Smoky thoughts

Bean is helping me write this post, which is probably why it’s not going very well, but I admire his enthusiasm. 

The forest fire raging in our county has got me thinking about possessions and minimalism and life in a consumer-driven society. While we aren’t in any danger of being evacuated, our neighbors to the west have been forced to leave their houses behind in a matter of hours and deal with the uncertainty of whether or not there’s going to be anything left for them to come back to later. For some of them, there won’t be.


Red sun in a smoky sky.

It does kind of put things into perspective.

I’ve been asking myself what I would take if we had to leave. Clothing is replaceable, but you’d need it in a shelter situation, as would you need medicines and toiletries (although I suppose you could buy those items later on). Documents, that seems obvious, but what documents? I won’t lie, the first things I’d grab would be my Kindle and my iPod, but I think I’d also want the girls’ baby books and portraits … and then that brings up the issue of scrapbooks, all of which are filled with photos I can’t replace.

There have been stories on the news about people who have left and what they chose to take. Looking at their filled vehicles, I’ve thought, what junk! But maybe that globe in the front seat is the equivalent of their Kindle …

There have been times in my minimalist journey where I’ve wished I could just walk away from everything I’ve collected and start over. I would make much different choices if I had to do it over again, I tell myself. But actually, I don’t know if that’s true. How do you not have scrapbooks or photos? Or blankets and dishes, clothes and furniture? Kindles and iPods?

Is the answer somewhere in the number of items you let yourself keep? The ability to give away what you no longer want? In not purchasing something in the first place?

I honestly have no idea, and it’s probably not fair to end a post like that. But I don’t know. I’m no closer to figuring out my list of items I’d take for an evacuation any more than I know what the answer is to traveling light upon this Earth. Which is kind of depressing, I suppose, considering I’ve been a minimalist for the past five years.

I’m kind of wondering if this … itch … to sort this out really just means that I need to start going through cupboards and cabinets again. Although I’m not convinced that will help, either.

Also, irony: When I’ve thought about emergency preparedness in the past, I figured it would be a snowed-in / earthquake kind of situation, not a leave-the-house scenario. It’s honestly easier to think of what you need to bring in than what you’d have to take out.

Um, the end, I guess. Wait: Too depressing. Here’s a photo of the boys to end on instead:


For future reference: Bean is red and Goose is blue.



7 thoughts on “Smoky thoughts

  1. Roberta says:

    Some years ago we had to evacuate. A friend lost her home in the same fire.

    We took our pets, a basket of dirty laundry (it was the day before laundry day, so it was a brilliant choice, we had everything we needed), our box of photo negatives, some personal paperwork like social security cards. We were happy.

    My friend took themselves and their pets. She forgot her purse and identification info. She lost photos, all her insurance and home information. She needed to get a replacement driver’s license, social security card, marriage certificate. It was a lot of hassle, but they are happy.

    Family helped her out, supplying photos that she had given them, pictures of her baby’s first year and her wedding. She has a beautiful photo of the whole family, taken right after the fire.

    I know this comment is wrong, but having lived through fires (personally and as a spectator), the stuff can and will be replaced. It really emphasizes how important the people are.


    • Trisha Walker says:

      This comment isn’t wrong at all — stuff can be replaced. And I think your friend’s experience shows that while that can be a total hassle, it is doable. (Wow, though, actually losing your house … that would be devastating. I’m not trying to make light of the fact she did.) Just having to evacuate at all would suck. The dirty laundry tip, though — that’s awesome. And makes total sense!

      I asked Eric last night if “we” had given any thought to paperwork we’d take, and he said not really, but we do have a box of important papers that we could grab in a pinch. So that’s good.

      Our county emergency manager recommends that, with pets, if you’re under a level 1 warning (prepare to go), you should stick your pets in their carriers, or at least in a room so you can grab them quickly. I’m not sure what you’d do if you had a barn filled with animals … Our neighboring town, which did evacuate, went from a level 1 to a level 3 (go) in a very, very short time period.


      • Roberta says:

        With large animals you pre-evacuate them. Take horses (or whatever) to an evacuation site before you have to get out (if you suspect you’re going to have to go). It’s harder when you don’t have advance warning, but some really amazing people turned out here to help people who had more horses than trailers or ways to pull trailers.

        People were really amazing after the burn, helping out people who had lots their homes.


  2. SarahN says:

    I have the luxury of youth to me side when I found minimalist and decluttering blogs. And I have a semi professional interest in disaster management. Which means I equipped a home in the past six years with these factors front of mind.

    But I’ll admit I still bemoan moving house. I still “hate” I move two boxes of books I keep just because but don’t reread. That I own items that are purely decorative to make my surrounds less barren. And a muffin tin that gets used ever so rarely but does get used. It’s frustrating. The same thoughts invade when I’m out shopping (really browsing), and what does through my head!! Sometimes I wish to be that person who buys something and believes it’ll make life better! Ha! I mean I of course buy items but with such thought and deliberation and planning. And it’s exhausting.

    What I would take? I have two binders of paperwork, I’d likely grab those. As to photos – id rely on the net (blogs and Facebook), and I’d lose high school photos. And otherwise I’d pack like it’s a vacation (clothes, lots of underwear, toliteries etc). I’d hope that at that sort of time, my savings were robust to alleviate the angst of purchases I’d need to make over the coming period.


    • Trisha Walker says:

      Relying on the internet for photos is a good point — I have entire albums saved on a photo site, and plenty on Facebook and Instagram. I’d lose some of the girls’ babyhood though. I wouldn’t mind losing high school. 😉

      It IS exhausting being a thoughtful consumer! I also kind of envy those people who just buy stuff and don’t worry about it. One thing about downsizing possessions, though — it’s such a hassle that you don’t want to bring anything else in, so that helps.

      I envy Abby a bit, too, at this stage in her life — she’s got very little, but then, she needs very little. She’s running into an issue with her roommate, though, just in the fact that this girl is used to stuff and buying stuff, and Abby is used to making do with what you have … the roommate thinks Abby should be buying more new, “communal” stuff for their room, and the stuff she did bring isn’t good enough. (Well, it’s true that Abby’s fridge is terrible. I won’t fault the girl that.)

      But I’ve decided I was a little blasé, thinking I could just walk away from everything and be okay with that. I wouldn’t be. And I’d just have to buy everything back again.


  3. Linda M says:

    My sister’s family had to evacuate a few years ago due to flash flooding….fortunately the water stopped just short of their home. She said it was surreal. She said when it came down to what you take and go quickly and unexpectedly, she packed a few clothes, pictures and important papers. She said it was so humbling and overwhelming.
    My parents have both passed recently. It is so strange to look at a couple’s 68 years of accumulation being dispersed here and there. It is just “stuff”….but some stuff with so much meaning to us kids and some is no connection at all. I look at my possessions and wonder what my kids would think or do if they had to do this same thing right now.


    • Trisha Walker says:

      It would be surreal — who thinks something like this could actually happen? It’s always to other people on the news. Very bizarre that this is happening in my backyard. Really brings it home. I’m glad your sister’s family was okay!

      My grandparents were married 72 years when my grandfather passed away, and going through their house was a nightmare. Depression babies, so they kept everything. (Literally. Everything.) I tell the girls that THAT will be my gift to them — they won’t have to sort through a bunch of stuff. (And I should stress that it was a nightmare for my parents, not for me personally.)


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