Burning Down the House

Originally Posted on January 19, 2014 by BJ Howell.

I did a exercise recently that truly opened up my eyes. It was called “Burning down the house”. Imagine that your house was on fire and everyone (people and animals) was safely out. You have an opportunity to grab 5 items…what would you grab? I remember having a discussion like this in middle school. Back then it was simple. It would have been my posters, my music (albums) and my Tiger Beat magazines. Beyond that, I really didn’t have anything that I would have considered valuable. Now that I’ve had a lifetime to accumulate things “of value”, I was eager to ponder the question again. When I really thought about it, I was surprised because I could barely think of anything that I just had to have…

I would definitely grab my purse and cellphone, as they both contain important information. Then, it would be my photo albums. After that I was kinda stuck. I couldn’t really think of anything else. I have closets full of stuff. Some neatly stored away, some…not so much. Every drawer is in use…filled with this or that… I have a storage shed that contains a little of everything in it. All said and done, I have both valuable stuff and just plain ole junk. But of all that I have, beyond what I mentioned above, there isn’t anything that I couldn’t live without.

As a future minimalist, this makes me happy. However, as a current hoarder of unnecessary stuff, it makes me wonder why I have so much stuff. And why I sometimes (more often than not) have such a difficult time deciding what to get rid of. Sometimes physical “stuff” is connected to emotional “stuff”. Could it be that I am emotionally hanging on to something? Do I need to do some self-work to see if all this “stuff” is in any way connected to something emotional? As a therapist, this is the type of exploration that I would guide my clients through if they were in the same predicament. So, while I ponder that question, I have a question for you. If your house was burning down and everyone was safely out, what 5 items would you want to grab?

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