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Take stock of your stuff with a home inventory

Digital photography, particularly with the advent of smart phones, has made us a culture of camera buffs.

By one accounting, people upload an average of 1.8 billion digital images every day. We photograph our friends and family members, our travels, our food. And we take lots and lots of selfies.

But what about photos of our stuff?

“If your home were destroyed by a hurricane, fire or other disaster, would you be able to remember every item you own?” asks the Insurance Information Institute. “Most people couldn't, so that's why making a home inventory is a necessary part of being well covered.”

It certainly would help if you had to make an accurate insurance claim. Without a detailed inventory, you might forget things and, as a result, receive a smaller insurance settlement than you should.

Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to take photos and/or videos to catalog your possessions. You can even record a voice memo on your iPhone of you listing the clothing in your closet. Various smart phone apps can help, too.

“Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance,” according to the institute.

The institute recommends that you:
• Make a list of your possessions, describing each item and noting where you bought it and its make and model.
• Clip to your list any sales receipts, purchase contracts, and appraisals you have.
• For clothing, count the items you own by category (pants, coats, shoes, for example), making notes about those that are especially valuable.
• For major appliances and electronic equipment, record the serial numbers, which are usually found on the back or bottom.

The institute emphasizes that it’s better to have an incomplete inventory than none at all. So even if you have been in your house for a long time, start with recent purchases and then remember what you can about older possessions. Add new purchases to the list when they are still fresh in your mind.

“Regardless of how you do it (written list, photos, computer hard drive, flash-drive, or in the cloud), keep a record of your inventory. If it is a physical document, store it along with the receipts in your safe deposit box or at a friend's or relative's home. If it is a digital file, make sure to back it up and keep a copy on an external drive or online storage account.”

This will make it easy to give your home inventory to your insurance representative if your home is damaged.

So keep taking those photos, but remember to include your possessions among the subject matter.