Creating a home inventory

Creating a home inventory is a good idea for a number of reasons:

  1. A complete inventory is good for determining how much home owner’s or renter’s insurance you should be carrying.
  2. It is also priceless after a disaster or if something has been stolen to help with completing forms and proof of ownership for your insurance claim.
  3. If you have an item stored in your basement or attic, the inventory can save you time by giving you the precise place to look to find that item.

It is best to have a copy of the inventory on your home computer, but, most importantly, have a copy saved online. If you don’t use an online backup service like DropBox or BackBlaze, simply e-mail a copy to your Gmail account.

The new Mac App Store has a program available for purchase ($10) called Compartments that looks to be simple to use. There are numerous other programs out there, I simply suggest finding one you like and using it. The inventory software programs are nice because often they’ll prompt you to remember an object you might have overlooked otherwise. An Excel spreadsheet could also work, though, if you have a keen eye. The point is to use whatever system is easiest for you that you’ll actually use.

Have you done a home inventory? What program did you use? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

36 Comments for “Creating a home inventory”

  1. posted by timgray on

    A home inventory on your PC is not useful. IF you are robbed and that PC or mac is stolen… your inventory is gone.

    If your home has a fire or flood, that inventory is gone.

    I use http://stuffsafe.com/ as stealing all computers I own, burn down my house and then flood it and I still have my house inventory to turn in to the insurance company.

    You can back up your software’s files to a portable drive and keep it offsite but then you need to go out and buy another copy of the program (along with a new laptop) to read the files, not something I want to do right after a major incident where I need that inventory.

  2. posted by Mammolina on

    @timgray I took a look at the StuffSafe webpage, and it looks like a great idea. (I’ve been looking for a way to do a home inventory for a while now.) My only concern is, how do I know it’s really secure, besides their own claims to that fact? It seems like it would be really easy to set up a business like that and then use all those inventories to target people for theft. Yes, I know I’m being paranoid, but I’m curious.

  3. posted by timgray on

    I have been using stuffsafe for years. I do not have my address or any direct contact information so a thief can not use it as a “look here’s a list of things we can steal at this address”. IF it was a new start up company, I’d be weary as well, but they have been around for a long time and a lot of people use them, They have been featured on Lifehacker and a lot of other reputable sites as well.

  4. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    I have had several friends and friends of friends lose houses lately to fire, maybe I should look into this!
    Bernice

  5. posted by assetarchives on

    In addition to keeping a copy at an off site location homeowner’s should consider giving a copy to their insurance advisor so that in the event of a claim they have the information accesible.

    Once you have completed an inventory, remember to update it over the years as you make new acquisitions.

  6. posted by Tim Stringer on

    Another option is to create a “Home Inventory” Notebook in Evernote. Information, including photos, can be added using your computer and almost any smartphone. The data can then be accessed through any modern web browser and a multitude of other ways. Best of all, it’s free!

  7. posted by David on

    Another good idea would be to add digital photos to your inventory, which show the possessions you might not wind up itemizing. Clothing, for instance, can be expensive to replace in case of fire or other calamity–but having digital photos can go a long way to getting a reasonable reimbursement from an insurance carrier. Photos also help substantiate your claims of condition.

  8. posted by Martin on

    Coincidentally, I’ve started to inventory my stuff in preparation for moving this month. I got Delicious Library 2 and it’s great, particularly for books and DVDs. Backs up to the ‘net, and the bar code scanning is way cool. Sadly, only for those of us with Macs, but I do recommend. I cataloged a whole bookshelf in an hour and a half. That would have taken days if I were entering stuff in by hand.

  9. posted by Ian on

    Has anyone used http://www.knowyourstuff.org/
    I don’t want to load all my serial numbers into a random website without being able to trust it.

  10. posted by M.Clark on

    I use spring pad for the same thing. It allows me to keep notes for each item, where I bought it, when I bought it, what I paid for it, and can even save a link to more online info about it.

  11. posted by timgray on

    Note: Add SCANS of the receipts for the items as well. Insurance companies are starting to NOT cover big ticket items if you cant prove you owned it. I was told serial numbers and a photo of it in your home is not proof, only a copy of a receipt is.

  12. posted by Erin S. on

    Amazon Remembers: http://www.amazon.com/gp/remembers

    It’s experimental so could go away at anytime, but it allows me to just take a picture of something in my house and for most items it finds the exact match on Amazon and saves it to a list in my account. Then it emails my gmail account when it finds it, so even if Amazon Remembers is discontinued, I have a record in my gmail account of the items.

  13. posted by Rondina on

    Any time I purchase an expensive tool, furniture item, accessory, appliance, &c, I scan the receipt. It is placed in a file called “Receipts” within my “Personal” file. The Receipt file itself is divided into sub-folders by room. Key to all this is the fact that an off-site copy of my hard drive is available down at the bank. This hard drive is backed up at least once a week and switched out with another hard drive. Next–looking at a second back up system–online.

  14. posted by Rae on

    I use the MyStuff app on my iPod Touch ($4.99). I keep a backup off site, too.

    Living in an RV sometimes means putting things where there is space, not where it would be logical, so I love being able to search for something and know that it’s in exterior compartment 4 (passenger side), bin 2, or in the study, overhead compartment 1 (driver’s side), bin six, etc.

    At a friend’s suggestion, I now add the date something was purchased and if I kept a receipt. This will be useful when I cross to the US in my motorhome to prove to customs in both directions that what I have on board wasn’t bought in the States but rather came with me from Canada.

  15. posted by Cassie Jowers on

    I take a video of every square inch of my home. I try to do it once a year. I open the cabinets, closets and drawers and describe what is inside. The video card is then put into my fire-proof safe. I may start making a copy and giving it to my mom or sister for safer off-site storage.

  16. posted by Courtney Ostaff on

    Credit card records are good for recalling purchases if you don’t have the receipts. The IRS counts financial software records in place of receipts, so I don’t know why an insurance company would do less.

    I don’t have a formal inventory of most stuff, but I do have a photographic record of the house stored in dropbox. Also, I have an Excel spreadsheet of my sewing stuff, mainly ’cause I tend to forget stuff I own, like patterns numbers.

    I think a complete household inventory is counterproductive in terms of time for modern households. We have too much stuff for that to be practical. I don’t need to list and categorize all my shirts, or books, or pillowcases.

    I do carry an electronics rider on the house insurance because my husband and I both work part-time from home.

  17. posted by Amy on

    I use free software from http://www.whatyouown.org/
    It runs on windows and Mac. I keep my file in dropbox, and print a copy of my inventory to PDF every few months which I store in few locations on site and off site.

  18. posted by Jeff Janer on

    I’m biased since I work at Springpad;) but we’ve recently written a blog post about using Springpad to create a home inventory: http://blog.springpadit.com/20.....inventory/

  19. posted by T on

    @timgray (or anyone else who knows), can you give a rough dollar count for what is a “big-ticket item” for which one might need a receipt?

    Thanks.

  20. posted by infmom on

    Years ago we created a Works (!) database describing each item, its location in the house, and any serial number or other identifying number. We also had some permanent stickers made up so we could apply “serial numbers” of our own.

    That was a lot of work. And, predictably, we eventually got less vigilant about keeping it up when we bought new stuff or got rid of old stuff.

    A few years ago we went around the house with the video camera (which uses mini cassettes, it’s not digital) and made a record of everything room by room. Then we put that tape in a safe secure place. But that’s out of date as well.

    We do keep the owners’ manuals for all the gizmos, with receipts stapled to them, and record serial numbers in there, but that’s by no means complete.

    I think the next go-round will be another video tape that shows the items and their serial numbers, if we can get at them without dismantling things too much. It’s not something that has to be done in a day. I’d like to have a database of some kind as well.

  21. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    I just use an Excel spreadsheet. I also have scanned receipts, and photos.

  22. posted by T on

    Also, in response to Erin’s question … we use a simple Google spreadsheet. It’s available even from a strange computer after an emergency, as long as Google’s server is available.

  23. posted by Jasmine on

    @Jeff Janer

    Thanks! That couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I’ve begun to use Springpad to keep my life organized, and now I see that it can be a great tool for making a home inventory.

  24. posted by cdp on

    @T

    I have thought of going with that solution. What does your spreadsheet include?
    I can think of brand (or similar), model or title, description, serial, number of items, purchase price, purchase date.
    What else would you add? Some sort of hierarchy or categorization, by location or item type?
    For me there are two motivations: First, I lost most of my possesions during a recent earthquake and insurance claims would have been easier if I had a ordered list. Second, now I don’t have so much stuff I’d like to keep it under control, and an inventory could help me visualize how much stuff I have, and what to get rid of.

  25. posted by Heidi on

    Such a timely post. I am in the midst of the area in Australia where it has been devastated by flooding. A home inventory is a terrific idea. I was just thinking I should do that when we moved here (just 4 months ago) to sort out my proper insurance level. We are ok but many people arean’t. I would say a must is to actually have the home & contents insurance. So many people don’t and it’s heartbreaking to watch a natural disaster like this and realise that some people will never have their belongings replaced 🙁

  26. posted by John on

    It’s a Mac only solution, but I use Bento by Filemaker. I downloaded a home inventory template from their user created library and modified it with some additional fields, like receipt image. I really like this method because of it’s flexibility. You can create or remove fields at will, view as a layout or in a list (spreadsheet) format, back up to iDisk, Dropbox etc. There is the concern of eventual software abandonment, but there are many export features to get your data out.

    @timgray, I suppose there may be some inventory software out there that is still only distributed on CDs, but all of the software suggested so far is downloadable and as long as the serial number is stored securely, there should not be a concern for having to repurchase the software.

  27. posted by Leslie on

    My FIL came over with his video camera to help create a home inventory. As he would tape large or special items, one of us would describe the item, including model/serial #s. I keep a copy with all our manuals (which also has appropriate receipts and warranty info) and another in a safe deposit box. It isn’t ideal and we definitely need to find a way to update it regularly. Thanks for the post.

  28. posted by Jenna on

    Thanks for the post, and all of the suggestions in the comments as well! My home was recently broken into and we had some electronics stolen. We did not have a home inventory, but luckily did have enough bits and pieces of documentation to back up the insurance claim. After that, I’ve realized the need to have a home inventory of these items and have been doing some research on the best way to keep this information, so it’s great to hear everyone’s ideas as I begin my home inventory.

  29. posted by BeverlyD on

    I guess I’m a glutton for punishment but I use Quicken Home Inventory software. It was time consuming at first and no I don’t put in every shirt and sheet and towel. I enter things I would want to have replaced by insurance if stolen or lost in a fire. So all the major furniture in each room, my good china, all the crystal, real jewelry, my piano (a Steinway grand) some art, my husband’s guitars, are all in there. It’s backed up to a hard drive and kept in a fire proof box. Whenever we get something new, it’s added and a new backup is made. I use LibraryThing.com for books, and all 2500 or so are entered, which is another story.

  30. posted by Rae on

    “I think a complete household inventory is counterproductive in terms of time for modern households. We have too much stuff for that to be practical. I don’t need to list and categorize all my shirts, or books, or pillowcases.”

    …one would think so, until your house burns down and you find you don’t have so much as a fork. Books may not be important to you, but for many of us, losing our library would be a huge deal, and reimbursement would mean a lot. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall anyone saying to categorize shirts, pillowcases or other mundane items, but the key in all this is to have a record of what is *important* to you, what you may have to prove that you own, and what you will need to replace should the unthinkable happen.

  31. posted by Maya on

    I have to agree with Rae that even the small things can be important if you want the money to replace them. You have to set yourself a threshold of what the minimum value for inclusion in your inventory, but keep in mind that small things add up. If you are planning to use your inventory for insurance purchases at least entering how many pillowcases you have might be a good idea. I have an Excel spreadsheet with everything listed (I’m a little compulsive about it), and it always amazes me how many thousands of dollars worth of $25 items we own. How much will it cost you to replace your wardrobe? the contents of your linen closet? your dishes? etc.

  32. posted by Cal on

    John, thank you for your post. I was wondering how I’d make a template in Bento to mirror what that Home Inventory program does. Glad to know there’s a template out there already!

    Performing a home inventory also sounds like a good time to declutter as you move from room to room recording what you have.

  33. posted by Brandon Philips on

    After reviewing Compartment, MyStuff and Home Inventory for the mac I settled on Home Inventory:
    http://binaryformations.com/ho.....index.html

    MyStuff can’t calculate category totals!
    And Compartments lacked simple drag and drop for adding additional items like manuals, receipts, etc.

  34. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    I bought a household inventory application years ago. I spent hours entering the data. Then they stopped making it and offering tech support for the program! It eventually didn’t work with my updated computers. I ended up copying the data to a simple word processing doc. I never have to deal with outdated, discontinued or complicated software again. I keep receipts in a file and update the inventory once a year and print a copy for our safe deposit box. I also use an online backup service.

  35. posted by Mike on

    I stumbled across this website a couple weeks ago.

    http://www.akumulate.com

    It even keeps track of purchases automatically and gives you a value for how much your stuff is worth. Definitely worth checking out. No software to buy and completely online.

  36. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    I used to use Personal Record Keeper by Nolo’s, but the program crashed, then they stopped making/supporting it.
    I had spent hours entering data into their format, and it was all lost. Now I just go around the house with my digital camera taking pictures every few years, and keep a list by category on a Word doc on my computer. It’s easy to add something when we make a big household purchase. I use Mozy online back up, so if the house burned down or the computer crashed, was lost or stolen, I could still recover my list and pictures.

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