Creating your home inventory

If an unfortunate event damaged your home and your belongings, could you remember every item you own and how much it’s all worth off the top of your head?

A fire, severe weather, burglary or other disaster can wreak havoc on your home and lead to broken or missing belongings. In the wake of an unfortunate event, having an up-to-date inventory of your items and their value can speed up the claims process and help you recover faster. It can also help you verify any losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the amount of insurance that’s right for you.

Whether you’re setting up your first apartment or have lived in the same house for years, creating an inventory may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. You can start your own inventory with these three simple steps:

Get started now

There are lots of ways to start tackling your inventory. The bottom line is to start somewhere manageable.

  • Start small. Tackle an organized room or a contained area first. For example, a kitchen appliance cabinet, walk-in closet or chest of drawers with important documents. Start here, then work your way to other areas of your home.
  • Track recent purchases. Instead of starting in a certain place, list recent purchases and work on older possessions after that. Begin keeping receipts, contracts and appraisals so you can show proof of value. Recording recent purchases first can get you into the habit of inventorying your purchases as they’re made.
  • Include basic information. Unsure of what information you should include? Describe each item, where it was purchased, make, model, what you paid and any other detail that would be important to know during a claim. For example, major appliances and electronic equipment usually carry a serial number which can be a useful reference.
  • Categorize clothing. Closets can be hard to tackle. Simplify the process and record clothes by category. For example, four pairs of jeans and three pairs of high heels. Note any items that are especially valuable, like an expensive purse.
  • Check coverage on valuable items. Items like jewelry, art and other collectibles may have increased in value and need special coverage outside your homeowner’s insurance. Check with your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate insurance to cover these items effectively.
  • Don’t forget to check off-site. Homeowners or renters’ insurance may provide off-site coverage for items kept in a storage facility. Check your coverage and make sure to include any off-site items on your list.

Use technology

Paper and pencil gets the job done, but technology can take your list to the next level.

  • Take pictures. Create photo records of the rooms in your house and your belongings. Label your photos and include what is pictured and any other information you believe to be helpful should the item need to be replaced or you need to be reimbursed.
  • Videotape it. Along with pictures, you can use video to document the rooms in your house and belongings. Walk from room to room and describe the contents, including numbers of items, when the items were purchased and other basic information.
  • Use an app. There are multiple apps that can help with your home inventory process and keep records of your belongings.

Keep your inventory up-to-date and safely stored

Now that you’ve done the work, continuously update your list and store in a safe space. You don’t want your list to be one of the items damaged in an event.

  • Add new purchases. Your list is only helpful if it’s up-to-date. Adding to the list at the time of purchase allows you to put down the information while it’s still fresh in your mind.
  • Store a copy outside your home. A paper inventory, along with receipts or appraisals, should be kept in a safe deposit box or a friend or relative’s home. Make at least one back-up copy to store separately. For instance, you can easily make a digital copy by taking a picture on your phone or creating a digital list.
  • Backup digital files. Keep a copy on an external hard drive, cloud or online storage account.