I have thought a fair amount lately about my possessions and what I value. A friend's mother recently survived the devastating wildfires in Northern California. She spent days wondering if her house was spared from the flames, thinking about the treasures, like a box of recipes in her mother's handwriting, that were left behind. Luckily her home was still standing and the recipes are still an heirloom to be passed to her children and grandchildren.
Living in Tornado Alley means you see a lot of news footage of people sifting through the debris that was their home, looking for anything of value that wasn't destroyed by the house falling on it or ruined by the rain that always follows tornadoes. You hear stories of family photos found counties away and returned to grateful people.
When my city is under a tornado warning and looking at the radar I fear that I might be in the path of a twister, I walk around my house thinking about what I will need if my house is leveled. I put the valuables in a laundry basket and leave them by the basement door, right where I can grab them quickly in case I have to take cover.
Placing things from harm's way isn't something I just do in bad weather. I also do this when I travel. My treasured jewelry and vital documents are taken to my parent's house for safe keeping, just in case my house is burglarized or, God forbid, it burns to the ground because of my 1930s wiring. I hide things all over my house in case someone runs in quickly, they won't find the things that would be difficult to lose, like unused checks and my favorite earrings.
Why do I put so much value on things? If I was told that I had an hour to evacuate, like my friend's mom did a couple of months ago, what would I grab? Would it be my sock monkey, made by a favorite Sunday School teacher and in my possession long before they were cool? Would it be photo albums or flash drives that hold the digital versions of my memories? Would I remember to get the paperwork that proved all of these things are insured?
I have a couple of books about living a minamilist's existence. I have folders in my email inbox full of blog posts about living life without being weighed down by possessions, complete with stories about people who have given almost everything away and are so much happier for it.
The value of our life isn't in things. It's in people and memories of times spent with them. Even if I lost every photo, I would still have those memories. Even if I lost all of my jewelry, I know that I would survive. Maybe it's time that I read those books and blog posts and looked at what I value. Declutter my life of my possessions to get down to what matters most. My family, my faith, myself. Because if my world is flattened tomorrow by a F5 tornado, those things will still be standing.