Do You Really Know What Matters To You?

Ridge we could see from our house

As pictures of Irene were coming at me from every TV channel I thought of all my blog-friends who were in its path and 1993.

In 1993 there was a destructive fire in the nearby town of Laguna Beach.  We could see the smoke and flames from our deck.  I remember going around the house and listing what I would take in the car if the fire were approaching and we had to evacuate:  The watercolors and oils my Mother painted; the folk art sculptures my Dad created in the last years of his life; a few pieces of jewelry, some masks from our collection, birth, social security, bank records, my purse with ID and credit cards; some changes of clothes; a few paintings I did in college, some pictures, a leash, a water dish and Max.

Last year we could see another fire in another location from our house.  I stood watching the smoke and flames and asked myself the same question:  What would I take?    The only thing I could think of was my purse and Max.  I figured my Husband would take care of himself!

It was quite a startling revelation that I had changed in the past 15+ years: Nothing material really mattered to me.  It could all burn down.  I even began imagining what I would do differently. Very strange, very interesting.  I’ve not changed my mind.

There’s a blog dedicated to that very subject created by Foster Huntington.  Here’s a bit of what he says about his blog:“The Burning House” showcases photos and lists of the things people would take with them if their house was burning. The project is a little over a month old and so far has received over three hundred submissions!”      

Read More of Foster Huntington’s interview on

Here’s what his instructions are:

If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.

 What would your list include?

8 comments on “Do You Really Know What Matters To You?

  1. This is a very moving, and thought provoking post. Then to read in the comments where people have had to loose everything. Have had to make the choice. I would feel so violated.
    I had a friend who’s house burned while she wasn’t home. Her dog was lost in the fire. She lost everything except what she had on her back, and in her purse. She has told me the only thing that mattered, was losing Mandy (her dog). But I’ve heard her speak of things over the years, the art work she lost…..(we went to college together and were both art majors.) It broke my heart. Yet, seeing how many people reached out to help her. That was amazing. I’m often amazed at how people will ban together to help those in that kind of need.

    We were very lucky. Irene was supposed to come this far inland, but it barely touched my house. I’ve lost a house to a hurricane, but we really didn’t lose many of the belongings. I lost my entire art portfolio, where it was being criticed at a gallery, and it flooded because of the hurricane. I did feel that I lost a part of me in there.
    I’ve had so many close calls, and gave up nearly everything when I joined the AmeriCORPS…but that was a choice.

    I think the hardest things that I’ve lost was because of theft. The violation. Someone going through my personal belongings. All I can say…is I felt so violated.

    Laurie, I hope you can recover with minimal loss. I do understand what you are going through. My parents (I was in college so it was my home too) lost their house to a hurricane. They had to move. The storm wasn’t supposed to hit their town. They had 3 trees in their house, and 17 in the yard. (not all of them were from their yard) They were home when it happened. I was two towns away, in an apartment. I slept in my closet. It was bad, but my parents had it much worse. With no power for almost 2 months. But they all banded together. That’s what amazed me the most. neighbors who didn’t even know each other..suddenly there were no boundaries.

    OH, my I’ve rambled again.

    At this point in my life. My dog, my husband, the fundamentals….the rest is a part of me, but I could rebuild. As close as I’ve come to losing my life a couple of times, it puts a different perspective on things.

    stories for thought.


  2. Well….I to respond to this. I have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. I have lost everything I own five times and partially 3 more times, in the last 12 years because of mold sensitivity. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I don’t think I’m materialistic, but I carefully and lovingly collected interesting and beautiful things all my life. Not many but enough. I’m not talking about expensive things, but things I treasured that were Artistic and had good lines, good design. A few things I had from my parents. I never went for the Bling, or the Trend. A lot of those things were part of me. I keep ‘things’ for a very long time….one
    watch, one hair brush, same tea kettle…..all those years. I can say, oh materials things
    don’t matter, but it’s what is behind those things. It’s my history. I know some people history
    doesn’t matter. They don’t even read History. I do. It’s really different when it’s not voluntary. I don’t know anyone that walks away from what they own. I also know people who don’t own or collect beautiful things, or good books. I’ve never bought a coffee maker or microwave, a TV, electric kitchen gadgets. Thank God.
    Everything I’ve ever owned is carefully selected. I’ve come to the conclusion,
    that’s it for me. I don’t know anyone, that does that to the extent that I do, but I do, so when I lose everything, suddenly, not by choice it’s devastating and it’s not
    because I’m materialistic. It’s because I care about me and I value me and everything that
    was part of me. Maybe this doesn’t make sense to someone else. I”m now afraid to buy
    anything and when I do, I again, do so carefully, with good design, lines. I get that small tea cup from the thrift store that says, “made in Occupied Japan”, or that Vintage Melita
    porcelain coffee carafe, or those water glasses from France. There I go again. Yes, if I lose
    them, I will miss them.
    Laurie, so sorry to hear about your lose.


  3. Went through that just two days ago with the Hurricaine on the East Coast. Not to mention that our house is unlivable, literally so we are in one room in a hotel. I took my old stuffed monkey (Nokey) that my dad bought for me on my 2nd birthday, I took a necklace that my dad used to wear when he was alive, a favorite black and white picture of my mother many years ago on a beach in Israel,she is laughing in the picture. I took a photo of my daughter and I on the Cape when she was little, something my son found for me, and his picture, my computer and books. I will not be able to move back for months but the immediacy of Irene made me make a choice. I chose things that could not be replaced in my heart. I don’t know when I will be able to go back home, it could be months. I have the things I need right now, but I miss having a home. Laurie F.


  4. Morning Judy
    Found this most interesting…I think the older we get the more we would leave behind…except perhaps for pictures which are our lives, loves and places that make us who we are. Oh and maybe the camera/s :)Interesting post….


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