What Would You Take With You in Case of a Fire?

Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by a feeling of guilt. No, I did not hurt anyone, I did not steal anything, I did not lie, and no, I did not go on a binge shopping trip (not that I did not want to!)

I’ve been feeling guilty because I feel that I became too materialistic, too attached to stuff. If anything dreadful happens to us, I will be devastated by a loss of material things that took years to accumulate. I realize that material possessions are just bits and pieces of our lives and not really us. 

I opened an account a few weeks ago with ImpulseSave that I named “Repairs and Despairs.” However, if those “repairs and despairs” happen to us, we would be royally screwed. We are not ready for anything cataclysmic to happen. We have no emergency fund and no life insurance. We accumulated a lot of material attachments. I honestly don’t know what steps we would have to take to cope with whatever comes our way, but I have a feeling that we could end up using one of the payday loan places that aim to make it easy for people (for example, www.yetiloans.co.uk).

Life is filled with small moments, little things that we tend to brush aside because they seem too prosaic. Then something happens, we look back from a distance and see that those small moments and those little things matter the most.

When Fire Strikes

The flames were 20 feet from my parents house. My mother took this picture when the fire was almost put down.

Last week my mother’s house almost burned down. It was not just a wake up call, I had plenty of those this year. It was a very traumatic and daunting thought that broke something in me: what if my house burns down?

My parents were given fifteen minutes by the firefighters to pack and evacuate their house. First, my mom made sure that her animals were ready to go with her. Then she started packing frantically, her hands shaking, her thoughts scattered.

When everything becomes black and white, literally, it offers a greater clarity and deeper insight into what really matters.

Later on, when everything was over, and no evacuation was needed, I asked my mother how she knew what to pack. She said that she had no idea what to take. She could not focus on anything but her fear of losing everything. She grabbed her wallet, some family jewelry, family photos and stood in the bedroom, trying to figure out what else to take.

What I Would Take if I am Fleeing in a Rush

Have you ever thought about what you would grab if you’d be given only fifteen minutes to pack? Neither have I. This is my first time, trying to compile a list in my head of what matters the most and what doesn’t.

My Pets. They come first in my household. I would have to make sure they are as prepared as they can be: their crates are ready, water and food packed.

Family Photos. I definitely want my family photos. I cannot leave those photos behind. Those photos are not just memories, they are reminders of who I was and who I have become.

My laptop and my cell. It might sound a little obsessive and nerdy but I do need to stay connected to the world, my family, my work, my blog, my readers. My life is on my computer, and without it I might be lost to humanity.

Wallet. It is really all I need.

Clothes and shoes. This is where it gets complicated. How do I know what to take? In fifteen minutes how much can you really pack? Not much, especially under so much stress and time pressure. My first instinct would be to grab the most comfortable shoes, to shove a windbreaker in a bag, and that would be it. After all, clothes, shoes, and furniture, and even art does not matter when you life is in danger.

I think the list above represents my real needs. My wants would have to stay behind.

Material possessions are not important after all. Of course, I would be devastated to lose everything I accumulated over the years but my real strength comes from my family. It is all that matters in the end.

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22 thoughts on “What Would You Take With You in Case of a Fire?

  1. Lucille

    Aloysa, a fire is a terrible tragedy but, as long as you still have your life, then everything else is obsolete. Just to know that my children, pets and I were safe is enough.
    Objects can be replaced and having fire insurance is useful for this purpose. I have mostly dis-connected myself from my posessions. I think of them as things I enjoy now but once I outgrow them then there’ll be others. As we mature spiritually, it’s more important than ever to take stock. I value myself more than any object I own.

    Reply
  2. Michelle

    I would definitely try and take as many photo albums as I could. When my dad passed, I took all the photo albums and there are at least a 100, so I don’t know how possible it would be to take them all! And of course I would take my pets.

    Reply
  3. Bridget

    Honestly, just my laptop and ID.

    But it does depend how much time you have to prepare. If I have a few hours, yeah I’d pack a suitcase, but the really important things are really just my passport and my laptop (all my photos are on my laptop).

    Reply
  4. Money Beagle

    Kids then pets, that’d probably be all I could grab in 15 minutes. Kids would be easy but the pets would likely be hiding and take that long to find/coax out/coax into their carriers.

    Everything else is just ‘stuff’.

    Reply
  5. Daisy

    My mom and stepdad’s house burned down a few years ago. When that happens, it’s pretty scary stuff. Things can be replaced, and that was certainly a good lesson from it. If my house burned, I would grab my laptop, dog, and boyfriend and be out of there.

    Reply
  6. Kurt @ Money Counselor

    No, you sure don’t want to find yourself tempted by payday lenders! Nasty business, that.

    I think I’d grab my pool cue and my baseball bat signed by Kirby Puckett. And my new MacBook Air.

    Reply
  7. bogofdebt

    Photo albums and my cat would be on my list. When I was younger, we actually almost had our trailer burn down on us. Thankfully my mom smelled smoke and got everyone out while my dad broke into the trailer ceiling to put it out. It was scary and I’m pretty sure I grabbed my dog and a family photo I had.

    Reply
  8. Michelle

    That must have been so heart wrenching for your mom! I know we can all easily *say* how we would only grab our pets and kids and maybe a wallet, but how many of us would stand in our bedroom like your mom did…and completely freak out? I would have been a mess. It’s so easy to say that I have my family, I’m good, but I hope I never see that day. My grandparents’ house burned down when they were in their 40’s and they lost EVERYTHING. They lost all their pictures, belongings, everything. It’s awful.

    Reply
  9. Bennett

    Not being a terribly showy person (I don’t feel the need to have these things out in the open), I have a shoebox for exactly this purpose called my “box of stuff that matters.” It contains copies of my most favorite photographs, some old letters, trinkets, a cobblestone from Prague (I lived there for a while, it’s a second home for me), and a small book of contact information/disaster information, etc.

    Over the years, I guess I’ve managed to accumulate a lot of stuff, but this thing has remained surprisingly small. So assuming my cat could make it out the door, (he is a rather resourceful fellow) I’d just take that small shoe box. It’s all I need.

    Reply
    1. Aloysa

      I love this idea. I need to put my pictures in a box like this. You made me think that I would be frantically running around trying to find my family pictures. I need a box!

      Reply
  10. shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet

    Like you, my dogs would be the first thing. If it took me all 15 minutes to get them together, that would be okay, too.
    After that, our computers- we don’t actually need anything more than our hard drives, but it’s probably quicker just to take the whole case. (But if space were an issue, we could have the hard drives out of the computers in a minute or less each.)
    Cell phones and wallets would be next in the priority list.
    We do have a ton of photographs, but I’ve gotten the most “important” ones scanned into the computer, so while we would still have those.

    We have a ton of stuff, and I like my stuff, but as long as I had C and the dogs, nothing else would actually matter.

    Reply
  11. Mo' Money Mo' Houses

    I definitely feel like that from time to time, because it is so silly to have such an attachment to an object or objects that don’t feel anything for you! Relationships are the most important thing and I definitely don’t think I’ll be saying “If I only bought more things” on my death bed.

    Reply
  12. Elizabeth @ Simple Finance

    First, I’m sorry to hear about your parents close call; I have a friend in Utah who had a wildfire stop 50 yards from her home. Anyway, I’ve considered this question for YEARS, both as a child and as an adult. I have all my family’s pictures on an external hard drive, and – aside from all living things in my house (excluding the house plants, which are worthless), – those pictures would come with me first. My documents are in a fireproof safe, so I’m not worried about those – they’ll survive without my help!

    Reply
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