Protect your belongings with a home inventory

By Allstate

Last updated: January 1

Being prepared for an emergency that can devastate your home and belongings — like a fire or hurricane — can include things like first aid kits, safety procedures and evacuation plans. But do you know how much it would cost to replace all your belongings? We’re not just talking about the big-ticket items, like your TV or your refrigerator. What about all the kids’ toys, your kitchen utensils, your bath towels — everything down to your socks?

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Creating a detailed home inventory can help if your things are destroyed and you need to file an insurance claim in the future — and it can also help you assess whether you need additional coverage now.

There are a few different ways to make a home inventory:

  • Make a checklist
  • Take photos of your valuables
  • Make a video recording
  • Use a smartphone app

Make a checklist

Keeping a thorough checklist can help you document all your belongings. The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends that your checklist includes relevant information, including:

  • The type of item.
  • The original price of each item (including the receipt, if possible).
  • The year each item was purchased it.
  • Each serial number, in addition to any other pertinent information.

When it comes to your clothes, compile the number of items you own by type, such as shoes and pants, says the III. Also, write down the make, model and serial number of appliances and electronic equipment.

Once you finalize your inventory, store it in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box, a trusted friend or family member, or on an external hard drive. Finally, remember to update your list whenever you make a big purchase.

Take photos of your valuables

In addition to a written list, consider taking pictures to create a visual record of your belongings, says the III. Snap pictures of entire rooms, focus on individual items and make sure to include areas like closets and drawers. Label each photo with the pertinent information from your checklist that may be helpful when replacing or getting reimbursed for each item. This can be done with a traditional camera's printed photos, or if you use a digital camera or smartphone, you may be able to add this information digitally.

Make a video recording

You may also want to record a video of each room in your home to further document your belongings, advises the III. While recording, it may be helpful to narrate, describing each item and noting special features, including the condition and its contents, when applicable.

Use a smartphone app

If you're worried that your physical inventory checklist might get damaged or lost, you may consider creating a digital inventory, for organizing and storing your information. In addition to listing important details about each possession, you can also upload videos and images to an online account. If you create a digital file, be sure to back it up and keep a copy in an online storage account or external drive.

The unexpected can happen in life, so being proactive now can help you protect your belongings — just in case. You never know if that home inventory will come in handy one day, but if the event arises, you'll be glad you took the time to do it.