With horrible natural disasters all around us and constant warnings to people to gather their families and pets and evacuate as quickly as possible, one can’t help but wonder, what would I do?
It’s easy to say, “well, of course, I’d leave my stuff in favor of saving our lives”. However, for some people it’s not that simple. Worst case scenario, are those who suffer from hoarding. For them, leaving stuff might be as mentally terrorizing as facing the loss of life. For others, not as extreme, material things are emotionally important, so important that losing it all could break their hearts and even override their gratitude for being alive.
I’ve done a lot of soul searching on the subject. I know for fact, it’s not even a question, I’d be on the road with my kids, the cat and the lizard in a heartbeat. If I had time to prepare, essentials and some clothes aside, I’d grab a few photos, some special teddy bears, and a few mementos – mostly things my kids have either made or gifted me with. All together it all fits in a plastic storage bin. Because material stuff does not matter one iota to me.
Perhaps I wasn’t always like I am now; a down to earth minimalist who finds little value in things. Perhaps I’m this way because I’ve experienced losing everything once, leaving everything once and witnessing how destructive attachments to stuff can be to relationships.
You might be wondering “so how did you lose everything?” In a nut shell when we moved from New York to Connecticut, it took two huge moving trucks to haul our stuff. It all needed to be stored at the company’s facility since our house closings didn’t coincide. Four weeks later, when it was finally time to move our stuff in (during which time I’d given birth to our second son), only one truck pulled up, with only about five percent of our stuff inside it. Little did we know the storage place (according to them) had been robbed. Everything we owned was GONE! In hindsight, we then realized why the owner of the place had talked us out of purchasing insurance. We’d eventually learn that four other families faced the same fate, the place was ultimately burned down and the owners went missing. We got nothing, nada, zilch!
I was upset, of course, the cost of reestablishing our home was mind numbing. All of my oldest sons (he was five) toys and valuables were gone. All of our keepsakes, gone. The few things I had left from my deceased parents, gone (except for the crucifix they’d received as a wedding gift, that was among the five percent left). Funny thing is, with a new healthy baby in my arms, and my other perfect son at my side, none of the missing stuff really mattered. In the grand scheme of things, we had everything! Eventually, we re-established a lovely, comfortable home.
Years later, when I left our twenty-five-hundred square foot home to pursue the new life I desperately needed across the country, I filled my minivan with two of my three sons (the oldest was away at college), the few things that were special to them, a minimal amount of clothing, a few keepsakes (yes that crucifix came along) and some essentials. I thought at the time, my husband would eventually join us; moving the rest of the stuff with him. That never happened. And so, then a single mom on a tight budget, I rebuilt a comfortable home, again,; slowly but surely, with things from here and there, hand-me-downs and thrift store finds and dollar stores and even some dumpster dives. And life, happily went on, because we had all that mattered, each other.
Things Over People!
And how can an attachment to things be detrimental? When I’d asked my then husband about joining us in California, one of the first things he said was “it would cost a fortune to move all my things!” In that statement, all I heard was, my stuff is more important than you or our family! He’s still across the country, alone, with his stuff!
My dad, who was a bit of a hoarder I guess, now that the habit has a name, kept a four bedroom house up and running for years after his father, the sole inhabitant of the house, passed away because he couldn’t face getting rid of the stuff that had accumulated. In the meantime, he, I and my mom lived meagerly in a small one bedroom apartment, which created stress and discourse between my parents!
When my dad passed away, it took us months of sweat and tears and money to get rid of his stuff.
I’ve heard, we’ve all heard, arguments amongst family members over who’ll get moms this or dads that. Their sadness seems to be more about the stuff than the loss of their parents!
So yes, faced with an evacuation I could easily leave it all. The financial burden certainly would take a toll, but the emotional burden of losing my stuff would mean absolutely nothing. As long as I have my kids and my life, I have everything I want or need. And they can rest assured when my time on earth is done – hopefully, I still have many decades left here – they won’t need to fight over who gets what, there will be enough teddy bears and Barry Manilow cd’s, and high heels to go around. 🙂