Can you name everything in your closet? What about under your bed, or in the attic?
Over time, we may forget some of the items we own, but that doesn’t mean we’d want something to happen to them. In case something does, though, it’s helpful to have a documented list prepared for your homeowners or renters insurance.
Michael Barry, vice president of media relations at the Insurance Information Institute—the industry-financed consumer education organization—recommends making an inventory of everything in your home. This includes your furniture, appliances, artwork, clothing, books—anything that you would want to replace in case of loss or damage due to fire, theft or a weather-related event.
The idea of cataloguing every item of value that you own may be exhausting, but Barry says it’s worth the effort. “It may be a lot of stuff,” he says, “but it probably includes many things you wouldn’t want to live without.”
Here’s how to make getting started a little bit easier.
Download an App
Plenty of apps offer the ability to create a home inventory for little to no money. Try to find one that has convenient features such as barcode readers and secure storage options, says Barry.
Break It Down
Organize your inventory by room (kitchen, dining room, master bedroom). For each item, include type, cost, date and place of purchase, as well as model and serial numbers. “Fill in as many of the blanks as you can,” says Barry. If you no longer have a receipt for a specific item, estimate the price and approximate date of purchase.
Large appliances, furniture, electronics, computers, rugs and other “big-ticket” items should be individually entered into your home inventory. But, Barry says, you can group other things together, such as clothing, tools, kitchen items and books (for instance, six pairs of jeans or a 40-piece china service). Don’t forget about personal property kept in off-site storage or at your workplace.
Consider Extra Protection
For your most valuable possessions—jewelry, artwork, heirlooms—Barry advises that you contact your insurer; you may need additional coverage beyond the basic policy limits to adequately protect these high-value items.
Don’t Be Overwhelmed
It’s a big job, one that may take several days to complete. “Experts will tell you to start in the kitchen, or start with a small room or with your big-ticket items,” says Barry. “In the end, it’s just a matter of preference how you approach making your inventory. Do whatever feels right to get you to the finish line.”
Store and Maintain Your Records
Most apps allow you to store your completed home inventory in the cloud or to download it to an external storage device. That way, it will be easy to share with your insurer in the event your property is stolen or damaged, says Barry. And, since you’ve gone to the trouble of carefully recording all of your valued possessions, he advises that you regularly update it—perhaps during April tax season. “Typically, that’s when you’re thinking about your household finances. Why not make your home inventory part of that equation?”
Read More: Take this quiz to see if you’re protecting your heirlooms the right way.
By Patrick Rogers
Illustration by Mikey Burton