Free Your Space: Home inventories

The word “inventory” traditionally has brought to mind long, boring checklists of warehouse supplies waiting to be identified, counted and reordered. Inventory season can be a dreaded time of year by those in retail who would prefer time working with customers to late nights spent checking off columns on lists in stock rooms. In recent years, inventories have begun wandering out of the confinement of their business realms into home and family lives. And, they have taken on more colorful and interactive formats that make creating them somewhat enjoyable.

Enjoyable? Really? Well, in a way. Due to improvements in technology, inventorying your belongings can range from making quick and easy online photo albums to having very detailed, itemized lists.

There are many good reasons for creating a home inventory: disaster preparedness (fire, flood, tornado, etc.), move management, divorce and estate planning are a few. Circumstances that call for home inventories are often situations that can already carry a significant amount of stress. Your mind and emotions may make recollections blurry. Therefore, a home inventory is best created when you don’t actually need it. There currently exist multiple inventory creation tools and options, as well as people like professional organizers who can be hired specifically to get this done for you. No matter what the motivation, the best time to start is now.

To begin with this, make a decision about how and where you would like to store your inventory. Do you want to print it out and keep with your vital documents? Do you want it on an external hard drive that you can store in a safe deposit box or give to a family member? Do you want it in some kind of safe cloud storage so that is online, easily updatable and accessible? Or, perhaps you would like a combination of these. Some options I recommend for creation of your home inventory are, or You can also try just keeping a photo journal in an online photo account such as Flickr or Shutterfly. A homemade video or spreadsheet can be kept in a DropBox or Evernote account.

Next decide what exactly you are going to inventory. Do you merely want documentation of big-ticket items – jewelry, electronics, furniture, etc.? Or do you need your home inventory to be more comprehensive? If you’re not up to detailing everything, you may decide that you want to begin by capturing the big things first and filling in with the smaller details at a later date.

You’ve chosen your method of cataloging and items you want to track. Now you can get started.

First: List the location/s of your belongings. For instance: home interior; home exterior (cars, sheds and outdoor furnishings); storage units; second homes.

Second: Choose what level of detail you want to record. Do you want photos/lists of everything you can see when you traverse your home or do you want photos of ALL items i.e. interiors of drawers, closets and cabinets? Will a narrated video be sufficient? Or do you want to get it all documented entirely and set up detailed records of purchase dates, receipts, serial numbers, manufacturers and warranties?

Finally: Set a date to get it started. Are you recording your inventory prior to a move? Are you going to do it yourself? Make sure, if you are using photos or video, that your camera is charged and you have set up a photo account by your selected date. Are you hiring someone to do it for you? Let them know the level of detail you want recorded and the deadline you are aiming for. The amount of detail will affect the amount of time needed to get the job done.

Maintenance: The effort you put into setting up a home inventory can last you a lifetime if you keep up with simple maintenance. Maintenance can be done monthly, quarterly or even annually. The key is that it is done. Put a date or dates on your calendar that you will revisit your inventory to make updates.

Then sit back and smile, knowing that you’re ready…for anything.

Annette Reyman is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO®) and President of its Greater Philadelphia Chapter. To contact her for organizing work, professional unpacking, productivity support, gift certificates or speaking engagements call 610- 213-9559 or email her at Visit her websites at and  Follow All Right Organizing on Facebook and Pinterest.

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