L. Cargill, Medical Laboratory Scientist, ASCP. Retired blood banker and laboratorian. Loves to write about a wide range of subjects. Enjoy!
The Easy Way to Do a Home Inventory
Get out your video camera and do a home inventory video. Walk from room to room videotaping everything in each room. Narrate as you go talking about each piece, its significance, and probable value. If you know when and where and how much you paid for an item, add that in your narration.
Scan all of your receipts on everything valued at $100 or more. Upload everything to a "cloud" server such as YouTube, Google Drive, or another private server that is backed up regularly and is dependable. You will want to add privacy controls to your video and other documents. Google Drive and YouTube make this easy and free.
Do not name your video or files with an obvious title like John Doe's Home Inventory. Hackers might just figure that out. Give your files a name similar to a really strong password. Use letters, numbers, uppercase, lowercase, and any special symbols that the naming protocol will accept. "This is John Doe's Home Inventory 82412 (date)" could be expressed as:"TiJdHmeIn82412." This would be a good file name, use something similar. Don't forget to make it private if using YouTube or Google Drive!
Seriously, don't put this task off. You may wish you had done it immediately after reading this article! There is no way of knowing when and where a disaster will strike.
What Are My Photographs Worth?
Do a Home Inventory With Photographs
A video camera is the easiest method, but the next easiest way to take inventory of your possessions is to walk from room to room and photograph everything. With photo editing software, you can add in the text to describe the item and its value, purchase date, and other information needed. Don't forget the closets!
Your clothes are particularly hard to value, but replacement costs could be very high, so be sure to document everything. Even your socks, as the video suggests.
With digital cameras these days, it is not difficult to take a few thousand photos of all your household items. You can print these out and store them in a safe deposit box or just transfer them to a digital service that can make your photos private. You can even upload the photos to a private album in FaceBook, but I recommend using a public or private cloud service as described for video uploading.
Don't forget to save your family photos too. These cannot be replaced. Schedule a time in the near future to have all of your home photos moved to digital storage. Or put copies of irreplaceable photos in a safe deposit box.
Home Inventory Software
A basic home inventory software program could be made by simply using Microsoft Excel spreadsheet applications. Open Office software has free spreadsheet software that is just as powerful and easy to use as MS Excel.
You can also purchase a software that is pre-written explicitly for home insurance documentation purposes. If you have never learned to use a computer spreadsheet, all you really have to do is go room to room in your home and write down a list of everything in the room by hand (horrors). You will need a pen and paper or notepad.
Be sure to store your inventory (by whatever method) in a secure location that will hopefully not be affected by the same disaster that hits your individual home or neighborhood.
Sample Home Inventory Spreadsheet
|Item and Location||Year of Purchase||Insurance Value||Receipt Available?|
Master Bedroom Furniture Set
Big Screen TV - LR
Wedding Rings - Jewelry Box
No (appraisal done 2012)
Refrigerator - Kitchen
started in 1985
appraised at $3,000
appraisal done in 2012
What's in Your Living Room?
This is going to be the place to start. It's where you "live." Most of your major purchases are going to be in this room, so don't forget to document all of the following:
- Electronics - TV, stereo, iPods
- Furniture - lamps, tables, shelves, trays, curio cabinets (and their contents), desks
- Art - bric-a-brac, figurines
- Floor coverings - rugs, carpeting, tiles, hardwoods
- Musical - pianos, organs, keyboards, guitars
- Bookcases - books - especially collector's editions
- Windows - drapes, a/c units, custom treatments, custom windows
- Storage chests - and everything in them
Move on to the Bedrooms
Your bedrooms may be where you store your most valuable items such as jewelry, watches, art, etcetera. Everything of value must be documented in order for you to receive insurance claims. An insurance company will not just take your word when you claim to have a five thousand year old diamond brooch handed down through family inheritances. You will have to have proof and they may even require insurance appraisals ahead of time. So get this done too. Make a list for every bedroom in the home.
Some things to consider while doing your bedroom inventory:
- Dressers and contents
- Jewelry cases and contents
- Closets and contents
- Bedroom furniture, linens and chairs
- Chests and contents
- Artwork, ceiling fans, mirrors, windows, flooring
- Anything under the bed hidden away
- Guns and other protective items
- Electrical appliances, a/c window units
- Books and bric-a-brac decorative items
- Lamps and desks
- Sewing machines
Bathrooms and Hallways
Don't forget to document some valuable items in these areas. Electric toothbrushes aren't cheap, you know. You may have some artwork or figurines that are worth a pretty penny too.
- Bathroom cabinets and contents
- Closets and contents
- Towels and linens
- Art and decorative items
- Electrical appliances
- Hall furniture and any contents
Medications and Health Supplies
Keep a running list of all your medications, supplements and health needs and supplies. These will have to be replaced after a disaster. This can add up to a huge replacement cost.
Don't Forget Computers
Home Office Contents/Family Rooms
Some home insurance policies do not cover home offices, so check with your policy holder. You may have to take out a special rider policy for reimbursement of home office supplies and computers. You might be covered if you only use your home office as a den or family room instead of using it for "business."
- Air conditioner window units, ceiling fans, room fans
- Bookcases and Books
- Cabinets and contents
- Desks and contents
- Games, game player electronics
- Computers, scanners, fax machines, printers, cameras
- Furniture - tables, end tables, coffee tables, card tables, pool tables
- Closets and contents
- Fireplace equipment (also in living rooms)
- Musical equipment
- Sports equipment
- Private collections - coins, Ty Beanie Babies, whatever
- Ceiling, floors, windows
Attic, Basement, and Garage Insurance Inventory
Don't forget these areas when you are going around doing your video or photography. You may have forgotten those old Abraham Lincoln letters in the attic or basement. Plus your garage is an automatic storage area for sports equipment, lawn care equipment, and automobile parts.
Taking Stock of Your Kitchen
Your kitchen has incredible valuable appliances, cookware, and furniture. You will be surprised at just how much money is tied up in your kitchen and dining rooms.
Take photos of everything:
- Appliances - refrigerator, stove, microwave, toaster oven, mixers, blenders, specialty appliances, dishwasher
- Pots and pans
- Cabinets and contents
- Silverware and cutlery, expensive chef's knives or tools
- Dishes, glasses, bowls
- Shelving and contents
- Kitchen linens, pot holders
- Cookie jars and canisters
Laundry Room and Utility Rooms
- Washer, Dryer, Freezer
- Shelving, Cabinets and contents
- Ironing board, steam press
Collector's Items and Hobbies
A serious collector will have an inventory of what is in the collection and what is not in the collection. Everything should be documented and photographed and separately insured if the collection is very valuable.
This might include art work, figurines, coins, baseball cards and items of this nature. Some people choose to display their collections and some people like to keep them private. You will need records to prove the value of each item and you may want to store those records in a safe deposit box along with your total home inventory list.
Hobbies are generally only of value to the person doing the hobby. The insurance company will only reimburse you for your actual supply value. They will not insure speculative amounts. If you have quilts and quilting supplies, for instance, you cannot insure them for the possible value they might have should you want to sell them sometime in the future. Every year you should make it a habit to have your hobby items and supplies appraised by someone who knows the market. Store these appraisals in the safe deposit box too.
The Crown Jewels
Jewlery, Furs, and Miscellaneous Items of Value
Keep all receipts for high ticket items. Keep them for as long as you own the items. Be sure to photograph and save the documentation on all items of value in your home.
Very expensive items should be stored in a protected safe deposit box or a home safe or in a guarded location. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to retrieve these items should the need arise.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2012 Lela
Comments - If I have forgotten something, please add a comment...
Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on August 31, 2012:
Yes, of course you should do a new one. Probably every year! I need to do one too. Working on it.
Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on August 31, 2012:
Hey Lela - really this is a fabulous idea and it should be done! I videoed everything. I need to do it again bc I've remodeled so much since then you know? I mean - I used to have carpet - now it's hardwood. I've had the deck stained and a new roof...for example. I think I really should do a new one don't you?
Mary Craig from New York on August 26, 2012:
Very good advice. Back in the 'old' days, I gave my kids my negatives so that I could re-create photos if anything happened...needless to say that was quite a while ago and its time to do something else now. Thanks for the reminder and all the tips we need to follow.
Voted up, useful, and interesting.
Christin Sander from Midwest on August 26, 2012:
What an excellent and useful hub - bookmarked , voted up and shared. I know I really need to do this living where I do and I will definitely use your tips and get started on it.
lauramaryscott from Boise, Idaho on August 26, 2012:
Austinstar, thank you for this article. My daughter recently gave me a video/digital camera and I need to learn how to use it. Doing an inventory was on my list of things to do. Your article helped me organize a plan of action. Thank you.
WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on August 26, 2012:
This is something we desperately need to do.
drbj and sherry from south Florida on August 26, 2012:
Thank you, Lela, for this very thorough home inventory list and suggestions re insurance. Timing is impeccable since Tropical Storm Isaac is lingering outside at the moment.
Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on August 26, 2012:
Just start with a run through with a video camera. This will identify most of your belongings. You can fine tune the list as you go about.
Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom on August 25, 2012:
This is the first time for years that I have been able to afford insurance. I do keep all reciepts but making a comprehensive inventory really ought to be my next move.
Thanks for the useful suggestions.
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on August 25, 2012:
I don't think you've forgotten anything but had to leave a comment anyway. This is something I've never done but have been meaning to. Thank you for the reminder.