Taking an inventory of your home and belongings no longer has to be the time-consuming task of writing down every item you own, noting purchase dates and locations, manufacturer numbers, and costs (what it cost you to buy it and what it would cost to replace it).
You can start with a quick video on your smartphone, walking around your home pointing at what you own and talking about it off camera. A complete inventory is best, but it may take more time than you want to spend today, so start by making a basic inventory.
Now that I’ve assured you that something quick and easy is better than nothing, let’s start back at the beginning.
WHY IS A HOME INVENTORY IMPORTANT?
An inventory is needed to help you begin the recovery process. In the event of an earthquake, hurricane, fire, or break-in, you will need documentation of what you’ve lost so that your insurance (homeowners or renters) claims can be paid and you can begin the recovery.
Insurance companies require documentation of property lost or damaged by fire, theft, flood, or other causes. During such a stressful time you don’t want to come up with an inventory from memory. Now is the time to create an accurate inventory.
A home inventory is also important to have so you can talk with your insurance agent to confirm you have enough coverage for what you own but not more than you need. A conversation with your agent can also help insure you’re covered for the hazards you might face. As you create a record of your property, you can also evaluate and discuss with your agent whether you’ll want to cover the cost of replacement or just the value.
FIRST — A BASIC VIDEO FOR THE RECORD
For a 3-bedroom house, plan on 30 minutes or less as it doesn’t have to be perfect, and you’re not pulling individual items out to record. The goal is to create a basic picture of what’s there.
Walk through each room, looking at the walls, the ceiling, the floor, and the furniture. Pull out drawers and record what’s there. Open closets and cabinets and film their contents, too. If you have jewelry, open the jewelry boxes and make sure you show the individual pieces.
The focus is to do it yourself quickly and easily. If you don’t have video capability, take photos. If you don’t have your own video or photo capability, ask a trusted family member or friend.
If you or a friend can’t do it, an option is to hire a professional organizer or other professional who offers home inventory services and will provide you with a CD, DVD or a video stored in the cloud with the home inventory. With a professional organizer on your team, you can go for a full, detailed home inventory or just a quick start to your emergency preparedness.
Take photos and video of your electronics like DVRs, Wi-Fi, or video game equipment. Pull out the owner’s manual to get a better look at make and model. If you can easily look at the manufacturer’s number do so, but for this first video, the goal is to get it done. The next step will be to take more time to collect specific information.
If you have figurines, crystal or other items in a china hutch, take a minute (and no more than a minute) to scan the shelves. Talk about where you picked something up, what you paid for it, and what you know about it. If you have appraisals or receipts handy, pull them out and include them in your video. If they’re not handy, that will be an action for another day.
Take a tour of the outside of your home as well. Another video could include your car, boat, motorcycle or anything you have.
For this video your goal is to get a start. For any collection you have, you won’t go into piece-by-piece detail. Save that for another video time. But scan your possessions with your smartphone and help provide a general overview of what you have.
NEXT — A DETAILED INVENTORY
Once you’ve made your basic video or taken pictures, you’ll need to create a home inventory. You can either make a simple written list with a spreadsheet or word-processing software, or utilize a home inventory app.
Where and when purchased
Cost of purchase
Serial number on electronics
Size for artwork, area rugs, computers and TV
Warranties or maintenance contract
Once you have your video, photos and other supporting documentation, you’ll want to keep it safe. Get it off your phone and either onto a CD, DVD, flash drive, or into a secure cloud-based storage like Dropbox, Box, or cloud service of your choice. Make several copies if you can and keep a copy outside of the house. Keep a copy of the CD, DVD, or flash drive in your safe deposit box. I’m more inclined to keep a copy in a safe deposit box than a family or friend’s house because they may not keep it as secures as you would. They might forget they have a copy or what's on the flash drive.
This blog is taken from 31 Small Steps to Organize for Emergencies (and Disasters), Step #26.
In Step #27 (Backup — Computers and Files) I talk about creating backups.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO FILE A CLAIM
A list of items — yes, a home inventory will ultimately require a list, but a video is a great record to start with so that in the event you have to make a list, you don’t have to do it from memory.
Photos or video of your property and assets
Receipts for big-ticket items
Appraisals for valuable items
HOME INVENTORY TOOLS & IDEAS
Check out your insurance company’s website to see if they have a home inventory tool you can use such as phone apps or checklists. For example:
Allstate’s Digital Locker® app for iOS and Android
Liberty Mutual Insurance has the Home Gallery® app for iOS
Safeco Home Inventory app for iOS
State Farm has checklists to use
If you want a more detailed home inventory, you can:
keep it simple with electronic spreadsheet software (Microsoft Excel, Apache OpenOffice Calc, LibreOffice Calc, or Google Sheets)
get a legal pad or bound notebook and write it down
choose a software program by looking at the reviews online. One must-have capability of any program is the option to export the information into a spreadsheet in case the software is no longer supported or you want to move it to another platform. I use HomeZada.com, which has a phone app that makes it easy to add items. HomeZada.com has a lot more capabilities such as maintenance scheduling and renovation projects tools, so remember to choose a tool that is as simple as possible and only as complicated as you need it to be.
Books by Shawndra Holmberg