September 10, 2015

Need Clarification

Note this person is not carrying any stuff.

How much stuff do you need? Really need.

On a planet where we are trained to desire more everything, and where need-creep defines that we absolutely must have (toys, collections, appliances, electronics, BBQs...), a little need-clarification goes a long way.

One way to think about what is most important in your life is to imagine being in an emergency situation requiring you to leave your home forever. 

The wildfires are moving toward your house and the evacuation order has come down. You only have a few minutes. What do you take?

Most people who have had to go through this traumatic separation from their homes and stuff have reported what was most important to grab on the way out. The top three were:

  1. people 
  2. animals
  3. photo albums
After that they report considering other stuff like clothes and medicine, if they have enough time. Often they don't.
In such a situation clear thinking and a razor sharp perspective hits. All of a sudden the 60" wide screen plasma television and the DVD collection aren't as important as they seemed before. And that spoon collection is definitely not coming.

When Linda and I moved across Canada last summer we were in a similar situation, although we had plenty of time to consider what to bring with us. We made the move in a van and had limited space for stuff.

We took everything we needed for camping while we travelled throughout the summer. We didn't really need much more than that. We also brought a small box of books, a few small carpets (including one we bought in Istanbul over glasses of sweet tea), a small wardrobe, guitars, art supplies, computer and our blender. What can I say? I like smoothies.

All we owned in the world was with us in our little traveling tiny home, and even some of that we could have left behind. Since arriving in our new home we have found that we don't really need much more than what we brought with us. We even took the bed setup that we used in the van and moved it into our new place. We are using it to this day.

Say you had to escape a climate change wildfire, or relocate a great distance, perhaps as an environmental refugee. What would be most important for you take with you? 


  1. Anonymous9/10/2015

    Without question, George and Chaos, my kitties. Everything else can be replaced if need be.


    1. Knowing that it can be replaced, if need be, makes it easier to release our attachment to things. There is no shortage of stuff in the world. But George and Chaos are unique.

  2. People, animals, medicines and photo albums/haddrive full of photos. Blow everything else. Pam

    1. We hang on to what makes us most happy. The rest can be let go.

  3. I have downsized radically over the past ten years. It is amazing what I used to think was so important. My life is so much more simple now. At this moment I'm sitting at the laundromat waiting for a load of laundry o finish. I needed a pair of jeans fast or I would have washed things out at home. The longer I live simply the more I like it. You and Linda contiue to inspire!

    1. Our priorities sure do change as we age. The secret is never up-sizing in the first place, but there is so much encouragement to join in on the competitive buying, and at first it seems fun. Before long we are trapped. Congrats on getting out. It really is a long term project that gets better as it goes along, as you say.

  4. Anonymous9/12/2015

    Over a decade ago, I escaped a bad marriage. My older brother and sister came to pick me up over a thousand miles from where we've called home. We had very little time to get what I needed to leave. I took a few clothes and sentimental things. In retrospect, I could have left with nothing and been just as happy. As we drove away, my brother a firefighter, said "Just imagine it all burning down behind you" That helped in the moment and I've thought about it since when needing to let go of stuff.

    1. It does not take much to live a great life, as most people on earth know and experience ever day of their lives. So sorry to hear about your situation, and so happy that your exit was a successful one. As a visualization, everything going up in smoke is apt.

      As long as we have each other, nothing else matters. It is possible to rebuild a life, or a house, or a community, or our economy and political structure. Humans have done it before, and we will do it again. Stories like yours reminds us of this fact.

  5. I thought about this recently. I'd grab my wallet, if it was possible. It has my ID and a bit of cash. That is all that would be needed.

    I have very little stuff these days, and it feels great.

    1. Of course! If you have your wallet you can pretty much start over. When Linda and I travelled the world for a year we always said that we could lose our packs and be alright, but lose our wallets and we were in a bit of trouble. Then we would think dreamily of travelling with just our wallets. Or with just our clothes.

      Peace Pilgrim travelled across the US for 28 years in such a fashion. Just the clothes on her back, a few things in her pockets, and no money. She survived and she liked it. Nice job description - perpetual wanderer.

  6. This is a great question. I would take my hubby and the doggies, but also my guitar and a couple of handmade quilts that were gifts from family, and a cedar chest my dad made me.


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