As I’m sure you were, I was shocked by the images of the flooding in the Carolinas caused by Hurricane Florence. So many people could have never dreamed that they’d be impacted by such devastation. What makes it more heartbreaking are the interviews with people saying that they’d lost everything except the clothes on their back. While some people may have had ample time to prepare to leave their homes, others may have had very little time to evacuate.

So, it got me thinking – if my family had to quickly evacuate in the event of a natural disaster, what would we bring with us? We live fairly simply but, as I pondered that question, it was an interesting exercise to mentally go through our house, room by room, and conduct an inventory of what each room contains.

I referenced an article in a past post that says the average American home contains 300,000 items. Let me say that again – THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND items! Assuming you even have a car or truck to use, there’s no way you’re making it out your home with more than a few of your most important or treasured belongings. Besides, can someone please tell me why we need 300,000 items in our homes?

For those of you that know me well, it should be no surprise to read that I’m not a big fan of “stuff.” I rarely spend money on things and do everything I can to get maximum utilization out of the few items that I do buy. With that said, however, there are a few things I can identify (aside from the obvious of some clothes and toiletries) that would be coming with me in the event of such a scenario.

The practical

  • The contents of a small safe we have – contains a few personal mementos, but mostly legal documents that would be a headache to replace
  • My laptop
  • A file organizer I keep some paperwork in

The sentimental

  • I have a couple of plastic bins and a shoebox or two that contain some memoirs from my life
  • A few framed photos
  • A small bin that contains some of our son’s school work that we’ve kept
  • A storage box that contains our Christmas ornaments. I realize this one might sound odd but, if you read this earlier post, you’ll see that the ornaments are a way for us to remember the trips we’ve taken. Those are harder to replace.

I honestly can’t think of much more that I’d need to bring with me. Growing up, a friend of mine had a poster showing a mansion and four or five exotic cars. The poster read, “whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Given that you can’t take it all with you, in the event of an evacuation or death, I’m not exactly sure how one wins by having the most “toys.” In the end, life is not a contest, except maybe with yourself.

If nothing else, let this be a reminder of what’s most important in life – health, relationships, joy, and making a positive contribution. Things can be replaced and aren’t the source of true happiness anyway. No value can be placed, however, on those aspects of life that are most important.

Now it’s your turn. If it came down to it, what would you bring with you? It is my sincere hope that you, or anyone you know, aren’t ever faced with this situation. The exercise of thinking about your own belongings in this way, however, can really help you understand which of your possessions are truly important, and which aren’t. And I bet plenty more would fall in the latter category, not the former. If that is the case, use this as a time to get your spending back in line with your goals and priorities.