cataloging possessions for homeowner's insurance

aboc1212October 7, 2009

We are about to move into a brand new house and want to make a record of all the things we own for purposes of insurance. I've heard unpacking is the best time to do this so...we'll try that. Has anyone done this and if so do you have tips? Should we just have a laptop and one person catalogs ae we open box after box? It seems daunting to me but I know it's important

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Haven't done this myself, but know people who photograph everything. Seems like it would be infinitely simpler to unpack, get things in their place and then get the camera out. Not all possessions are worthy of being listed for insurance purposes or even on a computer for purely personal reasons - aside from being part of the aggregate of household goods.... (possessions wear out, break, get used up and discarded, have no value other than sentimental to begin with, etc. etc.)

    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 12:57PM
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We didn't do it while unpacking but afterwards. We created a form on the computer for consistancy. On it we have a place for the photo, item description, where we bought it, why we bought it (anniversary,birthday,etc...) and receipts. We scanned in everything and we also made a hard copy in a binder with each sheet in a plastic sleeve with related records like the receipts on the back of each form. The only reason we created the binder was because for insurance purposes we were told we would be required to produce the original receipt. We photographed everything. It's all catagorized into things like electronics, furniture, etc... It's a nice record for the family too. It's daunting until you start to think of it as a nice way to record family treasures for future generations. It's easy to remove or add sheets to the book and digital files when needed.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 1:16PM
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I cannot imagine trying to catalog the contents of a house as you move in and unpack. There is too much confusion and competing demands for your time and attention.

I would move in, get settled, and then go from room to room and catalog things.

The only time I attempted it was before a hurricane. I walked through the house with the video camera and spoke about the items in each room.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 2:11PM
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Digital camera, as you pack or unpack, or even afterwards. Make sure it can take good closeups.

Get some good lighting, and set out the china or silver or golf equipment ... take an overall picture for quantity, closeups of markings or whatever.

For furnishings ... take pictures of the rooms. Closeups of any antiques and paintings or rugs.

Print these pictures, or burn them to CD, and annotate the pictures

Do NOT keep this inventory in the house ... if it burns, there go the records. I have my sister's inventory, she has mine.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 3:31PM
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I've never done this, but my first thought would be there's no way I would spend the time or storage space (even computer space) taking individual photos of everything. I'd take a general photo of the living room for example, and go from there. I'd only pull things out of or off shelves for individual photos if there was 1 particular item of substantial value compared to the average.

I had a friend go through a house fire a few years ago, and the insurance company had suggested values of average household items. They were initially mad they didn't inventory everything, but in the end it all did work out.

You may want to ask the Insurance Co their procedure for reimbursement of everyday/common household items in case of overall loss (like fire), so you know what you need to document and what you may not need to.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2009 at 7:51AM
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thanks everyone for the great tips! I think we might try taking pictures of the house after we upack because did I mention we are getting married 1 month after our move in date? Who has time to unpack, much less catalog as you go? So I think I'll wait until we're done and then go room by room and pull out valuable items. And of course we won't store the data at our house. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2009 at 8:11AM
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I just re-read my above post, and I hope it doesn't come across as to not do it. My point is to check with your insurance co first to learn their procedure for items & what they need to see so you get the reimburements you are expecting. Different providers are different.

I remember on the policy when I was married, anything above the common average items had to be itemized out for additional fees to the policy. We didn't have art or collectibles of value...just a couple jewelery items which we paid extra for & had to have proper paperwork on the value to back it up.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2009 at 8:16AM
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Thanks Gayle, I didn't think you were saying not to do it. Your point is a good one - wouldn't want to waste time going through the process only to have to do it again!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2009 at 9:41PM
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the absolutely best way is to photograph everything with your digital each shelf, each cabinet, etc..when you are putting things away..and then put the photos on your computer and then transfer them to two discs..give one to your family member that is most likely to file it for you and put the other in your bank lock box.

if you buy some expensive things..photograph them and add them to another disc..discs are cheap.

if you have a fire or'll remember what things you no longer have around..but you'll have a good place to start.

written logs are very painstaking and time consuming and easily lost or damaged..

    Bookmark   October 19, 2009 at 11:48AM
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i'm sure the people that don't think it is important to know what you have..have never had a housefire and had to make a claim.

we claimed every single thing after our housefire..we knew how many shirts and pairs of underwear to claim..

trust me..those items add up pretty fast and if you don't claim don't get the cash..

open your cabinet doors and drawers and closets etc..and take a photo of the entire thing..then count your shirts etc and make list to go with..but don't write down everything..

say go through and say your husband has 20 dress shirts..write down 20 dress shirts, 10 pr of jeans, etc..but write it down as well as photograph.

don't develop the photos..just put them on the computer and then onto a disk ..but yes do them all..don't have to do it all in one day

sure things throw out shirts..but you'll also buy the # will stay about the same

    Bookmark   October 20, 2009 at 12:12PM
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Oh, this is a fun one.

Can anyone tell me how to link my excel spreadsheet? Or share it? (I haven't been on here in a long time, sorry)

Where I live we have long winters, so I use the cold chilly nights to catalog purchases I overlooked, but almost everything!

I keep my camera handy, my laptop and once you start doing this I swear you will be obsessed.

Take pics, general pics, immediately put them on the computer. Don't wait because it gets overwhelming.

Create a photograph folder for each room in your house. Add photographs of each room with general description. Because it can be overwhelming, first take general pics of your living room, dining room, kitchen, etc. And you really should catalog everything.

I have a large 3-ring binder with sheet protectors. I keep a photocopy of my receipts in here. Anything major of value that you purchase keep in here. Washers, dryers, artwork, appliances, etc. Keep the warranties in here along with receipts. Great when you need to have something repaired.

I keep a disk with photograph details, original receipts in my husband's office as my backup.

Why you should do this: for example, if there is a fire, flood or major damage in your home, you can't make an insurance claim by verbally saying I know there was two pearl necklaces and one blue sapphire necklace and two waterford bowls and I bought decorator drapes with the most expensive fabric and the best expensive paint with molding that was $200 sf, and I had 30 Ralph Lauren shirts at full price, etc., You really do have to prove it. We have an old victorian and during a snowstorm our chimneys fell - we had to fight insurance company to prove we wanted historic bricks, custom brickwork pointed a certain way at a certain height and replacement of the fence that the chimney damaged, etc. Anyways, Sometimes that means digging the stuff out of the fire and proving it if it is not recovered (voice of experience) We had photographs and documentation.

So this is a fun lifetime project. Once you get it going it's fairly easy.

First way to start, starting today every single item you purchase of value, start documenting those items. Years ago I created my own Excel spreadsheet. Because of sheer volume, I purchased a program which is very detailed.

My husband is like me, too. For thirty years he has been documenting his items (detailed tool list right down to the values) so combined with the two of us it really called for pics and more organization.

I started doing this years ago.

Here's my excel spreadsheet which I still keep as a reference.
Program I use is called Home Manage by Liberty Street. There is a free trial for it after a xxx amount of days you can no longer access it so don't get carried away playing with it cause you will waste your time if you don't want to pay for it.

How do I upload my Excel spreadsheet?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 1:47PM
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I don't think you can upload your spreadsheet directly. See if you can upload it to a photo hosting site like and then insert the link to the image in your post.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 10:17AM
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courtreporter, and everyone else too, thanks for the tips. i just bought a bunch of binders and I think while DH is doing manual labor and I can catalog. I love organizing so shouldn't be hard. I've already made a book with manuals for the stuff that came with our home (major appliances, fireplace, garage door opener etc) and plan to do all my kitchen appliances next. I think tools would be third, furniture 4th (we don't have too much yet, just getting started) and of course jewelry/clothes etc one day. Could be fun!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 10:10AM
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My insurance man asked us if we owned furs or a lot of jewelry, or a piano. No, but if we did he told us to get a "rider" on our homeowners' policy to cover any such big-ticket items.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 7:01PM
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