When we recently received our annual home-insurance update, I was surprised by how much our belongings are worth.
Except the 1,000 record albums I insist will someday be worth a fortune, nothing we own is of any particular value as far as I know.
Yet when I took a few moments to think about replacing every item in the house, I quickly realized that I had no true grasp of how much it would cost. That’s because, when it comes down to it, I really don’t know what all is in our house.
As it turns out, I’m not alone: About 60 percent of Americans have no inventory of their belongings, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
In honor of National Preparedness Month (yes, there is one), now might be the time to pull a list together.
The reason is simple: If you’re trying to settle a claim after a fire, flood, tornado or other catastrophe, the more evidence and information you have, the better.
“When your home is damaged by a natural disaster or other significant event, being prepared can make navigating the claims process much easier and faster,” said Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, also director of the state Department of Insurance.
“Creating a detailed inventory of your belongings will make replacing and repairing them simpler for you and your insurance company.”
That’s especially true when you claim your signed copy of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography.
But those sorts of items, so to speak, are the rarities.
Most of us might have a few prized pieces — such as china, jewelry or antiques, or perhaps collectibles such as coins or stamps — but the everyday items are what add up.
And that’s where an inventory can really help.
You’ll have no trouble recalling the 12-piece Stickley dining-room set you inherited, but try recalling all the DVDs, sweaters and books you own.
How much would it cost to replace all your shoes? All your dishware? All your furniture, electronics, appliances and tools?
What about your sporting equipment? Art? Curtains? Linens? Holiday decorations? Lamps?
Yes, we Americans have a lot of stuff. Even a small home can contain hundreds of items. Having a list of them will make your life much easier in case of an accident.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners helps with mobile apps that allow homeowners to walk through their house snapping pictures and adding captions to create an inventory spreadsheet organized by room. (Check out the apps at www.InsureUonline.org.)
The spreadsheet can be emailed to a safe location — just in case the phone itself meets a tragic end. (For the old-school crowd, the association also offers a printable inventory chart at InsureUonline.org.)
With an inventory in hand, you will find it far easier to estimate the replacement value of your belongings — and to see whether that dollar amount that now looks like a lot will really do the trick.