My Daily Roadtrip

Musings from the wildfire … regarding “stuff”

My last post explained that I would be using these next few blog posts to “process” through some of the thoughts, feelings, and challenges that arose due to the wildfire, aka the “Waldo Canyon fire”, our area has recently experienced (currently, this fire is now 95% contained!). While some of the initial shock of the fire has worn off, it is very much still a reality, moreso for some than for others due to 346 homes being lost in the blaze.

photo credit: Amy Burton @ Stock Xchng

Although this fire has challenged me in multiple areas, one particular area is that of “stuff.” If you’ve ever had to evacuate your house, knowing that you may never be able to return, you tend to consider your material items differently than ever before. Shun-Luoi and I had the luxury of having hours to pack, etc. before needing to be out of our place (most people who lost their homes had just minutes), and it was interesting to think and talk through what we were going to take with us. We knew to take our safe with our important documents (which, by the way, were not all in one place – note to self …), along with clothes and toiletries for at least a few days for each member of our family. But, beyond that … what should be left behind? What should we take with?

As a Christian, it’s easy to merely say, “Hey, it’s only stuff. It’s not eternal. Material things don’t really matter.” As my friend, Beth, aptly replied about such thoughts, “Well, yes and no.” Thank you, Beth! While I realize (as does Beth) that our material things can be frequently given the wrong amount of importance in our lives (especially as Americans), we must also acknowledge that it’s ok to become “attached” to particular material possessions because of the memories they hold for us, or because of the way they allow us to function everyday more easily.

Therein lies the rub. If it’s ok to be attached to some material items in a healthy manner, but we also must keep the perspective that ultimately, they are not of eternal value, then what’s ok to keep? And what should we get rid of?

For those of you who are black and white thinkers, I bet you’re hoping I had come up with some brilliant formula to answer that question. Sorry, but … no. And hey, I’m that kind of thinker myself, but once again, it’s not that easy. I really think it means knowing and examining your own heart and your attitudes for having and keeping the things you have. I know for my husband and I, this fire has challenged us to really take a good look at all that we own and do the hard thing in terms of purging where needed. The following are some current thoughts of mine on the topic:

  • For those things that serve mostly a functional purpose in our home, I am asking myself, “How often do I use item “x?” For example, in the last year, I finally got rid of my punch bowl that I got for our wedding, but hadn’t used in five years. “But, what if I need it?” I would ask every time I thought about giving it away or selling it. Judging by how often I had “needed it” in the previous years, I realized there was a good chance I would never need it. And, if I did, maybe I could just (gasp!) borrow one from a friend?! Now, that was a novel idea! Bye, bye, punch bowl! Now, I am going to go through the rest of my house with that same question. Personally, I think we should be sharing more with each other anyway. Why can’t we pass around the same baby exersaucer that everyone’s baby uses for a mere 6 months at a time? Or what about maternity clothes? Or specialty cake molds? Or toys for different developmental stages? [insert me now stepping off one of my recent soapboxes]
  • Our house needs to be “simplified” in terms of the amount of things we have in it. Everything needs to have a place. Less is truly more, in my book. I love going into a home that is somewhat organized and has simple, tasteful, inviting decor in limited amounts. However, I am a “piles person,” (Mom, don’t laugh!) and I am forever fighting piles of papers that need to find a home, piles of items I am frankly too lazy to put away, and piles of other things that probably don’t need to be in my house in the first place. It’s time (really, this time it is!) to put those things in their place, find a place for things that don’t yet have a home, and get rid of those things that are not needed at all!
  • I tend to be a bit more sentimental about specific items that have memories tied to the past than I need to be. Pre-evacuation, I was up in our attic wading through 4-5 large storage boxes labeled, “childhood memories,” and that didn’t even include the multiple boxes that simply held scads of developed photos from years past! I decided to take some things and leave other behind, not even fully knowing what was in each box I was taking, nor in each box I was leaving. If I don’t even know what I have in those boxes, would I even miss it? This was the hard question I had to ask myself and it’s now on my to-do list to combine those boxes and try to get them down to 1, or maybe 2 boxes at the most. I probably don’t need every newspaper article about my high school football team that are in those boxes, but even if I wanted to keep a few of them, I will now scan them and kee them on my hard drive. I will also take pictures of some things, then throw them or pass them on to others. I really want to be in a place where, should evacuating our house ever happen again, I want to be confident in what I’m taking and what I’m leaving, knowing that I’ve already sorted, tossed, and kept the appropriate things. And ultimately, even if I someday lost those childhood memories, I would still have memories in my mind that cannot (easily) be taken from me.
When we drove away from our home while evacuating, I definitely had a peace about the things I was leaving behind. However, it’s way too easy to become enslaved to “things.” I also realize that, while I’m currently gung-ho on sorting through everything in our house, I will certainly find myself holding too tightly to certain material items in the near future.  May God give me (and you!) the right perspective on our material things, as well as the grace to throw out, give away, or keep the things we should. Now, excuse me. A pile that needs to be sorted is calling my name …
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I realize this topic is much more extensive that what I wrote about. However, in trying to keep this at a “readable’ length, I dove into it as deep as I dared. Care to share your thoughts on, “stuff?”

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4 thoughts on “Musings from the wildfire … regarding “stuff”

  1. Angela Bywater on said:

    You might like this blog that I have been reading:
    http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

    There is too much “life” that is lost in the sorting, cleaning, organizing and caring for things that we don’t use much except to sort, clean and organize them. I’ve been trying to pare things down for a long time, and yet I suffer from collecting-itis because so many things are so cheap and easy to acquire. So I fight myself. But the minimalist side is slowly winning, I think.

    • Angela, thx for your reply! I just quickly perused the site you sent along and ooh, I think it’s going to be great! Thx for passing it along. Yeah to your minimalist side winning, even if it’s being done slowly! 🙂

  2. Janice Henry on said:

    As you get older you will find yourself sorting and getting rid of stuff that at one time you could not live with out. Now as you look at it you wonder why you have held on to it for so long. But the “stuff” that I treasure the most is all my picture albums. I have always said that if we were to have a fire grab my picture albums.
    As a child I started taking pictures and putting them in albums. I have many many albums. Those could not be replaced. But like you said. You always have the memories in your mind. But then some days I feel like I have lost mine!!!!!!!!!

  3. Brooke on said:

    http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/07/19/the-burning-house-foster-huntington/

    The above link is to a blogger’s project to capture on camera what items his readers would grab if their house caught fire. When I saw it this morning, I instantly thought of you and all my friends in CO who were faced with evacuation. I hope you enjoy the photo slideshow!

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