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Daily Prompt: Burning Down the House – What Cannot Be Replaced

Daily Prompt: Burning Down the House | The Daily Post.

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 …

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6 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: Burning Down the House – What Cannot Be Replaced

  1. “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.” Oh I know that feeling. One of the hardest things to do is to ‘let go’. But yes, what IS most important is what we have inside πŸ™‚ this spoke volumes as I think about the thousands of people here in Queensland who have this week lost so much … Again .. From the floods. The items they had to choose to take …. Beautifully written πŸ™‚

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      • Please dont be sorry πŸ™‚ i and mine are great πŸ™‚ and because we werent directly affected it was distant for me … Reading your post put me in the mind space of how many may feel now … And thats a good thing πŸ™‚ its too easy to remain distant at times … I need a gentle jog at times and you provided that πŸ™‚ thankyou πŸ™‚

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  2. Great exercise – sometimes it’s helpful to do this type of brainstorming. My mom is a hoarder, so she would not only have trouble deciding on five things, she would have trouble finding the five things once she decided! I’m trying to avoid inheriting the hoarding gene though, so my list is pretty simple (assuming my wedding ring is on my finger and my iphone is in my pocket, like they always are):
    1. Laptop
    2. Box of post cards (see my blog for references to my post card collection)
    3. File of important papers (passport, marriage license, birth certificate, etc)
    4. Purse (containing credit cards, cash, etc – so I can replace things like clothes and buy food/lodgings)
    5. … … …

    That’s about it actually. Maybe the blanket my grandmother made for us as a wedding gift? Maybe the painting my husband’s younger brother or the painting my cousin gave us as a wedding gift? The print of New Orleans my mom made decades ago? I imagine the fifth item would be something I randomly grabbed on impulse as I hurried out of my apartment.

    That said, I think my list shows practicality, mixed with indecisiveness about sentimental things.

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    • I’m glad you found the exercise helpful. That’s what makes this such an awesome prompt IMHO: it’s actually something useful to think about, so if one is ever in such a position one already knows what to take.

      I hadn’t thought much about practicality, to be honest. I’m not even sure I know where my passport is! The key to my safe deposit box, my credit card, drivers license, cash, cell phone … all of it would be ashes based on what I wrote in my post. Oh dear!

      But at least I’d have 2 computers with which to access the internet! πŸ˜› (maybe I should reconsider some of my priorities – thanks for pointing that out.)

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  3. This was really good to read. I can see you had to look around you to work out what to take. I’m with Jenn (above) who was thinking about the Queensland floods a few days ago (not over yet), and there have also been the fires in the south-east of Australia which took out several homes a few weeks ago. So, living in this country, I’ve made a list of things to grab. Unfortunately, one of them is a cupboard full of photo albums from the time before photos were stored electronically… Your writing is great. Thanks.

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