Digital Tools Make Home Inventories Easy

Bookshelf of books
Time to organize.

Whether you are preparing to move or happily settled, it’s important to keep an inventory of your household possessions.

An up-to-date home inventory can be invaluable if you need to file an insurance claim with movers or in the event of a burglary, fire, or natural disaster. And the task isn’t nearly as daunting as you may suspect.

A detailed list or spreadsheet is a good start, but today’s technology lets you go further. You can store photos and videos of your belongings with digital copies of purchase receipts on your home computer or an off-site server.

And new software enables you to take pictures directly from your iPhone or Android phone, simultaneously enter the relevant data, and automatically sync with your computer or “cloud” storage site.

Even a simple pen-and-paper inventory can benefit from the Internet. The California Department of Insurance has a thorough Home Inventory Guide on its website for download and printing.

The guide makes it easy to log all your possessions room by room and add pertinent information such as make and model, date of purchase, price, and replacement cost. It also includes a sensible method for adding photographs to your inventory.

In addition to the Home Inventory Guide, the department’s website has a page with useful inventory tips for homeowners and renters.

More tips, plus an incredibly useful — and free — cellphone app, are available on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website.

The app has an awkward name, myHOME, but it’s easy to use and can be downloaded in iPhone and Android versions. It lets you quickly photograph all your possessions room by room and add descriptions. An included barcode reader helps speed the process.

The information is stored on your cellphone, and users can transmit copies to their computers or email them as a spreadsheet.

Another useful app, this one for your home computer, is Know Your Stuff, from the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Know Your Stuff makes creating and updating your home inventory easy and efficient. The software is free and downloadable from the III website — and it includes free online storage that gives you access to your inventory anywhere, any time. You can also add digital photos and videos or print inventory as a Microsoft Excel document or as a report to accompany an insurance claim.

A wide variety of home inventory software is available online, some of it free and others costing upwards of $40. Search on Google or at Cnet’s for basic inventory software or specialized products that help keep track of large private collections.

One such tool is iTrackmine, free software that lets you take photos with almost any mobile device equipped with a camera. It stores photos and descriptions on an off-site server. Among its more thoughtful features is one that helps you keep track of items loaned to friends. It remembers who has what and can automatically send an email message when your property is due for return.

(Photo by Richard Winchell, via Flickr.)

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