The House Burning Down Exercise

Imagine that an uncontrollable fire has unexpectedly started to rage in the very back corner of your home or apartment.

You have to act quick. You have enough time to safely remove 5 living creatures and inanimate objects (all family = 1 total and all pets = 1 total) before the flames and smoke overtake the interior of your dwelling and you must completely evacuate. Everything else is completely lost to the flames.

What do you rescue? In what order? And why?

Let’s dub this the “House Burning Down Exercise”. Take a few minutes to think about it, then read on.

What do you Value in Life?

While this exercise can be stressful to imagine and work through, the goal of it is for you to conceptualize and prioritize what’s REALLY important to you in your life and how much value you place on certain objects and why.

I can’t imagine anyone not choosing their family members and pets as #1 and #2 (probably in that order, but hey – some people really love their pets!). Nothing else even comes close for anyone, I would imagine (but if you have something that does – I’d love to hear about it in the comments).

house burning down exercise

From there – for me, at least – it gets very difficult.

I had a really tough time coming up with #3, #4, and #5.

If you’re renting your dwelling, maybe I just inadvertently convinced you that you need renter’s insurance. But if you don’t have it, maybe your focus should be a bit different. To ease the financial burden of recovery, your best strategy is probably to grab the 3 most expensive items in your home.

If you own your dwelling and have home insurance (you should have homeowner’s insurance, by the way), as I do, most of your stuff is replaceable. So, your focus should probably be on irreplaceable items. One-of-a-kind items or heirlooms that have a sentimental value to you.

In my case, I have a few items of sentimental value that I would be a bit upset about losing, but nothing that would be devastating to me. I’m of the belief that no matter how unique an item is or how important the memory behind its significance is, it’s the memory/experience that has the true value and meaning. I believe it’s dangerous for one to value a given item so much that we couldn’t imagine living without it.

So instead of going for sentimental items, I would instead go for the 3 things that would most easily allow me to start rebuilding my surroundings and reduce the stress of and transition time needed to do so:

  1. my wallet (with ID to drive around and credit cards to buy food, toiletries, temporary living, etc.)
  2. my smartphone to easily communicate with my insurance company, family, friends, etc.
  3. my car keys (I’ll pretend the car was parked in the driveway and not the garage!), in order to get around.

What I love about this exercise is that it re-emphasizes:

  • how important family/pets are to me, and how nothing else even comes close.
  • how little I really need to get on with my life – which gives me added gratitude for all of the random conveniences that I do have.
  • how much stuff I could (and probably should) effectively do away with.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

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