Slow and Steady Reinforced

Here is a little example of how my decluttering strategies are helping me in the task of compiling my household inventory.

As you know I have been working away slowly and steadily on this household inventory for a while. Before I began my husband transferred the inventory from our last move, back to Australia from America, into a new program. This inventory did not include the items that had been left behind in storage while we were in America, or items we have purchased since. And of course this old inventory contained many many items that I have long since decluttered. And some items had changed location within the house.

It really was a toss up as to whether to start afresh, with a new inventory, and input everything or delete items from the old one and continue on from there. It was a close decision but we decided that it would be easier in the long run to take the second option. And I didn’t mention that as a result of all of this deleting, moving and probably poor original labelling, there is quite a bit of faffing about to get it right. Also our deadline may be looming sooner than we thought, so a girl can get in a bit of a panic. You know, the sort of panic some people feel when they first begin decluttering when they step back, view the big picture and think ~ This is all too hard.

That feeling started to creep up on me this morning while working on the inventory of our living room items. However I stopped my mild panic in its tracks by shaking myself off and taking a moment to regain order in the face of chaos. All I needed to do was focus on one area at a time. Just like I always suggest here at 365 Less Things when it comes to decluttering.

So I stopped took a look at the walls of the room, compared that to my inventory and added anything that was missing. I then looked around at the furniture in the room and checked that off. That left me with the furniture pieces that held stuff. I then went meticulously through one piece of furniture at a time checking off and adding. I left post-it note markers on each shelf as I completed the count. Once done I moved onto the next shelf and then the next piece of furniture.

As I went along I encountered the odd thing that belonged to my husband that I wasn’t sure of the value of or how he wanted to list them ~ as a job lot or individually. I made a list of these items and will ask him about them this evening.

I was cruising along so smoothly with this strategy that the room was complete in no time and I happily moved on to another area of the house.

As you can see, this is the same approach I advocate when it comes to decluttering…

  • Just focus on one thing or one area at a time.
  • Make a plan ahead of time on how you are going to work systematically through an area, if that is likely to help things go smoothly.
  • Make a list of items that you encounter, that aren’t yours to decide on, then later ask other family members about them. You can easily go back and declutter these items if the choice is to let them go.
  • Don’t be in a rush. You know the old saying ~ The more haste the less speed. ~ well it is often the case.

So today I practiced what I preached and all went well.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter one thing that you know hasn’t been used in a very long time that really isn’t necessary.

Eco Tip for the Day

Don’t ignore dripping taps. Replace the washers as soon as possible.

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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  • In the moment Today's post has been brought out of the archives as a timely reminder to stay in the moment. We all spend far too much time "multi tasking" and thinking about what has to be done next, […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen, this reminds me I need to get back to my inventorying. It is all done except for the kitchen, pantry and Mom’s closet and dresser. Yes, those are the hard areas because those are the areas where Mom is the hold out on getting rid of things. I’m going to make her help me with them. Maybe seeing all of that stuff as we list it will help her want to declutter a good bit of it. I can only hope.

    • Good luck! I have never done an inventory sheet before. It seems like a very good idea though. Are you specifically listing each item or do you group items? For example, books. Would you just put a total number or would you break them down by category or would you write down every title? Sorry for the questions, I’m just curious. I have a tendency to be overly detailed so I could just see me spending a week writing down every title of every book! lol.

      • On some things I list each item (books). On some things I list a group (12 place setting of dishes, towels, etc).

        • Thanks!

          I think if I recorded each book title and author I might find myself decluttering more so I wouldn’t have to write them down! lol. Same thing with our DVDs. Hmm, maybe that’s not a bad idea. 🙂

          • Michelle, I am finding that writing down the individual items really helps when working on areas that need to be decluttered more. For instance, why do we need 5 whisks? I’m hoping when we get to that drawer Mom will decide we don’t need them all.

      • Hi Melissa, I group things ~ sheets, towels, cutlery, crockery, DVDs, CDs, Tupperware, make-up, toiletries, stationary,. But there are many things that stand alone ~ furniture, electrical appliance (these we list make, model and serial number), art works (with details of title, artist, medium, size) my craft tools, etc. Then some items are grouped by sets or values ~ photo frames by size, books by size or value, Jewelley ( I grouped the cheaper items but will value separately the more expensive pieces.) and so on.
        Some of the groupings will be listed as ~ eg. Small books Assorted 5 @ $5, while I might put Silver Jewellery Assorted 1 @ $200 (even thought there are 10 pieces. I may add more detail in the description section. Although with my silver jewellery I laid it all out and photographed it.
        For me it is a little different though because I am not only doing it for insurance value I am also doing it in case of loss or damage in transit. In the second instance individual things can also end up stollen (during the packing process), so it pays to be quite specific sometimes on the items you care most about.
        All that being said, once upon a time we did actually used to itemise nearly every single thing. Every CD title, every book, every record, every item of jewellery. These days we aren’t that particular unless something among those items is particularly valuable. We don’t itemise, photos or keepsakes (such as letters, cards, certificates etc) as they have no real monetary value and they can’t really be replaced so we won’t get compensated for them. We could put the reprint value on the photos but we don’t bother because we have them digitalised and probably would never bother to reprint most of them.

        • Thanks! It’s good to hear there’s not ‘one right way’ and that grouping is okay for cheaper items.

    • Fingers crossed for you Deb.

  2. I still need to do an inventory, but as I go through the house I still get rid of things that I don’t want to keep on an inventory and add new things I do want to add.

    • Marianne, I am right there with you. Still so much to get rid of. Ugh.

    • Hi Marianne, up until this point I have only ever updated mine when we are about to move. But now that we are decluttered we are going to try to keep it up to date in the future. Because so little comes in and much less will be going out this should be easy to accomplish.

  3. Colleen! Good for you working through that morass. Starting is often far harder than being in the middle of a big, complex project. May the other rooms go as smoothly as the living room and perhaps even more so;)

    • Hi CJ, the living room is almost the end actually, just a few things to tidy off in the master bedroom and parents retreat and the garage to do (which is very much decluttered these days. I can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  4. Insurance companies differ in how they cover personal belongings. My insurance pays for house contents as a percentage of the value of the house so we don’t need as detailed an inventory as you do. I have inventoried only major items and I add new ones as we purchase them. I scan the receipt and any paperwork that comes with it such as the front page of the instruction manual on which I write the model and serial number. I also do this with things that are used outside the home and could be lost, damaged or stolen (our kayaks, bikes, cameras etc.) When something leaves it is a simple matter to delete it from my computer. I plan to add a few photos of the rooms but for my purposes that should be enough.

    • Hi Wendy, we don’t need it for the house contents insurance really, just for Defence Housing when they are paying to move us. It is hand for house insurance to prove what you own in the case of break-in but so far our house contents insurance has been good with any claims we have make. The one in America paid for a lost camera. Our one here paid for the replacement of Liam’s bicycle the was damaged in his accident. We just find it comes in handy to determine what the contents is worth.

      Like you we do the who receipt scanning thing too and have digital records of make, model and serial numbers etc. With this inventory we are also photographing the expensive items. This get uploaded to a cloud so even if the house burned down we would be able to access this proof of ownership information.

  5. I was doing quite nicely with my inventory BUT the flash drive I had it all on …… went missing. So I’ll be more or less starting over but its got to be easier as we end up with less stuff. I have a friend who works in insurance and she keeps a copy of her inventory at her parents house but I was thinking of looking into cloud storage – does anyone out there have any good ideas? Someone suggested ‘drop box’ – does anyone use it? Would it be a good place to also store copies of digital photos, videos etc?

    I have experienced once an external hard drive that was dropped and lost everything on it – fortunately still had most of what was lost still on the pc hard drive – so while I like the idea of external hard drives, I’m aware of their limitations. Even keeping a 2nd external hard drive elsewhere doesn’t necessarily cover all bases either.

    • Calico ginger

      I am now using drop box, mostly so I can access big files across computers and also so the kids can back up their university work somewhere safe. It’s easy to use, but I did need to buy extra space to store music and photo libraries. But so far I give it a tick – it does the job for me.

    • Hi Moni ~ Just like Calico ginger, ours saves automatically to drop box and icloud. Doubly safe.

  6. I’ve never completed an inventory, but need to do something to document our home’s contents because we are in a hurricane zone. Several weeks ago, we had a brief, but powerful thunderstorm with high winds that knocked down many large trees in our small neighborhood. Five houses received roof and water damage when the trees fell. It all happened in about 10 minutes and made me realize I need to get cracking on my list of items we will keep.
    I did start keeping a list of the items we’ve decluttered in the past 4 months, though. I’ve found the list to be helpful when I start feeling like I can’t see the difference. All I have to do now is look at the list and imagine all that stuff in a huge pile! And now it has moved on to someone else who can hopefully get some use out of it or has been recycled. Unfortunately, a few things were no longer useful and were binned. And I’m starting to see a difference in several rooms in the house! Slow and steady decluttering has worked for me now that it has become a regular part of my days.

    • June – well done – I wish I’d kept an ‘out’ log but then again, maybe its a good thing I didn’t as I’m a bit of an out of site out of mind kind of person. As there was another biggish earthquake in my country this week, I’m thinking along the same lines. I have a friend who works in insurance – in total loss – and she says that 95% of people don’t know 50% of what is in their houses and its a nightmare working thru their claims, the person always feels the insurance company is out to swindle them out of as much as possible and often get upset at her when they can’t remember what was in their house.

      The first time I started doing an inventory I picked up lots of double ups that I only noticed when they were written down. It would be interesting to see (as I have to start over with my inventory) what else I will pick up on when I see it on a spreadsheet chart or in photos.

    • Hi June, I like you plan of keeping the list of decluttered items so you can image what it would all look like in a big pile. That surely would be inspiration. I do the same thing with my archive of photos of all the things I have gotten rid of. I often wonder at my amazing ability to have fitted it all into this house and the place still looked neat and tidy. Imagine that. I don’t need to look at the photos now because all I have to do is look in the almost empty garage, the two empty bedrooms and the empty bathroom.

  7. Deb J – if you’re out there – Colleen too – how’s this for a blast from the past? I’ve been trying to get back on track with the upstairs storage room here at work, just one thing a day. Anyway, I found this box waaaay over the back – guess what’s in it? More sewing patterns. Circa 1990’s. AND two wedding dress patterns. The one I wanted for my wedding dress and the one that my mum bought and made instead. LOL. Anyway, can safely say I won’t be needing these any longer.

    • What a hoot. 1990’s? I just convinced my Mom to get rid of some patterns that were from the 1960’s to about 2000. Why she had them I have no idea. Some were for Barbie dolls and some were for us. Weird. Like I wanted soemthing made for me from those times. Your’s sound like that were just stuffed away and you ran across them. The ones we had were on ome of Mom’s dresser drawers and she had deliberately kept them. Sheesh!

    • Oh Moni, you really did need 365 Less Things. That is half the fun of decluttering, finding stuff that you shake your head and laugh at and wonder why you still have it. I did this often on my journey.

  8. Colleen, I think it’s amazing how much work you put in that inventory!
    Is the difference between before and after remarkable?

    • Oh heck yeh! Sanna. It has been six years since I did the last one and it didn’t have any furniture, white goods or the items we left behind because they wouldn’t fit in a packing case. All those items were in storage awaiting our arrival back to Australia and we only had to do all the other stuff. The fiddly, painstaking other stuff. Now there is so much less it is almost a pleasure to do. I am pretty sure that a little recount of hubbies clothes and shoes, anything worth listing on his desk and what is worth listing in the garage is all this is left to add. Yay!

  9. This is great advice and I need it right now. I got stalled on the photo project when we left on our long road trip and am just staring at it in dismay now. I’m going to reread your steps and apply them to the photo fiasco.
    As my dd looks forward to a similar move to yours, I am going to recommend your system of itemizing to her.

    • Hi Willow, the photo sorting project is the one project that I still haven’t completed also. Maybe I will get to it once I am settled into the next home. Be that the nice apartment in town or following Steve to Canberra. I will have lots of nights alone, either way, to work on fiddly projects like that.

  10. Colleen,

    Great idea about keeping an inventory. I keep telling myself that I need to make a list of the items of value in my home in case something happens. I haven’t done it yet though. I get very overwhelmed and stressed thinking about it, because we have so much stuff. Even though we used to have yard sales every 2 years and I’ve decluttered a lot over the last year, there is still more to do. I need to just focus on one thing (or room) at a time like you said. My problem is that I get distracted with other things that need to be done in other rooms and end up accomplishing nothing. I purchased a book about organizing for people with ADHD (my son, who has autism, has some ADHD) and I realized that I have the same thought processes and tendencies as someone with ADHD. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD (and I don’t think I am ADHD), but I’m glad to find a resource with suggestions that I think will work for me. One of the main ideas for people with ADHD was to have less stuff! Between the book, your blog, and other simplifying/minimalism blogs, I hope to keep up decluttering and get the simple life I want to live. Take care!

    • I so get your point! It is so frustrating, I also want to make an inventory, and I have decluttered a lot in the past years, but still to no avail. I’m going to try to start, for each catagory (hobby, basic furniture, clothes, etc. since I have not a lot of rooms). I’m hoping I’ll declutter a lot in the process, and that it will be done by december. Wish me luck!

      • Good luck, Dymphy! Since I have several rooms, I think I’m going to concentrate on one room at a time instead of categories. I’m hoping to get things decluttered once and for all by the end of the year too!

  11. I have kept a list of decluttered stuff (at least everything I have donated, not stuff thrown out) and am up to 807 items (or bags of small items). I don’t miss anything. I started in March 2010 when I first started reading Colleen’s blog. My husband and I also redid an inventory for insurance purposes and we definitely crossed off quite a few items. All very satisfactory.

    But I have more to get rid of. I am definitely in a “using up” mode at present: food, patchwork fabric, knitting yarn, toiletries, cleaning stuff (as I gradually make the shift to making my own eco friendly ones) and even clothes, you know they do eventually wear out which I never knew before! Saves a fortune too and has stopped the “wanting” almost completely.

  12. What a fantastic example of practising what you preach!

    It is nice to hear about your struggles, and then how you overcome then. Thanks for sharing this little story with us. It is very reassuring for us, who also get overwhelmed!