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What Would You Take?

5/20/2011 12:00:00 AM


Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailIf your house were burning, what would you take with you?

I’ve pondered this question more often than I’d like lately, as tornadoes, floods and other disasters have displaced thousands of people in the United States this spring. I’m attached to my stuff, no doubt about it, and my list of items is longer than one person could carry out of a burning building. There are the photo albums (inconveniently buried in a chest, where they’d be hard to grab quickly), the boxes full of kid projects and handmade Mother’s Day cards, the afghans my grandmothers made and the quilts my sister stitched. That’s just the beginning.

I learned about The Burning House, a website dedicated to this very question, via Unclutterer. This simple site asks readers to post photos and lists of what they would take if their house were on fire. “It's a conflict between what's practical, valuable and sentimental,” the site states. “What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities.” The site gets you thinking, and it's more fun than therapy.

The photos people have posted are beautiful, and their lists are weirdly addictive. Most people list the necessities—cell phones, passports, eyeglasses and such—but the bulk of their “must save” items are sentimental. One reader said she would take a broken shell because it was the first thing her beloved gave her. One reader couldn’t be without his Michael Jackson Thriller LP, and a six-year-old listed his favorite toys. A blue Ball jar filled with river rocks (souvenirs from a perfect day), two forks from the family silverware, cuttings from a favorite plant in faraway Dubai, a 1957 edition of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook with recipe alterations handwritten in the margins, and a collection of champagne corks from important days were some of the items that broke my heart a little. These are the things that can never be replaced.

What would you take? It’s a question worth pondering, not only to get you thinking about disaster preparation but also to build a little love and appreciation for all that you already have. I’m going to dig those photo albums out of the chest and put them in a more accessible place. I'd like to look at them more often, anyway.


One woman posted on The Burning House that she would grab two forks from her family's vintage silverware. Photo by Daniel Morris/via flickr 

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