Home Inventory with Scanning Features

MTRead13August 21, 2014

Have any of you come across a fully functional home inventory system that includes scanning capabilities.

I've seen a few examples out there, but they are other small business systems (overkill) or not functional.

I'm somewhat tech savvy and could create the databases, but didn't want to reinvent the wheel if I don't have to.

My particular functionality that is a priority is storage - so printing a bar-code for a tote and then scanning the items in it (either using the UPC if a product or a created label or key in item) - that is the type of thing I'm looking for.

Any ideas?


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You are overthinking it.

If you want to be able to find something by looking in the computer and finding out which storage container it's in, (as often happens when you sell things online and can't remember where the danged book went) scanning ONE barcode per tote to get the tote number into a database doesn't save you enough work to be worth it.

1 - Number your storage containers with consecutive numbers: 1001, 1002, 1003 ... up to 9999.

2 - Write them on whatever adhesive label product works and stick it on the tote as soon as you start processing the items in it. that way, unlabelled totes are also uncatalogued.

4 - Enter the totes into your home inventory program as things you own. Give them the correct location: garage, attic, whatever.

3 - Most home inventory programs let you assign a location name or number to the items, so you would assign the container number to the things in the tote as "location".

So when you are looking for something, you look it up in the inventory program and see location 1013. You look up item named 1013 and see that it's in the south wall of shelves in the garage.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:54PM
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Thanks for your input! That would work for some storage situations. I have a couple of others though that aren't as static.

I am the organizer of some events - cook-offs, canoe trips, etc. and pull together a lot of stuff in support of those.

So, I have many crates that have stored items, but also add everyday items to them. I'd like to scan or enter as I go so that I can have a list of what is where when we get to the destination and everyone is searching for the back-up grill light or whatever.

Do you see what I mean?


    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 11:30AM
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I would pack the stuff you store in as few crates as possible, and print their inventory before the cookout. Post it at the campsite.

For the other stuff, use a printed checklist with a space for the bin numbers on it, write in the bin numbers as you pack, and post it at the campsite.

A bin may appear on both lists if it has stored stuff and then you added stuff that is not stored.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 2:31PM
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Interesting idea, but I suspect the reason you are not finding programs like that for everyday living is the impracticality of barcoding diverse items that are stored, used and put away again, and the amount of work it would take to maintain the system. At the end of a cook-off or camping trip, you can throw things into logically labeled totes faster than you can scan them and then put in tote containers.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 8:32AM
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What barcode are you going to scan? Who is going to create that barcode, and maintain the list of what number goes to what item (i.e., 52534 is paper plates...)?

That seems like way too much work

If a small scanning program is too much for you, then you have a simple set up, and I think any scanning program is more energy diverted to maintaining it than it's worth.

I would think a simple list in Microsoft Word would be more useful.

The paper plates purchased for the dance-club cookoff can't really be used for hockey team's chili supper--can they?

So create totes for each activity, and stick a piece of paper to the front with a list of contents, and date it. Heck, give each tote a name too: "HockeyPaperGoods1" and the list could be "*paper plates: 12pkg/100; •plastic forks, 527; • spoons, 27; •napkins: 6 pkg/500" or whatever.

Then take a picture of the sheet of paper with a smartphone, and email it to a dedicated, specialized gmail address that's something like: "HockeyTeamInventory@gmail.com." Use the subject line to help you find it in the inbox later: "leftover paper goods," for one photo and "tablecloths, tent pegs, centerpieces" for another. Or maybe even more specific: "paper plates, 12 pkg/100." Whatever is the info you need to know.

Or, take a picture of the inside of the tote (or the contents before you pack them), along w/ something that indicates the date and the event (like that label).

When you want to know how many packets of paper plates were left over from last year's chili supper, or whether you need to buy spoons, go check the email inbox, and see what the photo says.
(I'm assuming you want to know this info without walking out to the garage.)

When you -do- buy more spoons, update the piece of paper, snap (scan?) another photo, and email it. Then go delete the old picture (but if you forget, the new date and the photo will help you see what went on, and how many spoons you have).

If indeed the paper plates are fungible and can move from one event to another, then you take a picture of the paper plates (maybe a closeup if you want to know how many of which type), and the cover sheet w/ the date & other amount info ("12 packs of 100"), and email it to a specialized gmail account like, "Madeline'sPaperGoodsInventory@gmail.com" with a subject line like, "paper plates: 12pkg/100." In the body of the message, you can type the location or the bin's label (I'm *against* bin numbers--be direct; use words that you'll understand instantly, not numbers that needs cross-reference sheet)

And then you go delete the old photo emails, so you don't get confused.

You'd want to be sure that each time you sent an inventory "scan," you included *all* objects of that type; no "partial scores." So you might want one photo/scan of all the foam plates separate from all the paper plates. But when you send the pic of the foam plates, you include the total amount of *all* of the foam plates, not just the ones you took out of box A today, or not just the new ones you bought today. (I suppose you could make a partial score work, if you included the info that it was *additional*--but I don't think it would be as helpful.)

This post was edited by talley_sue_nyc on Sun, Aug 24, 14 at 16:00

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 3:39PM
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Oh,and this?

So, I have many crates that have stored items, but also add everyday items to them.

Don't do that.

Make your crates be strictly and cleanly dedicated. Even if it means you leave some empty space in the top. Or even if it means you need more, smaller crates.

And this:
at I can have a list of what is where when we get to the destination and everyone is searching for the back-up grill light or whatever.

I don't think a separate inventory list is going to be helpful when "everyone" is searching for something.
Make your crates strictly defined, and the back-up grill light will be in the "grill equipment" crate. Or the "cooking area" crate--however you define it.
Believe me, the extra space you might need for the 3 extra crates you had to bring (bcs you haven't crammed out-of-category stuff into the gaps) will be well worth it.

And label the totes with real words that other people will understand.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 3:45PM
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Another thought about the "email a photo" type of "inventory scan":

You can print out pics for everybody who needs them--copy and paste them into a Word file, and shrink 'em down a little.

But if you label the outside of the crate properly, you should be fine. You probably won't even need that.

Find a way to affix a full-size sheet of paper to the crate (or write on the side of a plastic one with a china marker--it can be removed with some effort so you can write a new list, but will last through smudging)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 3:50PM
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Thanks for all of the great ideas.

I think as an IT guy I was over-complicating this! I think incorporating your ideas will help me out. I'll give it a try! I'm putting stuff away from this past weekend's contest, so am trying to reorganize as I do that.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 12:00PM
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I get you, with the "as a techie, I was over-complicating this" concept.

When you're an expert w/ a drill, every nail looks like it should be a screw w/ a plastic anchor. I think we all turn to our strengths to solve our problems. I do similar sorts of stuff all the time.

I have become a big fan of the smartphone-snapshot form of information gathering. And the "dedicated email inbox" has worked for me before.

Using the Cloud means you can check how many paper plates or tent pegs you have when you're at the store and realize they're on sale, or something. It also means you can share that info with anyone to whom you give the email address and password (me, I'd make the password be the same thing as the email address itself; I wouldn't worry about it being hacked, I don't think, but you'd be better able to assess the risk).

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 12:43PM
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Another thought about this, from someone else above:
I would pack the stuff you store in as few crates as possible, and print their inventory before the cookout. Post it at the campsite.

Posting the inventory would be useful, but don't neglect the importance of clearly labeling the crates themselves.

A centralized list can be substituted for by a centralized location for *all* crates (or, maybe two or three locations; like, one location that all the cooking/food type crates go, and another location where all the kayaking or tent/sleeping/campfire stuff goes).
Once the crates are all in the same location, they themselves can serve as the centralized list, if they've got clear labels on the front with whatever's in them. (Write in Sharpie on a full-sheet sticker, and slap that on the front of the crate; it'll resist rain then, even.)

Because, the list may be stuck on a tree, and it may tell you that box #1015 (or box "Grill stuff") has the extra grill lamp in it, but where is that box at the campsite?

Oh, and labeling--I label both ends of boxes, so nobody has to worry about which end gets stuck onto the shelf first.

Good luck w/ your sorting.

If any of these ideas work for you (even if they're simple ones), come update us! We'd love to hear; we're all learning from one another.
And someone coming later may find it helpful too--if you look at the forum enough, you'll see that old threads get resurrected here a lot.

This post was edited by talley_sue_nyc on Mon, Aug 25, 14 at 15:18

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 12:47PM
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Have you tried Quicken Home Inventory system?

Why spend time and energy to develop your own system if you can buy one that is relative inexpensive?

Years ago I used a Home Inventory System that came with Quicken. It was easy and user friendly. It helped us with insurance claim when we were burglarized.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 9:47PM
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