38° 52' 38'' N 104° 46' 28'' W

Colorado Springs Wildfire: Inventorying What You Love

Aaron McHugh

Colorado Springs Wildfire
Colorado Springs Wildfire: Three miles from my house

Colorado Springs Wildfire 2013

There is a wildfire burning three miles from my house right now.

I took this picture yesterday at around 1 pm.  This area of our city is called Black Forest.  There are hundreds of gigantic homes on two to five acre lots.  We have friends who live in these neighborhoods and all of them are evacuated and waiting to hear if their homes are still standing.

My family and I are on voluntary evacuation as we directly border the mandatory evacuation area.

We went room to room with our iPhone capturing video of our belongings in case we need to provide proof to our insurance company.

I think our home should be fine.  Last year the Waldo Canyon Fire jumped the ridge and traveled three miles in under an hour.

So we are not entirely out of the woods just yet.  More coverage on the Black Forest Fire.

Four hours after fire began
Four hours after the fire began

Inventorying what you love

It is very telling when each person in your family has to go through their personal belongings and determine what they can’t live without.

We have gone through this drill two summers in a row.

The list ends up being much smaller than you would think.

Since we have three cars now with a teenage driver, we could afford to be more liberal in our limits.

Before I tell you what did make the cut, I’ll let you in on what didn’t.

Everything that can be purchased in a store was shrugged off as not imperative.  TV’s, Computers, furniture, clothes, kitchen appliances, all of those things scored low on the lover meter.

In some ways these things even feel heavy.  We’ve heard it a hundred times that the stuff we own weighs us down.  When inventorying our home, 95% was stuff we could live without.

To give you the full story, we lost our twelve-year-old daughter two and half years ago.  Hadley Rae McHugh’s life changed us forever including what we know we can’t live without.

[tentblogger-youtube HYBAke3UnXo ]

What did we bring with us?

We each packed a suitcase of clothes, my laptop, precious keep sakes, a couple of comforts like pillows and stuffed animals.

My son is the biggest minimalist, so his suitcase was filled with his favorite DVD’s, a few clothes and Hadley’s oxygen tube that was removed from her before she passed.

My daughter is the pack rat so she grabbed as much as we would allow including 74 lip-glosses and eye masks.

My wife loves here Lulu Lemon wear, wedding album, photos and a few of my daughter Hadley’s things.
In some ways she would like a new beginning.

I grabbed a stack of cards and letters that my family has given me over the years.  I pulled the family hard drive, my two bibles, a couple of journals and a bunch of gear.  The gear can be replaced but my thinking was “I don’t want to wait two months for an insurance check and not be able to fish, ride, climb, hike, swim.”

Defining wealth by what really matters

It turns out that wealth in our family is defined more by who we are with (each other), a few memories that we want to retain and a few comforts if we were living on friend’s couches for a bit.

Our actions reveal what we believe.  I am proud to say that our family defines wealth largely by the things that cannot be purchased.  Wealth is a feeling and a belief more than a balance of our checkbook.  Some of the wealthiest (financial) people I know are displaced from their homes struggling with the same question.

“What makes me wealthy?”

I wonder how these exercises of inventorying our things will influence how we live our future?

  • jodyberkey

    We had a similar experience when we downsized last year. Tomorrow will be our one year anniversary of our Epic Adventure. It was freeing to get rid of so much stuff. I’m guessing that I can recall 90% the possessions we got rid of last year. I’m with you, Aaron. Things don’t matter. People and experiences matter.

    Stay safe, McHugh family.

  • jodyberkey

    We had a similar experience when we downsized last year. Tomorrow will be our one year anniversary of our Epic Adventure. It was freeing to get rid of so much stuff. I’m guessing that I can recall 90% the possessions we got rid of last year. I’m with you, Aaron. Things don’t matter. People and experiences matter.

    Stay safe, McHugh family.

  • you guys have lead the way on this storyline-things dont matter. I loved your stories about working 12 hr days to afford your dream house that turned out to be part of the problem from living your dream of being with your family.
    keep going. keep leading the way.

  • you guys have lead the way on this storyline-things dont matter. I loved your stories about working 12 hr days to afford your dream house that turned out to be part of the problem from living your dream of being with your family.
    keep going. keep leading the way.

  • It’s such a huge perspective Aaron. We had to do it last year, and same thing…all we wanted was memorabilia for the most part. Nobody cared about the ‘stuff’ much, just experiences. We weren’t big consumers to begin with, but it caused us to go forward even more simplistically. Last Christmas when the kids were asked what they wanted, most said, “I don’t know.” Made me feel rich.

    • “Made me feel rich” that’s the best line of the day. Wealth that can’t be purchased.

      • amen. hope your home stays safe, and you have a memorable experience in the meantime

  • It’s such a huge perspective Aaron. We had to do it last year, and same thing…all we wanted was memorabilia for the most part. Nobody cared about the ‘stuff’ much, just experiences. We weren’t big consumers to begin with, but it caused us to go forward even more simplistically. Last Christmas when the kids were asked what they wanted, most said, “I don’t know.” Made me feel rich.

    • “Made me feel rich” that’s the best line of the day. Wealth that can’t be purchased.

      • amen. hope your home stays safe, and you have a memorable experience in the meantime

  • A thought provoking post. We had similar fires a few summers ago….and our family had conversations about this. It came down to pets, photos, my journals, and a handful of clean favorite clothes. The lives, and memories would come, everything else could be replaced.

    Love y’all.

    • 1) pets that I love and have relationship with
      2) photos of people and experiences that I love
      3) journals of my ideas, thoughts and experiences with people I love….and don’t love.
      4) my favorite clothes that make me feel most like myself.
      that is a good list. who says we couldn’t live on less 🙂

  • Allison Crow

    A thought provoking post. We had similar fires a few summers ago….and our family had conversations about this. It came down to pets, photos, my journals, and a handful of clean favorite clothes. The lives, and memories would come, everything else could be replaced.

    Love y’all.

    • 1) pets that I love and have relationship with
      2) photos of people and experiences that I love
      3) journals of my ideas, thoughts and experiences with people I love….and don’t love.
      4) my favorite clothes that make me feel most like myself.
      that is a good list. who says we couldn’t live on less 🙂

  • Michael Johnson

    I hope you are back in your home safe and sound with the rest of us that are outside of the danger zone. I really am thanking God for the RAIN.

  • Michael Johnson

    I hope you are back in your home safe and sound with the rest of us that are outside of the danger zone. I really am thanking God for the RAIN.