by Mary V. Danielsen: Documented Legacy, LLC
In an organized world you would have already compiled and digitized valuable household items as part of a plan for fire preparation, and for protection of your estate. If you haven’t done it yet, make this the time to digitize those family heirlooms, historic documents, letters, jewelry, art, stamps, coins, awards, medals, and collections.
The backstory for this article is based on several personal stories told by victims of Hurricane Sandy, who lost their homes and valuable jewelry in the 2012 storm. Without an image and a receipt it was hard for some homeowners to prove that they actually owned the jewelry to their insurance companies.
In one case, a New Jersey family’s home survived the storm, but was pushed partially into the road. It was accidentally demolished in the days after the storm before the homeowners could access it. Gone were a pair of earrings worth $12,000.
Preserving your family history and protecting your estate should be the motivation for doing this task. In completing this step you can review whether you need additional riders on your homeowners insurance policy.
Whether you keep, sell or share these items down the road is your choice, but for now they are protected and safeguarded.
Here are some tips for scanning household items:
Ask yourself two questions: What do I have? What do I have to prove I own it? When it comes to valuable family items you need a scan or photo of the item, a receipt, and perhaps an appraisal. Start with the first two.
Set up a scanning kit that includes a Flip-Pal mobile scanner, Sketch Kit, cleaning cloth, notebook and pen. Keep a trash can handy and spare file folders for reorganizing original receipts.
One advantage to using your Flip-Pal mobile scanner is that you can move this project around the house at your convenience. Its lightweight versatility makes this quick and easy. Simply set the resolution at 300 dpi and you’ll be able to scan about 300 images an hour.
For larger receipts use the flip-and-scan method and stitch the images together using the EasyStitch software. If you need a pdf of the receipts down the road, you could easily convert the file in photo editing software.
By way of example, I got invited to a series of jewelry parties years ago where the host sold costume jewelry made of sterling silver. I saved the catalogs with my receipts and scanned them instead of shooting new photos of the jewelry. The flip-and-scan method took seconds to complete. I was thrilled with the results.
Where are your receipts stored? If you have printed receipts stored in folders and drawers, bring them to one location. With your digital receipts, create subfolders on your computer, based on topic (i.e. letters, jewelry, antiques, furniture, other heirlooms, etc.) and begin organizing the files.
You need to make certain that you have a complete set of receipts that is easily accessible.
When I began this step it was part of creating a disaster preparedness program for my home. In gathering all the household receipts I realized that over the last 25 years I bought quite a bit of furnishings, especially inexpensive antiques. Scanning receipts alone was going to be a week-long project, because I wanted to file each receipt into subcategories, such as furniture, art & framing, antiques, kitchen, jewelry and collectibles, and my antique sewing equipment. We’re not talking the Hope Diamond here, but these things add up.
I gathered receipts for those items that I considered heirlooms. They would include items I want to pass down to my children someday and appraisals for things that have been given to me. I continually asked myself these questions: If Mother Nature shook an angry fist at my home and everything was lost would I want to prove I owned this item? Will this ease my estate planning? If the answer was yes then it got scanned
In sorting receipts I will realize that I either had receipts for things I no long owned, receipts that have faded in oblivion, or I rediscovered the value of an item, like reacquainting myself with pieces of the past.
Use the Flip-Pal Sketch Kit as a note taking assistant. Later on relabel the scans (i.e. Notes 001, Notes 002) for future recording keeping. If you have a receipt for a special purchase that has a backstory, make note of it (i.e. Wedding gift, Granddad’s pocket watch from 1930s, etc.).
Use the Picture Keeper flash drive for backing up and storing your scans. It’s simple to use, easy to update and tucks into your fireproof safe. As a secondary backup, try either uploading these scan to a cloud storage site or burning archival-grade DVDs.
I spent six hours completing this step and cleared out many old papers. It was like a weight lifting off my shoulders. Now I know how much time it takes to complete the process. My next assignment will be to create StoryScans talking images that record the items history.
Are your heirlooms housed properly? Remember pearls need to be rinsed after wearing to rid them of body oils. Silver doesn’t like rubber bands. Paper clips and staples rust, putting wear marks on old files.