Not quite 2 years ago I left the house for 20 minutes and came home to find the place ransacked and most of our valuables gone. Thankfully my sons and I were safe and we didn’t meet the burglar on his way out the door, but it was only after this happened that I realised how many truly irreplaceable things I owned.
Like our laptop full of family photos that hadn’t been backed up since just before I gave birth to our second son 6 months earlier. Photos that are now lost forever. Or my wedding and engagement rings that rarely left my hand that I had removed the day before because I scratched our son changing his nappy. Or my Grandmother’s pre-war, 1920’s Art Deco engagement ring that was trusted to me by my Mum only a few months earlier.
The learning part
Thankfully I didn’t feel unsafe in my home after the event, but it has forever changed my behaviour and the way I live my day to day life. It was an awful experience and one I hope you never encounter. But in case you do, here’s a few pearls of wisdom I learned along the way :
1. Back up your computer & photos… regularly
Regularly being the important part! Write it in your diary, set a reminder in your phone… just do it. Not sure where to start?
- External portable hard drives – You can buy a 1TB portable hard drive for less than $100 at your local office supplies store. Simply plug it into your computer’s USB port and copy your files directly onto it.
- Online storage services – I’m currently investigating this for my own data backup. Here’s a couple of articles looking at the different online options – PC World and Life Hacker.
- A combination of both – This is where I’m heading. I currently use 3 different external hard drives to backup my files but I’m looking to reduce these to 2 and add an online storage option. Better safe than sorry!
2. Print your photos
You know those hundreds of photos from the last 5 years that you have sitting on your computer? Why don’t you sort them, print them and make up some family photo albums. Or what about making a photo book for each year? Printed copies are another way to keep your photos safe. Plus it allows your family and friends to enjoy the photos too. It will be a big job, but once it’s done you can update the albums every few months and it won’t be too daunting to maintain.
3. Hide your valuables
I’m pretty creative with the hiding spots for our valuables and I never leave the house without tucking away our laptop, camera, camera card etc. In our situation, the burglar spent 90% of his time in our bedroom and ransacked every single drawer, cupboard and box he could find. It’s for this reason that I don’t hide our valuables in the main bedroom. Use your imagination… just don’t forget where you put them!
4. Know your insurance policy & the value of your belongings
What are the maximum claim amounts on your home contents policy? Is it $1,000 for jewellery, $200 for cash? Pick a room and jot down a quick list (or better yet take photos) of what you own and what it’s worth. You might be surprised. Then take a close look at your policy and make sure you’re adequately covered. A standard policy often has the option of increasing the maximum claim amounts on certain items.
5. Keep receipts & instruction manuals together
Proof of purchase/ownership is a pretty important thing when making an insurance claim. It’s not practical to keep a receipt of every single thing you’ve ever bought, but you can save yourself a lot of headache if you get in the habit of stapling the receipt to the instruction manual and filing them all together in one spot – a box in the cupboard, a filing cabinet drawer etc.
Additionally, take photos or make a record of any serial numbers on electrical equipment, especially computers. You will need this information for the police and your insurance company.
6. Keep a radio or TV on
I’m all about saving electricity and keeping our bills as low as possible, but a radio or TV is a great deterrent for burglars. If I’m popping down the street and won’t be gone too long, sometimes I’ll leave the radio or TV on for a bit of household noise.
7. Be aware of people & trust my instincts
I didn’t like the look of the guy walking past our house as I buckled the kids in the car and if I had done a loop around the block I would have seen him smashing our front window. I haven’t turned into a crazy person who laps the block a dozen times looking for suspicious people I can pounce on, but I won’t be making that same mistake again.