How to Catalog Your Stuff

Get tips on how to keep track of books, CDs, DVDs, and other possessions.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #114

I saw a bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most stuff, wins.” I didn’t know that. Darn. I thought he who lived a full, meaningful life with enriching experiences and deep relationships wins. Knowing who has the most stuff takes forever and is a lot of work, unless you keep a catalog.

Why Keep a Catalog?

We need catalogs for many different reasons. We catalog our things for insurance, to prove what we owned when our vindictive ex moves out and takes everything. We track what we've loaned to others. And we keep a list because we forget what we own and don't want to buy duplicates (says the guy with six copies of William Shatner’s first album, The Transformed Man).

Some people keep a catalog to review all their stuff and feel superior to all the poor people who don’t own as much stuff. Billionaire Harry Helmsley and his wife Leona would reportedly sit in their New York penthouse and count the buildings they owned. Self esteem at its finest!

What is a Catalog?

A catalog is a big list that you alphabetize so you can find stuff. You could write it on a piece of paper, but then it gets hard to add new items between existing items. If you already own Biker Boyz and Biker Zombies, you need to be able to add a new item between them when someone gives you Biker Babylon: The Wild Ride for your birthday. Keeping a catalog will come in handy if your house ever falls over and sinks into a swamp. You’ll have a list of everything you own, so the insurance company can work quickly. They’ll be forced to skip right over the part where they accuse you of incomplete records and will go straight to the legal loopholes that let them avoid paying.

How to Create a Catalog

Keep your catalog on computer. I recommend using a spreadsheet. Use one spreadsheet for everything. Put the name of the item in column A, and the type—DVD, CD, book, appliance, computer equipment, unique clothing—in column B.

If you want to list just one kind of item, for example your books, sort the spreadsheet by column B, or use the spreadsheet “autofilter” command to show just the rows that say “Book” in column B.

An electronic catalog can also synchronize with handheld devices. Sync your book catalog and when you’re in the bookstore, you can add new items or look up what you own right then and there.

How to Search Your Catalog

Search your catalog by searching the spreadsheet. A single word will do if you can’t remember the whole title. Is it The Anne Huffington Guide to Debutantes Gone Wild or Christina Hedberg’s Debutantes Galore? Just search for “debutante” and you’ll instantly realize you wanted Vendela Vida’s Girls on the Verge. (Available now for $.01 on Amazon.com!)


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.