By Sam Wasson
Updated Nov 3, 2022
Sorting, downsizing, and packing your possessions are some of the most strenuous tasks in moving. It takes time, organizational skills, and no small amount of elbow grease to ensure all your cargo is consolidated and ready to transport. During all that hard work, it can be easy to misplace items, mislabel boxes, or lose track of something important. One handy way to help reduce the chances of items getting lost is to create a comprehensive inventory of your possessions before you begin packing.
A home inventory is more than just a list of your possessions. A good inventory is a comprehensive breakdown of the items of your entire home, what room those items came from, their value, and their condition. Inventories should also provide information on how your possessions were packed and stored. The two most important aspects of these inventories are the details regarding each item and the organization of those details.
When outlining your household inventory, we recommend going with a top-down approach. Break your master list down into rooms, organize the items by type, and order them by value. Each room might have different categories, such as “appliances, utensils, and cookbooks” for the kitchen and “furniture, valuables, and media” for the living room.
Here is a quick and basic outline of a room inventory.
House Item Inventory
|Name||Cost at purchase||Condition||Estimated Current Cost||Packing Details||Notes – Make, model, truck placement, etc.|
|Mattress||$500||Medium||$250||Wrapped and taped.||Placed in the back of the truck.|
|TV||$2,500||Good||$2,000||Placed in the original package with styrofoam.||Samsung S95B 65″ HDR 4K UHD Quantum Dot OLED TV (2022)|
|Fine China Set||$500||Excellent||$500+||Placed in a box marked “Fine China, B1, Fragile!”||Placed in the middle of the box stack in front of the truck, behind the cabinet.|
|Book Set||Total of $250||Good||$150||Wrapped and placed in a box labeled “X Book Set, B1, Heavy!”||Placed at the bottom of the box, stacked at the front of the moving truck.|
Home inventories are one of the most vital files a homeowner can create. Home inventories provide valuable information on your possessions, even if you’re not moving. This information becomes essential when transporting your cargo and is at risk of loss or damage. Here are just a few of the many benefits of creating a comprehensive home inventory:
Every homeowner should have an inventory of their possessions, moving or not. If you’re moving, you should take inventory well before packing. By creating an inventory early, you can create a preliminary packing list while also downsizing along the way. This method trims the fat from the moving process, reducing your overall workload and making the packing much less stressful.
Making an inventory can be time-consuming, but it will save you even more time later. Furthermore, the headaches it will prevent and the peace of mind it offers make it well worth the effort. Here is an overview of how to make a moving inventory, details on how to use it, and how best to structure it.
Once you’ve decided to move, it’s time to get organized. Begin by creating an outline of your list using the system we outlined above. You can use plenty of mediums to create and organize your inventory list, like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or plain old pen and paper. There are also some good home inventory apps and moving apps that you can choose from, such as Sortly or Home Contents. While some online moving guides prefer using apps, we like a system you can save as hard copies. All in all, our recommendations are Microsoft Excel and good ol’ pen and paper. Once the inventory is made, you should save it to your important documents.
To begin filling out your list, categorize the items by type, then start accounting and taking stock. We recommend starting with categories containing the largest or bulkiest items, like furniture or appliances. Keep your information clear, specific, and highly detailed. In general, we also recommend going for more specific, individual categories over broad generalized categories. For example, instead of having a single category like “valuables,” you should have several that organize your valuable items more specifically, like “collectibles,” “jewelry,” and “decorative station.”
One thing to remember is that you can group low-cost, numerous items to avoid a cluttered sheet. For example, if you have 20 shirts, you wouldn’t make an entry for each. Instead, list “20 shirts,” estimating their total value. Keep in mind that you should not apply this method to high-value items. Instead, list anything you consider valuable individually and with as accurate cost information as possible.
Include essential information when organizing your possessions and adding them to the inventory. You will want to include the following elements in your item list:
As you pack items, update your inventory list, specifically notating which boxes contain which items and their respective rooms. If these boxes have any identifying information, include it in your inventory list.
While you or your movers are moving the boxes onto the truck, make a small check next to the boxes on the home inventory list. While checking them off, note what part of the truck they are being packed in and what items are surrounding them.
Finally, once you’ve moved into your new home and begun the unpacking process, you can recheck the moving boxes and items. This way, you can see if anything has gone missing or was damaged during transit.
If you decide to go with a moving company, its team will do a walkthrough of your home and make an inventory list of its own. These lists are a standard for generating a moving quote and a way for moving experts to calculate your cargo’s total weight. In these situations, we still recommend making your own moving inventory. A moving company’s inventory primarily concerns your cargo’s weight and size, lacking valuable cost information that your list can include.
You have several options if you want to dispose of unwanted items during a move.
Ideally, you’ll want to include all household items in your home on your inventory. However, for bigger homes with a large number of items, this can be impractical. At a bare minimum, you’ll want to include all valuable items or items you want to keep track of during a move.
Many homeowners create a single inventory and then forget about it after a move. While this is entirely understandable, a moving inventory can still be helpful after a move is said and done. In the case of a natural disaster or robbery, you can check back to your inventory to help you determine what was lost and those items’ value. However, an inventory won’t be of much value if it’s several years out of date. We recommend updating your inventory at least once every two years. A good time to update your inventory is during spring cleaning since you will be pulling items out and tidying up anyway.
Technically no, but visual records of your items can be especially helpful for warranties and insurance claims. You can take individual photos or use a video camera to overview a room’s contents before they’re packed.
Other Moving Resources