The Burning House Project

Check out The Burning House Project: “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.”

I love the challenge and intensity of this site!

On the site, visitors are encouraged to answer:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Location
  • Occupation
  • Website
  • And “The List”

The list is what you would grab if your house was burning and you had to make a run for it. Visitors also upload photos of their stuff.

For some reason, I’ve always thought about this. I’m glad to see I’m not the only crazy one. For example, Hugo Janssens would grab the beautiful things, including a 200 year old violin and vintage French boots. Shelby Eaton offers a simple and somewhat haunting list, including only a photo of someone named Sammy and a ring. I could identify with Natalia Hubbard, who included a diary, sketchbook and old photos.

What would you grab? Would it be a mix of practical and sentimental? Have you ever actually had to do this?

Have you ever had to move or downsize and been confronted – what stays and what goes? When I moved to a smaller apartment three years ago, I downsized quite a bit. Most of it felt good, but I missed some things almost as soon as I donated them. In thinking about this exercise, I know I would not be able to grab three things I’d sorely miss:

  • A small wooden desk that just has so much life to it
  • My coffee table that I shopped months for and finally found for $26 at an antique store
  • A bookshelf I’ve had since I was a kid; I remember stacking my Golden Books on the shelves

But I have boxes and boxes of photos and letters and keepsakes. What of them would I grab? And an entire bookshelf of diaries, going back 17 years? Oh yeah, and clothes and toiletries. I may not even think of them in the heat of the moment.

I’m going to experiment with the Burning House Project and post something later this week. In the meantime, let me know what you’d grab!

3 Comments for “The Burning House Project”



I have been through this. Not a fire, but a flood. We lost everything in the downstairs of our house–my laptop, almost all of the baby pictures of our son, our Dyson, our washer and dryer, all my artwork–years of work, gone.

I spared not a thought for those things, with the exception of my laptop–i tossed it somewhere up above the water line as i was dashing upstairs to get our son. We made sure the animals would be safe, got dressed, packed a change of clothes, our tooth brushes, and diapers, and then we were evacuated.

In a fire I would have even less time. If I got out with our son, my husband and the cats, I would count myself lucky. When death is invading your home, your stuff becomes just that–stuff.


I’m so sorry about the flood, Stacie. On the other hand, I’m so glad you got out, that everyone was safe and that the loss of “stuff” didn’t worry you that much. I agree: people first, animals next, stuff after that!

I’m thinking about this challenge without people or pets in my current living situation. I’d grab some necessities (like you grabbing clothes, toothbrushes and diapers), but I think I’d be more certain to grab the laptop. My diaries and photos are my next wish, but not if, like you said, “death is invading your home.”

You’ve maintained a good, solid perspective. I’d hope to be as level-headed as you in the same situation.

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