In insurance terminology, personal property is commonly referred to as contents. Contents refers to items that are not attached to the structure or that would typically be taken with you if you were to sell or move out of the home. These items would include: furniture, clothing, books, electronics, some appliances, drapery, collectibles, paintings, kitchen utensils, sports equipment, toys, tools, food, etc. After a disaster, the contents of your home may have to be removed and stored offsite in order to perform repairs. The removing of the contents from the home is commonly referred to as a "pack out". A pack out is usually comprised of a team of restoration professionals with extensive training in restoration who use specialized techniques to document, inventory, box, transport, track, restore, and return your contents. The following is a partial list of procedures performed in the pack out phase. The content restoration company may:

  • Videotape, photograph, and document the entire home with all the contents in place
  • Create an inventory database with the following elements: physical item, brand name, physical description, condition, purchase date, original cost, and approximate replacement cost at current value
  • Wrap, protect, and pack items into book and wardrobe boxes
  • Write a brief description on the boxes of what each box contains, with a reference number to track the contents of the box with a master inventory tracking sheet
  • Load and transport all salvageable contents to a cleaning and storage facility
  • Determine after the inventory is complete, what items are unsalvageable or a "total loss". These items can be discarded or donated once the adjuster confirms that they have all of the support documentation necessary. Some items may cost more in labor and materials to save. Unless these items have sentimental value, they are usually deemed as non-salvageable and the replacement cost of the item is written on the inventory
  • Dispose of destroyed or non-salvageable items once the inventory and documentation of the contents is complete. If you dispose of your contents too soon, you may not be able to recover their full value or complete the inventory
  • Unpack the contents at the cleaning facility, wipe, clean, and wash the items
  • Repack the items and store until they can be returned

A detailed and comprehensive inventory can take days or weeks to complete. Be patient. An inventory that is quickly thrown together will cost you thousands of dollars in lost replacement value.

NOTE: If you have a refrigerator or freezer that has been without power for a few days, you may not want to open the door. The contents inside will be rotting and will produce a very strong foul odor. In most cases, this odor cannot be removed, and the appliance may have to be discarded. If you have insurance for your personal property, the contents of the refrigerator/ freezer are typically covered and should be included in any inventory. Once the repairs to the building or home are completed, the contents can be moved back, unpacked, and reset in place.

Important Inventory Considerations

Provide as much detail as possible when compiling an inventory. All of your personal property, regardless of how small, has a value. Do not discard anything until it has been properly documented and your adjuster has authorized you to do so. Make the inventory room by room and take your time. Take systematic pictures or video tape inside each room before beginning the inventory, so you have an accurate documentation of what was present prior to the loss. Be sure to open closets, drawers, and cabinets to document any items inside them. Using a tape recorder is another way to document your inventory by naming each item you see and then later transcribing the recorded notes onto paper or into a computer spreadsheet.

Inventory Items

Some often overlooked items to consider putting in the inventory may include the following:

  • Living/ Dining Room: Pillows, rugs, fireplace accessories, decorations, window treatments or valances, table linens and pads, candles, sconces, serving pieces, china, glassware, figurines, artwork, games, books, liquor, DVD's, CD's, picture frames, mirrors, trophies, etc.
  • Kitchen: Small appliances and accessories, cutlery, utensils, cookware, cook books, mops, spices, food, vitamins and supplements, refrigerator and freezer contents, cleaning supplies, shelf paper, baby locks or gates, etc.
  • Bedrooms: Linens, clothing, school supplies, computer software, video games, toys, collectables, clocks, tie or hat racks, gift cards, etc.
  • Bathrooms: Shower curtains, bathmats, beauty supplies, shavers, medicines, water picks, electric toothbrushes, curling irons, blow dryers, perfume, towels, hand mirrors, etc.
  • Garage: Home and garden tools, chemicals, pesticides, auto equipment, barbeque equipment, pet supplies, arts and craft supplies, gym equipment, bicycles, fishing tackle, hunting gear, sports equipment, camping equipment, etc.
  • Attic: Christmas and holiday decorations, suitcases, memorabilia, wedding dresses, heirlooms, etc.
  • Exterior / Yard: Lawn or patio furniture, door mats, barbeques and accessories, bird feeders, potted plants, fountains, solar light fixtures, etc.

For more comprehensive information on creating a proper inventory and to obtain samples of an inventory worksheet and "Memory Jogger" visit here.

The following page contains an example of a content inventory spreadsheet.