Minimalism,  Simplicity

How to Find Out What’s Essential to You

Beep! Beep! Beep! The alarm from the water treatment plant nearby alerted me that the river was up again.

I know my days are numbered here. While flood waters have only entered this house once in the past, eventually it will happen again. I have already seen them lick the bottom of my floor joices. I would be foolish if I believed the waters will never go higher.

When I first moved here I dealt with the inevitable future by playing the scenario out in my head: if I ever had to wade out, what is the absolute minimum I would want to save? I’ve grown lax in that practice so it is time to start again.

I believe that all of us should keep that scenario in our head. It allows us to focus in a time of crisis. No matter how safe we believe that we are, things can happen that are beyond our control. It always pays to be prepared.

As I lay in bed I asked myself that question. I wouldn’t leave until I absolutely had to but when that time comes, I will only have one chance, one load that I can haul out of here. What would I choose among the things I’ve collected over the years?

To my surprise, the answer was easy. I’d grab my laptops, my backup discs, my birth certificate, essential other identification papers, and a change of clothing. The pets would wade out with me so I would not have to carry them. The kid is old enough and wise enough to make her own selections. One large duffel, if that, would be sufficient to hold the bare essentials.

All of the rest I could let go.

I wouldn’t worry about saving the photos of my parents. I’ve scanned them into my computer over the years so I have digital copies. The books can be replaced. Clothes can be replaced even easier; as long as I’m covered I don’t really care about what I wear anyway. I’ve even got scanned copies of my essential paperwork–though I wouldn’t want to trust my future on scanned copies.

As long as I had my digital files (and a computer to access them), I know I would be okay. I may miss the individual physical items like the pictures but the loss wouldn’t be complete. And of all the things I possess, my computers would be the most difficult to replace–especially if I were flat broke. The files would be almost impossible.

Now that I know what is essential to me I can arrange things in advance. The older computers and backups can be stored in a bag for a quick getaway. As for the rest, I know that I can pare it down or not depending upon my mood.

As we march along this new year with talk of World War III on the news, it pays to know the absolute minimum you would need to take with you if you ever had to start over. One never knows when a war or a natural disaster will force you to abandon everything.

Today I urge you to ask yourself: if you had to abandon your home right now, what would you take with you not including your pets or your family? If you had time to carry out a single bag, what would that bag contain?

Please share your selections in the comments below.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

6 Comments

  • Linda Sand

    My laptop, phone, tablet, CHARGERS, purse, medicine, the file of important papers, some easy to eat food, and some clothes. I also know where I would go. We’ve never had a tornado hit this part of the metro area but there’s always a possibility. And I want to get to the extended stay motel with it’s kitchenettes before the insurance adjusters and repair people get there.

    • Annie

      Great plan, Linda! I include my chargers with my computers. I typically keep them together at all times since the batteries on my devices are older. We don’t have hotels in this area that I can access (and the ones I can are out of my price range) so I know I have to keep things really light while I searched for a place. Hence my limit of one bag. Since I know I couldn’t carry enough food for the dogs (and I don’t feel right eating unless they can) I would go without until I found something for us all.

    • Annie

      You are very welcome, Essie! While I gather the chances are slim that we will have another world war, the possibility was on my mind when I awoke this morning. I’m attempting to establish the habit of working up a post each day (at least on weekdays) so I now sit down as I sip my coffee and write about whatever is in the forefront of my mind.

  • Laurie

    I took my kid, her favorite stuffed animal, a notebook where I was working on writing a book, my laptop, my phone and some clothes for us………..

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