How To Document Your Personal Possessions In Case Of Emergency

Image: Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

In the aftermath of a disaster that destroys your house, it can be all but impossible to think through everything you’ve lost. Fires, floods, hurricanes, damaged roofs — when you’re putting your life back together, you might not be thinking about how to catalogue your drawer of kitchen utensils for the insurance company.

But you don’t want to hand over a general list of belongings to the insurance company and call it a day. You need the money to move on. This thread on Reddit gives good advice on the subject. An insurance company’s job is to get you as little money as possible for your claim. The most important thing you can do, then, is to be as specific and thorough as possible when you’re documenting what you lost.

“For instance, if all you say was ‘toaster’ — we would come up with a cheap-as-fuck toaster from Walmart, meant to toast one side of one piece of bread at a time. And we would do that for every thing you have ever owned,” writes Jficek34, who says he used to work for insurance companies.

If you can remember where you bought the toaster (or dishwasher, coach, etc.) and the brand name, even better. You don’t want to lie of course, by claiming something more expensive than what you owned. But you do want to make sure you’re giving as much as information as you have so that you’re not cheated.

It goes further than that, though. Think of every single thing in each room and catalogue it — even an old shower curtain, shampoo/conditioner, bath bombs, serums, etc. Tallying each of those up will get you a much larger payout. No matter how mundane something is, list it and put a price next to it. Have a bottle of Redken shampoo? That stuff is expensive — list the price.

For more expensive items, like electronics, you’ll need proof of purchase/price (just be aware that there are likely limits on your insurance policy for specific items like jewellery, wine, etc. Some ways to do that:

  • Take pictures, particularly of expensive belongings, and upload the photos to the cloud. If you can, take pictures of the receipt/product information.

  • Take a video of your belongings in each room of your house/apartment, and, again, upload them to them cloud. This can be slowed down so you can see each item and account for it later on.

  • Some insurance companies have apps to document belongings, though you are probably better off doing it on your own and backing up to the cloud.

Obviously, it will take a while to catalogue your house (as one commenter wrote, it took hours to catalogue a single bookcase), but if you make a project of it other several weekends, you can accomplish it. Alternatively, have your videos ready.

If you didn’t take pictures specifically for this purpose and something happens, then look through all of the photos of your place you do have: From parties, with family members, selfies of you sitting in your family room — all of that can be helpful when you’re working from memory.


Comments

    Good article and it's definitely something people don't but should thing about. It's also worth noting that you may (hell, you WILL!) wind up having a higher premium the more stuff you list. So it's also worth thinking about just how how important the stuff is to get back versus how much you're willing to pay, and how much risk you'll absorb.

    A simple example; you have a big movie collection on dvd/bluray. Let's say 500 movies at $20 a movie. That's $10,000 added to your cover. How much extra does that make your annual premium? And if you couldn't recover all of them would you potentially be just as happy say subscribing to Netflix in the future?

    It's also worth pointing out that your insurance cover like your possessions is not static. You might be covered "just right" today. But if you go out and buy a new TV, Xbox and PC you could easily find your cover is inadequate. So you should review your cover whenever you make a major purchase and at least annually.

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