What would you save?

A woman wrote me recently with an interesting story, one that I've been pondering. She was at the beach (a few summers ago) when she got a late night phone call from a neighbor. Her house had been struck by lightning, and part of the roof had caught fire. The firefighters were there, and had gotten the dog out. The fire was relatively contained, but there would probably be a lot of smoke and water damage. Was there anything she wanted them to try to get out of the house while they could?

It is quite a question to get late at night! I have been pondering what my answer to that would be. I will admit my first thought was practical: birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports. Those take a lot of time and effort to replace.

Photos are less of a priority than they once were. I could quickly reprint all my photo books from Shutterfly. Older photos though (or something like a wedding album), would be harder to replace.

I would want to save some of my kids' artwork. Unfortunately, it's not well-organized now for anyone to know where to find it. The stuff that isn't very save-able is stuffed in with the good stuff. As I think about it, it's all in the basement, which could flood in a bad storm. Perhaps a project for the future. As for "real" art, I wouldn't mind saving my strawberry paintings.

I might like to keep my old journals. I haven't looked through them in years, but I like to think that they exist (even if I may wind up destroying some parts of them myself at some point).

Given the scenario the woman posed — she was away on a trip — I kind of assume my laptop and phone would be with me at the beach. Otherwise, I might want to fish them out too. They have a lot of the photos I'd want to save (and documents!). My engagement/wedding ring would be with me too; if it weren't, I’d want to keep that.

Then we start drifting into sentimental objects (I'm not sure how much time the firefighters and neighbor have here). Fluffy the bear and Beary the bear have both been with us for a long time as treasured stuffed animals. The boys are no longer as into them as they were, but they might make the list as reminders of childhood.

If all pets and people were out, what would you want to save?

In other news: The running streak survives, but only due to my ridiculousness about it. I have an intense travel day today without much space for running, so I got up at 4:30 a.m. to run on the hotel treadmill in Palm Beach, Florida, where I was, before getting on my 7:05 a.m. flight. Sometimes that really is the only time it fits in! The good news is that I crashed last night at 8:30 p.m. for some reason, and thus woke up on my own at 4:30 (I had set my alarm for a few minutes later).

Photo: The old journals are in here somewhere...

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9 Responses to What would you save?


  1. Ruth says:

    Wow. What to keep. OLD family photos – I mean the REALLY old ones – my parents as kids, etc. A project I intend to start early next year is to scan all our old family photos and make Shutterfly books with them. In conjunction with that, work on the family tree, too. I want to be able to put faces with the names and names with the faces!

    But if I had to tell someone to go into my house and rescue pictures, some (my parents in the 1930s) are on the wall in one of the bedrooms, and the rest are in boxes in my home office. I think I could describe them adequately, but would there be enough time? Something to ponder.

    • @Ruth – yes, that’s the twist on this question of what you’d save in a fire. It’s not you — you have to know where something is well enough to describe it to someone else to get it out quickly!

  2. Barb says:

    The thumb drive with all the accounts. But then we’d have to reveal its hiding place, and find a new secret spot for it.

    • @Barb – they wound up tearing the house down shortly thereafter — too much damage. So a new spot would need to be found regardless!

  3. Stijn Vogels says:

    My journals as well. I keep them in an aluminium coffer which my father wasn’t using. Should there ever be an emergency, I can just walk out with them. There is no lock on the suitcase, so burglars can see there’s nothing of resale value in them. But for myself it’s comforting to know I have this risk covered.

    • @Stijn – I should probably look into something like this. Also, all this is reminding me that I need to back up my photos too!

  4. beth says:

    I realized a different problem with this scenario. We are not particularly close with our neighbors and none of them have our cell numbers or email addresses. If our house burns down on vacation no one would ever be able to get in contact with us! Perhaps I need to develop a closer relationship with my neighbors…

    • Monica says:

      That was my main takeaway too, about the neighbors. One side has our phone numbers but that’s about it. When we moved to our new home three years ago, I kept picturing folks coming over to introduce themselves with casseroles in hand, but that really didn’t happen and after living here for a while it just seems kind of awkward to go over and introduce yourself, or maybe that’s just me.

  5. Karen says:

    This is such an interesting question, as this kind of thing has been playing on the national consciousness to some degree in the UK following a horrendous fire in a west London tower block in which many people died and hundreds lost their homes, and has been in the news for the last month. We ask ourselves ‘What would I save?’ and are appalled when we see footage of homes devastated by these kinds of disasters. The answer is always people. Most things are replaceable, even if losing items such as photos and the memories attached to them is too awful to contemplate. But in the Grenfell Tower tragedy, people only went back for their friends and family.

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