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What if your house burned down?

While trawling Pinterest this morning, I happened upon this article, in which the author mused about whether she had too much insurance or too many things to insure. She also asked a question that I ask myself from time to time, when I’m despairing a bit at how much stuff we still have around the house.

Would I bother to replace this stuff if my house burned down?

I’ve been working hard this part year to separate value from material things. I learned the hard way to being too committed to my things can come back to bite me; my insistence that I bring my furniture out to Kansas from Maryland, instead of selling it and buying more upon my arrival cost me a lot of money and stress when dealing with a shady moving company. All the important things came with me in my car—why did I bother to bring anything else? I ended up getting rid of my beloved wing chair, broken in the move, and many other things it turned out we didn’t need, anyway. I won’t make that mistake again.

Since then, I’ve focused on attaching my sentiment to people and activities and not putting too much of myself into the stuff I own. I’m not quite at Miss Minimalist’s level of detachment—the only thing she couldn’t just walk away from is her laptop, and that’s mostly because of the information on it—but I’m working on it. So every once in a while, when the apartment is inexplicably a mess again, or when I’m trying to convince my husband that he doesn’t really need a dozen ratty t-shirts when he generally wears nice clothes, I entertain myself by sorting out what I would really feel I had lost if our apartment (knock on wood) burned down, and why.

To start with, I’d replace my tablet. Not because I’d lose the information on it—basically everything is online in the cloud—but because it’s probably my most-used possession, so I would have to immediately replace it, and it’s a hefty cost.

And then I have trouble thinking of anything else. Frankly, anything else that’s vitally important to me is usually on my person, making it unlikely I’d lose it in a fire. Our important documents are in a fireproof box. I’d have to replace my clothes, of course, but I’m not particularly attached to any particular item of clothing I own, and the idea of curating the perfect minimalist wardrobe from scratch (money matters aside) is an intriguing one.

It’s ultimately refreshing to realize that the only thing that bothers me about losing all of my possessions is the money it would require to replace the ones that are necessary. The prospect of only acquiring the things that are necessary, though—I like that idea. I like the idea that minimalism is fireproof.

What about you? If your house burned down, what would you truly lose? How do you feel about your things when confronted with the idea of loss? It’s a tough idea to face, but—in my opinion—a telling and enlightening one.

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