No one, of course, wants to be the victim of a property disaster. Even with insurance coverage, there is no way to replace antiques and treasured personal items. But at the very least, it pays to be prepared in case the worst happens.
Steps needed to be taken:
If you own a digital camera, you can save your photos on a disk and store them in a safe off premises. “Photographs are an important supplement to your written inventory because they give details that written descriptions cannot”. “In addition, they document the quality, appearance, and size of the things you own.”
A video camera also will do the trick — in fact, it could be the easiest method of thoroughly documenting your possessions, which otherwise can be an extremely tedious assignment. Clearly label and date your video(s) and make a back-up copy. Keep one at home or at the home of a friend and one in a safety deposit box.
Make this task seem considerably less daunting (not to mention more organized and systematic — an approach recommended by Travelers), tackle one room at a time. Start, for example, with your master bedroom. Begin your inventory by creating a written list of your valuables located in the master bedroom. Move from one wall to another in an organized pattern. Then photograph one wall at a time, and check off each item as you proceed. Repeat this same pattern in the other rooms of your house, photographing each wall individually, and finishing with the center of the room. Remember as you store completed rolls to label your film canisters with their respective room assignments.
Speak throughout your video documentation, adding the details of when each item was purchased and for what price. When you’re finished with your home’s interior, film the exterior, an exercise that verifies the general condition in which you’ve maintained your property.
Photograph not only main rooms but also your basement, attic and garage. The items stored in these rooms may be worth comparatively less than other belongings, but you’d still need to replace them if you lost your home in a disaster. And items such as lawn mowers, weed eaters, freezers, and clothes dryers cost money to replace.
Don’t forget to look under beds, on high shelves, and most important, in every closet. Believe it or not, your clothes are an important addition to your personal inventory. You don’t need to pull out every item of clothing and document it individually, although you might pull a couple of items if they’re particularly expensive pieces (designer coats, high-end suits, etc.).
Open your cupboards, as well. They’re probably hiding your fine China, your crystal pieces and/or silver. Don’t just take a general photograph of your open cabinet. Remove all of these pieces, because they likely rank among your highest-value possessions. Arrange them on a table, instead. This saves you time and provides a much better view of their detail, size, and estimated worth. Take two photographs of each item, front and back, enabling a view of the underside and — if possible — the brand name. It’s a good idea to place each item either next to a ruler or some other object that provides some basis for gauging relative size.
When you’re finished and your photos have been developed, label each one with the date of the photo and respective room in which the item is located. Store the photos and videos in a safety deposit box and at the home of a trusted family member or friend, along with your written inventory.
As you acquire more possessions of value you’ll also need to add their photos and videos to your collection.