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How to Take a Home Inventory and Protect Your Possessions

Pop quiz: can you name the most valuable things in your home, where they are and how much they are worth? If not, then you need to think about taking a home inventory.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners says that 59 percent of Americans do not have a list of their possessions. But this list is extremely valuable for insurance purposes because it documents the things you own. And for military families, a home inventory list will save you a lot of headache when it's time to move.

The Why

You can never prepare for unexpected damage to your home. In scenarios such as burglary and natural disasters, insurance adjusters will want you to list all the things you lost and, of course, it's hard to do that without a detailed home inventory. Can you name everything in your house off of the top of your head? Hardly.

The How

The purpose of a home inventory is to let you accurately record and catalog your belongings, and there are a variety of ways to get the job done. You can do it room-by-room, which is probably the most efficient, or category-by-category, starting with big-ticket items. For each item, you should include a short description, quantity, value, condition, location in the house and if possible, attach a purchase receipt.

Be sure to allow enough time for creating the list, because it is time consuming. Set aside chunks of time during the week or use a weekend to complete the inventory. Here are three great ways to tackle the project.


The inventory spreadsheet should look like a checklist of the things you own. Use a new row for each item on the list and group the items by general categories such as jewelry and toys. Check out a sample worksheet here. Start with electronics and furniture because these tend to be the most valuable, so you want to get down as much detail as possible on them. For miscellaneous bits or things you have a lot of, like books, take a shortcut with pictures and videos.


Snap a picture of your belongings and label what's in the photo. Make sure you take pictures for the big items on your spreadsheet as well because these are proof that you actually own what you claim when dealing with insurance agencies. Remember to take copies of all important documents, including birth certificates, property deed, insurance policies and your military papers such as personnel records and discharge papers (if applicable).


It's a good idea to do a video walkthrough of your rooms just to get a visual on the layout. For the artistically inclined, it's probably worthwhile to draw room floor plans and note on them where things are.

Any tips?

To make the inventory process easier, consider using apps that automate at least part of the job. This app from the Insurance Information Institute lets you scan barcodes on items and pulls all the good info directly from the web. iTrackMine serves similar functions, but you have the option to manage your list on a computer.

Ikeepm is another great piece of online home inventory software, and some people swear by Evernote as their web/mobile inventory solution.

Do you have any tips? Have you completed a home inventory?