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How To Create A Household Inventory Quickly And Easily

Now that you know why you should create a household inventory, it's time to figure out how to get it done quickly and easily.


household inventory
Photo © Istockphoto.com/Rinelle
Creating a home inventory can take lots and lots of time if you let it, but it doesn't have to.

The secret is to use a digital camera and/or video camera to speed up the process.

The Purpose Of A Home Inventory Is To Prove What Stuff You Own - Especially The Expensive Stuff

The purpose of a household inventory is to show an insurance adjuster, when you need to file an insurance claim, what you owned that has been destroyed or stolen so you can get money to replace it.

Therefore, the best place to focus your attention is on the biggest ticket items that will cost the most to replace, and not focus too much on the minutia.

An insurance adjuster, for example, doesn't really need to know you had 16 pencils in your desk drawer.

On the other hand, they do need to know on your desk you had a computer, flat screen monitor, and printer.

Take Photos And Videos Of All Your Stuff - It Is Much Faster Than Writing Everything Down

In the past when you needed to create a household inventory, you got out sheets of paper and wrote stuff down until your hand cramped up.

That is one of the reasons that in the past creating a household inventory took so much time.

Not anymore.

Pictures and video are excellent ways to create a quick and easy household inventory.

An additional advantage of pictures and video over a written list is that it is much stronger evidence that you actually owned the item, and what condition it was in, then just writing it on a list.

For example, I could write on a list that I owned 15 designer dresses, but that doesn't make it true, and adjusters are trained to be skeptical.

A picture is, as they say, worth a thousand words.

Of course, if you want to use a computer program to help you, check out my review and link to some free home inventory software).

Types of Things To Document In Your Household Inventory

Although you want to create your household inventory as quickly and easily as possible, don't skimp on the details too much, where it counts.

Take the time to go through your house and document everything - how thoroughly depends on what each item is worth.

Also, don't forget the outside of the house. You have lots of stuff out there -- grills, patio furniture, even landscaping, which is typically insured (at least to a capped value) under a homeowner's policy.

All insurance policies are different so you need to read yours to know what is and is not covered.

Also, go into each room and open each closet, drawer, cabinet and box to show its contents.

If needed, move things around so you document everything, even the stuff stuck in the back or hidden by other items normally.

Also, don't forget the stuff in the basement, attic and garage.

Use your common sense.

Take one picture of the contents of your clothing drawers with socks and underwear in it, and more time taking multiple pictures of your expensive appliances, from several angles and detail shots.

The more an item costs the more documentation there should be.

Document Your Stuff In The Best Condition Possible To Get Maximum Payment

Remember, you want your documentation to show things in as good of condition as possible, to increase the value of your possessions.

If you show a beaten up couch, an insurance company will not pay you as much for it as a pristine looking one.

This is especially important if you have an actual cash value policy, where the insurance company only pays you the current depreciated value of the property, instead of a replacement cost policy, where the insurance company pays you the cost to replace the item.

Don't Forget To Get Serial Numbers And Model Numbers For Appliances And Electronics

When taking pictures or video of items like appliances and electronics, make sure you get a good picture of the serial number or read it aloud for the video camera.

Same thing with model number and brand for appliances and electronics.

This will help show the actual value of the electronic or appliance if it is destroyed, and may help recover it if it is stolen.

Items You May Have Forgotten About But Should Document

Here is a quick list of items you should document in your home inventory that you might not automatically think of:

Don't Forget To Inventory These Items

  • Bedding
  • Books*
  • Carpets and rugs
  • Ceiling fans and other fixtures
  • Christmas decorations
  • Collections*
  • Curtains and draperies
  • Decorative items, including artwork*
  • Dishes and utensils
  • Food in pantry, freezer and refrigerator
  • Furniture
  • Garden equipment
  • Hobby items*
  • Items in storage inside your home
  • Jewelry*
  • Ladders
  • Luggage
  • Musical instruments*
  • Pots and pans and other kitchen equipment
  • Plants and landscaping
  • Sporting goods
  • Tools*
  • Toys

* Denotes those items which are more likely to need to be specially insured.

Document All Specially Insured Items Carefully

Any items that need to be specially insured should be documented carefully, after you make sure you have insurance coverage for them.

Depending on their value or their uniqueness, you also may want to have the item(s) officially appraised.

Gather Copies Of Receipts For Big Ticket Items If You Have Them

After taking pictures and/or video for your household inventory, you should gather copies of any receipts for big ticket items you have, such as for the purchase of your washer and dryer.

If you don't have the receipts anymore, don't worry about it.

Just remember in the future, as you purchase additional larger items for your home, to keep a copy of your receipt and place it with your home inventory.

You Do Not Need To Estimate Values Of Each Item Unless You Want To

Most insurance companies, when they suggest you create a household inventory, add a space for you to fill in the value of each item.

I think this is a big waste of time, except for specially insured items which I mentioned above, for the following reasons:

  1. We are not professional appraisers, so we are bad judges of an item's value. We may either severely overestimate or underestimate something's worth.


  2. An item's value changes depending on its age, condition, and many other variables. What may be an accurate estimate one day may not be the next.


  3. The insurance company will not rely on your estimate anyway. They have sophisticated computer models which spit out this data for them.

Having said that, you may want to estimate values for your own use, to determine if you have enough insurance coverage.

If you have a policy maximum which will only pay half of your estimated value, for example, you should consider buying more coverage.

If you do want to do these estimates before you begin you need to find out if you have an actual cash value policy or a replacement value policy.

Store Two Copies Of Your Household Inventory - One Outside Your Home

Once you have completed your household inventory burn two or more copies onto a CD or DVD, and make copies of any receipts (or scan them to place onto the CD or DVD too).

Then, keep one copy in your home. If you have one, place the CD or DVD in a heat resistant safe or file cabinet.

You should also keep a copy somewhere else, such as at a friend's house, your parent's house, or in a safe deposit box.

Remember, the purpose of a household inventory is to have proof of what you owned if everything is stolen or destroyed. If your household inventory is also stolen or destroyed it will do you no good, so keep another copy somewhere else to be on the safe side.

Update Your Household Inventory Periodically

You should update your household inventory periodically, at least every two years.

You should also update it more frequently if you move or add additional members to your household, because of the addition of all their new stuff.

Finally, as you purchase additional big ticket items save those receipts and take pictures and/or video of them as you go, and add it to your household inventory right away.

I hope this helped you see how to easily and quickly create a household inventory that serves its purpose, without making you spend a week or two laboriously writing down every detail of your home's contents.


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