Forced Purgings

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Today I read an article that stirred up a lot of emotions for me. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, check out Are You Possessed, an article recently published in the Huffington Post regarding the emotional value of stuff and how it affects people, especially in relation to losing it all in a natural disaster.

Just a few days ago, I was chatting with my friend and local photographer Julie Staub about moments in our lives that had significant effects on the course of our futures. One event that changed my life occurred about ten years ago when I arrived home from work (on my birthday no less) to discover the local fire crew on-scene investigating what caused a fire in my apartment that destroyed just about everything. I literally walked away with the clothes on my back.

The next day while surveying what might be salvageable I discovered by some miracle the two things I absolutely could not replace – my photos and my old journals – were not incinerated. There was some water and smoke damage to these items, but I was happy they were not completely ruined.

Although the next several months were a big challenge to me, there was something inherently freeing about having so few possessions. During the move into this particular apartment a few months prior, I remember being absolutely stunned at how much stuff I had. How had I managed to accumulate so much stuff in my short 24 years?

Even though I already knew it from living in the dorms and traveling abroad, this experience was a good reminder to me of how little we really need to survive. Not that we don’t want more creature comforts and things (like furniture) to make our spaces feel a little more like home, but it made me re-evaluate just what it was that I really wanted in my space.

Have any of you been affected by a natural disaster or other sudden loss of stuff? I am interested to hear your thoughts on how that event affected your life and how you felt about the loss of that stuff.


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