Sunday, May 16, 2010

What Would You Take


If you had 60 seconds what would you take?  It's a question that seems to come up again and again.

This marks the 11th year anniversary of my house burning down.  Yes, my entire house burned to the ground.  I lost every material thing I had ever known.     I remember in college taking a psychology class, where we asked what would take and everyone said photos.  It isn't as easy as it sounds.   My favorite photos, the ones I had  put in frames,   they truly disintergrated in the fire.  Interestingly enough, the ones I had in albums ,were either badly singed or were soaked in an effort to extinguish the fire.  After going through the rubble, I decided to only keep the album  with my sons baby pictures in it.  Eleven years later that photo album still reeks of smoke.
 Oddly enough, I can still conjure up in my memory what those  discarded pictures were.     Now I am diligent at putting all my pictures online on photo  sites such as flicker, or snapfish. 
Its constant  reminder that material things are replaceable.    At the end of the day, what really matters are your memories.  Everythig else is just stuff.  It is all replaceable.

Of course, you should be prepared.  I can't over emphasize enough how important proper insurance is.

When I walked out of my house 11 years ago, it never occurred to me that my entire house would  burn to the ground. I didn't even think to take my engagement ring with me.  I thought I would lose a room or two.  It never  crossed my mind to take anything but my family.  As long as I had them, everything else is replaceable.  Even more poignant, you begin  to realize what do I really need. 

In the early days following the fire, as I was back in the gathering stages of life yet again, I had a lofty ideal that I will simplify my life.   I would never have an overstuffed closet again.   I vowed to myself to buy clothing in only black , white and beige. Everything I would  work together.   One of my first purchases was a black pants suit.  It replaced one I had recently purchased before the fire.  Getting ready to go out all of a sudden became easy.   I was wearing the black pants suit.  It sounded great on paper.   That theme lasted about a nano second.  How could I ever live without my beloved pink and orange?

Even if I was prepared for something as catastrophic as a fire, there is no guarantees that me possessions would have been in a place that I could get to.  Think about it, even if you had a plan, who is to say the place you stored all your important items in would be accessible at that very moment.
As the environmental educator Steve van Matre saw it, "The key to a good life is not having what you want, but wanting what you have."

Living with less (or not desiring more) can be the route to a simpler and happier life. And it sure makes it easier to decide what to take with you, when the carpet is suddenly pulled from beneath your life as you knew it.
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4 comments:

Mneme said...

14 years ago I, too, lost everything in a fire, and I've said before exactly what you've said -- it's all just stuff. I got my three young children out of the house and that was all (and all I needed). Although I've managed to accumulate a lot of things in the intervening years, one of my favorite activities is getting rid of stuff. I've often thought that a dumpster would be a great Christmas gift!

newyorkmom said...

Really great post... very touching and honest. You made it out with your most precious irreplaceable goods...your family! I agree with your last quote:"Living with less (or not desiring more) can be the route to a simpler and happier life"
Very true!

leigh said...

It's a great question.

When we travel, the top three things on our list are Lila, passport and money.

In that order.

Everything else, yeah, I might miss it, but I'll get over it and be able to get where I need to go and do what I need to do without it.

Tina T said...

I always make sure that my husband knows where my scrapbooks are just in case there's a little extra time to grab something once the people and dogs are out of the house. We move every few years for my husbands job, so it does feel great to get rid of stuff on a regular basis. To lose all my stuff to a fire though, that would definitely be traumatic.