Reader question: how can I inventory my home?

Jay sent us a note this morning and along with kind words about the site, he asked our thoughts on a home inventory solution: "I’m about to begin research on a means of creating an electronic home inventory that will enable me to photograph items and document all relevant information (purchase date, price, receipts, warranty info, serial numbers, etc.). I’m willing to pay for software to do this, and I’ve also toyed around with rolling my own via Excel or Access."

Now there’s a multitude of ways to approach this challenge, but my immediate thought was to use software that we’ve talked about extensively before…

Microsoft OneNote in conjunction with the free OneNote Mobile application would be one way to go. Using a Windows Mobile handheld with OneNote Mobile installed, I’d take pictures of my household items as well as any relevant receipts or warranty papers. After taking pictures of all inventory items, I’d connect my handheld to my computer where the pictures would automatically sync over to a OneNote notebook. This gets all of the pictures in one one place, but I wouldn’t be done yet.

Next, I’d annotate the items with any pertinent information such as: name of item, date of purchase, rough value, etc… The annotations can be added via typed text or ink and all of the information would indexed by Windows so you could later search for the information. Any pictures of receipts or other paperwork would also be searchable due to the OCR capabilities in OneNote. Here’s a sample from a project I did last year when I used OneNote and OneNote Mobile; annotations are easy to do and can be very useful:


Another option for annotation would be a voice recording; OneNote can record audio and like all of the other input types, the audio is indexed so you can actually search for the spoken word.

For safe keeping, I’d consider keeping a copy of the home inventory notebook off-site. After all: if your home is destroyed in a fire and your inventory records were in your home, they didn’t serve any purpose. A backup copy of the inventory stored "in the cloud" could come in handy.

Again, this is just my immediate thought and there’s a number of solutions that could be used. What suggestions can you offer to Jay?