. Even the act of photographing, helps to see what’s excessive. They aren’t the most conversation generating posts but I’m enjoying doing them!

    I too think insurance is overstated on my possessions values – and when they automatically increased it in year 2, I rang and got them to reset it to the original amount which I already thought was high! That being said I’m not sure if it cover new carpets/floors and things like that. Guess I should look into that

    • Hi SarahN, we are off to Canberra in the new year. That is six months away and who knows what could happen between now and them.

      One of the reasons I like the idea of apartment living is that the higher security means insurance is reduced. One lady I know of who lives in an apartment building with several levels of security doesn’t even bother to insure her belongings. As the chances of being robs or having a fire are so much reduced. I am not sure I would be that confident but I am glad she feels so secure.

  6. A very inspirational post Colleen and I agree with Michelle and Melissa that facing the challenge of an inventory or packing for a move is a big motivator for getting rid of excess – and yes, possibly wanting to own only one spoon, one cup etc 🙂

    • I have no desire to own only one spoon, one cup etc. I just want to own what is worth taking with me on my journey. Wow! Just saying that makes me think I want to declutter more.

      • We have an 8 place setting of Corelle ware. I would cut it down to 4 if I had my way.

        • Love Corelle dinnerware .

        • I have a mixture of Corelle dinnerware but I don’t think I will ever go below an eight place setting because it takes up so little room and I dare say I will have visitors occasionally enough to warrant keeping them all.

          • I know we will probably keep it because we might use it occasionally. It really doesn’t take up much room.

  7. I too struggled with a ‘just in case I might need it in the future’ decision this week. I opted to make the purchase of a small car at a bargain price. I love my present car , but this was one of those situations where I made the decision and will think about it later :).
    I am pleased to say this past week we have been finalising the estate of our Dad who died five years ago. Making decisions without the burden of grief is so good! When he died my stepmother invited us to choose items from his garage that were his. This was done the day after the funeral. Four piles of tools were created and I was obliged to take one of them. We did not need any of those tools.
    My stepmother died a month ago, I have two sisters and a brother. We had a yard sale and if we wanted anything we paid for it. Perhaps that may seem strange, but as I did not want anything, I was paid a share of the sale price. The other bonus was disposal was done by the purchaser. Bargain prices were applied to most items and all the TVs were offered for free. At the end of the day, two boxes of household stuff and a TV cabinet will be donated to the thrift shop. And a ute load of old pillows and broken glassed etc went to the tip.

    • Wendy F – fantastic accomplishment in settling the estates and what an interesting way to handling division by having a family yard sale. A great job, you.

      • Believe me I would have easily ‘grabbed’

        • Heaps of stuff that I liked, but I really like the cash to take to Germany as spending money 🙂

          • Wendy F, so jealous of your upcoming Germany travel. I went for two weeks in (I think it was) 1991 by myself, when I was 21. I didn’t speak a word of German. Only one restaurant worker didn’t speak English, so I did just fine. It was absolutely one of the top 5 events in my life. I met some really lovely people. 🙂 When I was waiting at the airport to leave, a young man in the military sat and visited with me for a long time. I asked if he was waiting to fly somewhere and he said that he had just dropped someone off, but didn’t want me to wait for my plane alone. So cute.

    • Well done Wendy. I am glad all went well and even more glad that you will be home soon so we can go for coffee. 😉 Then all that is left is to sell the car you no longer need.

  8. Colleen – I curious to know how you approached documenting your pantry? I assume that you’d run down the dry goods prior to shifting? And run down any canned goods? But do you have to document your cannisters and containers etc?

    My pantry is a lot more streamline these days, I do keep some canned goods and bottled sauces. I noticed however the other day that I had an empty pasta container but I can’t think what pasta I am missing. Likewise I had an empty cereal container, but no one seems to be crying out for ???

    Some of my containers the lids are starting to break, just one or two at this stage, so I will swap lids, and if any more lids break I will look at what containers sit there with unused food items sitting in them. Possibly a short campaign to use up something and then swap lids and see if the containers could be used elsewhere that doesn’t require air tight seal. Alas I couldn’t afford tupperware at the time I was setting up my pantry and so I can just order lids. Never mind, certainly got my money’s worth out of them.

    • Hi Moni, I don’t inventory the food, as you say, I allow it to run down. I keep the bare minimum anyway so that ought not take long. Any fresh food or condiments leftover has always just been given to a friend or neighbour. This time it will go to my kids. The canisters most certainly get documented, especially since mine are Tupperware. That stuff is just about more expensive by the ounce than sterling silver. In my opinion they charge more than enough to cover the warranty they offer and then it is so hard to claim on that warranty. Great money spinner for them no doubt. They make a good product for the most part but I am a little bitter and twisted about being refused my last claim, which one more than pays for in the purchase price, so am not a happy camper. Not to mention that they have “updated” that particular product I was trying to claim on, which makes me suspicious that they were probably not so good a design in the first place.

      I have been doing much the same as you when it comes to eliminating pantry products since the kids left home. If I don’t think we use something often enough to warrant storing it I don’t bother to replace it when it runs out. If we don’t miss it over time I don’t buy it again. This has been great when it comes to jars of condiments and ingredients in the shelves on my fridge door. It is so much easier to find and extract what I need now.

      • Colleen – apparently the ones I use are now obsolete – of course, I can buy a lovely ‘new range’ set but, nah. I believe that what I keep in the pantry will streamline down further over the next few years and I’ll let natural disintegration set the pace.

        • Hi Moni, it doesn’t matter if they are obsolete. Lifetime warranty is lifetime warranty, if Tupperware can’t replace what you have they will replace it with something similar.

    • Oh! We just cleared out our small pantry, and it was wonderful! Anything that had been sitting for too long was either donated (just a few) and the baking items that needed to be used had us cooking all kinds of goodies! We made ice cream with a mix of soft fruit. We made two cakes and a huge batch of bread and a huge pot of soup with leftovers from the fridge that went great with the bread. One of the cakes is now in the freezer with half of the ice cream that I had to hide so we can have a treat again this weekend. 😉

      I used to want to buy the really nice perfectly square Tupperware containers, but I ended up using the large square canning jars that our spaghetti sauce comes in and store dry goods in them. (Atlas canning jars-but the lids are solid). I also saved a pair of even larger honey jars for the larger volume dry goods. We have some very pretty medium sized jelly jars that I use for small amounts of leftovers and making baby food. I only kept 6 because that’s the most I ever use at once, and the rule I keep is that all the jars must be used-no storing unused jars.

  9. This move certainly is shaping up to be one that is devoid of stress, at least when it comes to inventorying your things. Less is certainly more, more peace of mind knowing that you will only have with you what you use and need. I wish I would have learned this lesson earlier on with all of the moves I have made but better late than never.

    • Hi Jen, true on both fronts. It is going to be a much simpler move and I also wish I had been this wise sooner.

      • I feel giddy for you because your joy is literally contageous! I really hope you will share pictures of your home now and after the move. I need the visual motivation. I am happier and happier as we pass on more stuff, but I struggle to find the right balance between decor/comfort and a clean look that I so desperately desire! I don’t like anything on the bathroom sink except soap, but the half bath for some reason I have always had a few nick nacks on the sink-a tiny vase of flowers, candle and soap. So I am doing a test. I took the candle and flowers down. Now there is just a soap pump. I guess I feel like the half bath should be more welcoming; so maybe I will get a pretty soap pump and delight in my clear sink countertop!

  10. I wonder if I could enjoy the process of making an inventory for our home. Perhaps my music scores would be pleasurable. Perhaps our photos. Perhaps our pint glasses;) I do know that when/if we move, there will be far less to move and that will certainly be pleasurable. What a brave and forthcoming post, Colleen!

    • Hi CJ, we don’t go through everything individually. Photos for instance, we just take a guess at what it would cost to reprint those that we want to replace in the event that they were damaged in some way. Chances are the negatives would be destroyed as well so even that wouldn’t happen. If we cared enough we would be more careful with them. Makes me wonder why we have so many. We used to inventory every single CD or DVD we owned but even those get grouped together these days.

  11. Hi Colleen (and Cindy),
    I’ve been following along with you and decluttering at least a thing a day since early April. I’m certainly not up to the fine tooth comb stage yet, but so far, about 175 items have been donated and recycled, and a few were trashed if no longer of use. I’ve found that doing a bit at a time fits my work schedule and has helped me make decisions to release things. The best part is if an item is too difficult for me now, I can pass and come back to it later. After all, it’s not like the thing is going anywhere! If I’m not ready, it will wait patiently for me, just sitting on a shelf, gathering dust. I’ve always decluttered about every 6 months. But I’ve found that working slowly has changed my shopping habits because I’ve noticed I had things that were barely used. What a waste of money, resources, and my time working to buy those things. So, I thank you and Cindy for your help. Your encouragement and ideas have helped me to release some items that should have left our home years ago.
    I still have issues, of course. (Who doesn’t???) Here is what I’m stuck on at the moment, perhaps you can help. Why is it so much harder for me to get rid of the things I’ve had the longest? It’s as if the longer I’ve had it and the more times I’ve moved it, the more it’s stuck to me. Is this a common problem? How do I break the spell cast by these stale items? Some items are sentimental, such as family items, so that’s easy to understand. But some are just everyday items, like books. A new book I’ve just read gets instantly traded at the used book store or donated, but an old friend of a book just hangs on the shelf taunting me. Thanks for any suggestions, and again, thanks for your blog!

    • Hi June and a belated welcome to 365 Less Things. Thank you for your comment and I am so happy the 365 is inspiring you not only to declutter but to stop the flow of clutter coming in. I found the same situation myself, slowly decluttering quickly lead me to not bringing new potential clutter into the house. Whereas the periodical decluttering I was doing before that was the sort that simply made space for the next round of clutter.

      As for your older clutter, I guess that the longer we have things the more attachments we have to them. They have become a part of the scenery. My daughter once saw a post I wrote about certain things that I would never declutter. She wrote a lovely comment about how these ordinary things, when moved from one location to the other (we are a military family) made each new house a home because they were familiar. If I looked back at that post I would imagine that I would find that I probably still have most of them but I dare say even some of those once very useful items are now gone. I picked these things because I used them often and those that remain I still do.

      The thing is that as you declutter your desire to reduce will overcome your desire to keep many things you never thought you would part with. So I am sure that eventually you will begin to part with the things you now feel more attached to. As you have already figured out, as long as you are decluttering something you are making progress and that is good enough for now.

      • Thanks for replying. I will take your advice and keep going! I just looked in the stack of items ready for donation and there was a tiny trinket box that I’ve never cared for that just got put in the pile this week. It was a high school graduation gift from my Aunt, but not my style at all. I’ve carried it around for 30+ years to 3 states, just because she gave it to me, and now it is finally on the pile for donation. I would have never let it go without these new slow and steady habits! The ceramic box is a very small thing, but it used to bug me that I was stuck with it.

        • Well done for letting that trinket go June! When you have that ‘light bulb moment’ you just wonder why on earth you’ve been carting around all these years don’t you. I think once we start consciously thinking about every individual item we own, we start seeing them with fresh eyes.

        • Yes, I second Doodle, well done letting that trinket box go. I think we can call that breaking the ice of letting go of the old stuff. I am sure it will get easier from here.

  12. Wow. As much as I feel that we have made it a long way through the whole process of decluttering, I think we would have a rude shock if we had to do an inventory of our whole house. I think we would be shocked!

    I am glad you are finding it easier this time.

    • Hi Mark, I am hoping that since we add so little these days that in the future we might be able to continuously keep it up to date and never have to redo it again.

  13. I am sure that after 3 years of de-cluttering I could now very happily live in a 32sq ft bedsit with everything I own.
    However, I can’t say the same for my horder husband and as I love him, the bedsit fantasy won’t be happening any time soon ;O)

    • Hi Doodle, I guess hubby has made much progress on the hoarding front since the last time you mentioned this. Oh well, I am sure you are doing a good job of keeping things in check. 😉

  14. Good for you doing this now BEFORE you move, instead of dragging it along with you and paying for the weight to move stuff you don’t want. I have debated on making a video of the things we own. A running list sounds like a more detailed idea. What are your thoughts? Do you keep moving into smaller places each time you move? What are your thoughts on downsizing?

    • Hi Marianne, we don’t pay for the move which is why it is very easy to drag however much we like with us. I have decluttered prior to every move in the past but this time is very different. Decluttering is one thing, minimising for good is a whole other situation which is where we are at this time in our lives. I always prided myself on my organised, clean, tidy and regularly “decluttered” home but in those days I had no idea what proper decluttering was. That catalyst for that was that the last move we made was a downsize due to the fact that we chose location over size. By that point we were envisioning the children leaving home, possibly retiring and travelling. The kids have left, my husband hasn’t retired but that could come soon enough and we do travel already but would like to do more. So we hope to downsize again. However my husband is in the military so although we own a house we live in military homes. They provide very nice, and these days big, homes. I fear that we may be railroaded into a large home with this posting but I sincerely hope that there are apartments available at our new location. If we end up with the four bedroom house it is going to be half empty.
      Making a video of your possessions is a good idea. At least with the obvious and/or valuable items.

  15. The “fine tooth comb” has made itself known to me by doing an inventory of my things.
    At first I couldn’t imagine doing it until I had decluttered quite a number of things, which I did. Finally I was ready to do the count and, like Colleen, took it room by room. It has proved to be an inspiration to continue decluttering because by writing it down I can look at a list with more detachment & use it in various ways. Things I’ve done: asked myself, while looking at the list, what do I truly love and use? What items were gifts, which items did I purchase, what did I “inherit”? By making a letter “L” or “U”, or “B” or “G” next to each item, it has helped me see more clearly why I still have what I have and why. Since my aim, really, is to have only things I truly use and love, the list aids me in seeing where my next potential items are to eliminate.

    • Suemarie – I love this idea! My brain doesn’t seem to be working today. What does the B stand for?

      • Maybe b is bought?

        • Yes, it stands for “bought”. Did I pay good money for this item? How do I feel about that? (was it a wise choice?) If I declutter it, am I out alot of money and/or can I recoup some of that? (or is it one of those items that, even if I did pay “good money” for it & I’m no longer happy with it, won’t it make me happier to have it gone?)

          These are some of the questions that can come from making little marks on a list of things!

    • This sounds like a smart plan Sumarie. I probably won’t look at my list that way because I don’t care how the items got here I just get rid of it if I don’t use it or love it. Keeping it simple all the way.

      • Better yet, of course!

        But for those of us who are still figuring it all out, every different “take” can help us see what we REALLY do use and love — and how all the excess, no matter how compelling, is not serving our needs.

  16. I can’t imagine listing everything we own…what a daunting task. My big area that is cluttered is the garden shed, now that the kids are grown I have a shed full of lacrosse sticks, field hockey sticks, tennis rackets, bicycles, etc, on top of all the garden stuff.

    • Hi Betti and welcome to 365 Less Things. It sounds like it is time you let go of all the sporting equipment. Freecycle might be the way to go or perhaps donate it to local sports groups or if it is still sellable why not make a few dollars on it. Giving away is nearly always easier though.


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