Making a List, Checking it Twice

After the fire, our insurance agent told us we needed to compile a list of everything we’d had in the house in order to be reimbursed for replacement costs. We were lucky to have purchased this type of insurance the previous year when we renewed our policy.  It was inexpensive to add, and we’d hardly given it a second thought. Now, if we could just provide the actual purchase price of these items and then somehow calculate the replacement cost, the insurance company would cut us a check.  So, the lifetime accumulations of two forty-year-old adults, plus the possessions of three children, ages fourteen, eleven, and five, had to be quantified and broken down and put on a spreadsheet. Everything—from socks and underwear to plates, cups, knives, tools, hats and coats, artwork, and odds and ends—from attic to garage in a four-bedroom house.

Everything, right here
The list ran to around forty-six pages, single-spaced.

How much stuff could a five-year-old have? Here’s an excerpt from the two and a half pages for James:

A “Good for Me” Chart                                                    

4 shelves of children’s books

40 audio story tapes

Activity books

Baseball hat


Bubble blaster



Easel and paints

Fisher-Price binoculars

Growth chart

Gumball machine lamp

Hand-quilted wall hanging

Happy Today pillow

Hat rack


Little cars and trucks

Little table with two benches

Night light


The summer before the fire, my husband bought me a book on how to get rid of clutter around the house. I’d read the book, and had launched a cleanup campaign that involved every room in the house.  I’d inventoried every pot and pan, every cookie sheet, every remnant of fabric and ball of yarn. The kids had to get rid of old toys and games, and I gave away a lot of too-small clothes and kitchen duplicates. So, in a sense, I had prepared myself to make the list the insurance agent wanted.

I knew how many shoe boxes I had in my closet. I knew we had six cookie sheets and seven beach towels and two white tablecloths. It’s all there, on the list. Forty-six pages long. What we had. What we lost.


Which is why our first Christmas after the fire

 was a little over the top.



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