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3 Steps to a Digitally Archived Home

By Coletta Teske

  • Keeping a catalogue of your belongings can make life easier if you need to file an insurance claim — follow these simple steps to archive your home.

    You never know when disaster might strike. Fires and storm winds can damage your possessions, or burglars can carry them off. Within minutes, cherished or valuable goods are ruined or whisked away.

    It's crucial to prepare for your family's safety before disaster strikes. Online resources from Liberty Mutual offer fire prevention and storm preparedness plans, but here's a question you might have neglected: What happens after the waters recede or the smoke clears? If you need to make an insurance claim, will you have a thorough record of your assets? An archive of your belongings will speed up the process of replacing damaged property and help you make better decisions about the insurance coverage you need before a disaster strikes.

    Follow these steps as you make your archive:

    1. Make a list of your possessions.
      Some people prefer a low-tech approach to list making — index cards, for example, or a notebook — while others are comfortable with spreadsheets on a CD or USB drive. Even smartphone apps such as Liberty Mutual's Home Gallery® app for iPhone and Android now let you catalogue your possessions with your mobile device. The method doesn't matter, so long as the list is thorough, well-organized and kept in a safe place. Choose the system that works best for you, and then do the following:

      • Decide how you'll categorize your belongings — by family member, room, type (for example, electronics, jewelry, art or toys) or another way that makes sense to you.
      • Make a preliminary list of everything in each group.
      • List model numbers, serial numbers and other identifying marks of your property.
      • Attach copies of sales receipts and appraisals to your list, or scan them to store with your photos.
      • Remember to adjust your files periodically, noting new purchases and deleting items you've gotten rid of.
    2. Photograph your living space and possessions.
      Use a digital camera or a smartphone. Work room by room and follow these tips:

      • Photograph each wall, as well as inside closets and drawers.
      • If you're using Liberty Mutual's Home Gallery® app, you can take photos with your phone and assign details to each item as you go.
      • Capture rare, unique, important and expensive items, both in close-up shots and in wider pictures that show their position in the room.
      • Take close-up shots of serial numbers on electronics, and hallmarks on china, silverware and jewelry.
      • Photograph expensive clothing, including close-ups of labels and unique details.
      • Don't forget to document items in areas like the garage, basement and garden shed.
      • Be sure to label your photographs clearly, so you can correctly identify which numbers or details belong to which item.
    3. Store digital photos and inventory in a safe place.
      Once you're finished, find a safe place to store your records. Make a copy of everything and store it away from your home.

      • For hard copies or a USB drive/CD, it's often best to use a bank's safe deposit box. You can also keep copies at other secure locations, as long they're outside your home.
      • For digital archives, internet-based providers offer digital storage, online backups or cloud technology to easily access or change your records. For thorough tips and advice on digitally storing any of your personal items, the Library of Congress provides a detailed guide.
      • If you archive with a mobile-device app like the Liberty Mutual Home Gallery app, you can export your inventory as a spreadsheet or PDF — a useful backup, just in case your phone is lost or damaged.