Create a Household History

Document your home

If you're like most homeowners you probably love with your home. Whether your home is brand new or has a bit of patina, you probably have a few projects going all the time. Record the changes you make to organize essential documentation. It's not only convenient for you but simplifies repairs and insurance claims. It's also a great sales tool if you choose to sell.

Organizing your home's information where you can easily get at it enables you to make middle of the night phone calls to the plumber without fumbling for the Yellow Pages, locate warranty information on a faulty product for faster replacement, or find the paint color you used in the guest bedroom without plowing through shoe boxes.

If you choose to sell your home, your notebook becomes an invaluable aid in the sales process. Quickly and efficiently locating information to answer a buyer's questions then backing it up with documentation clearly conveys the message that your home has been lovingly maintained and is worth what you are asking for it. Most experienced home buyers understand the oddities of homeownership. Knowing that good documentation accompanies a home could be the key that seals the deal. Many a buyer has purchased a home and had to find out the hard way how something worked or where the underground lines for the sprinkler system were...usually after digging through them.

Another component, especially if your home is older and has had several previous owners, is researching and documenting your home's history. It's exciting and fun to discover that your vintage bungalow was actually a Sears kit home or designed by a prominent regional architect.

Creating the notebook

Use a notebook for this kind of documentation instead of files. As it grows you can add notebooks that can be color coded and stored on a shelf for easy access. Pocket dividers or plastic sleeves are useful for organizing brochures and product documentation.

Track changes to your home with a visual record. Create CDs with project photos or a section with interior and exterior photos of your home taken every year during the same season.

Set up tabbed dividers with the basic categories. Organize by whatever method seems logical to you. For example, the following breakdown might be appropriate:

You may find it more user-friendly to organize by room or function. An alternate way to organize might use these categories:

If you are planning projects, you might add categories such as "new master suite addition" with all the documentation related to the addition. Whatever system you choose is fine as long as it makes sense to you and is easy to maintain.

It's possible to document every single detail. Unless you love minutiae, that could be overkill. The point is not to burden your life with more than you need, but to capture important information that you may wish to retrieve in the future or pass on to a buyer.

Which records to keep

Keep the following records:

In addition, it's useful to keep fabric samples, paint chips, and wood finishes from decorating projects. You could put your maintenance schedule and seasonal chores lists in the notebook as well to track the last time you cleaned the gutters.

Create a plot map of your home and a reasonably detailed floor plan. It doesn't have to be professionally rendered, but the more detail the better. It should show where the main plumbing clean out is located, the layout of the sprinkler system, location of main electrical panel, and how the oddball latch works to the garage attic. Every idiosyncrasy your home has should be corrected if it bugs the daylights out of you or documented for its unique charm.

Even if going through your existing records sounds like too much hassle, consider setting up a notebook and adding to it as you make changes or purchase products in the future. Though you may not need to use it everyday, having a place to organize this material can make your life a little bit easier.


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