Home vs. Stuff vs. the Hurricane


I live in Savannah, Georgia.  For those of you who are unaware, we had a run-in with a hurricane in 2016.  Matthew ran parallel to the Florida coast and then set his sights to visit my coastal county at just the perfect time – high tide.


Kind of like bringing a pig to a barbecue…


Matthew was the world’s worst tourist.  He acted like he owned the place, made a mess, left, and forced the locals to clean up after him.


We had plenty of warning.  But deciding whether to evacuate or hunker down is not as straightforward a decision as you may think.  You wonder how serious the storm will be.  You worry about looters.  It’s hard to know whether you are over- or under-reacting.


In the end, my family decided to evacuate to a hotel in Atlanta.


Once the car was packed, I took one last walk through my home to make sure all the interior doors were shut, toilets were turned off, tubs were filled, etc.


Walking through my house for perhaps the last time really put my “stuff” in perspective.  Yes, I have cherished possessions.  Yes, if something devastating happened to my home I would be devastated.


But, the only things I took were water, food, clothing, my family, my dog, and a couple of pieces of jewelry that my grandmother left me.


Everything else was just stuff.


The pictures on the wall could be reordered.


Furniture stores sell furniture.


We need new carpet anyway so I don’t care about that so much.


I love that granite countertop but it won’t fit in my trunk.


Stuff.  Even Memaw’s jewelry was just stuff, but it was easy to throw into the pouch with my earrings.


My husband and I stayed up almost all night watching the TV when the hurricane hit Savannah.  With each passing minute I thought about…


Everything but my stuff.


Were the people I knew who decided to hunker down at home going to be okay?


Would Tybee Island ever be the same?


How many of the beautiful old oak trees that line the streets of Savannah would be lost?


Would Mitchelville Beach still have those gorgeous marsh grasses?


I have only lived in Savannah a little over a year, but I realized that my “home” is not centered on my stuff.  And, I wonder why it took a very real possibility of losing all my stuff to make me remember this fact.


In case you’re wondering, my house and my stuff are fine.  I was able to replace most of what I lost with one trip to Publix.  And, the Spanish moss will grow back.


Many people lost more; some lost loved ones.


I have my loved ones.  And to get really corny, I know that I was able to fit everything that was important to me in my SUV.


I am grateful that I don’t have the added stress of rebuilding a house or clearing uprooted trees.  And my sympathies are with you if you are facing that daunting task.


But, a small piece of me would have been happy for an excuse to get new carpet…




Note:  Thank you to the leaders of Savannah, Chatham County, and the state of Georgia who had the impossible job of convincing residents to leave their homes (and stuff) and to stay away until it was safe to return.  I simultaneously loved and cursed you. 


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


  1. Lydia Ramsey

    You said it all so beautifully, Melissa. My late husband, the photographer, would have added, “Take the family photos.” We did in 1999 when we evacuated during Floyd. Of course, he was talking about the old photo albums we collected over the years. For the digital crowd, that simply means take the smartphone. And who would have left home two weeks ago without their mobile device? I took the photo albums. Hank would have been happy.

    P.S. I took my grandmother’s jewelry, too.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      That’s true, Lydia. Not all photos are backed up digitally.

  2. Michele Rumpf

    I thought about this very thing recently, because Mobile will get nailed sooner or later. At the end of the day, you’re right. It’s just stuff but I still came up with 10 things (aside from people, pets and important papers) that I will take when we’re in the crosshairs

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      My son asked me today what we will pack in the car besides the essentials, and I have a few things on my list as well.


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