Professional organizer advice: Create a home inventory

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By Roxanne W. Cheney

From May 29-31, I attended the 26th Annual Conference and Organizing Expo hosted by the National Association of Professional Organizers in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Along with more than 600 attendees from 13 nations, I learned from leading industry experts in four general sessions and more than 30 workshops and break-out sessions.  We also had access to an Expo Hall featuring displays and demonstrations by dozens of companies that manufacture, sell, and distribute organizing products and organizing industry-related services that offer solutions for a diverse clientele.

One particularly relevant session (given the advent of hurricane season) was a detailed workshop on creating home and business inventories.  As recently advised by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, a home inventory is an excellent way to expedite the insurance claims process after theft, damage, or loss. Moreover, this record of your insurable assets will also help verify tax-deductible property losses and determine the right amount of insurance coverage you need. Especially after a traumatic loss, it’s impossible to remember everything you had, so most people never collect their full insurance benefits.

Creating a home inventory is probably on many “To Do” lists — but anecdotal evidence suggest that it is one of those “important but not urgent” tasks that is overcome by other events — until it’s too late. In the event of loss, would you have a record of all the valuables in your home?  If the answer is no, I encourage you to begin putting your inventory together today.  These steps may help get you started:

1. Whether you choose to use high- or low-tech tools to create your inventory, there are insurance company guides as well as programs and apps available to facilitate your project.

2. For every item, include a detailed description (make, model, and serial number, if applicable), value, and purchase date.  If you are missing a detail, include as much as you reasonably can.

3. Your inventory should include a visual record with a video walk-through of your home or through a series of photographs.  Your tablet or smartphone can be useful in either instance.

4. A good way to start is to move from room to room, listing items as you go. Don’t forget to include items in your basement, attic, garage, and any detached structures, such as tool sheds. Also, pay special attention to your most valuable possessions, such as antiques, art, jewelry, collectibles, and electronic equipment. If you have any questions about which items are covered by your policy, contact your insurance agent.

5. Keeping proper documentation will also help to facilitate the claims process. This documentation, which can be scanned for digital storage, includes receipts, credit card statements, other transaction documents, and appraisals (include the appraiser’s name and address).

Once you’ve created your home inventory, make sure to update it as you acquire or dispose of items over time.

Store your inventory in a secure place away from your home, such as your office or a safe deposit box. You may also want to email your inventory to a trusted friend and ask them to save it for you. This way, if you ever need the information for insurance or tax purposes, it will be easy to access.

Lastly, remember that doing a little is better than doing nothing.  Consistently devoting as little as 15 minutes to this (or any) project will produce visible results in short order.  So don’t delay, get started today!

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