Preparing for a move can be a daunting task, especially if you are moving a large household. The process starts weeks in advance, and it requires everything from gathering supplies and lining up labor to making a list of anticipated expenses, plus you have to contact everyone from your child's school to your internet service provider.

However, one step in the preparation process people often forget is to take a home inventory. If you are planning to relocate soon, it is wise to make an inventory list and take pictures of all your belongings, especially those with monetary and sentimental value. You should also do it as soon as possible, so you aren't adding to the stress of the last days leading up to the move.

No matter if you are renting a truck or hiring a moving company for packing and transport, knowing what you have and the condition of every major item will help you stay organized. Plus, an inventory will allow you to know if something comes up missing or gets damaged.

moving truck

If you hire a professional moving company, having proof of an item's existence and its condition --- if something gets lost or damaged --- can help you get reimbursed. A moving company will give you a bill of lading that is a detailed list of everything they have transported to your new space. You will have to sign off on this, so having your own inventory will help you keep track of what is going on.

And, if you are moving on your own, having an inventory can help you make a claim with your insurance company if something gets damaged or lost.

How To Conduct Your Inventory

smart phone

Instead of writing a list on paper or typing it up on your laptop, put your smartphone to work by taking pictures or video. Having a memory card or flash drive full of photos makes your inventory easy to organize, and it also makes the process much faster.

Room By Room

First, break your inventory down by room, so you have folders for each one in the house, and that will allow you to track the items for that specific space. You can also break it down a little further with categories in each room like "bedding" or "dishes."


Take photos of each item to document the condition. And for things like appliances and electronics, also take pics of the brand logo and serial number. This will guarantee that if anything happens to those items, there will be no question about the item's age and current pricing. Also, be sure to get photos of unique features and custom upgrades --- anything that increases value --- so if you need to make a claim, you can get what your item is worth.

Also, take photos of jewelry and family heirlooms, and when it comes to their value, you might need to contact an expert for an assessment. Be sure to save a digital copy of the assessment with the pics.

jewelry box

Some of the most common damage in a move occurs with wood furniture like tables because they are prone to scratches. So, be sure to include pics of the condition of any wood items you have.

Instead of taking pics of every item of clothing and accessories (if you have expensive, high-end labels), take pics or video of those pieces in groups. Just make sure that there is space between them, so you can see them clearly. This same idea goes for any shelves you might have full of collectibles.

Pen And Paper

Of course, you can do all of this with pen and paper, but it will be much more time-consuming. Plus, it won't allow you to document the condition of your belongings. However, if you do take the paper route, having an organizational system is key. Color-coding is a great way to keep a paper inventory. Assign a color to each room and then keep your inventory in a corresponding color folder. Also, mark the boxes with the items from that room with the assigned color.

You can also use graph paper to draw a floor plan and inventory a room's items visually instead of making a list.

Don't Forget The Documents

passport, birth certificate, social security card

It is also an excellent idea to have digital copies of all of your important documents, so take pictures of things such as birth certificates, wills, marriage certificates, deeds, passports, and insurance policies. Keep the originals separate from the copies, but always keep the originals with you as you move. The copies can move with the rest of your items.

Delegating Responsibility

Obviously, this can turn into a big project, so don't be afraid to enlist other members of your family to help out. Have your kids inventory their own rooms or have other family members to help with the various rooms in the house.

You can also split up big areas like the kitchen or family room. Have one person documenting media items, another taking care of the furniture and appliances.

When you have cataloged all of your items, be sure to make two copies of the inventory. Keep one in a safety deposit box or with a trusted family member and keep the other for yourself. This way, if you happen to lose it during the move, you have a backup.

Put The Inventory List To Use

man with moving boxes

Once you have completed an inventory of all of the items that you will be moving to your new home, use it to get a quote from a moving company so you can get a more accurate estimate of what the move will cost you. It can also help you determine if you need additional moving insurance over what the movers or your homeowner's insurance offer.

When The Move Is Over

Once you have completed your move and have started unpacking in your new home, you will be more than happy with yourself that you took the time to make a home inventory. Not only will it help you if anything ends up lost or damaged, but an inventory will also come in handy as you settle into your new space and make the process faster and less stressful.

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