Welcome to today’s guest blogger is Penny Catterall, Owner and Founder of Order Your Life, LLC, of Washington DC. She addresses a very important topic, one that I believe we all need to take care of as soon as we can.
I never realized how important it was to have a good home inventory system until earlier this month, when two days of torrential rains in the DC area overcame our sump pump and French drains and we ended up with four inches of water covering our entire basement. Everything on the floor was soaked, and we had to move the entire contents of our basement to the back yard while we frantically tried to drain the water out. Not fun! We were lucky in that nothing really valuable was destroyed (except for a few sentimentally valuable things like some art that our sons made when they were kids), but we still had a lot of accounting to do in order to get reimbursed by our insurance company for the cost of replacing the numerous items that were ruined.
That’s when I wished I had kept better records of all the purchases, both large and small, that we had made over the years. Up to that point, I had been meticulous about keeping receipts for our big-ticket purchases such as electronics, large furniture (sofas, armchairs, etc.) and artwork, but not so much with smaller things like area rugs, less expensive furniture, and other accessories. If numerous smaller items are destroyed in a fire, flood, hurricane or other home disaster, the dollars can really add up when insurance reimbursement comes into play.
Nearly 1,000 homes burn down every day (mostly due to kitchen fires), and other disasters strike on a regular basis. Most people (including myself) would not remember what they had in their homes – especially under the duress of a catastrophic event.
The simplest way to do a home inventory is to start by walking around with a smart phone and videotaping or photographing the contents of each room. If you have purchase receipts for any of these items, go ahead and scan them into your computer. Then save them in an application like Dropbox or Evernote, along with the photos you took and any other notes (such as serial numbers).
There are also some great free apps out there to help you catalog your possessions. One example is Know Your Stuff, provided by the Insurance Information Institute, which is available for both iPhone and Android. Several insurance companies have their own apps, including Allstate Digital Locker, State Farm HomeIndex and Liberty Mutual Home Gallery. Each of these apps can be used even if you’re not one of the insurance company’s customers. There are numerous other home inventory apps – many of them free – including ones designed specifically for cataloguing books, clothing, wine and more. Whatever system you end up using, it is vital to have your inventory stored in the cloud: in the terrible event that your entire home is destroyed, you will need to have access to that information from somewhere other than your home computer.
While the task of creating a home inventory may seem daunting, just take it one room at a time and try to get it done over the course of a few weeks. You will thank yourself if the need ever arises – which I hope it won’t!
Penny Catterall is the Owner and Founder of Order Your Life, LLC, offering professional organizing services for clients in the Washington DC Metro area and virtually, around the world. She specializes in home office and small business organization, with an emphasis on helping women-owned businesses achieve greater efficiency and profitability by developing and implementing organizing systems that are tailored to their needs.