Thursday, May 26, 2011

An interesting exercise in priorities

One of the things I love about the internet is the serendipitous nature of finding interesting new ideas and information.  Recently, I stumbled across the blog

The premise of Burning House is to photograph what you would grab to save from your home if it were on fire.  Now a big disclaimer here - I don't for a New York minute believe that the things photographed are what most respondents would REALLY grab in a pitched emergency.  But taken in a larger sense, I look at the choices the participants have made as more a "what would you grab if you had 10 or 20 minutes, and a carry-on bag?" i.e. what do you own that means the most to you? The responses are fascinating, and really beautifully presented; the site has a large number of photographs and stylists among those who have chosen to offer their answers to this provocative question.

I thought so much about this site that I decided to try to answer the question myself.  I have no children, nor pets, so nothing live needs my help.  My computer is completely backed up onto a thumb drive on my key ring, plus it's just too old and too BIG to carry around; getting an insurance payment and buying a new computer wouldn't be a terrible fate to face.  Therefore, I was left to look for things just for me that would help me to feel like myself after a small crisis.

Above is my summary of what I would grab.  Note that I own no family heirlooms, and all my photographs are backed up with my computer contents, so that simplified things for me.

Realistically, I would grab ALL of my jewelry (which is stored in a weird padded sleeve-like thing about the size of a small laptop) and ALL of my scarves.  This would still leave me enough time to grab a plain black dress with a couple of changes of shoes, a cardigan and a turtleneck, some lingerie, and my handbag.  My toiletries are always in my Tumi carry-on bag, so that would be easy...  Assuming I'm wearing jeans and a top of some ilk, I would either put on or carry my trench coat, and that would be all.

But I reserve the right to change this.  And to continue thinking about it for a long time to come.


  1. Well, you have given me something to think about today. I know I am saving my family and dog--but other items? Not sure what it would be. I guess I am of the mind that any possession can be I don't think about saving items. We had some friends that had a house fire just this last Fall--it had very tragic outcome with the loss of their daughter and all their possessions...horrible, horrible experience. xxBliss

  2. I hope everybody understand that I'm in no way trivializing or minimizing the experience of living through a fire in one's home - I can think of few more terrible tragedies!

    1. As you know, I have lived through the picking up the pieces from a fire. The only 2 things insurance couldn't replace weren't in the house. One was at day care and the other in Egypt. I would think the "normal" person would grab thing close at hand that had some meaning, even if it was the coffee pot. It's not what you save as much as what what you save means to you.

  3. NO! I honestly didn't think that. It is certainly something to give thought to for any type of emergency situation. How many times have I read to have an emergency bag/kit packed, ready to go at all times? Have I done it? Nope. I am sorry if I got too heavy with my comment. ; ) Bliss

  4. Oh Bliss, I didn't feel accused by you - no worries! But your comment did remind me that we're using a terribly serious situation in a way that might seem insensitive, and I wanted everybody to be clear about my feelings; I appreciate that your comment gave me an opportunity to clarify my own compassion for those who truly experience this kind of loss. It's awkward - while this is a great scenario for self-examination, we have to be careful not to trivialize the gravity of the authentic experience. I thank you for the chance to make this point more transparently.

  5. All of my scarves and important jewelry are all together. I'd grab them (not the boxes--and yes, there are more than 20, but no one's going to make me play by the rules on that one), my Hasselblad (with 60mm lens), my big-ass hard drive, and my H bags and stuff everything into the biggest one (it's pretty big). I'd wear the Isabel Marant jacket out the door, plus jeans and a silk top. My cat gets held in my arms.

    This shows how little I care about perfume or books when it comes right down to it.

  6. I read your post first thing this morning and have been thinking about it throughout the day. Since I have lots of pets and lots of photos (that are scattered about), I would be scrambling around for them.

    But if I assume that my pets and photos are taken care of, what would I take? And the answer to that is, I am not entirely certain. I do know that I would take my 2 favorite handbags, my good jewelry, my one Hermes scarf, and my trench coat. But outside of that, I'm not sure. I think this is a good question to ponder when considering a purge of belongings, which I am overdue for. Again,

  7. So many of our things are in fireproof safes (we have a small one that we can grab easily, and a large one that would withstand a house fire), but there are things like our animals and our computer (which has a lot of our writing and photos on it, though we back it up, that I would grab.

    Right now I'm still young enough that many of my dream items are still being carefully saved for, but once I had them, I would probably walk out of the house in layers! I love our books, and we have quite the collection, but probably would not have the time to stop and grab many of them.

  8. Hmmm...

    I interpretted this as a "If I had to start my life over and could only take one bag, what would be in it?" exercise, and I'm struggling!

    My Limoges plate and a few Russian porcelain.
    My Jewish Bible
    All my scarves and some jewelry.
    My two Prada coats
    One of my wedding photos