It seems as if we’re experiencing near-monthly “100-year storms” lately — welcome to the end of days! Hurricanes along the gulf coast, tornadoes throughout the midwest, winter disasters in New England, typhoons and earthquakes across the globe — no matter where you live or what your situation, the best time to prepare for certain destruction of your property is always (always) BEFORE trouble arrives. Once the dust clears (and you find that everything you used to own is now gone with the wind), how will you provide your insurance company with the documentation it needs to help rebuild your life? If your answer is “I have no idea,” follow these important steps for creating an inventory of your belongings.
Why A Home Inventory?
- an insurance policy alone is not enough to get your stuff back — a full accounting of your material possessions is your most important form of property protection in case of theft, natural emergency, terrorist attack, sharknado, or other substantial loss
- if you believe your kind-hearted agent is just going to write you a check, think again — before you can file a claim (and have it paid), ya gotta prove you actually owned that thing when disaster hit
- you also need to document a particular item’s worth and condition (beyond just giving your word) to be accurately reimbursed — so much for Trading Places, where you pay $35,000 for a vase but claim its value at $50,000 on your insurance!
Documenting Your Possessions
- go room-to-room and photograph or video each space — you don’t need individual images of every board game and pair of shoes, but you should be able to show “collections” (these sorts of kitchen implements, such-and-such type of furniture, x-many books/CDs/DVDs)
- open each cabinet, drawer, and closet for a close-up — big time-saver with bulky stuff (like clothes), small items (like silverware), and breakables (like china) that you don’t want to have to unload
- include images of the serial numbers on electronics and appliances (or record them on each printed photograph — or enter them into a spreadsheet/app — or create a master handwritten list)
- don’t forget all the larger (and much dirtier) items in your garage, basement, and outbuildings — tools, lawn furniture, sports equipment, vehicles, whatever
- take separate pictures of particularly valuable commodities — give each of those rare, irreplaceable, and super-spendy purchases (like art/rugs/furs/jewelry/collectibles/antiques) its own snapshot
Items To Include In Your Inventory
- clothing, shoes, accessories, and jewelry
- household furnishings, home decor, and fixtures
- kitchenware, appliances, and cooking implements
- glassware, cutlery, dishes, and other tableware
- books, CDs, DVDs, and other media
- lawn care items, tools, and outdoor equipment
- items stored away in your basement, garage, or attic
- personal items, memorabilia, and family heirlooms
- antiques, art, and collectibles
- vehicles — motorcycles, bicycles, boats, ATVs, etc.
- games, toys, exercise machines, and recreational equipment
- outdoor improvements — decks, outbuildings, landscaping
- it may seem excessive to include so much, but keep in mind that you may experience a total loss — and you’ll want to receive enough money to replace EVERYTHING, not just the expensive stuff
Proving The Value Of Your Belongings
- store receipts for any notable or high-end purchases with your inventory
- if a belonging’s value might be questioned (or you have no written receipt for that particular thing-a-ma-bob), describe it — when/where you obtained it, the original purchase price, brand name, special historical significance, anything that will substantiate your claimed dollar amount
- remember all those especially-valuable-and-potentially-appreciable items we mentioned earlier? — have these treasures independently evaluated by a certified appraiser, just to be on the safe side
- once you’ve collected all of the above information, prepare an estimated value for the entire contents of your home — actually sit down and tally up the numbers so you know your stuff’s worth
- whenever you buy/inherit/acquire something new, photograph it — put that picture (accompanied by a copy of the receipt or appraisal) in with your other documentation
- review and update your inventory yearly — the easiest way is to make another room-by-room pass with your camera and a pad of paper, making a note of changes and additions
- of course when you do this, you may find that your old coverage limits are no longer adequate — don’t forget to increase your homeowner’s/renter’s and other insurance, if necessary
Protecting Your Investment
- you need quick access to this information when it’s time to file a claim — make sure you haven’t stored the only copy of your inventory in a home desk drawer or filing cabinet that blew away when your house was destroyed
- better if you stash the original in a fire safe, safe deposit box, online, or in an app — you can also give a copy to your insurance agent, will-executor, or a family member as an added measure of protection
- finally, be sure to keep your agent’s contact info, policy numbers, and full copies of your declarations/exclusions/limits (for all property liability, umbrella, and valuable articles coverage) with your inventory
(this article has been edited/expanded for the web — click here to download the original PDF as published by Getting Organized Magazine)
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Copyright 2015 RamonaCreel.com
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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.
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