I know what you’re thinking. Who makes an inventory of everything they own? What may seem like a useless item, a home inventory list is actually one of the most important, essential possessions you will own. Here’s why and how to make one.

Whether you purchase a homeowners or renters insurance policy, you obviously expect it will cover your possessions should you experience a loss. Although some item categories have specific limits, your policy covers your personal property up to a certain amount depending on the value you choose. That’s it. For the most part, your insurance company does not know what you own. Not until you have to file a claim.

Let’s say your house is burglarized and your $3,000 home theater system is stolen. Now you have to file a claim and you have no record of ownership and no proof of the value. This could delay the process and possibly cause your company to deny your claim. Keeping accurate records of your personal property will make the stressful process go quickly and smoothly.

In order to document your personal property, you can go as simple as a written home inventory list or as detailed as a list, receipts, photos, and video walk through of your home. The latter might seem excessive, but is the ideal way to keep a record of your possessions.

If you want to keep it simple and stick with a list only, the best way is to download a template online. There are many styles to choose from. Also, insurance company websites offer templates and even programs that allow you to keep track and upload pictures of your personal property. They categorize your possessions and you can list specifics for each item such as price, date acquired, brand name, model number, etc. If you want to take it a step further, you can also do a narrated video walkthrough of your house, make sure to open drawers and cabinets.

Once you have documented all your possessions by whichever method you chose, you should have a good idea of the actual dollar value of your personal property. At this time, review your policy to make sure you have proper coverage (you may find you even have too much). Do not keep your inventory records in your house. After all, they will be no use to you if they are destroyed or missing due to a loss that occurs. If they are in digital format, you can use an online storage site such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Once you have your records secure, be sure to keep them accurate by updating them whenever there is a change. Your records will be a valuable aid if you ever find yourself having to file a personal property loss claim.