Most people have home insurance, or they definitely should. You have to have it to recover from catastrophic losses due to fire or theft. In addition to getting a house rebuilt after a major problem, insurance also protects your possessions. If they are destroyed or stolen, insurance policies ensure that you can replace these items. A lot of people have adequate protection, $30,000 or more for the contents of their house. While insurance can't replace obvious family heirlooms like photographs, it does cover the standard items that you accumulate over time. There is a problem, however. Most people don't know exactly what they have.

In the event of a total loss, what can you tell the insurance company about your possessions? You had clothes. How many pairs of pants, socks or shoes? How many suits? Do you have any proof? You maybe had receipts but where are they? Destroyed as well, likely. What about artwork? Even the decorative prints that you might have would likely have a significant cost to them. Most insurance on house contents pays for the replacement cost. That means that your old decorative print that cost you $5 at a garage sale can be replaced by insurance. If it happened to be one by Ansel Adams, you would get an equivalent replacement. Not if you don't have proof, though. If you think about the contents of your house that are protected by insurance, what do you think the value is? Is $30,000 enough? $40,000?

In the event of a total loss, the insurance company knows that you will have lost a lot of things. Most houses have lots of clothes, art work, books and other items. These would be very expensive to replace. Likely you would get an offer from the insurance company. $1000 for clothes, $500 for books, and so on. After you get the money, you will likely find out that $1000 doesn't go very far when purchasing new clothes. Get a suit for $300, four pairs of pants for $50 each, six shirts for $25 each, socks for $50, a couple of jackets and the $1000 is gone. That would be for one person. What about ladies dresses blouses and shoes. $1000 is likely far from enough to replace the wardrobe of the average house.

Now that you understand what you get insurance coverage before, you can take steps to prove your house contents are worth. This is far easier to do now, before you have any problems, compared to after. Starting right away, (so it gets done), take your digital camera and document everything. Start in one room and take pictures of everything. Get shots of the closet contents, the wall hangings, furniture, books, everything. Do an entire room completely. Overlapping the shots is fine. If there are boxes of things in the closet, open them and take pictures of the contents. You want a full record of each room. Take pictures of the books on the bookshelf. Make sure that the titles are readable. The same goes for your CD music and DVD movie collections. Each title will be replaced by insurance if you can show them exactly what you had. Of course, you aren't going to get a payment for any copies, just the store purchased items. Get photos in your garage, workshop or utility building as well.

Don't forget about the cupboard contents. When you are taking your kitchen shots, open the cupboards and drawers. Get detailed photos of the contents. It is all going to be extremely helpful if you need to talk to an insurance company after a claim. You are going to be spending some time on the photo documentation of your contents. When you are finished, you will still have a lot of work to do if you want to fully protect yourself. It's what you need to do to get a full claim processed by the insurance company. When all of your photos are taken, get them printed on your printer or by a photo shop. Label the backs of the photos with the date and the name of the room. You should have some sort of binder or album to organize the photos. For each photo, carefully identify all of the items that are visible. You can do this on sheets of paper or use your computer. Write down exactly how many pairs of pants you have and the maker. Write down the titles of books. Document everything.

If there is something special in the photo, mention that. Make sure the CD and DVD titles are correctly written down. Don't forget that the contents are insured regardless of who owns them. If you are storing your brother's or your child's stuff, get that documented as well. You want a complete written record to go with the photos. When you have the full record finished, print it and make copies. Make copies of the photos as well. Store a set of photos and written description in a safe place, like a fireproof box in the basement. Store a full copy at a different location, a friend or family member's house. You are protecting yourself from a total loss, so get the records away from the house you are documenting. Remember that things change over time. You get new items to replace old ones. Styles go out of fashion. You should get in the habit of noting any new items when you get them. Write down the details and store them, (and a copy), with your original records. Do this regularly.

You should also go through the house and take a new photo record on occasion. Perhaps once a year in early January would be good. Luckily after you do it once or twice, it will be easier. Your original records might only need to be updated with a few changes. By fully documenting the contents of your house with a photographic and written record you are doing the most to protect yourself. In the event of a catastrophic loss, you will be able to give the insurance company a great indication of your contents. The value of your lost items will be much easier to determine. You will be helping the insurance company to get your claim processed as fast as possible.