My Burning House and Why You Need a Simpler Life

Don’t loose sight of what is important particularly to you

I once read a story about a man who lived in an old house owned by his family for generations. Having to run back to the house from his daily routine at the city, he found that everything they owned was thrown down to ashes by fire. More important than his belongings, was the loss of the family’s entire legacy and history. Every memory, every picture every memento was now gone forever and there was no amount of insurance money that could make up for that.

The story is not one of tragedy, but of prevail and most importantly one with a very important lesson. As most behavioural psychologist have remarked, humans are terrible predictors of future happiness or sorrow. At the end the man rebuilt his life along with his family and everything worked out well for them.

To be honest I forgot the original lessons and even from which book I read the story, ja! But being clear of that baggage has allowed me to discover an even more important lesson.

As we are preparing the workshops for our bootcamp on “Living a Meaningful Life” (they will be on spanish though) I stumbled across an interesting exercise. It seems this man’s story has been a great point of reflection as not only has inspired a life simulation exercise but an entire community around it.

And as I can’t ask anyone who will take the workshop to do something I haven’t tried I’m doing every single exercise. Some with great and joyful results, a few with painful realisations that are hard to overcome but yield great truth and personal growth.

Don’t worry, this one was a fairly quick and enlightening one, don’t be afraid of this one it’s actually fun!

The Burning House!

Imagine for a second that you wake up in the middle of the night to find your house on flames. You have but a minute to pack up your most valuable possessions and flee to safety. Go ahead! make a list of the things you would take with you. But Remember list only what you can carry and pack in less than a minute.

What I liked about this exercise is that it allows you to find what really matters in your life. Without much time to rationalize things, it’s your heart telling you what you really care about. It forces your to face a dilemma between your most cherished possessions according to its emotional and financial value. Finally it makes it very clear what’s your background and personal priorities. As Foster from puts it:

“If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.”

If it was your burning house what would you take with you? What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities.

It personally was a good sign that I was drifting away from what really matters.

Three years ago, I could easily pack all my important belongings in a backpack and take the next plane to anywhere. Actually that is something I always enjoyed doing. But lately I lost that ability. I realized this during my last packing when I decided to spend winter with my family.

I had two medium suitcases, a backpack and still had a hard time moving my toys (ps3, Display, iMac). The problem was not only that I had too much stuff in my life, but that it had become complex. I filled my life with extra clutter which by itself made no harm, but represented the amount of things in my mind. I had lost my flow and inner balance.

I brought back home only half of my stuff and the rest remains in Mexico City. After a few months I realize that I don’t really need any of the stuff that I left. Actually I don’t even need most of the stuff I have now!

Yet I did noticed something; most of the stuff I picked up are small gifts and mementos from special people. I took no money, no clothes, no toys (ps3, psp, etc), just mementos, my laptop, backup drive and passport.

A big realization was that I noticed I didn’t have all my important gifts and mementos with me. Half of them remain in México City and the ones that I had never left the home.

This speaks of a truth that for myself and anyone that knows me even for a short amount of times seems obvious: I usually part leaving friends and loved ones behind, scattered among different places and times. I realized how easy is to stop thinking about people and things I care about.

What I will do immediately is to gather up all things that are valuable to me, which by now are dispersed in every city I’ve lived in. Then then slowly, start to keeping closer all those people who are not always had present.

So If you haven’t, go ahead! There is no time to think just take what’s the most important in your life!

Take a picture, and share your list on

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