Don’t Try This at Home: The Organizing Tip that Won’t Help You

As I browsed through online articles about organizing, I came across a “quick and easy” tip that would help you to be more organized.

It left me, frankly, troubled.

The advice was clear: you should make a catalog of your stuff — specifically, your books, music, and movie collections. Then if you want to know what you have, you can look at your list. Keeping such a list could help you remember and prevent you from buying duplicates of a book or a movie that you already own.

Dear readers, if you need a catalog of your stuff to remember what you have, then you have too much. A glance to your bookshelf should be enough of a reminder of the books that you own.

If you’re thinking about buying something but you can’t remember if you already own it, don’t buy it. If you do own it, it’s obviously not useful or memorable enough to justify buying it again. And if you don’t have it yet, it wouldn’t hurt to wait a couple of days. Don’t let an interesting hobby of reading books, listening to music, or watching movies turn into a habit of buying and owning.

There might be a couple of instances when a list could help. Maybe a list of the stuff in your attic, since you don’t go up there much. Or maybe a list to help you remember what’s wrapped in tin foil in the bottom of the freezer. Even for insurance purposes, a photo of a collection will generally suffice.

Maintaining a catalog means sitting at your computer typing it up, formatting it, and updating it regularly. This is not true organization! Why keep a list of stuff when you can just look at your actual stuff? The list will keep you busy, yes. But productive? No.

Every effort to organize should start with the question, “What problem will this solve?” Please don’t make lists of your stuff. Let’s make sure all of our endeavors are worthwhile.

As I think back several years ago, this kind of advice might have appealed to me then, as if I could somehow reach the pinnacle of organization. This is just perfectionism encroaching on life. What are your views about organization? Have they changed over time?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. In general I agree that if you need lists to remember what you own you have too much stuff.

    However, I do have lists for 2 things: one, the seasons of tv shows we have on DVD, and two, the books I own by couple of European authors I like. The DVD list was made to share with our friends, because a group of us all made a list of what each other has, so that we can be kind of a Blockbuster co-op, and loan seasons of stuff to each other.

    The book list is because I’m trying to complete 2 different sets, by authors that are really hard to find in the US, so I keep the list in my purse in case I get super-lucky in a used bookstore. I only have a problem with remembering those because each author has written more than 30 books though, all the rest of my books I can remember! :)

  2. Oh absolutley… When the father person, who loves a gadget, wondered out loud if we needed to get a scanner to gather barcodes and categorize our books… I knew who would end up with the happy task and did a major book purge instead!!! I would much rather be reading than sorting books and so on with almost everything we own!!! If an item doesn’t have a home it must find one or get out!!! If it is settled in its home then I know where it is and I don’t need a catalogue. Seriously, this is our stuff and our home and not a documented museum!!!

    se7en´s last post…Saturday Spot: The Keyhole Garden Keeps on Growing…

  3. Well Said! :)

    I’m not one to make a catalog of my stuff either. We have Apple TV, so movies are stored on there. Books? The kids have some, I got a Kindle for Christmas.
    (All hardcover/paperbacks were donated to a used book store.)

    The only thing I may make a list of is pantry staples, what is in my freezer, and or hits/misses with dinners.

    Organizing should be simple and easy. Not time consuming and frustrating.

    • We also have an Apple TV and it’s the best thing we invested in last year. No more storing DVDs on the shelf!

  4. I really like your thoughts lately about this topic…over the top organization. Perfectionism for sure!

    I am having to rethink things. Just as you mentioned – a few years ago I would have likely thought that making lists of things I have, etc., was the pinnacle of organization…not so much anymore!

    We live in a small space and hope to move into Dallas very soon and so we will likely live in an even smaller space and so I am minimizing even more than I already have. It would be silly for me to waste time keeping track of what we have. If I find something I forgot I had I usually see that as reason to get rid of it.

    We don’t use paper products (like paper towels) and so I have a lot more laundry than the normal household – especially with cloth diapers, no dishwasher (more dish clothes and towels). I really like the way it looks when my color-coded cleaning clothes and dish clothes are all folded and organized in baskets. It looks so…perfect! But my goodness…I can’t keep up with the folding! So I’ve adapted. Everything is unfolded, straight from the dryer in one big basket. It works. We go through it all so quickly that it really was a waste of time to fold it.

    Jen Hill´s last post…I found a new blog…

  5. I find making lists of the clothes I have is very helpful. yes, I have too many. and I buy too many black long skirts. or I buy something on sale and need something to match so I keep that in my list of things to buy. I tend to wear my shoes into the ground so when one pair is running out, I’ll make a note (in my head usually) ok you can buy a pair of black boots 2 inch heel etc. books no – I only have ones I love. movies same – my son has an obnoxious amount but I only have about 10. I just don’t enjoy watching things over and over. I was appalled when someone said they got rid of their books and just had them on a kindle now. I like real books though I do love my kindle app on my itouch.
    my organization hasn’t changed much as I’ve aged. though maybe I do things that are more for me than what someone else says. rather than just taking their word for it, I make sure it works in my life.

    Nina´s last post…make it on monday – infused sugars

  6. SO TRUE!! I always tell my friends and readers, the number one thing they can do to help them organize is PURGE!

  7. Amen! You are spot on, 100% correct: if you need a list to remind you what you have, you have too much. This is a classic example of organizational over-reach and I am disturbed by it too. This reminds me of the suggestion to take Polaroids of your shoes and tape them on the shoe boxes so you can remember what’s in the box. Sick!

    juliet´s last post…Apocalyptic Fiction and you

    • Oh, Juliet, as a person who lives in the dusty south of Texas, in the country, between crop lands,the boxes are important. Dust piles up on everything during drought conditions. As a teacher, my feet go through shoe phases, I have 10 pair, I am not even a clothes horse, but on my feet every day, I can totally pull an Imelda Marcos about shoes….The boxes keep them clean and stackable.

      • Mamie,
        you clearly get a pass. I don’t think the editors at MSL were thinking of you when they thought up the idea. At least the picture of the 40 pairs of heals in the walk in closet in the 2 million dollar Manhattan Co-op apartment doesn’t lead me to believe they were ; )

        juliet´s last post…Apocalyptic Fiction and you

  8. I completely agree. I moved two years ago, and donated or sold a couple hundred books from my floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases. I resolved to use my library card from now on! I do find myself wishing for an inventory of Christmas decorations. During the take-down phase I tend to get impatient and put things away willy nilly. Tree ornaments have designated boxes, but the rest need some organizing. And probably some editing.

    Janine at Rustic Kitchen´s last post…Farmer Friday – Prairie Fruits Farm, Champaign, Illinois

  9. HS Computer Teacher says:

    Any member of the insurance industry will tell you that a home inventory is essential. Could you recreate a reliable list of your belongings after a traumatic loss event? Perhaps the thought of creating an inventory will encourage a purge. Isn’t that what “pre-inventory” sales are all about?

    • I do have a home inventory. You can take a photo or count the total for your insurance needs. You simply do not need to list the titles of every single CD you’ve bought, or books, or movies.

  10. I completely agree with you! We had our entire book collection and CD collection in our attic for 2 whole years because I did not have a space to keep them in our house (we were renovating). I recently took everything down, and purged about half of our books and many CD’s so that I could fit the ones I DO love on our new shelf space. It’s nice to be able to see in a glance all the books that I own and really love! Anyway, if you own too many ‘things’, it’s easy to end up spending all your time organizing and caring for your possessions instead of just living your life!

    Laura´s last post…A fresh start (Again)

  11. Seriously! I just love how your blog frequently reminds me to reign in any organization I might feel like I need to do. I think people who love to plan and organize share one simple, common problem (me included). We love to plan because it’s technically “getting the job done,” but really it’s just delaying “getting the job done.” All sorts of spreadsheets and planners and catalogs and files and things can get over-nurtured.

    I think the extent of my organization would be taking pictures of what’s in the kids various toy bins and sticking it on the front of each bin so they can see what goes where (since they’re too little to read). I am always careful to ask myself when I start some project like this if it’s really necessary or if I’m just trying to make up a project for myself (or if I’m avoiding just putting in the work to train my kids to pick up their toys the old-fashioned way). Fortunately I didn’t try to do a perfect job, it took me only about 30 minutes from start to finish, and it has actually worked . . . the kids pick up on their own, and they put everything back in its place. I guess part of that project was tossing half their toys so we didn’t have 50 different bins to try to sort out every day. You will not find me making a catalog of every movie they own. They do have way too many, but that’s the best part! When they get tired of a few movies after a few weeks, they go to the movie closet and find movies they haven’t watched in forever–it’s like getting a new movie all over again.

    Anyway, thanks for keepin’ it real around here. :)

  12. Wow! This is one of those tips that goes overboard. Their heart is in the right place, not buying doubles of things you already have, but the effort required to use this system makes it unmanageable from the start. I like the focus on easy tips to manage clutter so that the management itself doesn’t become clutter down the road.

    The opposite direction might make more sense, listing things you WANT to buy rather than things you already have. That way you’re less prone to overspending due to spur of the moment purchases. If you need new clothes, check out your closet and write down the types of things you need (a new pair of slacks, new flats for work, etc) rather than trying to catalog everything you see.

    • Absolutely, having a wish list has been so helpful, especially when grandparents ask what they can get the kids for Christmas and birthdays.

  13. I do agree for the most part, but like the previous commenter said — if you lose possessions, it is useful to have a list of them to use for replacing belongings.
    I also find that, while I easily remember what fiction books I own, I can’t remember the names of my non-fiction books, because books about similar subjects often have related names. I have several times come home with the same book because it had gone through 6-7 editions and doesn’t look the same, so I thought it was new.

  14. The only thing I think I have EVER bought a double of by mistake is eggs. I don’t get it.

    juliet´s last post…Apocalyptic Fiction and you

  15. I love lists so much, this is easily the kind of “organization” project that I could get sucked into. I would spend hours on it, make a mess of my house, and then wear out before the job was done. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the frequent reminders that organization is always easier when there’s less stuff there to organize!

    Amy´s last post…Weekend reading

  16. I have a database of all my books, but it’s not so I won’t forget what I already have. I never even considered that possibility, actually, and find it a bit shocking – I guess I’m not one of those people with too much stuff. It’s just that I love my books so much, I almost never buy any I don’t end up liking (and if that does happen I sell them on e-bay). My database has descriptions of all the books, and pictures, and I can filter them by country or language or read/unread or genre, the list goes on. I’m not saying it’s very useful but it’s SO nice to scroll around in that database. About the same feeling as standing in front of the shelf itself, of course, except I can do this at work, too.

    I never considered the process of getting them all INTO the database as “organizing” or “a useful project”, though. I agree you’re on the wrong path it you’re that obsessed about organisation.

  17. I do love the mental challenge of an organizational project and my mind is always kind of grooving on one at any given time – because once one is resolved, another one presents itself. Kids certainly provide endless educational challenges. But I’m happy because we recently turned out basement into a playroom and after a nonstop two-day playdate with his cousins, my son and i were able to set the kitchen timer and do a “speed clean up” and get it all cleaned up in under 5 minutes – and this I credit to an organizational system where he and i both know that everything has a place, in plain sight, things are grouped, and therefore easily cleaned up and easily found for playing… i felt a moment of triumph at that one, after a lot of time and effort getting that room set up.
    Now, the next challenge is all the art work they bring home from school/pre-school. It piles up on the kitchen counter or in baskets by the day, and then I get overwhelmed and move the piles, but it’s hard to go through and throw out. My husband and i did it all at the end of last summer, a year’s worth of school and camp art, but now the piles are growing unruly again… so the challenges remain. But I sure don’t plan to catalog it! I just went through a bunch of snowflakes and kept the best ones, now waiting a respectful distance before i cull the valentines projects.

  18. haha this is a great point. However, for insurance purposes it is good to keep track of the big stuff. But you’re right, if you have so much you need to catalog it, then it’s probably time to take a car load to the Salvation Army. :)

    Sarah Sarniak´s last post…Major Budget Decorating

  19. Overall, that makes sense. My problem is my reference books. I have several which have very similar names and there are MANY more with similar names to the ones I have. A list of those books would remind me that I have “The Complete Vegetable & Herb Gardener” but not “A Complete Guild to Vegetables and Herbs” as well as the fact that I have the first edition of “Square Foot Gardening” and am still looking for “All New Square Foot Gardening” which is supposed to be much improved with experience.

    • In this case you would just make a wish list of the books you’re looking for, such as the two you mentioned, rather than listing every book you already have.

      I think it’s handy to keep a list of book suggestions from friends or books I want to request from the library.

      • I’ve actually made my Amazon wish list exactly that – so if I’ve seen a book in a bookstore or taken the time to research it online and look at reviews, I’ve got it jotted down where I can always find it (Amazon is more organized than my desk). I also keep movie/cookware, etc types ideas of stuff on there.
        The bonus also is that if my mother-in-law wants to find a birthday or Christmas gift, she can go to the list and find something – she’s told me multiple times how much she likes that my husband and I have set these up, then she’s not chasing one of us for gift suggestions for the other.

  20. When my husband and I moved to our current house, we rented a 40 cubic yard dump trailer, and FILLED IT UP! Just out of the barn and house. We are ready to do it again, we think that if we had rented two, we would have filled up two…It was enough to convince me that I don’t need 12 slotted spoons. Less is more.

  21. My ideas about organizations have definitely changed over time. This very well may have appealed to me at different stage in my life too. Because for me, part of the fun of being organized was actually doing the organizing itself. Now, with two kids, there are obviously a zillion other things I can do for fun. Just keeping the house clean and in a somewhat orderly fashion is just fine with me.

    Elizabeth´s last post…Moon Sand

  22. It’s true! I started lists like this for CD’s, DVD’s and books for insurance purposes. Then I got sucked in to the list every time we had a new purchase. Then we bought a CD changer to hold our CD’s and needed a list to see where in the heck they were in the CD changer (not to mention we have ALL the jewel boxes in our storage area in our condo). So would like to get rid of the CD changer and just do iTunes.

    • Karen (Scotland) says:

      I was just going to add a comment that we have a CD changer (two, actually, so he has about 500 CDs) and a sort of “database” that can be searched by either artiste or “genre” (sorry, forgotten the right word for music types!) I made it for my husband’s birthday one year and he loved it so much, it was worth the effort and time it took.
      It also gave him a record for insurance purposes, which he had been harping on about for a while so killed two birds with one stone.
      I don’t “get” his huge collection of music but I’ve learned to accept it. I am quietly praying for the day that he accepts iTunes is the way to go but at the moment, he insists that CDs have a larger “range” or something. Sigh…

      So, one instance where a “list” was needed (to find things in the changer) and recommended (by the insurance company.)

      I should also point out that I am a Librarian (currently a SAHM but still a librarian in my heart) and making such a database was, admittedly, “fun” for me in a big way. :-)


      • CDs have a larger “dynamic range” and greater “depth of field”- they sound better than MP3s. Very few people have headphones or even a car system good enough to hear the difference, though. Really only a good home stereo system will show it.
        CD music can be burned to iTunes in a “lossless” format that has all the same data as a CD, and so sounds just as good, but it takes up more drive space than MP3 or AAC formats. Still, a terabyte hard drive is only $100 and should hold 500 CDs losslessly in about the same space as a hardback novel.
        My 1K or so CDs are all in the attic, waiting for the iPhone that comes with enough storage for me to reburn them at the higher lossless quality. For now I listen to them at a slightly lower 128kbps AAC format.
        Eventually I expect all my movies to make a similar transition, clearing even more shelf space. Books will make the jump at some point, but it’ll be quite a while before my crazy back catalog of architecture reference and shelter-porn will be replicated digitally, so for now I still need lots of shelves.

        Buying music and movie files online (iTunes or elsewhere) will not only save you space and time, but it’s FAR easier on the the ecology than printing up bits of plastic and trucking them all over the world by the tens of thousands. iTunes tracks are now sold in lossless format without DRM.

  23. Amen! Organizing can become a real addiction that can never be satisfied. And I agree completely – if you don’t know what you own, you own way too much. People in many other countries (and certainly in ours in times gone by) own so little ‘stuff’ it’s unbelievable.

  24. Definitely agreed……..except.

    What of the case when Hubby is a seminary student (going-to-be pastor) who has a necessity of a home library for sermon prep? I think there are particular exceptions to the case of organization vs. perfectionism. Sometimes it come with the territory of needing to keep a detailed list of, say, books. And more books.

    With our personal library, there’s no way we’d “know at a glance.”

    Aside from that aspect of “keeping home,” I entirely agree! :)

    hibby´s last post…WordPress On The Go

  25. I agree in part but as a homeschooling mom I like having a large library here at home. Our home library has served us well through 10+ years of homeschooling and saved many a trip to the library. We have over 2000 books but they are organized and I could find one at a moment’s notice.

    Elaine´s last post…This and That

  26. Good advice stemmed from not-so-good advice!

    The only place that I acutally list what I own are spices. Since I’m rather short and my spices are above the stove on a double lazy suzan, I keep a list on the inside of the cabinet door to see what I have on hand while I’m working on recipes for the upcoming week.

    That way I don’t have to stand on tiptoe to go through everything on the shelf to see if I have tarragon, and a quick glance at the list lets me know not to buy more cumin!

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Day 33-37 & Hope For Haiti Now

    • Kait, I almost had a cow when you said you keep your spices above your stove. Do you have a drawer near the stove that you could convert into a spice drawer? The humidity from steam will definitely ruin your spices in a hurry. And if you keep them in a drawer, you won’t need a list, as you’ll be able to see exactly what you have with a single pull of the drawer! :)

      • Lol, we’ve moved since then but no, there was not an available drawer in that kitchen…it was very small and poorly laid out. The drawers were so small, anyways, that half my spices wouldn’t have fit. Now they’re in the pantry…
        Kait Palmer´s last post…Doing What You Love

  27. Agree on one hand, not so much on the other. Due to my professional life (former English Teacher and Youth Pastor, currently SAHM) I’ve collected several books that I can’t part with. Some I’ve kept for use in the event I go back into the classroom or ministry. Those books are classics – literature…. and great Christian Classics. I loan out my library frequently and collect duplicates for gifts – because eventually (as is in my history) someone will ask to borrow my “Sacred Romance” and love it so much they fill it with highlighter marks, etc. So, I just tell them to keep it. But, I don’t just collect books to collect them. There is a specific rhyme and reason to it all.

    That being said, I also keep a catalog of what I have – now we’re only talking 200+/- books – but I’ve found it handy to keep track of what happened to the book. When we moved, I culled my collection, found some stuff that was outdated/irrelevant (How to College in the 90’s) and gave it to Goodwill. When tax time came, it was easy to come up with my list of donations, plug them into my deduction program and deduct it on my taxes. This catalog also provides a running inventory for when my Bible Study group wants to do something new, or old. Sometimes I’ll have a couple of leftovers from a study I did years ago and we just use that, instead of buying new.

    Organization always has to married to purpose. If there is no purpose, there is no need to keep the item or waste time organizing it.

  28. So many personal book libraries! I’m glad to hear that people are actively getting good use from their books.

  29. I can see good and bad points to this, while I would not catalouge all my books and music I do like to keep a list of what has been borrowed and by who,not some of the run of the mill stuff but I have lost some beautiful antique books due to the kids leaning them to someone and forgetting who it was. My mother lost a valuable collection, she was sure who she lent them to but when asked for the return of the collection the person denied ever having them.

  30. I’m such a different person than I used to be – after two international moves and two moves within Japan while we lived there, I’ve mostly gotten over the urge to buy and keep stuff (books, CDs, DVDs) just to have them. I use the library to borrow books, DVDs, and CDs and watch for free. I’ve given away all my college textbooks and novels (I was a lit major) and don’t collect anything. I don’t think I’d have anything to make lists of! We’re about to move again and once again, I’m purging stuff and it feels great!

    The whole list thing reminds me of a funny scene in “When Harry Met Sally” – Harry was reading Sally’s VHS tape list and looking worried. :)

  31. Karen Isaacson says:

    I come from a family of book lovers. When we moved from a 3 bedroom house to a 1 bedroom house, we planned on tearing it down and rebuilding a larger house, but that fell through and our books got stuck in the workshop in boxes. When they made it into the house, I went through a first pass and donated about 300 books to the library…and then some more. We plan on a bar code reader not because we have so many movies or CDs or books but because we don’t feel like taking the time to enter the data manually or committing it to memory. And anyway, I’d be lost without some sort of record of the music I own; I can never remember the name of the person that composed the piece with the exception of the truly unusual, like Spike Jones.

  32. I agree with what you said… If you need to know which books you own, you should just look at your book shelf and be able to see them! The older I get, the more minimalist I become. I still think we have too much stuff, but I fight to pare it down and keep it more organized every day.

    Farmer Gal´s last post…My Heart is Bursting

  33. Karen (Scotland) says:

    I think this is the first time I’ve ever disagreed with your advice! Maybe it’s the Librarian in me, but I understand lists of books, both for need (insurance, catalogue) and pleasure.

    At one time, it wasn’t necessary as I knew every book in my collection (and I totally don’t get people who accidentally borrow one they’ve already read from the library – how can they not recognise it?!) but now, I can see a need for a list of them all. I haven’t done the list yet but I might. ;-)

    You see, I thinned out a lot of books in my twenties due to lack of space and all my books are now stored up high in overhead cupboards and I can’t always quite remember what I still have so (like the spice lady above, lol) I have to stand on a bed to reach the cupboards and find if I still have a book or not – not ideal. They’re up high, not so much from lack of space, but just to keep my little ones’ grubby hands off them!

    Also, I have two authors whose books I have read and reread so many times BUT either my own copies or library copies so no immediate recollection if I own them or not when I see them (Mary Wesley and Terry Pratchett). I am building the collections up through second hand shops (I feel justified making these purchases as I re-read those books every few years) and I have little lists written in my wallet so I can check what I actually own if I ever see them in a shop.

    So, in the defence of lists, I make my case. :-)
    Karen (Scotland)

  34. In a word, AMEN.

    Nancy´s last post…Pumpkin Pie: Better Late Than Never

  35. Wow – when did you read my mind? I used to believe that lists = organization and being organized meant being prepared for everything. I finally came to the realization those lists were more like nooses and I was wasting money, time, space, and my sanity trying to stay on top of everything, so I stopped. I do have some checklists (not lists) for things like back-to-school shopping and kids’ sports equipment. With friends who give us hand-me-downs, knowing that I have football pads but no lacrosse gloves and two white shirts but no black pants for band performances helps.

    I’ve also been working hard over the last four months to go through everything and really evaluate why I have it and what it’s doing to me? Is it something I’ve looked for or needed, or is it just taking up space and weighing me down? The excess has been sold or donated, and I feel lighter every time another bag or box leaves the house.

    WorkingMom´s last post…How to Spread Infectious Diseases, Courtesy of CVS

  36. Oh, I totally disagree with you here. We are huge collectors, and have quite a few books, CDs, (and most especially) video games and movies.

    We also have an inventory of them. We don’t keep the inventory because we don’t know what we own – we keep it so that our families know what we own. They know our love for these media formats, and tend to delight in finding offbeat gifts for us. Having a way to check our current collection makes them feel more comfortable.

    Many of you would say that we have “too much stuff.” But, it’s organized, neat, and makes us happy. I reread books constantly, and rarely buy them on my own. We rewatch our movies all the time, and the spouse gets a great deal of joy out of his video game collection. And both of us prefer the physical copies of media over something downloaded and easily lost.

  37. Been there, done that, check. Yes, and when do you update it? And when does it become OCD? I have enough problems with that. I like the idea of looking at the bookshelf. How profound. I recently gave away a bunch of craft books. So much can be found on the internet now. It’s not worth collecting a bunch of books.

    Jena (Organizing Mommy)´s last post…Time to get cleaning!

  38. My house is too small to hold much stuff, but I still try to purge when I can. Going to Goodwill (to drop off!) always makes me happy.

    However, thinking about this topic has convinced me that I need to be a better steward of my pantry. I have some items in there that need to be used before they go bad! (Evaporated milk anyone?) I think I’ll challenge myself to pull an older ingredient from the pantry and make use of it this week. Hopefully I can make a habit of that, and then keep my pantry more streamlined in the future.

    Juice´s last post…Gratuitous Cecilia Pictures

  39. The library doesn’t carry the classics like it used to. More & more excellent books are becoming out-of-print. I do cataloge our books and download them onto my ipod. This way when I am at a book sale I won’t buy a duplicate. Before making the effort to cataloge the books, I bought several duplicates and eventually unloaded them on paperbackswap. With four children eventually reading the same book (sometimes over and over agian)having our own well worn copy is so helpful.

  40. I keep some lists, mostly of book series that I collect. Even today I was going to pick up a Lemony Snicket book but a quick check of my list showed I already had it. but that’s about it

  41. The number one list that I always keep updated and on me is for my knitting needles! Any time I want to start a new project or buy a new pattern I don’t have to sort through all the needles I have, either in the storage bag or still in current projects. Other than that, I tried to keep a list of DVD’s I owned for lending purposes but now that everyone can watch nearly everything online, there is no point. As for books, between my DH and I, we have about 50 of our most favorite and loved books and any new acquisitions get donated or passed on to friends/family.

  42. Cassandra Smith says:

    I have to disagree on this one. I homeschool and use lots of living books. Keeping an inventory is VITAL in this home. Books come in and go out regularly, and I need to have a list with me at all times. I have a great program for my Mac that uses my onboard camera to scan barcodes, and it has an accompanying iPhone app.

  43. This is much like what I was going to say with this addition: If you are studying any one area, particularly one with old texts (that is, things that are out of print or otherwise hard to find) having a list of those that you have becomes a VERY good idea – because you never know when you’ll run across them in used book shops. I have managed to duplicate several books in exactly that way, but fortunately I have friends who didn’t have copies of them, so it worked out.

    I also wanted to say: I read “Getting Things Done” (a most excellent book!) and sort of reworked an idea he had – I have a little notebook that I carry in my purse that has the list of things I’m looking for, by store (or as in the case of books, just a ‘books’ tag) so that when I’m AT that store, I remember what the HECK I was supposed to be getting! It has saved me a LOT of time and made my life MUCH easier! Something I would recommend to absolutely anyone!

  44. I am a music major and teach private flute lessons and have a huge collection of music and piano parts which are required both for my own study and for my students. I have everything organized by composer in file cabinets, but I also keep a database. This database is not to keep from buying doubles though, it allows me to keep track of pieces I have lent out to students or friends so I don’t lose them. I also have fields for categories (flute duets, trios, solo pieces, etc) and for level so if I don’t know exactly which piece I want to give a student I can sort by a different criteria and give him/her a selection of pieces to try. I am also in a process of scanning all my music into pdf so I can print out a quick copy to give to a pianist or have a copy to give to a student and if it doesn’t make it back into my hands, then there’s no big loss.

    Lisa´s last post…Running and Coffee

    • …Also…this situation may or may not be different if sheet music was as widely available for borrowing as reading and textbooks are. Renting a piece of music often costs much more than just buying it outright.

      Lisa´s last post…Running and Coffee


    If you are a serious reader with an extensive library,
    or a major movie lover, you need to have a catalog of what you own for insurance reasons.

    You only need to update the list once a year really. Keep a copy of the list along with pictures showing the collection in your safety deposit box.

    Otherwise suffer this senario: Your hose burned down. You try to get reimbursed for the loss of your large collection, and the insurance company says, “Okay, give us a list of what you lost, and proof that you actually owned those items.”

    No list, No photos, TOUGH LUCK! to quote Willy Wonka, “You get nothing, you lose! Good day sir!”

  46. Making these lists may someday become a moot point as more of our media becomes digital. I have 2,000-plus songs and iTunes catalogs them automatically. My passwords and accoutn data is all stored in a searchable, secure database. If I someday buy an iPad or eReader, all my books will eventually be indexed and stored as well. Same for movies.

  47. I think this kind of thing is circumstantial. Very unexpectedly, my husband’s career took a turn that requires us to move every few years. As a result, I now maintain a photo catalog of all of our furniture, art, light fixtures, and other large possessions, which requires regular maintenance. Far from busy work, it’s immensely helpful on two fronts: first, cross-country moves, which require pre-planning about which furniture/light fixtures will fit in the new house and what will have to go to storage (if any); and second, for insurance purposes. While I think the advice about not needing lists for books is dead-on, I think when you’re talking about valuable art or antiques that can’t be sold and repurchased at the drop of a hat, an inventory is a very good thing.

    Oh, and a list of staples in the fridge is also a lifesaver for big moves. It’s annoying to have to throw out the ketchup every time you leave a house, and then realize a month later you have none!

    Missives From Suburbia´s last post…Be Still, My Beating Heart

  48. I have set up Delicious Library to catalogue all my possessions, from furniture to clothes to books. I really I use it as a quick and easy tool for DE-cluttering! I can see most of my things as they are in the same room as me easily accessible, but sometimes it’s less emotive (for me anyway) to just open the programme when something comes in and pick something from it to go out rather than handling the object. Plus I find the totals of each category useful, even though I’ll probably never manage to live within the bounds of the 100 thing challenge, (not for everyone I know, but for practical and ethical reasons I’d like to get as close to it as possible), I can see when certain totals are creeping up and have a purge of unused items.

    Though I’m training to be an archivist (where classification is bread and butter!) and am more than a little OCD when it comes to my ‘stuff’ so I admit I may just be self-delusional!

  49. I can’t understand the idea of cataloguing everything you own, I agree. But when it comes to books, in a family of avid readers but with widely different tastes, is is another matter. My father will of course know what murder mysteries he has, and I will know what Discworld books I do not own, and my mother keeps track of her modernists…but to be frank, I honestly don’t know every single book in every single bookcase in every single room in my house. We have thousands of them, after all, each and everyone (more or less) cherished, but not necessarily by the same persons. Thus, it is good to keep a list of books for gift giving purposes. Not to keep track of books, or know where they are – I know my books as the back of my hand, every single spine a loved friend – but for the convenience of other people.

    • For gift giving, perhaps something that could save time is to make a wish list of books you want to read, instead of lists of thousands that you have now.

  50. That just sounds like OCD, and probably has nothing to do with organization, but everything to do with a psychological issue.

  51. I absolutely agree! Organizing should free us up to enjoy life, it should not be about making things complicated.
    Kelly´s last post…December Days

  52. My husband always reminds of making a list on everything, like my stuff, things to do for the day, etc but I just can’t keep with it.
    Mainstay Ministries´s last post…The Bible For Personal Revival