Fire planning

Reminded by the ongoing wildfires, I’ve updated my emergency-evacuation list. Linda, who was once evacuated herself, told me to make this list a couple of years ago, when there were other bad fires nearby. It’s a list of the things you don’t want to leave behind if you have even a few moments to save them — the idea being that these are hard decisions to make in the panic of the moment. Fortunately Linda didn’t lose everything, but she told me she saved some very strange things, and left others behind, just because she couldn’t think straight in the middle of the night in that state of crisis. I keep my list taped to the back of the small corkboard that hangs right by our door.

It’s a revealing exercise, to try and visualize which of my material possessions I’d most miss if I lost them. When I looked at my old list that I’d made back when I was unmarried and living in my old apartment, my ring was near the top of the list. I was sad to leave the ring off the updated list. It might still be in the apartment somewhere, but if I ever have to leave in a hurry, I won’t have time to look for it.

Luckily we maintain a pretty decent emergency-supplies collection in the trunk of our car, so I’d never have to worry about having food, water, or a change of clothes on hand. It’s not a complete collection by far (we have yet to invest in a battery-operated or hand-crankable radio), but it does bring me peace of mind to know it’s there.

Here are the other items on my emergency-evacuation list. These are the most important:
1. Kitties + carriers + food + water dish(es)
2. Purse (wallet, keys, cell phone, sunglasses)
3. Passports and social security cards
4. Computers
5. Sketchbooks

I also added a slightly longer list of items that are still important, but not as vital as the above.
6. Toiletry kit and pills
7. My prized Bernard Buffet print and my Rural Studio “Proceed and Be Bold” print, because I love them and don’t know where I could get new ones… actually, now as I write this, I want to move these two to the higher-priority list
8. Camera and voice recorder
9. My 1920s sequined cocktail dress most of all, and also my other vintage clothes, for the same reason as #7
10. Any food that’s ready to eat at the moment (e.g., if we have bread sitting around, or something)
11. Stuff that is replaceable, but expensive: stand mixer, food processor, stereo equipment
12. Books to entertain us — not sure this would be relevant in an emergency situation, but I can see myself being very thankful for bringing these

It’s an interesting list, but what’s even more interesting to me is what’s not on it. Aside from food, most of my spending money goes toward clothes, but you can see clothes barely make it onto this list at all. Maybe it’s because fashion is by its nature ephemeral, but I just don’t see myself sobbing over losing any of my clothes, except, as I’ve said, possibly some of the vintage pieces — and anyway I’ve always thought of those as art as much as clothing. I love my books, and my music, and my stationery, but I wouldn’t cry over any of these things either. Books and CDs are more replaceable than almost anything in our apartment, especially since many of them were used to begin with.

I guess you could say I evaluate my possessions on these criteria: necessity, personal value, replaceability, and cost. When I have to choose only a few items to go on with, I select those that are necessary to the moment, or those which mean a lot to me and are not replaceable. But where does that leave the rest of my things? I look around the apartment and see so many things, piled on flat surfaces, shoved onto shelves, stuffed into bags and boxes. If my emergency-evacuation list covers all the things that are most important to me, does that mean everything else is just clutter? Well, of course not, but making this list forces me to think on what role those other things play in my life.

It looks like I have more decluttering to do.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at Having now spent two years living out of suitcases, even this short list feels way too long. My new list would add journals to #5, cross off #6-12 (except #10), and add a new #6: a few recently received family heirlooms. That’s it, I think. And actually that’s two lists, because most of these items are in our apartment, but the bulk of the sketchbooks and journals are at my parents’ house.]