Pack and Burn

What to Pack When the World Burns

Less than a week ago the hills around my home were on fire. On Wednesday we were told to prepare to evacuate. With ALL that is going on in our world, and most recently with the Southern California fires, I keep hearing the Hamilton song “A World turned Upside Down”—yes, I continue to be obsessed. I’ve never before experienced having a fire so close to our home; and being told I had a very limited amount of time to protect my most important things was an interesting life exercise to go through.

The first thing that kicked in was an eerie inner fight vs flight calm we all innately have. It’s basically a calm “go mode” where I needed to continue moving forward taking action, but needed to stay calm enough to make the best decisions. I remember having to consistently consciously tell myself to “exhale.”

“Prepare to evacuate” means pack up all of the “things” that are important to you that you can fit in your car. Since Bobby, my husband, and I don’t have any living beings in our home, the question of “what to take” came down to simply, “stuff.”

I have a TON of STUFF… notably, artwork, books and shoes… oh, and my sweaters… and closets full of yarn. And handbags, and some really fun dresses. Nevertheless… Stuff. We didn’t know how long we might be displaced. We didn’t know if everything we had researched and purchased over the years would be reduced to ash in the next 24 hours. We didn’t know what was in our future. While standing in my closet trying to decide what stuff was “important” to take.… I had total clarity.

1. My Ugg booties. Not just Uggs but leather little booties with traditional Ugg shearling inside. And my most flexible pair of UnderArmour tennis shoes that I love to choreograph in and that I can wear 18 hours a day without my feet hurting. Practical, comfortable and comforting.

2. My best-fitting jeans. Jeans are durable, but they are also practical. I didn’t need the cute, fashionable ripped jeans and definitely not the ones that show my panties every time I bend over (those need to go anyway). Again… practical, comfortable and comforting.

3. I needed some tops and since I was hoping that UCLA would still be open and functioning, I needed tops to coach in that could transfer to evening wear. I chose three sweaters, black, blue and grey… all soft cashmere. #Practical #Comfortable #Comforting—grabbing these felt like chicken soup for my body.

4. Underwear and socks and bra-lined camisoles, which add an extra layer of warmth while acting as a bra. Again… P. C. C.

Standing in my closet I looked to my right to my rather large collection of fun fancy shoes. I didn’t even think twice… Nope… they didn’t serve a purpose. Definitely not Practical. Most of them not that Comfortable. And only Comforting when everything else in life is going well and I could afford some frivolous indulgence.

There was literally nothing else that was of any interest to take. Not the shoes, not the fancy bags, not the fun dresses… I looked at my suitcase and it was literally half full when I was ready to walk. On my way to the car I grabbed a light weight puffy jacket, two small photos of my mom, three pieces of art, and the small box of jewelry that might be worth a wee bit if I needed to sell some “stuff.”

Bobby got the birth certificates and passports and a few other important paper items—and away we went. It felt SO LIBERATING.

I shared all of this with a girlfriend who said that when she was thinking of what she’d pack to evacuate she got really sad because there wasn’t much in the house that really meant that much besides photos of her family. It was a fascinating conversation. (Please note, my girlfriend is the farthest thing from Debbie Downer. She is one of the most naturally positive people I know.) Why would she be sad about that? I felt so liberated, happy and free not feeling emotionally tied to my stuff where she was sad that there wasn’t more stuff she was emotionally tied to.

I invite all of you to pretend you are “preparing to evacuate.” What would you take? Considering how much I enjoy fancy fun “stuff”… I was pleasantly surprised that the criteria for my choices was “P.C.C.” = Practical, Comfortable, and Comforting.

Leave a Reply

10 Comments on "What to Pack When the World Burns"

Notify of
I’m so glad your house and you and hubby are all safe. Your story reminds me of an incident many years ago. My sister and I were living together in an apartment. About 1 in the morning I heard this crash, and looked outside to see our laundry room on fire. I told my sister to call 911 and went outside to the courtyard where all the tenants were gathering. My sister came out a couple minutes late and said the fire department was on its way. She was carrying both our purses and a brown bag. I asked her… Read more »
A Renee
First, allow me to say that I am thankful your house is still standing. 13 year old me went through this in San Diego, and my answer then was “Halloween candy and trophies.” Now, in light of the north bay fires, I have become more practical and adult. In anticipation of any emergency, I had a box on hand into which I’d tucked my important documents, passport, banking information, and work clothes. I also had, in the grab-and-go area, mementos. These were things that I could easily live without, but they would be missed. Family photos, notebooks and cards, and… Read more »
I literally just did this in September for Hurricane Irma. We had planned to stay because, well, we always do, but our storm surge zone was placed under mandatory evacuation and we said “let’s get the heck out of here.” We only had hours to pack our stuff. We needed to get on the road ASAP because of the traffic (a drive that normally takes 3 1/2 hours took us 10). Obviously, the most important was our dog and her supplies. After that, I just shoved as many of my clothes as I could into my suitcase, but like you,… Read more »
I had to evacuate once but was in the next town over, when it was ordered. I couldn’t get back to my appartment to get anything because the whole town was blocked off! (Someone one had discarded a bunch of things including an explosive device into a dumpster up the street from my home but it was removed and defused). If I had to do it again, I would take my cat, Onslow, his food and medications, as well as a few articles of clothing, my I-pad, my medications, and a few important pictures and papers. You are so right,… Read more »
Stephanie Othersen

As long as I have my boys, a few articles of clothing and shoes for each of them and me, my favorite photos of them and important paperwork (birth certificates, etc)…. the rest of my “stuff” could literally go up in flames. I say this, of course, while knocking on wood, because if I didn’t have bad luck I’d have no luck at all. Much love to you, my friend and your hubby. My home may be small, but you both are welcome to stay here anytime. xoxo!!! Miss you!!!


Well, since I have video of the inside of my home…insurance would cover all of my “stuff”. I’d bring jeans/tees/jacket, my grandpas guitar, family photos, backup portable hard dive, sanuks, and of course my dogs. Sorry fish…you’re in water, best of luck.

Shannon Utter
Hi Miss Val- Having just gone through this in Santa Rosa- and unfortunately we lost our home- one thing that I threw in the pickup that I was so happy I did was a hefty bag that I dumped my dirty laundry into. All your best clothes that you wear all the time are either in the laundry or st your fingertips. It was good. A few pairs of comfy jeans T-shirt’s and jammies. Also passports, external hard drive from the computer, a few photo albums, the dog and his food. And the kids of course. :). Glad you are… Read more »