Tip: I encourage you to read the post What is a Home Inventory? Why do I need one? before reading this post. In this post, I assume you have a basic understanding. If not, it will provide limited value.
1. Commit to the project…understand this takes time
Remember, the objective is to document everything in your home or business for whatever reason but most do it for insurance purposes, in case of a disaster. Do you want to…
Get it done fast: set appointments on your calendar and stick to them
Get it done over time: sit down and do the project as you can…set a date for completion, give yourself a year
Delegate: hire a company to get it done (this will cost the most but maybe not as much as you think considering how much you are worth an hour) or hire an individual to do the same thing that you would if you had time
2. Determine method for documentation…hand written, software, use app
What suits your style? How about carrying a pad of paper & pen and writing all data? Maybe you prefer to use a device: tablet, laptop, phone, etc. If so, then you might use a spreadsheet or Word document. Better yet…
Do you have a budget? Are you willing to consider buying inventory software/app? There are a lot of good choices. I am assuming you already have a laptop, iPad, camera or whatever hardware is needed. Also, your data needs to be stored. Do you have a solution or do you need to tap into a 3rd party’s server? Many of the companies that write the software and apps solve this for you by offering space on their servers but you will have to pay an annual fee. If you are not open to any of this or do not own (or can borrow) the appropriate device, you choices are limited.
Later, I will offer a post comparing software and apps, stay tuned.
IMPORTANT TIP: Although I suggest deciding your method of documentation before categorization, those can easily be switched. Here is what I am finding (FYI…couple nights ago, I sat in on a webinar with home inventory company called HomeZada)…these companies are offering wonderful services, not only inventory software & storage but everything associated with the paperwork in maintaining your home: manuals, purchase documents, bank documents, etc. And, on top of that, they offer maintenance schedules: when to check your roof, change your air filter, clean the gutters, etc. They help archive data over the time you live in your home which makes selling a breeze. They even help create selling points.
3. (or 2.)Decide how to categorize your inventory…by room, by type (furniture, appliances, artwork, etc), by value, by location, or something else that makes sense to you
Think about this…pretend like the project is complete, your entire home inventory is appropriately documented. It is a year later and you need to search for a specific piece of furniture, for example a side table. When thinking about that the table, what is the first thing that pops in your mind? The room were it is located? The style or period the table originates from? Or, the source where you got it from. Follow your first thought, that might be the best way to organize your inventory.
Please be mindful that if you share this data with others, they need to be able to understand or at least follow your thinking. This is a good reason to use a digital means of documentation so they can search based on a description of the item rather than guess your categorization method.
Just start even if all decisions are not made yet. Start with a small set of data so you can get a feel for the flow of the project. You might find certain expectations to be wrong. Using a small set of data will allow you to expend as little energy as possible to find errors.
5. Stumbling blocks
Time or unexpected life events might be an issue. Managing priorities is always a challenge. If this project is continually delayed (I recognize this is not a fun project but necessary…like having a will), consider delegating.
Also, if you own valuable items, an appraisal will be necessary. This is common for art work, jewelry, cars, etc. If these pieces get damaged, you want to receive full value the insurance company.
Also, consider maintenance. The database needs to be kept up as your inventory (your belongings) are sold or new pieces are purchased. This can be done routinely or once or twice a year. Make sure it happens, good time to delegate.