A few weeks ago we discussed building a Home Emergency Binder where we keep copies of our most important documents. And we also talked about keeping the originals in a small getaway safe. So in today’s Prep & Plan post, I want to discuss taking a Home Inventory which we’ll add to that safe.

First, I want to do a quick recap: All of the documents in the Home Emergency Binder should be copies. This binder is one of the things you’ll grab if you have to evacuate. But another thing you’ll grab, hopefully, is a small fireproof/waterproof safe. You can find these anywhere including Walmart, Lowe’s, and Amazon and they’re not too expensive. The purpose of this small safe is to store your original documents that you need to protect from the environment (fire, smoke, water, etc.)

So what do you keep in this safe? Any original documents that are important to your life including but not limited to:

Vehicle titles/loan documents

Property titles/Mortgage documents

Birth, death, adoption, divorce, and marriage certificates

Wills, Powers of Attorney, Medical directives

Passports, Naturalization documents, social security cards

You may want to gather the documents together so you know how big of a safe you need. But I suggest you buy the smallest safe you need (papers don’t take up a lot of space) because you’re going to carry it with you in case of an emergency. This is something you’ll grab in case of a house fire, an emergency evacuation, a flood, etc. Even the smallest safes tend to be heavy so make sure you can carry it. Ask yourself this question: if you had to walk out of your neighborhood to a shelter, could you carry it a few miles? I know I’ve already written a post about this, and that it sounds crazy, but we’re preparing for the worst so if the worst happens we won’t panic or need to worry about how to rebuild our lives.

Next up is doing a Home Inventory. If you have a lot of valuables that you itemize for an insurance rider, you’ve already done this work. But if not, it’s something that many insurance companies recommend anyway. Basically, you walk around your house and take photos of anything you have that is valuable or could be sold for some money on the secondary market (like eBay or FB Marketplace). This includes all jewelry, silver, china, electronics, valuable books… anything you feel is of value.

Now, if you have all of these itemized for an insurance rider, this work is done. But not everything has to be itemized to be covered by homeowners insurance. So even if you have an itemized list, check the house to see if there’s anything else you need to inventory. The purpose of this is that if you lose everything (due to war, natural disaster, etc), these photos will be proof of what you’ve owned and lost.

Once you have your photos, print them out (I can hear the screaming now! lol). But print them out and then write on the back of the photo the date the photo was taken and any other information you may need like the date you acquired the item or more details about the item like “Wedgwood china pattern Flying Cloud, 12 piece place setting”.

Record any serial numbers and check and see if any warranties are still valid. If so, add the warranty information to you Home Emergency Binder. Also, if you have any receipts or any purchase contacts for these items, store them in an envelope to add to the safe. And don’t forget to check your attics, basement, or any offsite storage facilities.

The more details you have about an item or a group of items, the easier it will be for an insurance company to make good on the loss. Even if you don’t have insurance, sometimes the federal government will pay you for losses due to a natural disaster. But you need proof and documentation of what you lost.

Once you have all of your photos, and have added notes to the printed photos, store them in your safe. See? Even if it takes some time, it’s easy. And I promise, if something terrible happens you’ll be so happy you did the work ahead of time. And don’t forget to check in next week when we begin to discuss… Spring Cleaning. I seriously can’t wait!

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