Accidents happen, and when they do it’s always good to be prepared. But how does one prepare for a disaster? It’s always good to have medical supplies and nonperishable food handy, and a game plan for what actions you should take when a disaster strikes. The problem with disasters (other than the disaster itself) is dealing with the aftermath. If you have insurance on your house or apartment, you may think you’re squared away. Chances are, you’re not.
When you file a claim after a disaster, most insurance companies require a list of everything that was damaged (or stolen, in the case of a robbery). Unless you’re really on your game, you probably haven’t kept a running inventory of your stuff. Luckily, there’s an app for that, and its name is Belongings. Join me after the jump and I’ll show you how to use Belongings to create a virtual inventory of everything you own.
The first thing you’ll need to do after initially launching Belongings is create an account, which can be accomplished by logging in with Facebook or Twitter, or manually setting up an account. Once you’re past the initial set up process, you can begin adding things to your inventory.
Adding To Your Inventory
To add an item, tap the plus button in the top toolbar. The first step to adding an item is to search for it in Belongs database of products. It’s worth noting that this feature works best with a specific product (e.g. iPhone, video game, blender, etc.). When you enter the product information, a list of possible matches will populate. If you spot your item, tap it and the products information will auto-populate (more on that in a bit).
If you can’t find your product using the search field, tap the Skip button in the top toolbar and you’ll be transitioned into the New Item page. If you have access to the product’s barcode, you can scan it by tapping the blue Scan button. If the scan is successful, most, but not all, of the product’s information will auto-populate (unlike the searching method, which provides all info).
If searching didn’t pan out and you can’t scan a barcode, you’ll have to enter the information manually. Only two fields are required (name and price), but you may also enter a replacement cost (I’m not entirely sure how that’s calculated), date of purchase, category (unfortunately, you can’t create custom categories), the room in which the item is located (weirdly enough, you’ll have to set up rooms on the Belongings website use this feature), barcode and description. Once you’ve entered the item’s information, you should snap a photo of the item and the receipt (if it’s handy). Once everything is in order, tap the Done button in the top toolbar and you’re finished.
Browsing Your Inventory
Belongings’ home page displays your items in list form, divided by categories and subcategories. One of the oddities of home page is that the subcategories (e.g. books, computers, phones & tablets) are more prominently featured than categories; so much so that it’s easy to miss the small print that’s used to display category titles.
When you tap on a subcategory, a list of your items will animate open, displaying the name and price of each item. One of major downsides of the Belongings is that items are not listed alphabetically; instead, items are sorted by the order in which they were entered. Luckily, there is a search function baked into the app. Say you’re out shopping and decide you want to buy a movie, but can’t remember if you already own it, you can simply enter the movie’s title to find it quickly.
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll need to visit the Belongings site to add rooms (if you wish to include that functionality), however that’s not the only reason you may want visit the site. Using the app is great for when you want to enter items as you purchase them (a practice you’ll definitely want to get the habit of doing), but it’s not necessarily the best way to accomplish the task of inventorying all your stuff initially (especially if you have a lot of stuff). Luckily, Belongings offers additional methods via their website.
One method Belongings recommends is to use the Quick Add feature to enter all your items, and then use the iPhone app to go back and snap photos of each item and its receipt. The only issue with this method is that it doesn’t allow you to take advantage of the search or barcode scan features found in the iPhone app, which take a lot of the guesswork out of determining a replacement cost for items (or just typing out a lot of information). If you’ve done your due diligence and kept an inventory of your stuff in an Excel file, you can copy and paste the information by using the Excel Import feature (but only if your Excel file is set up in the correct manner).
I’ll be honest with you, I hardly knew anything about keeping an inventory of my stuff before I started using Belongings. I was under the impression that if I bought renter’s insurance and covered my stuff for a certain amount, I’d simply get a check if a disaster arose and my things were destroyed. Now that I know better, I’m getting my act together to set up my inventory. I haven’t finished logging all my stuff yet, as the initial sweep is a rather daunting task; but, I love knowing that once I’m done the information is stored in the cloud (I’ll also keep an exported Excel file saved to my DropBox, just in case).
One area that I’d like to see Creative Pandas Sarl address is the lack of security in Belongings. It’s true that you have to enter a username and password to access the app, but once it’s entered you won’t be logged out unless you do so manually. I know a lot of users won’t feel very secure having a list of all their stuff accessible without needing to first enter a password or pin code. Personally, I’m not very concerned as my phone already requires a pin code to unlock it in the first place.
If you’re serious about keeping an inventory of your stuff, Belongings just makes it simple (scan it, snap a few photos, and you’re done). Additionally, the Belongings website offers a lot of great tips to get your started, and what you need to do to make sure you’re compliant with most insurance companies. To top of,all of these great features, along with the app, are completely free of charge. So, the next time someone asks me what apps they should download, Belongings will most assuredly be an app I’ll recommend.