How Do You Create A Personal Property Inventory When Everything Is Gone?
Human Concerns
Written by Sean M. Scott   

Credit: Bob McMillan/FEMA

Each year disasters cause multitudes across the U.S. to lose their homes and personal property. Whether it’s a wide scale disaster like a tornado, wildfire, or hurricane, or a smaller event like a house fire or pipe burst, people need to know how to recover. When first responders leave the scene of a disaster, the survivors are typically left to figure out their recovery on their own. For those who have lost their home or been displaced, this can be the beginning of a nightmare. The state of chaos created by a disaster, coupled with the lack of knowledge of what to do in the aftermath, is what often transforms disaster survivors into disaster victims.

What do I do about all my stuff that was lost?

One of the most difficult tasks a disaster survivor may face is creating an inventory of all the personal belongings that were lost. To illustrate this, let’s say your home was hit by a tornado and all that’s left is a bare concrete slab. Your yard is strewn with debris from your neighbors and you have no idea where your 25 plus years of accumulation went, except for the pair of underwear hanging in the tree across the street. So you call your insurance company thinking they will write you a check for your policy limits and be done. However, the reality is in order for you to receive the full benefits of your insurance coverage, you will need to provide a detailed inventory of everything you owned, including a description of each item, its age, replacement cost, and any photos or receipts. So now what do you do?

Imagine trying to remember everything you had in your entire home when you don’t have photos, receipts, or recollection. On one hand you don’t want to commit insurance fraud by claiming items that you are not sure you had and on the other hand you have a considerable amount of insurance to cover what was lost. One way to accomplish this task is to try and visualize what you had room-by-room and ask friends or family members if they have photos that were taken in your home during a family get-together or party. Oftentimes photos like these can reveal furnishings, decor, or other items in the background that will help jog your memory. Consider for a moment if you needed to inventory the contents of your kitchen. If you are like most, you might jot down the big ticket items like appliances, silverware, and cookware, and figure the smaller items aren’t worth the time to deal with. But what about the food that was in the refrigerator and pantry, the wine, vitamins, supplements, spices, cookbooks, cleaning supplies, hand utensils, stuff in the junk drawer, pet supplies, and so forth? You paid a considerable amount of money for those things and they add up! The problem is that it takes a lot of time and energy to try and remember what you had and then detailing small ticket items. But wait, if you were walking down the street and saw $10 and $20 bills laying around, wouldn’t you take the time to pick them up?

The bottom line is if you want to recover the maximum benefits of your insurance and expedite your recovery, then you have to provide documentation. Now you might be asking yourself, isn’t there an easier way? The answer is yes! The Personal Property Memory Jogger & Home Inventory Tool is a pre-populated Excel spreadsheet that contains 6,000 of the most commonly found household items broken down into a room-by-room format. Once downloaded, you have the option to delete what may not apply to you and/or add items. This resource is a godsend for disaster survivors and is available free-of-charge at personal-property-memory-jogger/


About the Author

Sean Scott is the Author and Publisher of The Red Guide to Recovery – Resource Handbook for Disaster Survivors and CEO of Heritage Publishing & Communications, Ltd. The Red Guide to Recovery and The Personal Property Memory Jogger & Home Inventory Tool are both used as post-disaster recovery resources by fire departments, emergency management agencies, and first responders across the U.S. If you would like more information, visit