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Creating a household inventory sounds like it can be a lot of work, but it can come in handy. (And a little spring cleaning never hurt - no matter what time of year.)

While it is advisable to do an inventory of your entire household,, start by doing what you can now. Consider dividing up the rest of your home on a time line. For example, do the living room now, the kitchen next month, your bedroom the month after, and your child's bedroom the month after that -- setting reminders on your computer or in your diary to keep on track.

As items are purchased or given to you as a gift, add them to the list immediately.

You can complete your household inventory on the computer, or print it out and walk around your home with the paper version.

For information, see:

Why You Should Create A Household Inventory

Having a household inventory can help:

  • Verify losses for tax purposes. To learn more, see Tax.
  • Help you accurately calculate your Net Worth.
  • Figure out how much you could get if you sold any of your possessions.
  • Help you decide to whom you wish to leave what you own.
  • Make things easier for your Personal Representative/Executor and heirs if you die.
  • Determine how much insurance you need to protect against loss. To learn more, see Homeowners Insurance.
  • Support an insurance claim and speed up your reimbursement.

Instructions For Creating A Household Inventory

With our Household Inventory chart:

  • You can complete the form on line, or download it to a Word file or print it from here.
  • The form is broken-up by room to remind you to count everything in your house, with lots of blank spaces for items we didn't include.
  • The form includes a space for you to list the specific person you want to receive particular items in the event of your demise. Be sure to let the person who is named in your Will as Personal Representative/Executor, or the person who is named in your Will as beneficiary of your personal property, that you have created this list and that you expect them to follow it. You may even mention the existence of the list in your Will. It depends on your state law whether the mention in your Will makes this list binding, or merely a statement of your wishes that you will have to rely on the good faith of the named people to carry out.
  • When you group items by room, include items in your attic, basement, garage and storage unit. Also include items that are stored in cars, boats and recreational vehicles.

Video or Snapshots: While a written inventory is great, also consider making a video or taking snapshots of your belongings in each room.

  • If you have the receipts for the items, place the receipt on top of or near the item before taking the picture or video.
  • If you are making a video, narrate it with commentary wioth as much information as you can recall about each item such as when you bought it, where the item was purchased, and the price you paid.
  • Do close-ups or zoom in to show details of artwork and other valuable items.
  • Money Magazine estimates that it takes about 29 minutes to record a 2,200 square foot home.

Store the video or photographs in a fireproof safe or off premises. If the video or photos are on the computer -- keep a back-up off premises. Keep a note with your Will that lets people know where to find the video or photos.

Receipts: Receipts do not have to be stored with the document inventory. However, they should be in an accessible, safe place. See Document Inventory and Setting Up A Home Filing System.

After You've Completed Your Household Inventory

  • Compare the list against your insurance to make sure all of your belongings are appropriately insured. See Buying Homeowner's Insurance.
  • Add the "worth today" column so you know how much your personal property is worth and make sure you have enough insurance. Fill-in (if you didn't already) the column with what your items could get if sold. See Selling Personal Property.
  • Highlight any items that need separate insurance. See Buying Homeowner's Insurance.
  • Store the list in a safe-deposit box or in a fireproof file.
  • Update your inventory whenever you acquire or dispose of major items.
  • Update your home inventory every year at a consistent, easy to remember time each year such as at tax time, or your birthday. Set an alert in your computer or in your calendar.

Click here to create your own Household Inventory.