Don’t Wanna be a Material Girl

A few years ago, a friend showed me the book Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel, Paul Kennedy and Charles C. Mann.

Originally published in 1994, this book continues to make me think. The authors describe this book as “an attempt to capture, through photos and statistics, both the common humanity of the peoples inhabiting our Earth and the great differences in material goods and circumstances that make rich and poor societies.”

The book highlights stories of families from 30+ countries across the globe. Each family is asked to place all their worldly possessions outside their dwelling for a photograph. Some families easily transport their possessions out of their home. For others, it is quite an endeavor.

Just imagine if you were asked to move all of your material goods onto your front lawn. Would you be proud, embarrassed, enlightened?

More recently, I came across the website the Burning House. The Burning House is a single topic blog featuring posts (from anyone) in response to the following prompt:

If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.

Fascinating and what an interesting social experiment. The posts submitted have mainly been from people in their 20s and 30s. I have read many of the posts and am intrigued with the items young people are choosing to identify as important.

It makes me wonder if the posts would be different if the blog featured mainly 50 and 60 year olds. How about 70 and 80 year olds?

So, what would you take if you could only grab one, two or a few items?

Me. I am at an age where I am downsizing my life and what I thought was important is not anymore. So, I would grab people. Then… I would grab my purse which has everything I need to survive for a few days. My inhaler, makeup, chocolate, gum, mints, a mini first aid kit, some cash, identification, my phone, pens, coupons, credit cards and of course, tissues.


16 thoughts on “Don’t Wanna be a Material Girl”

  1. I would take my kids, animals, purse, one laptop. That’s it. Photos stored online with documents. Everything else is just extra. Unfortunately our house caught on fire about 6 yrs ago and I was able to start over with possessions. I didn’t really mourn the loss of those, was just glad my family & pets survived. Everything else worked itself out! :)

  2. Unfortunately, my daughter and son in law found themselves in this position November of 2010. My son in law ran back into the house, reaching around the edge of the wall in the family room which was fully engulfed and grabbing the wedding photo that had best wishes signed on the mat. He shoved the entry hall chest he had made and was full of photos out the front door. He then went for the keepsakes, throwing heirloom quilts, his grandfathers guitars and guns out of the master bedroom window. Then he grabbed the hard drive before the fireman arrived and put oxygen on him and made him stop. They have since rebuilt. But like Barbara, you are just thankful everyone made it out and no one was hurt. Stuff can be replaced. I guess your mind works pretty quick about what is important to you when you are faced with that situation.

    1. Amazing story and so thankful they are okay. It is incredible what we experience in life and the human spirit to live through these situations. Thank you for sharing their story.

  3. Good question! I actually use to have recurring dreams as a child about our house burning down and I was always trying to figure out what to get. :) I don’t have the dreams anymore…thank the Lord! I can honestly say my two boys would be first and foremost on my mind and I honestly don’t know if I would be able to think of anything else. If I did it would be my purse and my laptop because it has the majority of my pictures on it and other important documents to me.

  4. Thought provoking question! I would make sure the family was safe, then it would be the back ups for the computer. In essence, people and memories of their lives would be the most important.

  5. It’s really important to think about these things. I would take one or two of my better paintings, my scrapbooks, photo albums, and a small wooden cross that belonged to my parents.


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