One List to Rule Them All

I was looking back through old posts to see if any of them needed to be update, revised, or just plain rewritten. Your ‘Voice’ tends to change after you have been blogging for awhile.

One of my older posts was about the usefulness (and addictive nature) of making lists.

One of the subjects I suggested for a useful list was;

Household Inventory; This is a master list of everything you own that costs more than $50. Theoretically, I keep this list in case of a massive fire loss (for insurance claims). This is also a good place to keep your warranty paperwork and serial numbers for appliances and electronic devices.

Pretty good advice if I don’t say so myself.

Along my internet travels I have explored several relevant Reddit threads I found interesting or useful. Much like Quora, or StumbleUpon, Reddit is good for filling the long hours of government service.

I came across this post and it made me realize that I had only begun to scratch the surface of just what the ‘Household Inventory‘ list should include for purposes of insurance claims.

The quality of your blog as a resource for the readers is in DIRECT PROPORTION to the depth of information you can give them about topics they care about.

Reddit is a great place for that. It is chalk full of micro experts. People who know a lot about a particular topic and are willing to share.

Here is the ‘insider scoop’ on how insurance claims after a house fire work and it goes to the heart of what I thought I was trying to convey.

/u/1020304050 (author’s user name) posted this in /r/personalfinance (Reddit thread) a while back and it’s as valuable today as ever.


Hey **** I used to be the guy who worked for insurance companies, and determined the value of every little thing in your house. The guy who would go head-to-head with those fire-truck-chasing professional loss adjusters. I may be able to help you not get screwed when filing your claim.

Our goal was to use the information you provided, and give the lowest damn value we can possibly justify for your item.

For instance, if all you say was “toaster” — we would come up with a cheap-as-fuck $4.88 toaster from Walmart, meant to toast one side of one piece of bread at a time. And we would do that for every thing you have ever owned.

We had private master lists of the most commonly used descriptions, and what the cheapest viable replacements were.

We also had wholesale pricing on almost everything out there, so really scored cheap prices to quote. To further that example:

If you said “toaster – $25” , we would have to be within -20% of that… so, we would find something that’s pretty much dead-on $20.01. You said “toaster- $200” , we’d kick it back and say NEED MORE INFO, because that’s a ridiculous price for a toaster (with no other information given.) If you said “toaster, from Walmart” , you’re getting that $4.88 one. If you said “toaster, from Macy’s” , you’d be more likely to get a $25-35 one.

You said “toaster”, and all your other kitchen appliances were Jenn Air / Kitchenaid / etc., you would probably get a matching one. If you said “Proctor Silex 42888 2-Slice Toaster from Walmart, $9”, you just got yourself $9. If you said “High-end Toaster, Stainless Steel, Blue glowing power button” … you might get $35-50 instead. We had to match all features that were listed. I’m not telling you to lie on your claim. Not at all. That would be illegal, and could cause much bigger issues (i.e., invalidating the entire claim). But on the flip side, it’s not always advantageous to tell the whole truth every time. Pay attention to those last two examples.

I remember one specific customer…

He had some old, piece of shit projector (from mid-late 90’s) that could stream a equally piece of shit consumer camcorder. Worth like $5 at a scrap yard. It had some oddball fucking resolution it could record at, though — and the guy strongly insisted that we replace with “Like Kind And Quality” (trigger words). Ended up being a $65 k replacement, because the only camera on the market happened to be a high-end professional video camera (as in, for shooting actual movies). $65-goddamn-thousand-dollars because he knew that loophole, and researched his shit.

Remember to list fucking every — even the most mundane fucking bullshit you can think of. For example, if I was writing up the shower in my bathroom:

Designer Shower Curtain – $35 Matching Shower Curtain Liner for Designer Shower Curtain – $15 Shower Curtain Rings x 20 – $15 Stainless Steel Soap Dispenser for Shower – $35 Natural Sponge Loofah – from Whole Foods – $15 Natural Sponge Loofah for Back – from Whole Foods – $19 Holder for Loofahs – $20 Bars of soap – from Lush – $12 each (qty: 4) Bath bomb – from Lush – $12 High end shampoo – from salon – $40 High end conditioner – from salon – $40 Refining pore mask – from salon – $55 I could probably keep thinking, and bring it up to about $400 for the contents of my shower.

Nothing there is “unreasonable” , nothing there is clearly out of place, nothing seems obviously fake. The prices are a little on the high-end, but the reality is, some people have expensive shit.  It won’t actually get questioned. No claims adjuster is going to bother nitpicking over the cost of fucking Lush bath bombs, when there is a 20,000 item file to go through. The adjuster has other shit to do, too.

Most people writing claims for a total loss wouldn’t even bother with the shower (it’s just some used soap and sponges..) — and those people would be losing out on $400.

Some things require documentation & ages. If you say “TV – $2,000″ — you’re getting a 32” LCD, unless you can provide it was from the last year or two w/ receipts. Hopefully you have a good paper trail from credit/debit card expenditure / product registrations / etc.

If you’re missing paper trails for things that were legitimately expensive — go through every photo you can find that was taken in your house. Any parties you may have thrown, and guests put pics up on Facebook. Maybe an Imgur photo of your cat, hiding under a coffee table you think you purchased from Restoration Hardware. Like… seriously… come up with any evidence you possibly can, for anything that could possibly be deemed expensive.

The fire-truck chasing loss adjusters are evil sons of bitches, but, they actually do provide some value.

You will definitely get more money, even if they take a cut. But all they’re really doing, is just nitpicking the ever-living-shit out of everything you possibly owned, and writing them all up “creatively” for the insurance company to process.

Sometimes people would come back to us with “updated* claims. They tried it on their own, and listed stuff like “toaster”, “microwave”, “TV”.  They weren’t happy with what they got back. So they hired a fire-truck chaser, and re-submitted with “more information”. I have absolutely seen claims go from under $7 k calculated, to over $100 k calculated. (It’s amazing what can happen when people suddenly “remember” their entire wardrobe came from Nordstrom.)


Did that make you realize you are unprepared for wrestling with an insurance claims adjuster? Then get going on your list, or at least on taking some pictures of your stuff. Because the insurance claims adjuster, he don’t play.

3 thoughts on “One List to Rule Them All

  1. Having lost our home to a fire as a teenager,I can attest that this is a brilliant article to make mental note of.

    For those rain men and women who aren’t list makers, may I suggest a narrated video done room by room in short segments via your cell phone? Can cheaply set it to backup to Google photos, narrate each item according to the specificity suggested in the above article, and update once a year? Open up drawers and tell where clothes came from, brands, whatever you can do.

    My dad thankfully video recorded our home contents with a shoulder held VHS camera which resided in a safety deposit box, and that made the difference between maximal payout and contested lowball offers.

    Thanks for the sound advice!


  2. this is excellent advice. we’ve got a bunch of semi-expensive crap from our former spendy days. the video list for this purpose has been on our to-do list forever. one interesting thing specific to our lives is a list of art work/paintings created by mrs. me. luckily this inventory is strongly detailed.

  3. I have to say that this was something I never thought of doing but now feel woefully unprepared in case something did happen.

    I love Crispy Docs idea of going around the home and video taping things just to prove that you have that stuff.

    The fact is most people wouldn’t even think to list items such as shampoo in a fire loss. They have way more pressing things to deal with. But it is money left on the table and that is why we pay our insurance premiums so it’s worth it.

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