Recently I had a conversation, really it was a series of text messages, with a friend. He told me he was worried that his daughter would come into his home and toss everything without thinking because it is very cluttered. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never been to my friend’s home, but he told me it is full of valuable stuff. As we all know, one man’s treasure may be another man’s trash. In this case, I think his home may be full of truly valuable things. I asked if he had ever considered taking the time to create a comprehensive home inventory. He had not.
We know that when disaster strikes (and it can strike quickly as evidenced by the devastating fires in Maui) you may not have time to grab anything. The reports from Maui are that people are lucky to have escaped with their lives. The fire was that quick.
There is never a good time to embark on a project like this. Typically, when there is a disaster such as the one in Maui, people stop to think that it is a good idea to have some sort of record of the contents of their home. Something they can show to prove what they have or lost because of a malfunction in their home like a fire or flood, because of a natural disaster, or a robbery. But there are other reasons to create a home inventory.
Reasons to make a comprehensive home inventory
A home inventory can serve as a practical organizational tool. By categorizing and documenting your possessions, you gain a better understanding of what you own. This can help you reduce clutter. When you know you have 5 frying pans and only use 2 or 3 it’s easier to let someone else have the others.
Documentation of ownership:
A home inventory provides tangible proof of ownership for your items. This can be especially important for high-value items like electronics, jewelry, and artwork. Documenting ownership helps prevent disputes with insurers and provides legal support in case of theft or disputes.
In times of disaster, having a home inventory readily available can be a lifesaver. Whether it’s a fire, earthquake, flood, or another event, knowing exactly what you have and where it’s located can help you prioritize what to save and expedite the recovery process. It’s equally important to store this documentation in a secure cloud program so you can access it from anywhere.
Should you need to file an insurance claim, a comprehensive home inventory can streamline the process. Insurance companies often require proof of loss, and a well-organized inventory can make the claims process smoother and faster.
Moving and downsizing:
Whether you’re moving to a new home or downsizing, a home inventory can help you determine what to take with you, what to sell, and what to donate. This can simplify the moving process and help you make informed decisions about your possessions.
In certain cases, a home inventory might be used for tax-related purposes. If you have valuable items that you plan to donate, a thorough inventory can help you accurately assess their value for potential tax deductions.
When planning your estate, a home inventory can be a useful tool for distributing your belongings according to your wishes. It can also assist your loved ones in managing your estate after you’re gone.
In my friend’s case, he is interested in letting his daughter know the history behind many of the things he owns as well as their value. Preserving the stories and the history of items is important to many people.
How to make a comprehensive home inventory
Now that you know the many reasons why having an inventory is a good idea I’m going to share how to go about this process. There are several ways to do this.
Take a video
Walk around your home and video all the rooms. Remember to open cupboards, drawers, and closets so you record those contents as well.
Create an Excel document
You can call on your Excel skills and create your own. Think through the fields to incorporate. Remember to include where you purchased the item, the cost, and any serial number and warranty – if applicable. I suggest saving it in a secure cloud service like Dropbox.
Explore inventory programs
As you do your search think about your reasons. Some programs are very basic and have limited options for listing your belongings. Others are more complete and offer a range of fees depending on how you want to use them.
My favorite program is HomeZada.
HomeZada offers a wide range of services starting with a free service. It even has a field for you to share the story of the item. You take a picture of the item, assign the value, say where it is in your home, tell the story (if you want to), and then you can indicate who you would like to receive the item upon your passing away.
As I explained this to my friend, I could tell he was thinking that beginning this project may accomplish several things. It would begin the process of reducing his collection of things, he would be able to tell the story behind the things that are honestly valuable to him and let go of the remainder. I love it when the light bulb clicks on, and this was a real light bulb moment for him. He was thrilled to know that he could do something to create an official record and share this with his daughter.
If you do not have a comprehensive home inventory, please consider creating one. There is no time like the present.
Diane N. Quintana is an ICD Master Trainer, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, Certified Professional Organizer, owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release Repurpose Reorganize LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.