the burning house.

There's a fantastic tumblr project that I've been following for the past few months. It's called the Burning House. The idea is this: you gather up the items that you would grab first if your house was on fire, photograph them, and submit the photo + list of items to the website. It forces to you think about the things that are important to you, the things that matter the most. The website says, "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."

I asked the Fernweh staff to send me their photos and lists. Here is what we would save from our respective burning houses:

Hannah says,

My list of items is mainly sentimental, comprised of letters and photos, items that are linked to traditions, and various things that hold memories.

  • Old photographs
  • A jar of (used to be) swirled sand from when I was three
  • A letter from my mom
  • A photobooth of my sisters and I
  • A necklace + bag from a trip to Arizona when I was little
  • My Minnesota cards bought one year at Woodland
  • Two scrapbooks from preschool and kindergarten
  • My camera (not pictured), phone, and laptop
  • Two of my moleskines and a pen
  • My great-grandma Dumpling's dumpling recipe in her own handwriting
  • A drawing my grandpa drew of me for my fourth birthday
  • Wood from a board my cousin broke (he's a second degree black belt in Taekwondo) that he signed + put a sticker on for me when we were both small

Kendall says,

It's so hard to narrow it down, but...
  • My journal
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because it's a first edition copy with so many memories attached
  • Necklace that used to be my grandmother's
  • iPod
  • Childhood favorite stuffed horse named Mardi Gras, because I am sentimental and also he's really soft, okay?
  • Assorted collection of mementos/letters/cards from people because those are definitely irreplaceable
(Also, possibly my camera, not pictured.) 

Libby says,
  • letters// the letters from my pen pals, Katie and Abbey, mean so much to me. They're the beginnings of a friendship founded through the internet and continued onto paper, and they are irreplaceable. There's a box waiting to be filled with them and I would save it. 
  • painted rabbit// one December, my mum and I went to a pottery painting shop with some close friends. Although we have since drifted apart, I miss that friendship and this is a tangible reminder of her, and her family, and of time spent with my mum too. It holds a lot of memories. 
  • pocket atlas// this is my dad's book, technically, but it belongs to us all. He would look through it with me and my older brother, showing all the places he had lived. I could find Sri Lanka and Malawi, where he grew up, so easily in this atlas. And as I have grown up I have begun plotting my own adventures in it. 
  • my journal// there's a bunch of these on my bookshelf, but this is my current one and it feels like the most important. It's full of thoughts and poems and tears and collages and bus tickets and confusion.
  • assorted friendship bracelets// this collection of bracelets comes from a few 'real life' friends and one from Abbey. They remind me of sharing secrets and of summer and of making promises to be friends forever. And they act as reminders to love my friends too. 
  • pinkie the bear// this was a present from my great grandpa, the last autumn before he passed away. I was always so scared of him, I never knew what to talk to him about or how to comfort my family when he died, but seeing this little tiny pink bear reminds me of how much there is to a person and how many ways they can show their love. 
  • the great gatsby// as with most things, this too has meaning. Unlike the rest, it is replaceable, but it will never be the same. A gift to my mum from her sister, when they were teenagers, and read by me and my brother. It's filled with my family as well as a fictional story. 

As for me, (no picture, because my camera cord has disappeared) 
  • a stack of journals. five of them so far, one for each month this year. they're irreplaceable. 
  • my box full of letters. if you've sent me a letter, card, or postcard in the past years, it's in there. I have letters from Canada, England, South Africa, China, ect. 
  • Prismacolors. 
  • my favorite photo of Joseph, Anna, and I from when we were little. 
  • Laptop, iPod, and phone.
  • A signed copy of Paper Towns, from when I met John Green. 
What would you save from your burning house? 


  1. Wow, this is so creative. Love it! Also love the fact that Harry Potter and The Great Gatsby would be rescued :D

  2. I would take my collection of journals, a photo album I made with vintage pictures of my grandparents (young newlyweds in the 40s), my boxed Chronicles of Narnia set, a couple of my favorite records, my iPod, and probably a few of my vintage brooches (especially the ones that belonged to my grandmothers).


  3. This is a neat idea! I have no idea what I would take, because I have so many things that are special to me.

  4. wow. i really love this idea. so creative! :)

  5. oh how cooly! Thats awesome! Now ive got to think about what I would grab! :)

  6. This is such a great idea!!!! Love it! Where's Carlotta's?! :(

    1. I am an awful person and didn't turn my piece in on time. blame it on an acute case of finals brain. ;)

  7. I love this idea!! I just might give it a try! :D

  8. Whoa. You met John Green?? I'm so jelly. This is a great project -- I think I might try it!


  9. Oh, wow. Amazing idea! I wonder what I would take...

    eve @ essence of eve

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. The first thing I would grab is my little brother or sister's hand. Second, I would make sure my dog wasn't trapped. Thirdly, I would grab my camera and a box of old diaries/photographs.

  11. oh wow, this is definitely something to think about. too cool!

  12. This is a great idea and post. :) I think I may have to do this...


  13. what a great idea! I have a trunk that's on the dresser next to my bed that I would grab that's filled with journals, pictures, letters, cards, and mementos. My camera, phone, iPod, and family of course... (;

  14. My family, but as for possessions (in order of importance) Childhood Stuffed Animal(s), Photos of me and my family + our big house and forest from when we lived in NJ, Camera, Book of Robert Frost Poems, Scrapbook.

  15. What a fun post! Great job on putting it all together :)

  16. Oh I love this idea. I've thought about it a lot, but have never put it together like this, might steal the idea ;)
    I just scrolled through the site over there too...

    so interesting..


  17. Books. My favorite bible that I've written all over. The Book Theif. Harry Potter probably. Holes? Artemis Fowl. And maybe a few more.
    My purse, which would contain my ipod, phone, wallet, etc.
    The ipad.
    My box of letters from my BFF, there's like 300 in there.
    My scrapbook and more pictures if I could.
    First pair of pointe shoes and dance costumes???
    Some antique hand me downs like hankies and little women china dolls.
    My wand :)
    My prefect badge.
    Rufus, my most favorite stuffed animal.
    And I don't think all of that would fit in a picture. Problem...

  18. This is so cool! I've been thinking about what I would grab. The first thing I would grab is moma-kitty

  19. with ya'lls permisson, i would lovelovelove to write my own burning house post on my blog! it is such a great idea and very thought-provoking.

    1. Go ahead! This was inspired by the tumblr project too, so take a look there as well: http://theburninghouse.com/

  20. i love Harry potter!