This past week, a neighbor’s home caught fire, and while it wasn’t a total loss, there was quite a bit of damage done to their home. They will be out of the house for quite some time while repairs are being made, and one of the things they have to do is figure out what items were all lost in the fire. While I haven’t talked to them about the subject specifically (it would be rude to be this nosy), I do hope they have a home inventory.
What is a Home Inventory?
A home inventory is just that – a record of all of the things in your home. And by all the things, I do mean everything, from the expensive television in your living room to the t-shirts in your dresser drawer. And unless you’re an extreme minimalist, that’s probably a lot of stuff.
But think about it – let’s say your house burns to the ground. Thankfully, you and your family and all your pets get out and you manage to save the important sentimental things. And you have good insurance too. But how do you figure out what the insurance company owes you? That’s where the home inventory comes in.
How Should I Create a Home Inventory?
A complete inventory would list every single item, purchase date and price, purchase location, and SKU or serial number where possible. But let’s be honest – very few of us are going to have that for every single one of our items.
The easiest way to make a home inventory is to start with a video. These days, most of us have the ability to make videos on our smart phones. Walk around your house with your camera. Film everything. Open all the drawers, open all the cabinets, open all the closets. Do it slowly and make sure that you get close-up views of the valuable things. Then save that video to a cloud drive so that if something happens to your phone or backup drive in your home, you still have access to the video. Cell phone videos are high enough quality that you will be able to pause the video to count items or get more detail.
However, I still recommend creating a text-based inventory of some of your items, especially large collections or high value items. List the information you have. You might not know when you bought something or what it cost, but you can list the item and a description. There are apps out there to help you do this. Personally, I just use a spreadsheet in Google Sheets, but a few searches have turned up some apps that I may test out for you over the next couple of months.
This Seems Like a Lot of Work
It does seem like a lot of work, but at the same time, it’s work that’s absolutely worth doing. Dealing with a fire (or other destruction to your home) is an incredibly stressful situation. Having to sit down and try to remember all the items you owned so that you can begin to replace things is an added stress you can work to avoid.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a home inventory, so I’m also going to do a new inventory over the next few months. Join me! I’m going to go room by room, taking a video and then also making a list that includes the unique or higher value items. I’m starting now so that I can make sure to get an image of all of my Christmas tree ornaments while they’re all sitting out on my kitchen table before I pack them away. That may seem like a silly thing, but I have decades of ornaments, many of them easily purchased for $10 or more, so the replacement value would be fairly high.
Breaking it down into smaller steps, a room at a time, makes this a goal that I can tackle. And one you can tackle too.
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.