Spending so much time at home has inspired many of us to binge shows like Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and The Home Edit and get control over the clutter. While you’re in an organizing mindset—or even if you’re happily ignoring your piles of stuff—the start of a new year is the perfect time to take a home inventory.
Why a home inventory?
Consumer Reports (CR) says, “The process takes a few hours, but it has long-lasting benefits.” Not only could it help you discover things you thought you’d lost or that you don’t need, a home inventory can help you recover from an emergency.
Sure, there’s renters or homeowners insurance—but making a claim is a different story. Could you remember and tell your adjuster about everything you own if your house was hit by a natural disaster or fire? Or how about if a thief broke in and ransacked your house?
Having a list or visual record of your possessions, “can make a big difference in how much your homeowners insurance will pay, thus how well you’ll recover financially” according to CR. Forbes agrees. The publication says having a home inventory can “speed up your insurance claim because you won’t spend time trying to make an inventory” and could “maximize your claim payment because you won’t forget any of your belongings.”
Now that you know how important an inventory is, here’s how to get started and what to do:
Grab your smartphone or camera
CR says creating a home inventory can be as “as simple as standing in the middle of each room and taking a 360-degree video.” Take photos or video of the biggest and most valuable things—appliances, furniture, rugs, jewelry, collectables, etc. Then start opening doors, drawers, and cabinets and take photos there too.
Another approach? The Insurance Information Institute says you could start with your newest things first, and then work on your older things.
There are apps for that
Another idea is to use a home inventory app. Some insurance companies offer their own, and you’ll find many in app stores—some for free, and some not. Also, don’t forget that some apps may be free but may then require in-app purchases so do your homework before getting started.
There are also templates for that
Microsoft Office has a home inventory Excel template available, and a quick Googling will get you a variety of free printable home inventory sheets if you prefer pen and paper.
Descriptions are important
If you’re using your smartphone, feel free to narrate as you take videos. Read off serial numbers, makes, and models as you record—or make sure you photograph that information. The goal is to describe each item briefly, but the exception to the rule is clothing. The Insurance Information Institute says that for most clothes, you can just count them. List the number of pairs of pants, shoes, or shirts you own, but if there’s something particularly valuable, make note of it.
Receipts are a great addition to make descriptions more complete. Both CR and Forbes recommend taking photos of receipts for goods when you have them. They offer helpful details including proof of the purchase date and price.
Don’t store it at home
Having a home inventory is useless if it is destroyed along with your home in a disaster situation, or if it only lives on a device that ends up stolen in a burglary. Store a copy of your inventory in a cloud service or save a copy on a disk or thumb drive and store it in a lockbox or someone else’s house.
Remember to log items in off-site storage
If you have things in a storage unit, make sure you include those in your inventory too!
Refresh your inventory every year—and, in the meantime, be sure to log any new items when you bring them home.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
CR offers these wise words: “…don’t sweat the small stuff too much. An insurance adjuster is likely to create a ‘bulk estimate’ for those things—for example, $200 for everything in your utility closet”.
Take a deep breath
Once you start, you might start to get overwhelmed by the process, but just stop and take a deep breath. Remember that an any information is better than none and it doesn’t have to be perfect to be helpful.