Monday, May 27, 2013

Make a list of your stuff

The recent outbreak of storms and the coverage on the TV makes us feel fortunate that this time the tornados spared our community.  As I watched those who lost literally everything to Mother Nature’s fury begin to start over I pondered what I would do in such a situation.  It is one thing to rebuild a home, but replacing the contents is a much more complicated challenge.  For some things like photos, keepsakes and family heirlooms it is impossible to even begin to make a replacement.  For other items like appliances, furniture, computers and musical instruments, just making a list can be a challenge.

Faced with a catastrophe, be it a storm effecting thousands or a more personal tragedy like a house fire, having an home inventory can make things a lot smoother when dealing with insurance agents.  A few hours of work now can save several hundreds of hours later.

For most of us, if asked to list all the items in the house the task would take hours and the resulting list would be very incomplete.  Luckily there are several tools available that can help you develop a complete inventory of your stuff.  Some are very simple.  Some will take several hours.  You need to decide which is best for you.

First, let’s keep it simple. Many of us have a video camera.  Some of us have one built into our smartphone.  A simple inventory can be recorded just walking around your house.  Going room by room you can record all the major items.  As you walk, describe what you are seeing.   “Here is a Sony Bravia 42” Plasma TV purchased in 2009.”  Once you complete your entire house, upload the video to your computer and make a CD or DVD copy of it.  Store the CD in a safe place such as a safe deposit box or in a fireproof and waterproof box in your basement.  Make a second one and ask a friend to hold on to it for you.

If you have a smartphone there are apps that can assist you.  Using the camera on the phone you develop an inventory using step by step instructions.  One completed, the inventory can be stored online or copied on to a CD for safe keeping.

There are several apps available for the iPhone and many Android models.  You can just search your app store for “home inventory.”  There is a good free app from the Insurance Information Institute that will help you develop a complete home inventory and then allow you to save it securely online for free. It is called “III Inventory” and can be found online at iTunes or from various Android app sites.

Remember that things change so you need to update your inventory periodically.  That mobile phone in your sock drawer with the cracked screen really doesn’t need to stay on the inventory.

Having a home inventory is a good idea.  I hope you never need it.

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