The Burning House

If your house were burning, what would you stop to pick up and take with you?
The people and pets are safe; that's a given - and the emergency services are there, and you have clothes on..
But what, of the myriad of your possessions, would you stop to save?

It's a super question to spark a discussion with your nearest and dearest. (I wouldn't recommend it as a topic of conversation with your children...a bit insensitive and unsettling..)

I've really enjoyed reading the Marie Kondo book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, and the two topics aren't unrelated.
If we have fewer things, we live in less clutter, and have made conscious decisions about what we live around.  If the house was burning, we would have to choose the very precious item(s) to take with us, and leave behind others.

When my mother died suddenly, my sister and I had three days to clear out her bungalow.
I remember standing in her bedroom holding her travel wash bag tightly and sobbing.
My sister was stood in the same room with a large black rubbish sack, and stopped what she was doing.
"Look at it," she said, "what is it?"
"It's her w-wash b-bag." I sobbed.
"Exactly. It's her wash bag. It's not her, is it?"  
I shook my head.
"It's our mother's wash bag. Would you use it?" she continued.
"Oh God, no!" I replied, "It's hideous; but it was hers."
"So say goodbye to it and put it in the rubbish bag.  It isn't her, and keeping it isn't going to bring her back, is it?"
I knew she was right.
I also knew that I could have filled my house with the contents of my mother's bungalow, but it wouldn't have brought her back.

De-cluttering feels tremendously freeing.
The things you choose to keep are more important: you use them, you have a need for them.
The other items are quickly managed without and soon forgotten.
It helps you work out exactly what is important in your life.

So what would you stop to save from your burning house?

If people, pets your medications and any emergency services are taken care of and it's just possessions/items, what would you save, and why?


  1. What a great post. My dad and I are slowly working our way through my late mum's things. I'm also trying to declutter but keep bringing things home. I must take a tip from your sister good advise.

  2. I have a small suitcase filled with memories, a single item that was dear to each of the people who are here no more. Strapped to it is a file containing important documents including passport, insurance details and so on, and a folder of photographs. That is what I would grab, everything else can be replaced.

  3. I would save photos... treasured memories and most other things are exactly that... just things! Photos trigger memories that we had forgotten... things I would gate to forget xx

  4. i have pondered this a bit today and not much is my answer...i am not much interested in possesions and own functional stuff but practically nowt that is irreplaceable...a few photos, my wedding ring ,bambinos artwork im not sure if this is positive because possesions dont really interest me or really sad because i am nearly 40 and own very little i value....i will ponder on
    all the best tessa

  5. I think me and your sister would get on well. There are loads of things I enjoy having and that I'm glad I've kept to remind me of certain times, but in all honesty only one or two that I would be upset to lose. If we're not including jewellery then the only thing I'd take with me is the letter Dad wrote when he knew he wouldn't be at our wedding. xx

  6. Thought about this a lot, made me think it is great advice to gather together a small bag of the documents and photos that cannot be replaced.
    When my Mum died suddenly, I was the only remaining child. I live in the US and had one week to travel to the UK to arrange her funeral and clear her home for sale. I could bring back to the US only what I could carry in my suitcase.
    The memory still haunts me, it was so hard.
    With that in mind I am trying to declutter so as to make life easier for everyone in the future.
    Pam in TX.xx

  7. How apt is your post! The truth is I couldn't bear to leave any of it behind so I'd stay behind with it all

  8. I don't know but it has got me thinking now........

  9. I can't think of anything that I woul save. Memories are locked in my mind, and whilst photographs and items may trigger them, I don't really need them. My dad, who died 20 years ago, bought me a stunningly beautiful necklace to wear on my wedding day 31 years ago. Last year we saved very hard , selling stuff as you did for GD's wedding,to be able to pay for new radiators to replace the rusty, leaking ones that were in this house when we moved here, and which wouldn't last another Winter. If we hadn't had enough money I would have sold my necklace; I'd had it valued and knew the gold prices. I know that my Dad would have understood if I'd had to sell it in order to keep warm. I would have been sad, just as I would be sad about things going up in flames, but ultimately, they are just ' things'.

  10. My wedding ring would already be on my finger, so that's ruled out. In purely practical and "making life easier" terms, my phone & purse would get grabbed. Then the only other thing if possible would be my hard drives with my photo archives on. Pretty much everything else is replaceable, in the grand scheme of things.


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