Today, The Daily Post has set fire to my house! All the people and animals are safe and I have time to grab – and save – five items.
I glance around quickly at all the things that will be lost: my furniture, clothes, beloved books, countless nicknacks. My eyes tear up as they fall upon the bead curtain my friends and I have been working on since college. But all these things, as painful and expensive as it may be to lose them now, can be replaced. The air is filling with smoke; it’s getting harder to breathe. I must act quickly.
The very first thing I grab is my viola; if I’m lucky it is already packed, with its bow, in its case. My viola is not an inanimate object, it is a beautiful musical instrument with a unique personality and with which I have a very meaningful relationship. To lose it would be to lose a part of my soul.
Next I grab my guitar, also already packed in its case – which I can sling fairly easily over my shoulder. I knew this was My Guitar the moment I first strummed it. There is no way I could leave it behind.
Choking, I run over to my desk. I grab the external hard drive that houses the only copy of some of my older files, most notably music I composed in college.
Once that is secure, I unplug all the wires from the back of my desktop computer. This baby was custom-built three years ago and my only complaint about it is that my security software somehow manages to slow it down – nothing some extra RAM couldn’t fix. More importantly, it has the only copy of some irreplaceable files on it. There is no way I will willingly leave it behind.
Finally, I am torn as to what my last item should be. Do I try to wrangle the bead curtain? Grab my digital camera, which likely has some pictures on it I have yet to transfer to a computer? What about my sketchbook? It has my unique drawings in it … but the ones I care about most have been scanned.
I check my left hand – yes, I’m already wearing my engagement ring.
The air is thickening; I can barely see. My eyes fall on my laptop. It is one of the most valuable items I own, and it also has irreplaceable files on it. Though I’ve had the desktop longer, the laptop – because I can use it in bed, take it anywhere with me, etc. – feels more like I have a special relationship with it. I grab it and run for my life.
I escape just in time, running from ground zero as my home collapses behind me. Ashes, smoke, and flames billow into the air. Somewhere in the distance, sirens are sounding.
I am so relieved to join my loved ones in safety. We hug, we cry, we tremble, but we’re all here, safe. I think about all the stuff that I have lost … but it is precisely that: stuff. What I really need is what’s around me: Love.
As a hoarder, especially a hoarder who is transitioning between spaces, I find it exceptionally useful to respond to this kind of prompt. It can be so hard to get rid of things. As crazy as the clutter drives me, it’s also comforting. Each item I get rid of is like throwing away a part of myself. It hurts.
But they’re just things! This prompt has me thinking about which of my things are really important, and which I could live without. Ultimately, the answer is that the items I need most enable me to express myself. My computer hard drives contain some of my most meaningful self-expressions.
Yes, I need things like clothes. Yes, I want to keep all my books and other media. But most of this stuff is just stuff. The emotions, the memories, they all live inside me. I can be whole without this stuff! And that means I can let some of it go …