September is Natural Preparedness Month. Earlier this month I wrote about survival tips for surviving a disaster. Now, I am going to focus on a plan to have in place for your home if your home is destroyed or partly destroyed by a disaster. To make this plan complete you will create a home inventory.
Very few people could sit down and create a complete list of everything in their home if it was destroyed.
I have a friend whose home was partially destroyed by a fire and by water damage from trying to control the fire. The home was filled up and overflowing before the fire. She was very lucky to get out of her home without harm.
Thankfully, she had insurance and so was able to get temporary housing while her house was repaired but then it came to all the items in her home. The insurance company wanted a list of what was damaged as well as the value of the items. She did not have a list and what pictures she had were mostly destroyed. I sat down with her, and we went through the inventory I had of my home to see if that triggered remembrances of what she had.
A home inventory provides the reassurance that you can come up with a list if it is ever needed.
Official polls by the insurance institute show that only about 50% of all homeowners have a home inventory.
I am going to be honest here and say that this is not an easy task. It will take time but be well worth it.
Create a home inventory in steps
Take pictures of items in each room.
Open closets and drawers and take a picture. Put the pictures in a file with folders by room. This step should not take too long and now you have something to begin with. Something is better than nothing.
Upload your pictures to a secure photo storage like Dropbox.
Only share this folder with someone who would help you if a disaster hit. You can also load the pictures onto a flash drive or CD. Then store the data in your lock box.
Flesh out the photo inventory
Create a listing of items in each room with a spread sheet. You can use a word table or excel spread sheet or use a home inventory software program.
Headings would include:
- Item name
- Serial/Model Number
- Where purchased or obtained
- Date of Purchase or Age
- Current value or replacement cost
For nice jewelry, furniture, and art, in addition to pictures, record all that you know about the piece. If you have an appraisal and/or purchase receipt scan and upload that as well.
I suggest you create your home inventory room by room. One month do your office, another month do the living room. Schedule time each month to do this. You can break it down even further and each week do one wall in the room you are focusing on.
Update your home inventory
Once your inventory is complete, have a plan to update it once a year. September would be an obvious time because it is National Preparedness Month. Look over your inventory and remove all items that you no longer have. Add items that you have purchased this past year. Update your pictures as well.
If this is more than you can handle, you can hire someone to do this for you. Our NAPO-GA chapter has a business partner Home & Business Inventory Consultants LLC that can create a nationally certified inventory for you.
Once you create this home inventory, it will not only help you with insurance claims for items lost or damaged, but it is also useful if you have a burglary or if you are planning a move.
While it takes time to create a home inventory, it can save you time and money if you ever need to file a claim. It will also help you determine the right amount of insurance coverage that you need.
If this seems overwhelming or you find yourself stuck and unable to move forward on this project or any other organizing project, join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space for You virtual support group.
Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of four books as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.
We got started on this project, and then stalled when we needed to provide prices for everything. That information was buried, and it felt too time consuming to try and find it all. Instead, I started going through my accumulated paperwork, most of which was old and could go. When I came across an “insurance worthy” item, I kept the receipt. Also, I did “walk through” videos of each room, talking about what was in it so I would be able to remember should disaster strike. They are backed up in the Cloud, and that would really help me!
With the increasing amount of natural disasters, this seems especially important to create a home inventory. I’m actually surprised that the stat is high, with 50% of people having a home inventory. The task seems daunting. But even if you only take photos or videos and upload them to the cloud, you’ll be that much more likely to be able to file a claim IF something tragic happens. I can imagine how challenging it would be to remember ALL of your belongings if something happened.
From a different perspective, I’ve been releasing a lot of things this past month. I don’t miss anything. But if I had to tell you what I let go of, I wouldn’t remember. So I’ve been keeping a list…documenting the process. So I think that for disasters too, it would be hard to remember what you owned…as hard as remembering what you let go of purposefully.
It is so important to have proof of products for home insurance claims. I started doing this when we moved into our new house and saved the receipts of large ticket items and added them to a fireproof safe. I still update the paperwork whenever we replace things. I agree it is an ongoing process. Keeping items in a fireproof safe work nicely. Sort the files by room to make it easier to find receipts/warranties when you need them.
Good reminder to get this task done. Like all organizing and decluttering tasks, you don’t have to do this all at once. Maybe tackle a different area each month. It won’t be perfect and it may not be complete if disaster strikes during the process, but it’ll be so much better than staring at a blank piece of paper and trying to remember. “Bed. I had a bed. Was it queen or king? Gosh, it’s been so long since we got that bed I can’t remember…” and on and on, as you mentally try to walk through your home while reeling from a traumatic event.