Weekend Projects

The Time to Make a Home Inventory Is Now—Here’s How I’d Do It

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Sarah Crowley)

Apartment Therapy Weekend Projects is a guided program designed to help you get the happy, healthy home you’ve always wanted, one weekend at a time. Sign up now for email updates so you never miss a lesson.

Nothing makes you realize you are (or have to behave like) a responsible adult quite like good old tax day. Getting your taxes in order is one of life’s dullest necessities, right up there with dealing with all kinds of insurance and the boring and murky questions you need to know the answers to—like what’s covered, what’s my deductible, and how much do I need?

One thing is for sure, though. I know from personal experience (when Hurricane Irma was hurtling toward us) that the time to make a home inventory is not when a disaster is impending. In fact, most disasters don’t come with warning, and they’re not all “huge.” Something as unpredictable and comparatively minor like a sprinkler system that goes on the fritz could leave you in a position where you need to make a claim.

The time to make a home inventory is now, when everything is business as usual and nothing (except this article) is reminding you that you don’t have one yet.

(Image credit: Mackenzie Schieck)

This Weekend: Make a home inventory.

A home inventory is a catalog of all the items in your home and how much they’re worth. It’s something that will help to have on file and provide to your insurance provider should those items ever be destroyed, damaged beyond repair, or stolen, and you have to make a claim for their value. Plenty of owners and renters make successful claims without a home inventory, but the people who do have well-documented evidence of their possessions can count on the process going easier—and getting money in their hands faster.

In addition, making a home inventory will help you assess whether you have the proper amount of coverage under your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.

What Should I Include in a Home Inventory?

At the highest level, a home inventory is a record of all the belongings in your home (and offsite if you have a storage unit elsewhere). But there are details you should include in your home inventory as you list each item:

  • A short description of the item
  • Where you bought the item
  • How much you paid for it
  • Make and model
  • Serial number, if applicable (for small and large appliances, and devices like your laptop)
  • A photograph
  • Whether the item has appreciated in value (for instance, art or jewelry)
  • Copies of receipts for high value items

That’s the goal, at least. If you’re feeling discouraged from starting, keep this truth top of mind: Having some record of your possessions is better than none. You can even just shoot a video and call it a day—keep reading.

How Do I Make a Home Inventory?

There are several ways you can go about it; the important thing is to pick one and get started. Using a strategy to chunk your inventory-making into more manageable pieces, such as going room by room, might also be helpful.

Here are some ways to actually create your inventory:

  • Use a spreadsheet. This is simple and straightforward and has the added benefit of being easy to print and replicate. Templates are a Google search away—here’s one from Google Docs.
  • Make a video. If creating a home inventory is so daunting that you keep putting it off, a video may be a good place to start. Walk through your home and describe each item, including the information listed above. This may not be as easy to submit if the need arises, but at least you will have a record of everything.
  • Use an app. If you’d like to take advantage of technology that makes the task of creating a home inventory a little bit smoother and maybe even kind of fun, try a home inventory app. Sortly comes highly recommended for iOS and Android (and is free for up to 100 items), but there are so many more to choose from if you have more unique needs or special collections.
(Image credit: Amy Rogers)

What Should I Do With My Home Inventory?

Once your home inventory is completed, do the following:

  • Send a copy to your insurance agent to have on file.
  • Make sure you have a digital copy saved in the cloud, including backups of an inventory stored in an app.
  • Have a physical copy stored off-site somewhere (a relative’s house, for instance), if applicable.

How Do I Keep My Home Inventory Up-to-date?

Compiling your first big list will be the most difficult part of the task. Once that’s checked off your list, you’ll appreciate how much easier it is to just update your inventory with changes. When it comes to big ticket items like appliances or expensive technology, it makes sense to update on the fly as you replace or add things to your home, recording all the pertinent information (receipt, price, serial number, etc.), while it’s right in front of you. Alternately, or in addition, you can make a reminder to revisit your home inventory once a year, maybe just before tax season, and update it annually.

You can catch up with weekend projects right here. Share your progress with us and others by posting updates and photos on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #atweekendproject.

Remember: This is about improvement, not perfection. Each week you can either choose to work on the assignment we’ve sent you, or tackle another project you’ve been meaning to get to. It’s also completely okay to skip a weekend if you’re busy or not feeling the assignment.