Have you ever heard or thought about that question, "If my house were on fire, and all the people/pets were safe, what one thing would I want to save?" I've thought about that question many times over the years. Partly because I feel that it helps me to deal with the idea of something horrific; it's not as scary if I think through what I might do. Partly because I want to check up on myself to see what is truly important to me. It's one way to arbitrarily take stock of what I'm putting my faith/attention into.
Most of the time, I don't come up with many/any things that I feel I would HAVE to have. Pictures of past events would be nice, but if I have the people themselves, then I don't really need pictures to remind me why I love them. Mementoes from people I have lost, or that I find special for some other reason, like my first Bible, given to me by my grandmother (who died 13 years ago); my husband's, children's and my own baby books; maybe jewelry because some of it is meaningful or worth enough to get at least a little bit of money if we needed it. That's about it.
Honestly, most of the time I end up thinking along practical lines. If I had a bit of time, I would grab clothes, shoes, wallets and a toy for each kid so they'd have something to comfort them. And blankets/coats if it was winter. Then I think of grabbing things like birth certificates and other documents that would help us rebuild.
This exercise usually makes me feel like I'm doing a decent job at combating materialism in my life. My lack of attention to objects is genuine. I'm not manufacture a lack of concern for my stuff to trick myself into thinking it's not important when it really is.
However, the way you'd react in a difficult situation is a pretty arbitrary test. The harder test is in the here and now, the everyday. Am I reflecting a lack of materialism in what I buy, keep, and pay attention to? I have to admit that too much of the time the answer is no. I'm guilty, like many others, of buying things to make me feel better and buying things I can't technically afford. Nothing extravagant. I've never been a big ticket spender. A new shirt here, a new toy for the kids there, an extra meal out. It isn't about how expensive or how often, it's about my heart. And too often my heart wants to spend money for the short term endorphin rush, or to avoid making a meal, or make me feel like I'm giving my kids a good life by creating a memory or making them happy.
But it's all short term. And too often I feel crushed by the weight of my stuff, which is the biggest indicator of all that I have too much.
To be completely honest, there are times when I go through my mental fire exercise that I almost wish something like that would happen and take all my stuff away (though I don't want the damage or risk of injury to myself or others). I wish for freedom and I often don't feel I can get it without it being forced upon me!
With all of the times our family has moved, we have been able to really pare down our stuff. When a move has to be done quickly, especially, you get pretty ruthless with it. "Do I really want to haul this 1,000 miles across the country?" So we haven't held onto as much as we could have. But I still see a problem. I still want to stop buying new stuff, and stop putting too much sentiment into the stuff we have by holding onto it when it is no longer needed. I want to feel free of the burden of too much and focus more on what is important. That's the part of my life journey I find myself walking in lately.