Create a Home Inventory Today
In October, I met a family who lost their home in the Black Forest fire on June 11, 2013. I traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., and helped interview them for the 2013 annual report. The experience inspired me to finally create a home inventory – a task I’d been putting off for years.
Tim and Lainie MacDonald and their three sons lost virtually all their possessions in the June wildfire. Their laptop, a box of important documents and the clothes on their back were all they had after the fire.
The part of their story that really stuck with me was what happened after the fire. As part of their property claim, they had to inventory all of their personal possessions so they could be adequately reimbursed by American Family.
The MacDonalds didn’t have a home inventory, and when I met them more than four months after the fire, Lainie was still trying to construct one. She showed me a spiral notebook full of lists of possessions from each room in their house. She also explained how difficult it had been to try and remember everything her family of five had in their home and neighboring barn, which also burned to the ground.
While I sat at the Colorado Springs airport following the interview, I thought about how hard it would be for me to do what she’s doing, if my house ever burned down. That’s what made me realize how important it was to create a home inventory. Since I had time on my hands while I waited for my flight, why not start working on it now?
So I did. I took out my notebook and started making lists of stuff in my house, beginning with the living room and slowly (very slowly) working my way through the rest of the house. By the time I got to Salt Lake City (our next destination on the annual report trip), I had a good start.
When I got home, I sat down with my lists and looked around and added to them. I also tried to note where I bought the item and when, so it would be easier to get an estimate on price, in the event of a loss.
During her interview, Lainie mentioned how she tells her friends that if they do nothing else, they should take a digital camera and photograph the contents of their house. Open the closets and take a picture of the contents. Same goes with kitchen cupboards and dresser drawers.
So, three days after I got home, I charged my digital camera and started taking photos. In the process, I found even more things I forgot about, like the china set my grandma gave me and my biking shoes. It only took me about 20 minutes, but made me feel a lot better. Then, I downloaded the images, scanned in my handwritten lists and saved them to a CD and my DropBox account. I gave a copy of the CD to my parents to keep at their house.
My home inventory isn’t perfect. I didn’t record serial or model numbers for my electronics, and I haven’t figured out the value of some antiques I own. But it’s a start. That’s more than the MacDonalds had when they lost their home, and from talking to Lainie I know that start will save me a lot of time, work and headaches if I ever lost my home in a fire, tornado or other disaster.
Learn more about how the MacDonalds are rebuilding their dreams. Check out their story in the 2013 American Family annual report.
Want help creating your home inventory? Check out the American Family Insurance DreamVault app.