Get Started: Taking Inventory of Your Possessions

Having an accurate inventory of your possessions is essential in the event of theft, disaster, or loss. Don't wait for an emergency to happen to get organized. Instead, there are some easy things you can do as part of your regular household routine to get started with your inventory:

Organize your inventory by room.
Walk through the rooms of your home and write down the items you see. Collect the following information about each item:
• Year of purchase
• Original purchase price
• Estimated current value
Remember, you don't need to feel overwhelmed. While you may have a large house, or a considerable collection of items, you will be compiling your list one room at a time. Take your time during the inventory process. Maybe you want to tackle one room each day, or half your house over one weekend and the rest over the next weekend.

For physical items:
• Include serial numbers for computers, appliances, and other electronic devices. These unique identifiers will allow stolen items to be identified and returned to you.
• For items with no serial number that are not one-of-a-kind, mark them in a way that is easily identifiable in case of theft, such as engraving initials on the underside of furniture or painting a dot in an inconspicuous spot.
• For items of high value, such as art and jewelry, seek an appraisal and check your home owner or rental insurance policy to see if their value is appropriately covered.

Use photographs and videos to supplement to your written inventory.
They will document the quality, appearance, and size of the things you own. Photograph items at close range to include as many visual details as possible, and mark each finished print with the name of the item and its location.
• Consider recording a video of each room, collection, and item of value to supplement the written and photographs.
• When videotaping or photographing items make sure you use a ruler to establish size when appropriate.
• Also, turn over china or silver to show the hallmark, manufacturer, and pattern name.
Remember, when inventorying collections, such as pieces of china, crystal, etc., you should inventory each piece separately and photo and videotape each separately as well.

After completing your inventory, keep any photos, videotape, USB, and/or a copy of your lists in a safe place outside your home, such as a safety deposit box. And, don't forget to update your inventory when you purchase new items.

Women & Co., a service of Citi, is the go-to personal finance source for women. By providing financial content, commentary and community, Women & Co.'s mission is to get women thinking and talking about personal finance. Founded in 2000, Women & Co. is one of the longest running personal finance websites dedicated to helping women strengthen their financial futures.