80 Create a Home Inventory

Create a Home Inventory

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Creating a home inventory and storing it in a safe place will make it easier to work with the insurance company at a time of loss.

A home inventory can make dealing with an insurance company much easier. And your camera phone is a convenient way to create and store this inventory. With a little preparation, you can canvass your entire residence in just an hour or so.

You'll need a stack of 3" 5" cards and a bold-tip felt marker. Carry out your inventory one room at a time. Daytime hours are best, because you'll have enough ambient light to record the objects without using flash. Many camera phones don't have flash, and for this job, it's just as well. Photographing shiny objects with a flash is difficult at best; it's hard to record detail in the lighter tones. Ambient light is less contrasty, which makes it better for this project.

Start with your first item and write the following information on a 3" 5" card:

  • Name of object

  • Serial number

  • Date purchased

  • Purchase price

Make your letters big and bold, as shown in Figure. Put the card next to the item and snap a picture.

A sample item in a home inventory

When you finish one room, move on to the next until you've completed the entire house. Then, upload your images to the computer [Hack #76] . You might want to give each image a filename that makes sense, such as bedroom_tv.jpg, bedroom_vase.jpg, bedroom_lamp.jpg, and so on.

A handy way to organize these images is to actually build a web photo gallery [Hack #50] and burn it to three CDs: one to keep at home for reference, one for easy-access backup at your office, and a final copy in a safe-deposit box or another secure location.

When you need to refer to the catalog, simply load the CD into your computer, double-click index.html, and a thumbnail catalog of your entire home inventory will appear in your web browser. You can click on any of the thumbnails to enlarge the image and read the details you wrote on the 3" 5" card.

When creating your inventory, keep these tips in mind to ensure the best detail possible:

  • To prevent camera shake, hold the camera steady when making the exposure. Chances are, you're shooting in less light than your camera phone likes, so the shutter speed will be slow.

  • Increase the ISO setting, if that's an option on your camera. ISO 400 requires much less light for a good picture than ISO 100 requires.

Take more than one picture of each object. Then, after you upload the photos to your computer, pick the shot that has the largest file size [Hack #47] . The bigger the file size, the sharper the picture will be.

  • Use pink 3" 5" index cards. Pink cards reflect less light than white ones do. This will make them easier to read, because they will require about the same exposure as the objects you're photographing.

Finally, remember to update your home inventory at least once a year to keep it current.

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