A Home Inventory List

How to make it + 3 more ways to use it

The average person owns 300,000 items. Three. Hundred. Thousand. Items.

In our 10 Ways to Add Home Security post, we finished out our list with the big one-make a home inventory list. A home inventory is a great way to keep track of your belongings, both to know the estimated value for insuring your personal property and as a resource if you ever need to replace your belongings. If you have items of value that need specific protection, you will want to discuss adding a policy rider and possibly having the item properly appraised.

  1. Take a video of the entire home inside and out
  2. Write out an entire inventory list
  3. Add in any supporting documentation like receipts, appraisals
  4. Store it with safety and accessibility in mind.

1: Get started with the easiest task first: Video.

Do this whether you own or rent. If you rent, you can make sure not to forget anything you own inside and outside-even garden hoses. If you own, you can document the items you own AND the condition of the home and materials used. If you recently upgraded a bathroom or added nice walkway lighting, the video will help document that.

  • Record video in short segments
    Recording in shorter segments can let you revisit the right clips faster. One room at a time, one cabinet at a time. It will help keep you organized if you take a methodical approach...

  • Start with outside...
    Record the entire outside front and back. With shorter segments, try to pick up exactly where you left off with the last one, and continue clockwise around your property until you reach your starting point. If you have any outside storage, open those on video and move things around so you can reasonably see your items. One of the benefits of video is being able to jog your memory if something happens where you cannot go through your items.

  • Then record inside
    Start with your front door and move clockwise through the closet doors, drawers, and cabinets as you go. You can narrate the video if you want to note particular brands, costs, or where or when you bought it, but don't go so bogged down that you don't finish recording everything

  • Backup your video
    Keep a backup in secure cloud storage or on a physical storage device like a USB drive in your safe with your insurance documents. The video alone isn't enough to make a claim with, but at minimum, it could help jog your memory and sometimes provide proof of ownership.

2: Make the list step by step.

Getting started was the hardest part, but once you have a video of your home, you have a framework for starting the written list.

  • Do a search for sample home inventory lists.
    This will help you get an idea of how detailed to make your own inventory.

  • Use a notebook and keep it simple.
    For every item, try to include a brand name, model, cost, count, serial number, where you bought it and when etc. Their areas out there you can use, but do your research to find a reputable one to avoid having your inventory hacked or compromised. As with all digital assets, you need to have a plan in place for someone to access your digital records in the event that you are incapacitated, so that this information is available when it may be most needed.

  • Go in the same order as your video. Start with outside.
    Write down each item and any pertinent information - Don't forget items you see every day like trash cans (if you own them), flags, mats, planters, or toys.

    Then use the same approach inside starting with the front door and move clockwise through your home and top down-ceiling, walls, floor. Use broad categories for multiples like throw pillows, pairs of pants, children's books.

  • Do a separate pass for belongings and then for the actual structure.
    If you are a homeowner, do one pass through your home to list your belongings and a separate one to list upgrades, conditions, and permanent fixtures. Staying focused can help you stay more thorough with each category.

3: Add in supporting documentation.

  • Round up receipts or search email for old order confirmations.

  • Put them in an envelope to keep with your video USB drive and notebook.

  • Round up written appraisals or have them done-jewelry, art, quilts, antiques.

  • Have you registered your purchases with the manufacturers?

  • Those cards that come with purchases like kitchen appliances and baby items can provide proof of purchase when you actually register with them. Document where you have registered your items.

4: Store it safely!

If you can do those first three steps, you are within sight of the finish line!

The last step is to make sure that hard work stays safe and accessible. Here are 4 places you can store the original or duplicates:

  1. The best place to store your home inventory documents and video are in a fireproof, waterproof safe.
  2. You can store a backup in the cloud as long as it’s extremely secure and not vulnerable to hackers or thieves.
  3. Store a copy in the safe of a trusted friend or family member.
  4. Store a copy in a safe deposit box


A few tips to help you

Set a goal for your time and be ambitious.
A task list doesn't happen in one day, but it's easy to put it off if you only tackle it 30 minutes a day. The longer it takes, the more items get shifted around. Set a goal to tackle it over a couple of weekends and get it finished.

Don't leave anything off the list intentionally.
Sometimes we skip over things that wouldn't be affected by the "most likely scenario." You might consider leaving patio furniture off the list because it wouldn't be caught in a house fire, but could it be destroyed in a hail storm or taken by a thief? You might think, "Nobody would steal my ketchup and mustard", but in the event of an extended power outage when everything in your fridge has to be replaced, those items add up!

Don't leave anything off the list unintentionally.
What many people overlook:

  • Food/Emergency supplies
  • Garage
  • Sheds
  • Items in your cars
  • Items in your storage units
  • Items in lockers

Update your insurance, then keep your list updated.
Once your list is done, check in with your agent and make sure you have the right coverage now. This is a big accomplishment-celebrate with someone that gets it.

Then update your list as you bring new items home or get old items out of the house. Update your backups once a year.

3 ways you can put this hard work to MORE use

That's the beauty of getting this list done - there are more uses for it!

  • Pare down your belongings and reinvest.
    It's all there in black and white - everything you own. Less is less: less to manage, less to keep track of, less to take up space.
    Less if more when it puts cash in your wallet from selling your extra stuff.
    Less is more when you gina time to enjoy what you keep Want some inspiration?
    The Minimalists: Less if Now on Netflix
    Tidying Up with Marie Kondo NetFlix.

  • Write out your will
    You've already done the hardest part - accounting for all of your things. If there are specials things you want to designate to someone, now it's a breeze to run down your list and assign those items in your will. Whatever you don't assign, you can leave to a charity, all to one person, or sell off the remaining assets and deviate the proceeds among your beneficiaries.
  • Make a plan for living
    Your inventory list says where your priorities have been. If you would do things differently after a natural disaster wiped out your things, start changing that now.

We've heard this called "dreaming in high definition" - think about where you want to be in 1, 5, 10, and 20 years - do you want fewer books and more equipment for getting out on the adventure? Do you want a smaller home and more comfortable furniture?

Do you want your mementos in boxes or pared down to less than you can have out and enjoy? Do you want to document their history so that when you pass them on, your heirs know the story behind them?

Here's to updating your inventory for the better!