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.

What Is a Home Inventory?

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

NameCost at purchaseConditionEstimated Current CostPacking DetailsNotes – Make, model, truck placement, etc.
Bedroom One
Mattress$500Medium$250Wrapped and taped.Placed in the back of the truck.
TV$2,500Good $2,000Placed in the original package with styrofoam.Samsung S95B 65″ HDR 4K UHD Quantum Dot OLED TV (2022) 
Fine China Set$500Excellent$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 SetTotal of $250Good$150Wrapped 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.

Are Home Inventories Important?

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:

  • Filling damaged or lost items claims with a moving company: If you’re using a moving company and it mishandles your items, it will have to compensate you. You will have to file a claim detailing what damage happened during the move and an item’s condition beforehand. A home inventory will go a long way in proving the validity of your claim. To reduce the risk of dealing with shady movers view our list of the best moving companies.
  • Filling for homeowners insurance: Even if you’re not moving, a home inventory can help you in the case of a disaster. If your home and possessions receive damage in a natural disaster, you can use your inventory to help you file your insurance claim. 
  • Qualifying for renters insurance: If you’re renting, you will need to take out renters insurance to cover your items in the case of a natural disaster or break-in. The insurance company will want a list of expensive items. A complete inventory can help this process while saving you time. 
  • Better packing and organization: By having a more comprehensive idea of the content in your rooms, you can better organize your moving process. This improved process leads to better-packed boxes and a more organized move. 
  • Helping downsize and declutter: It often never occurs to us just how much junk and clutter we’ve collected until we take appropriate stock of it. You can eliminate everything you don’t need or want by taking inventory of your items.  
  • Keeping track of your possessions: Moving is a complicated and, more often than not, chaotic process. On moving day, you will have to manage family members packing for the trip, movers carrying boxes, and any other last-minute tasks that need completing. In this rigamarole, it can be too easy for a box to be misplaced, miss-packed, or even thrown out with the trash. A good inventory can help keep everything accounted for and organized as it’s loaded into the truck. 
  • Creating a moving cost estimate: Whether moving with a professional moving company or undertaking a completely DIY move, your move’s cost is a combination of your total cargo and distance. By taking inventory of your room’s content, you already have half of the equation, allowing you to create a more accurate cost estimate for a long-distance move. 

When Should You Start Taking 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. 

To reduce even more stress view our list on companies that will help you pack and move your belongings.

How To Make a Home Inventory

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. 

Outline Your List and Room Order 

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.

Go Room by Room 

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 Critical Information 

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:

  • Name and description: Identify the item by its name, being as specific as possible. If it is a book, use its title. If it is a complex type of item with multiple makes and models (such as a TV or computer system) list them, including production years.  
  • Cost at purchase: This describes how much you paid for the item. If you don’t have a receipt, try looking up the item’s cost. Otherwise, provide your best estimate. 
  • Current condition: Describe the item’s condition, notating any specific noticeable damage like cracks, chips, fading, etc. 
  • Estimated value: Using your best judgment, estimate the item’s current cost. If a specialty item, such as a collectible, has accrued value over time, you should try to find the current going rate online. You may also want a professional appraisal of the value of high-value items, such as jewelry, rare firearms, or signed art. In these cases, include documentation of the item’s appraisal and worth in the inventory. 
  • Packing information: This data set describes how an item is packed and precautions to ensure its safe transportation. Include what box it was packed in, what room the box is associated with, what notable markings are on it, and where the box is being kept in the truck. 
  • Notes: This field is for any other information you think is essential, such as more details on product descriptions, special precautions, serial numbers, packing material, etc. 
  • Home inventory checklist: This can be a figure on the inventory itself or a separate inventory sheet. This page is a checklist for each box, with the columns like “loaded,” “unloaded,” and “all items present.” By using this inventory checklist, you can ensure that all boxes are accounted for during each stage of the move.

Begin Packing

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.

Check Off During Loading 

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need To Make a Moving Inventory if Your Moving Company Is Making an Inventory of Its Own?  

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.

What Are the Best Methods for Disposing of Stuff During a Move?

You have several options if you want to dispose of unwanted items during a move.

  • DonationsDonating unwanted items to local charitable organizations is a great way to get rid of unwanted possessions and give back to the community. Charitable organizations often accept items like articles of clothing, books, toys, electronics, and small appliances.
  • Selling items off: If you’re looking to try and recoup some of the costs of a move, you can always try selling them. The quickest and easiest way to do this is through a website like eBay or a yard sale.
  • Junk hauling services: A junk hauling service is a great way to eliminate large amounts of small items, junk, debris, and other unwanted items. These services also provide trained professionals who can remove large, bulky items from your home.

What Items Should You Include in Your Inventory?

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.

Do I Need Pictures of My Items?

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.

Editorial Contributors
Sam Wasson

Sam Wasson

Staff Writer

Sam Wasson graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Film and Media Arts with an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering. Sam brings over four years of content writing and media production experience to the Today’s Homeowner content team. He specializes in the pest control, landscaping, and moving categories. Sam aims to answer homeowners’ difficult questions by providing well-researched, accurate, transparent, and entertaining content to Today’s Homeowner readers.

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Lora Novak

Senior Editor

Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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