Two Years On: Minimalism After a House Fire

My former roommates and I … celebrated (?) our two-year fire anniversary last week. Separated by 6,000 miles and an eight-hour time difference, we had to FaceTime our giggles, complaints and gossip instead of sharing them in person at a Calistoga hot springs-fed pool like we did last year, but it was still a celebration.

My grandmother's former makeup case.
My grandmother’s former suitcase, family photos and a whole lotta asbestos.

I like that we’re making it a point to celebrate our fire anniversary every year. It’s a cliche, but it really was one of the best things to ever happen to me. And one of the worst.

This is what it’s like to recover after a fire.

You get five days to lose your shit. Six weeks to mourn. Then it’s over. You will lose trust for the phrase, “Just let me know what I can do to help!” but you will gain trust for the friends who put you up for days or even weeks or give you clothes.

I will say it over and over again, I will always cherish the fact that I’ve put experiences and relationships over money and things. I was a minimalist before the fire; I am and will always be an even more strident one now. I’m trying to figure out how to never own anything ever again besides a few pieces of clothes. (FYI: you can rent jewelry and artwork by the month, and most libraries even lend out books on Kindle.)

Focus, focus, focus

My life is smaller now, which sounds like a bad thing. In fact, it’s much richer. If you land on it the right way, a smaller but tighter safety net will protect you better than a giant one with too many holes. The fire taught me to choose the small safety net.

I have no interest in sweating the small stuff anymore. I turned 40 right before the fire. I’ve had an incredibly full life filled with experiences, travel, friends, a one-in-a-million career. And I still want all of that. But maybe 80% less of it.

Have you ever hunted around your closet or pantry and found an old pair of jeans or that jar of dulce de leche you’d completely forgotten about? That’s what I mean. To me, minimalism is not about trying to keep to 100 items or denying yourself again. To me, minimalism is about not wasting time riffling through closets or pantries and instead spooning that dulce de leche on some ice cream, curling up in those jeans, and enjoying a good book.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s