How to Inventory Your Belongings for PCSing

If you ever moved, you know some items magically go to that dark abyss where only socks from the dryer go, never to be found again. Or maybe you unpack your DVD player and find it in several pieces. Both scenarios mean filing insurance claims for damaged or missing items. To make that task easier, be sure to inventory your household goods before you move. Here are some tips on how to conduct an inventory:



  • Take pictures and videos of your items.
  • Record the serial numbers.
  • Keep your inventory list in a safe place like the cloud or a safe deposit box.
  • Update your list often.

If there's one thing to expect when moving, it's the unexpected. Keeping an inventory of your items will help you file insurance claims and give you peace of mind.

You've probably seen the military moving checklist and the inventory sheet for listing your belongings when you move. But if you end up with damaged or missing items, neither of these forms will have the details you'd need to file an insurance claim. The movers will inventory your HHG, but their list won't account for the value or condition of your belongings. You can cover it all by conducting your own inventory before packing. Check out these practical inventory tips to help you better prepare for the unexpected.

Digital Technology Makes It Easy

You'll need only two things — maybe only one — to make your inventory list: a computer (a smartphone or tablet works, too) and a camera.

First, decide what software or app you'll use to inventory your belongings. You can download free home inventory software at, or ask your insurance company for a recommendation.

Then, record the following:

  • Item name, description and condition
  • Number of items (for example, "12 pewter forks")
  • Model and serial number, if applicable
  • Purchase information: where and when you bought it, the cost, an estimate of its current value, and whether you have the receipt (shoot or scan it if you do)
  • Photo data, such as filename or number, and how it's tagged in your files

Now it's time to take photos or videos of your valuables. Record brand names if you have a designer jacket, a 110-inch HDTV or other high-priced items. To get top-quality photos and video, follow these steps:

  • Unclutter the area. Put away your stray socks and tidy up around the house before you photograph your valuables so they can be clearly seen.
  • Capture every room and photograph everything. Shoot high-value items separately, and don't forget small items-they can add up if you need to replace them all. Don't forget to shoot the camera or digital device you're using, too.
  • Shoot from all sides to show the condition and any brand names. Write the serial number on an index card or sticky note to label the item before you photograph it.
  • Open cabinets, drawers and closets. Get close-up shots of these areas for an overview of what's inside them.
  • Don't forget the garage. Shoot both inside and outside to capture everything.
  • Talk while you walk when shooting video. You can add a lot of details if you narrate your video. Make some notes beforehand so you don't forget any details.
  • Keep your list, photos and/or video somewhere safe. They won't help you much if they get lost it in the move. Keep a flash drive copy in a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box, use a cloud storage site or ask your insurance company if they have an electronic storage option.
  • Don't forget to update your inventory. You'll want a record of any new items you get, too.

Making a list, updating it and keeping it safe can make it easier to deal with insurance paperwork and give you peace of mind, too. You can relax and feel secure that you can replace your belongings if they're lost or damaged.

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