The Burning House Project: My List

On Tuesday, I blogged about the Burning House Project. The challenge is simple: If your house was burning down, what would you grab?

Many people have actually experienced this type of tragedy, whether from fire, flood, tornado or hurricane and many did not have a realistic chance at grabbing anything but themselves and a few basics. For those of us who have not had this experience, it’s a privilege to try this thought exercise under non-emergency circumstances.

I wasn’t the only one to grab a box full of photos, as Cassiano Rosario’s photo shows.  Amy Elizabeth Hill has a pile of stuff that could easily be mine.  Curiously, on page nine, nearly all of the entries have cameras.Burning House: Michelle Barber

So I tried this experiment. I gave myself about ten seconds to scramble. I grabbed my cash and cards first. I grabbed my gym bag second, because it has a change of clothes, a towel, shoes and toiletries. Next, I grabbed my laptop and was glad that my thumb drives were nearby. I then ran for a box that contains most of the photos I own.

These things would be a handful if I were in a real emergency. I could cram the laptop and thumb drives into the gym bag. The box would have to be carried alone. I’d also have the clothes on my back…and I didn’t include my shoes, keys or iPhone, although surely I’d grab or be wearing those.

What’s missing? I doubt I’d have time to grab, untangle and wrap up the laptop and iPhone chargers, but those are easily replaceable anyway.

What would I miss? Next to the box of photos, I have nearly two decades of diaries. If I thought I had more time, I would find something to stuff them into to carry with me. I also have a number of cherished pieces of art and furniture that I’d miss, but, really, I wouldn’t have spent precious seconds risking my life on them (as bad as that sounds).

What would I have changed about my mad dash? If I had the thumb drives, I could live without the laptop. That might have given me carrying capacity for the diaries. Everything else that I think of gives me pause and then I think, “Oh, that’s replaceable.” Checkbook: sure. Passport: I think mine’s expired anyway. Clothes: sure, another familiar outfit would be nice, but I’d need to replace so much anyway.

Lots of people included books and, I have to be honest, those may be the last thing I’d grab. I really, really love books, but they are very, very replaceable.

This experiment taught me a few things:

  • I balance practical and sentimental
  • I’d favor my life over my stuff
  • I should unpack a few photo albums and put them all into that box
  • I should cherish everything while I have it

What would you grab? 

Post your list in the comments below, or send your own entry to The Burning House Project.


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