This post was inspired because I watched an episode of ‘Hoarders” yesterday and it got me thinking about people’s serious attachment to ‘stuff’ – even if you’re not a hoarder, we do often have an unhealthy attachment to ‘stuff’.
With bushfires raging around the country and us Sydneysiders bitching and whinging about the cold weather we’ve experienced over the last month, our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to those who are fighting hard to save their properties from the terrifying bushfires. Please stay safe and remember that your health and safety come first.
Bushfires terrify me. Nearly 10 years ago I received a phone call from Mum whilst I was at work, she wasn’t panicked but she did say “there are bushfires close to our house, is there anything you have at our house that you want me to save? We should be ok but we’re just taking precautions.” I thought about it a lot and asked her to save my formal dress (It was utterly gross and I have no idea why I wanted her to save that but little sis asked Mum to save hers too!) and obviously photos and videos and a few childhood memories that I’d been saving for a gazillion years. Asking her to save my four poster bed that I had as a child and saved for any future daughters seemed a tad extreme. My sister had her entire life’s worth of possessions at Mum and Dad’s as she was at Bathurst Uni and still in between homes and my little brother, who was only about 9 at the time, had hall his worldly possessions in that house, not to mention Mum and Dad’s life and they had some really nice stuff.
2 hours later Mum called crying “It’s all gone, I haven’t seen it but apparently the house went up in flames and it took about 6 minutes to burn to the ground. Dad was trying to save photo’s and stuff but the house was about to go up and a fireman pulled him out so he didn’t get anything, it’s all gone. Please come and see us”.
That was 2002 and Mum and Dad lived in Toronto in Newcastle at the time. Ours was the only house to go up in flames. It was just a few short months later when over a ten hour period, the Canberra bushfires burned or damaged over 500 homes and tragically, four people died.
I remember Mum and Dad being very shaken to the core about losing photographs and videos, heirlooms. It was, at the time, devastating. Most of all, I recall they missed the comforts of home that we all take for granted, like undies, make up, shoes, toothbrushes – it all had to be replaced. People’s generosity was astounding. Strangers came from everywhere to give what they could. One man walked up to Dad on he driveway as we were inspecting the damage, put $50 in his hand and said “I’m so sorry mate” and walked away before Dad could even say thanks. Human nature is one where we all want to help those in need and the people of Newcastle in NSW have to be some of the most generous people I’ve ever met.
Amazing friends and family came out of the woodwork and gave us photos from the past, that was one of the most important things we lost and whilst Mum and Dad managed to replace a lot of what was lost, one of the biggest things that came from us losing our family home in such devastating circumstances was that we all became very unattached to ‘stuff’. It just wasn’t important anymore, still isn’t. We all learned that even though it’s nice to have nice things, it could all be gone tomorrow and your life doesn’t fall apart if you don’t own it/keep it or hang onto various stuff, things etc. This is what amazes me about people who are reluctant to throw out an old piece of furniture or can’t let go of something bequeathed to them because it was owned by an old dead person (I have a problem with owning old dead people’s stuff but that’s another post!). The best way to explain it is when I ask myself the question “if we had a fire again, what would I save” – the answer is simple and possibly the reason why I post every photo I take to facebook, I would save photos and videos. That’s all (apart from the kids and hubby of course). Photo’s and videos are the memories that are hard to recall when they’re not there. I miss not having photo’s of myself as a baby to compare to those of my kids but beyond that, I know that Mum and Dad are simply grateful to have their lives. The rest could go up in flames and we would all start over again. It’s only stuff and whilst some things have sentimental value, it’s amazing how, when you’re put in a position where you have to cope without things, you do.
I’m not taking away from anyone who has lost a home in a fire, it’s devastating to say the least and to those defending their homes right now, please stay safe. Having been through this with our family though, like most families who’ve hit much harder times than this and people ask “how do you cope?” , you don’t know how you can cope without something until it’s not there but as long as people are safe, the tragedy of losing a home is secondary to losing a person.
If your house was burning, what would you safe first? Would you cope if you lost everything? You’d be amazed how much you can cope with.