have you ever daydreamed and imagined what it would be like to start over?  i mean from scratch.  what would your choose today to live with?  what would your home/wardrobe look like if you could wipe the slate clean and start fresh?  what would your essential list look like? i mean the rock bottom basics that you really wouldn't want to live without.  mine looks kinda like this...

a good mattress
soft linens
a comfy sofa
a couple of good reading lamps
good cookware

for one of my dear, sweet readers this isn't a daydream, it is actually a real life nightmare. i noticed she wasn't around and commenting like she used to,  so i sent her a email asking how she was.

this is part of the chilling email i got back...

on may 29 i woke up, thought my kitchen smelled funny, lit a candle, and my home exploded from a gas leak. i have been in st john's mercy burn clinic and am presently in mercy rehab hospital in st louis. if all goes well i will be moved home in 7 days with home health care assistance.. my husband and i will live with my mother and father in law since we have no home or belongings. my husband is well and i am in rehab with 70% burns---3rd degree on parts of my body, 20% on my face. i am lucky to be alive. i said i regretted lighting that candle, but one doctor said to me, if i had not done that, my husband and i would have very well been found both dead from the gas line leak.
i'm so grateful to be alive and have the chance to be with my loved ones.

i'm happy to report that she is out of the hospital, improving everyday and living with her in-laws.
and all she is asking for is some help with putting together what she is calling an essential list.
maybe you can help?  can you think about it for a moment and share what your essential list would look like?  thanks so much.  think about wardrobe too b/c i'm gonna ask about that next week.:)



  1. Unbelievable. What an awful experience. Essential list for me, my camera, a hammock, a soft blanket and a big wine glass. Best wishes. Perhaps, we could send care packages....or some of the items on her wish list.

    1. thanks ginger but she doesn't want anything, believe me i tried. all she wants is the list. :)

  2. Oh I am so, so sorry.

    Essential list? Kindle, computer, iPhone. All white china for 10, in case I want to have people over. Good cutlery. A basic set of All-Clad cookware, and some Le Creuset. Small and large juice glasses from Crate and Barrel. A good sofa, with a coffee table and cushions. A TV. Nice large white towels, good sheets. A comfortable bed and a rug for the bedroom. Bedside tables and lamps. A dresser and a closet for my clothes.

    Drugstore stuff like toilet paper and toothpaste and lotion. A good hairbrush.

    When I divorced, I did start over. These were the things I needed most.

  3. This book gives excellent advice on decorating with essential pieces that are versatile and classic: Good Bones, Great Pieces: The Seven Essential Pieces That Will Carry You Through a Lifetime by Suzanne and Lauren McGrath

  4. I'm so sorry to hear that. There's a great book by Dominique Loreau called 99 Objects, written by a French woman who lives in Japan. It covers everything from clothes to household objects. The Vivienne Files had a series of illustrated posts in November and December.

    Sending healing thoughts her way.

  5. Goodness my heart goes out to her, my in laws lost their home in a fire a few months back and lost everything too but they did not have any injuries to contend with, I wish her well in her continued healing.

    My essentials: a couch, a TV, a computer, a phone, a bed, bed side light, 4 white plates, 4 mugs, a kettle, a microwave, 4 knives/forks/spoons/a tin opener, toiletries towels, comfortable clothing, and to make life a little softer, a cosy throw, a plant and a healing diet full of protein, vitamin and minerals.

  6. This stopped me in my tracks . . . I am having difficulty of thinking of MY list when I am pondering on your friends ESSENTIAL LIST.

    I would think for her:
    Best mattress possible
    Comfy sofa
    Comfy chair
    Soft bed linens
    Comfy clothing
    Books on tape, it might be difficult to hold a book.
    A caregiver

  7. janet, please send your friend our love and warm wishes for a full and speedy recovery. I am having a hard time coming up with a list of anything when I think of how important health, friends, and love are to us all. all my best, donna

  8. Starting over, that is what I want to do. I guess I am tired of looking at my stuff. Then, I read about your friend, and it slaps me in my face. Nothing like a good slap to wake me up and appreciate my life. Sending my best to your friend and her family.

    1. Ditto for me. I have often thought how nice it would be to start over until I got to the part about Janet's friend, and I hope I am never in her position. Time to get even more serious about decluttering and minimizing and sending off my excess to somebody who can hopefully use it.

      For your friend's essentials list, I would add a Bible or other uplifting reading, and maybe a journal to help get me through the next little while.

  9. Oh Janet,
    I am in shock at reading this!!! Thank the good Lord that she and her husband are alive!
    Please let us know if we can help her in anyway with any of the things she may need on her essentials list!
    Soft bedding
    bath towels

    Keep us updated if possible.

  10. I can't think of a list....probably someone up above was watching over father suffered 3rd in degree burns on only 30% pf his body in 1995 and still can't manage to shave or button his shirt...I spent 4 months in a burns ward talking to him by a phone, he was isolated in a room and we only saw him through a glass window...omg hope she 'll be better, hope she can overcome that pain, it depends on where the burns are...I am amazed she can write an e-mail!!!

  11. Wow, this rocked me this morning, reading that! Tell her there are lots of people that she doesn't even know praying for her!!!

    Essential list:

    My husband and daughters, they are not things, but if I was left with only them...I would still have the world.

    Mattress with nice sheets and pillows
    towels, washclot and soap
    toothbrush and toothpaste
    a few changes of clothing
    sewing machine
    cookware and dinnerware
    lighting and comfy chair

    sending prayers for healing of mind and body to her... donna :)

  12. I feel very bad for your friend and her struggles. I pray that her recovery continues to be good and thankful that she has her husband to support and care for her through this.

    My list would be simple.
    Comfy bed, lamp, sofa, wood table, books if possible.

    Please email me off blog at

  13. I am so deeply sorry. Please let me know if help is needed.
    SF Bay Area

    My list:
    my children
    my best friends
    copies of my childrens pictures growing up
    snuggly bed and pillows
    My favorite real silk sheets.
    soft floor rug for next to bed
    comfortable soft chair with foot stool
    Small table that can be moved around as needed
    2 floor lamps
    small bookcase to start a new favorite book collection
    large round mug and chamomile tea
    Long organic cotton robe
    pair of soft wool slippers
    3 linen blouses
    long soft wool skirt
    short linen skirt
    palazzo pants
    pair of Haflinger wool clogs
    pair of sandals
    kimono jacket
    large basket to hold clothes
    tooth paste and toothbrush
    hair brush
    California Baby body wash
    Aubrey Honeysuckle Shampoo
    jojoba oil
    coconut oil
    lavender oil
    lip gloss
    nail clippers
    small basket to hold above items
    older Bernina sewing machine
    dress maker scissors, thread and needles, measuring tape

    It feels strange to make this list for so many reasons.

  14. How tragic. I hope she'll have a speedy and thorough recovery.
    I often think that I'm not really attached to any of my stuff and it's not worth anything. Everything is replaceable especially since it has all come from thrift stores and curbs.

    I guess survival essentials for me would be a chair, computer, wine, water, chocolate, salad fixings, a bed and toiletries and a living fern.

    Your friend will be in my prayers

  15. So very sorry. Sending positive energy to this lovely lady and her family.

    There are so many super ideas here. Having been through a few upheavals in my life, I can attest that life and love are among the top essentials. Thankfully she has those!

    And a good bed. A really good bed. We do so much healing while we sleep, so if possible, get the bed of your dreams. Love the bed in the photo! xo

  16. janet - well that puts it all in perspective...

    My goodness, my heart goes out to her. I can't add much more to the list than what other greater minds than mine have identified, except perhaps some wonderful all-natural makeup, since lipstick often makes me feel better (if the burns are not there) and a dog. I would want a dog with me during the journey to come....

  17. sending healing thoughts of love to her. i can't begin to imagine that pain.
    my list is what i actually live with now...
    and for you too, maybe, dearest lady...
    a good bed and bedside cabinets (good for storage like flash light, phone book, etc.)
    small lamps that create warm light but good too for reading.
    4 of everything in the dishes... simple corelle white. it's lightweight and lovely
    4 simple clear glass mugs... i use them for everything (yes even wine or beer!)
    a set of stainless steel cutlery for 4 or 8 (they come with extra spoons usually)
    a set of kitchen utensils (school is starting back. they are often packaged together)
    a set of glad plastic containers with lids.
    2 pot holders. 2 kitchen towels.
    good can opener. toaster. microwave. toaster oven large enough to bake a small cake.
    4 towels that are not so thick that it takes forever for them to dry.
    2 hand towels.
    2 micro fleece blankets (unbelievably soft and warm and light) i got mine at target.
    2 pillows for the bed. the bed simply made with blanket, sheets and both bed pillows...
    ready at all times to slip down upon for a nap or a good night's rest. no heavy covering.
    tv. a dvd. cd/radio. clock for bedroom.
    two reading chairs with ottomans and a table between with a lamp.
    a love seat or sofa (though i have 4 easy chairs instead of a sofa. it's better i think!)
    a book case. computer on a simple table with a comfortable chair. a lamp on the table.
    i have a dining table with 4 chairs. but i most often eat in my reading chair.
    this list is long! sorry! but i got going.
    think simple, bare and beautiful. only having what you need is restful and healing.
    it makes your home easy to clean and live in. i like to think my home is 'cozy amish!'
    i've thought to myself... i would be amish if they had indoor plumbing. and electric. lol.
    i will be thinking of you often. let us know how you are when you can!
    tammy j

  18. What a tragic story but so wonderful to hear her voice say, "I'm glad to be alive." What a wonderful perspective and truly the key to starting a life over with a new appreciation for every day.

    A simple survivor list for me would be: my computer, smell good lotions, a good bed, yes! yummy snacks, tea, books, friends.....

  19. In addition to what was written above, I would step back and think about HOW I want to live. In my case, I want to be able to walk and bike places, have nature nearby and easy to get to, lots of light and quiet (a place where I would be happy to leave windows open without being worried about noise/dirt/crime). It is very individual but I would start with the house, and would like:
    1) smaller house, but much more environmentally sound (insulated properly, built to minimize energy use and maximize solar gain etc)but with room for guests/friends
    2) a garage or carriage house to store bicycle, cross country skis, etc
    3) a very small, utterly simple country house --this seems very luxurious but I would not want it in a posh resort community but just somewhere simple and out in nature, ideally with a water view (if I downsized from a large suburban house this is not so unrealistic)
    4) a place to garden
    5) a place to engage in my pursuits (be it painting, photography, sewing, etc)
    6) I would also think about the things that take up my time that I do not like or value and see how re-engineering my life could change that (for example, I do not like the commute--so would try to minimize it and turn it into a walk or bicycle ride)
    7) I would like to make sure that I am near friends and in a neighbourhood that is truly a neighbourhood with people that I want to know for decades
    8) I would try to make sure that I could not reaccumulate the things that I did not love. So my house would have a lovely stereo (yes--better than an ipod!) but no TV, because I do not watch TV (though husband does...hmmmm)
    9) some but limited storage for reason #8

    In essence I am saying it is an opportunity to reevaluate what is important and how one wants to live before thinking about what one wants to own. If you know that you want dinner parties--yes--dinner service. If one just wants a good friend over for tea, maybe service for 12 is not desirable. i would not wish this on anyone but since it has happened, I hope this becomes a chance to live consciously, fully and gratefully.

  20. My thoughts and prayers go out to your friend for her recovery. You already have some excellent lists that are hard to add to. Certainly a nice bed with fresh crisp cotton bed linens does wonders. An I Phone 4S can serve many purposes (if she can't physically manipulate using a phone yet, Siri voice command could help). I'd downloaded some of her favorite music to sooth her spirit as well as ask friends and family to email her photos that have special meaning to replace those lost in the fire.

  21. Hi Janet,

    My list: BED and soft things on the bed would be my first priority. Especially if I we’re recovering from something. Bedrooms always seem like people’s lest priority when decorating. That would be my priority, then bath then kitchen. Hello, take-out. But nothing feels more like home then lying in your own bed with your own soft blankie.

    After you ask about wardrobe, you should ask folks for pantry items like beans, flour, olives, cracker and the like. I’m sure your list would be most helpful if she is vegan and if not others would be able to come up with additional suggestions.

    I would ask all of my family and friends to send me pictures. Then take up scrapbooking or organize the pictures to create a book using an online service. My husband did this with photos from one of our vacations. This would be a great gift for your friend too if a loved one could do this for her.

    Prayers to your friend,


    1. Hi. This is my first time posting, even though I've been reading your blog for a long time. This post really touched my heart. My aunt's home burned down. Thankfully she was not home. What she wanted most from all her friends and relatives was photos to replace all the ones she lost. Because those are the only things you can't purchase from a store. May God bless your friend and her husband.

  22. what a story...this sends chills down my spine. i'm so glad she is out of the hospital & recovering with family. best of luck to this lovely lady! my essentials would be husband, puppy, bed, & food.

  23. a tear shed down my cheek as i read this post.
    essentials are all so personal but i think when one has lived from a life or death experience....just to breath, to be loved is all we need.
    pure water, a safe home, a purpose, passion would be on the top of my essentials.

  24. My first instinct was, what can I send? But since you said she doesn't want anything, just the list, that got me to thinking. And, like you, first on my list was a comfy mattress. (Nothing else matters without a good nights sleep.) That said, there is a quote I serendipitously came across once, at a down time in my life, when my husband and I were in the process of downsizing and getting rid of many things. "Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag." - Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It has remained a source of inspiration for me. So, I think, after all this poor gal has been through, her essential list should be "doing" the things she enjoys most and creating a simple life that can revolve around that. For me, an iPod is essential; along with good food; hanging out with my daughter and going to lunch at our favorite cafes; some type of computer or iPad is essential; a few good kitchen knives, cutting board, pots and pans for the kitchen; and if she lives up north, and is anything like me, some Merrell shoes and warm, cozy socks. (The Merrell shoes are the most comfortable I have found.)

  25. I am so, so sorry to hear about this. Absolute, rock bottom essentials would be aloe vera and lavender essential oil.

  26. Sobering post that puts everything into perspective.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. Oh Janet,
    Thank you for sharing her story with us.I will remember her/family in my prayers. Life is more than THINGS and we/I forget that.

    I would want a pet ie a cat. And my Ukulele to play music to soothe my soul. And my Bible to remind myself how much Christ does love me even through hard/difficult times. He will never leave me or forsake me. HE is faithful!.
    If I can help, please let me know.

  29. My heart goes out to them both. What a brave & courageous lady she is.

    She and her husband are still here to tell the tale and I suppose the essentials are that they have one another; besides that I'd say a comfortable place to sleep, towels and bed linen, a cooker and some cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery and a refrigerator to store food, something to sit on and a table to eat off.

    Send her my love. xxx

  30. I liked your starter list. When I started over, the first thing I bought was a solid, beautifully grained table with two expansion leaves. Seats 10 when I want it to, fits in my tiny house, solid enough to dance on, and at four feet across when in its small form perfect to work at crafts.

  31. I am so sorry to hear of anyone going through heart aches for the family. Holding thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery for the family. Essentials? Your post puts it all in perspective and friends.

  32. A bed and pillow that is comfortable for her, a cozy throw for winter, a lightweight one for summer, some comfortable house shoes and bedroom shoes, soft pj's, moisturizer in a scent she enjoys, even if she can use it on part of her body, a well built night stand with lots of storage and lamps that are
    easy to turn on. I would think a sofa that is easy to get up and off of would be nice for her because she has probably underwent skin grafts and may need more, a padded ottaman to put her feet up on and the bare necessities for the kitchen. She doesnt need anything to weigh her down in her rehabilation. Oh, a pretty robe to wear around the house. Maybe some kitchen chair pads to put in her kitchen chairs that would be comfy for her. I pray that she has good days ahead of her and a speedy recovery.

  33. Oh my I feel stunned reading this. I cannot imagine how much she is suffering...
    my essential list:
    someone to love
    someone to love me back
    a roof over my head
    a comfy bed with soft sheets and a puffy down duvet
    white fluffy towels
    all white china
    Le Creuset pots
    David Austin scented rose bushes
    vases for the roses
    laptop and an Iphone
    linen tea towels
    a comfy sofa and chairs
    lamps to read books
    some great books
    face creams and lotions
    scent or perfume
    pictures of friends and loved ones
    a pantry full of comfort food
    some wooden spoons
    a few bowls in white
    a good cookbook

    That's about it for now...
    I hope you'll be able to let us know how she is progressing and if there is something we could all do to help please let us know.

  34. wow how awful for your friend. i am so sorry for what she experienced. i went though a total loss fire
    situation in oct 2007. but it was different as it was a firestorm and 1400 homes in san diego area burned.
    14 homes on our street were destroyed. we were not even here we were in san francisco and our dogs
    were at the dog sitter so none of us was injured. i am glad she is out of the hospital and i hope she has good
    homeowners insurance..?
    i know what it is like to start over and please give her my email if she wants to communicate with someone who has been through it.
    one thing i can say that i know for sure is for her not to try and make too many decisions too soon.
    she's in shock and should give herself plenty of time to get clear in her thinking before deciding too many things.

  35. LPC pretty much nailed my list - spooky, really. The only thing I would add is a dog or two. I can't imagine living without the companionship of my dogs, and they are especially comforting when I don't feel well.

    I'm sending my best healing thoughts to your friend. She sounds like she is amazingly brave. I will keep her in my prayers.

  36. Oh I just cannot imagine the pain and the suffering but I am so glad she sounds optimistic and not depressed and discouraged. I think the most essential thing is the strength of the spirit and love of others and it looks like she has both. All the material possessions are secondary but the lists everybody here suggested are great and thorough I think. Please send her our best wishes, I hope she recovers as quickly as possible. I am inspired by her and will keep her in my thoughts but if there is anything more I can do please let me know. I know she said she does not want anything and she sounds strong and proud but maybe later on she can use some 'kindness of strangers' and we can organize something for her. I know i would happily donate what I would otherwise spend on silly things I worry too much about.

  37. I started over. So did my friend after a house fire. Our list of essentials were similar (but only after temporary housing was over and we had room for furniture), if you aren't adding a dining table then...I would want a t.v. tray (it allows you to eat, do your nails AND substitutes+ as a computer/writing desk). Great comfy towels and smell good soaps can do wonders for your own personal (mental) health. A plant is nice (if you are making due without a garden and you had one previously). Sheets, your own pillow/pillow case and blanket are also nice when you are in a makeshift environment in which you can't bring your own furniture. Sometimes one or two "silly"/impractical things can do wonders for your mood when the temporary environment turns out to be longer than planned. Consider (in that case) something like...a nice print (art) that makes you happy (but only if you are the type to really LIKE art). Good luck to your friend, I certainly feel for her.

  38. I am so sad about your 'friend'.

  39. I lived as a Peace Corps volunteer for 2 years, in China. When I read this post, after a good cry, I thought about my life there. It was a good, full, crazy life, and it had very little to do with material possessions. I really learned what was essential during that experience, and I often daydream of living that way again. So, when I think back, here is the list of items that made my home there a place that home:

    1. bed
    2. blanket/sheets (i had one of those dodgy polyester blankets with a print on it, like the ones you see sold on roadsides out of conversion vans.....i loved that thing sick and considered bringing it home)
    3. pillows
    4. dining table (i was the only volunteer to have one, and we all used it regularly...i ate there, studied there, entertained company there, used it for baking, and just sat there, looking out the window. i sat at my dining table MUCH more often than on the sofa; though I know she may want a comfy couch)
    5. one big, all-purpose cooking pot (i used a wok, obviously. now i use a le crueset dutch oven....every day....i can bake bread, make stew, roast meat....anything)
    6. non-stick frying pan for eggs
    7. coffee maker (we fashioned one out of a tea pot in did the job)
    8. dishes, silverware, mugs and juice glasses (nothing matched and nobody gave a hoot)
    9. curtains (i didn't have these and often wished i did)
    10. vacuum cleaner
    11. armoir and/or dresser
    12. slippers
    13. bedside table
    14. lamp
    15. a misc. item that makes you smile. for me, there was a butterfly bush outside my kitchen window, and i watched the butterflies while i did the dishes. it made me unbelievably happy. it's still my 'happy' mental place....when the road gets rough or i have to give birth or something....i think of that butterfly bush and i smile.

    that's it. i know she doesn't want anything. i respect that. but i've also learned in life that one of the greatest gifts is that feeling that comes when people reach out, with big arms and bigger hearts, and give us a hug. sometimes, a good ol' le crueset pot can be a metaphor for that! so, if she ever feels like a virtual hug from someone out here thinking of her....say the word. and thanks for sharing. my petty problems seem....well...petty.


  40. Some soothing lip balm would be a nice extra for her. And I like the previous post of a tv tray nearby so she could have her laptop, do her nails, eat, etc.

  41. Oh, that hurts my heart.

  42. Oh Janet - I just cannot begin to imagine what your friend is going through right now! It just breaks my heart knowing that she has suffered so incredibly much! I know she said she doesn't want care packages, but like others have mentioned before me, I would also love to be able to give in order to make starting over easier for both her and her husband. Please let us know if she changes her mind, and in the meantime please let her know that she is in my thoughts and prayers.

  43. oh, i am so glad they are okay. i cannot imagine the horror, but to escape with your life...

    funny but i was just thinking back to my first attic apartment in toronto in 1995. i had a single bed (with a nice duvet), my coffee table was a sheet of glass on concrete blocks, and i had one book case. i had no tv, a little wooden table, and a few pots and pans from my mom. i managed just fine. i cooked dinners and had people over and read a ton and had a fine breeze that blew through from the back and front windows. i had a view of the CN tower out the back if i climbed onto the roof (which i frequently did at night to see the stars and smoke a cigarette). ahh...those were the days. and lots of boyfriends. those really were the days. :)

    xo terri

  44. What a thought provoking subject...having just moved and complained about all the stuff I have this is a reminder not to take things for granted. I could live with so much less, and although I love the many memories and heirlooms attached to these materialistic items my true treasures is my Husband, children, and family. ( I must add my two dogs too) If I had to begin again, I need a comfy bed with Ralph Lauren bedding, my IPad, my Bible, my camera, good set of bakeware and cookware and silverware. tervis Tumbler cups, 100 % cotton towels, keratin shampoo, good body wash, tweezers, mini scissors and sewing kit, keurig coffee maker, tea bags,
    Scented pine candles.

  45. Oh my goodness that is so very sad for her but she is so brave.
    Thinking about things for a house starting over I would say the basics are as follows :
    Comfortable bed
    Cotton sheets, soft blankets or duvet.
    Towels again, soft cotton
    Sofa with cushions
    Book case and books
    Table / desk with chairs
    1 set of china
    1 set of cutlery
    Chopping boards and knives
    Washing machine
    Pots / pans
    I will have a think too about the clothing basics.
    Sending her many positive vibes over the blogosphere. And love to you Janet...
    Sarah x

  46. it seems like the list has been tackled. My prayers go out to this couple. Please include me if you are able to help them in any other way. Count me in. I want to help

  47. Oh dear of you to check on a friend/reader and then how heartbreaking to hear her news. I can't imagine, I guess no one can. I think your list of essentials sounds pretty perfect, which is of course so like you. Your good at stuff like that. Ok...signing off for the much to think about.

  48. Copious amounts of quality chocolate!
    She and her husband will be in my prayers.
    Oh how the complaints of the day become so trivial after reading this story - it's almost embarassing.

  49. What a heartbreaking story and yet, I feel happy and hopeful that they're both alive. My most basic essentials:
    A comfortable bed with soft bedding
    A large nightstand/table next to it with a reading lamp.
    A laptop computer
    Small refrigerator
    Small microwave
    A coffee maker
    Jeans, tee shirts, and a sweaters
    Comfortable sneakers
    An Iphone
    An Ipod

    I think I could by at that. Sofa etc. would be nice, but I think the bed could double as a sofa for awhile. If she changes her mind and would like some help, please let us all know. Will be thinking of her and her husband, and you, for wondering what happened to her, and writing. Without your noticing and reaching out, we wouldn't know any of this, would we?

  50. This is just so shocking and sad. I am so very sorry that this happened. So glad your reader and her husband are both alright, but so sad that they lost their home and things that were special to them. Sending postive thoughts for healing.
    I think the everyday essentials have been wonderfully illustrated by previous commenters- the lists have been lovely to read. The only thing that I could add is that top on my essential list would be "beauty". I truly believe one needs beauty to heal their soul or their body. Beauty means different things for each of us; for me it would be having beautiful bedding, a beautiful lamp by the bed, fresh flowers (every day) and beauitful paintings. Books to read and design books to be insipired by.
    Godspeed to your friend. I hope she feels the love sent to her through this post. You are a good friend Janet.

  51. Janet,

    What a horrible ordeal for your reader...and to think I was complaining last week about a 2nd degree burn on my finger from a glue gun! I can't imagine the pain and suffering she had to endure but at the same time is incredibly lucky to be alive. Just goes to show how one's life can change in an instant.

    Essentials for me would be my family, my dog, phone, books, computer, (to read blogs) magazines, comfortable bed, flowers, makeup, good food, (and my recipes!) coffee and chocolate!


  52. My list would echo many shown above. I just want to add my thoughts and prayers for your friend and her family. What a horrific thing to go through, but what a miracle that they lived to tell about it.


  53. My greatest sympathy for having to go through this.

    The ideas your post has generated have been fantastic, though, and yes, I've often wondered how I'd do it if I could, since I was a child, really (that's how I am discovering I have actually always been a minimalist deep down!). I can't really add to the lists, they cover pretty much every base, though I know I would want a pet (medium sized dog for me) and dare I say, a scented candle (probably not appropriate for this lady). A little softness and comfort are a necessity.

    My daughter and her husband have just started over in a new country. They bought a bed with drawers below for clothes storage as their main purchase. Then a guest bed (also with drawers below for linens or other items) - he has a lot of family and we all want to visit, too. Family is so important to all of us so it was important that they don't isolate themselves in the new country, and family are always welcome.

    Their house is just one bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and a multipurpose living-dining room, and they have a small simple garden (with a push mower), all in neutrals with white/wood. Sounds perfect to me! This is also what I would choose (also assuming that you have running water hot/cold, electricity and probably a washing machine, those I think I would prefer!). Nowadays I would want an internet connection, as it's a bit of a lifeline, and my iphone and Macbook.

    For the living room, a nice big soft rug, a large coffee table and cushions, then the table can be used for work or play or eating without having to have separate soft furnishings and dining sets. The only person in our family who can't get down on the floor is my 96 yr old grandmother; my daughter has a table/2 chair set for the garden, though, that can be brought in as necessary.

    Wardrobe-wise I would start out with a Six Items or Less wardrobe and work from there, depending on my lifestyle - either jeans/shirts/sweater or more formal. You just don't really need more, I think.

  54. How terrible for your friend! My heart goes out to her.

    Essentials: a good mattress, bedding, a reading lamp or two, a sofa, a few chairs (they could be wooden chairs - handy for standing on to change light bulbs, reach shelves, etc.) a clock, a television and/or radio, music, books, some fluffy towels, a computer, some inexpensive prints for the wall that please the eye, toiletries, a side table or two, inexpensive dishes in white that will go with anything, cutlery, pots and pans, a coffeemaker, loved ones around you.

  55. Bless you Janet for checking in on her. You really do love your readers......
    I hope she heals, in every way.

  56. Janet,
    My heart goes out to your dear friend and her husband. I hope to hear wonderful things about her progress in the future. If I were to start over completely from scratch I would live on the coast for the ocean is a calming force. I would live near a church for that is where I feel comfort. I would live near a great library so I may read many books, yet not have to store them. I would purchase all white linens for white always goes w/ white and can all be washed together and dryed in the sun w/o fear of fading. Wood floors in a home are essential for beauty and practicality. A memory foam mattress is essential for a good night's rest preceded by lavender chamomile tea. For appliances I would purchase only a Blentec blender, because you can make healthy meals quickly and it replaces so many other appliances. For cook ware I purchase Le Crueset which would of course be red. Music is the only place I'd allow myself to be excessive as I don't believe a person can have too much of that stored on an IPOD. For clothes I would start w/ a great pair of jeans and two v-neck tee shirts one grey and one white. One cashmere sweater in my favorite shade of blue. For shoes I would stick w/ Sole flip flops and a cute pair of Born ballet flats. I would also add one silk scarf.

  57. Wow. She is lucky to be alive. As a recovering burn victim, her list will surely include things that many of us cannot fathom a need for-but I think if she's to have a caregiver, she might also benefit from an aide dog-not sure, but I think it may help.

    I was widowed at 50. I found a puppy wandering the neighborhood soon after...and while I say rescued him, he really rescued me.

    I know she said she doesn't want anything, but if she changes her mind-or you figure out something we can do- please let all of us know. Sending healing vibes her way this morning...

  58. What a horrible, sad story. I wish her the best and will keep her in my thoughts. I recently went to a funeral for my son in law's grandma. She was an Irish woman living here in the USA for quite some time. On the remembrance card given out by her family, there was a poem and the last line of it still remains with me - "Twas heaven here with you". I think that says it all. All we sometimes need is our family and friends to stay by our side through all the bad times as well as the good ones. I hope she has this in her life. Sounds like she does. I wish I could help her in some way. As far as essential lists go, I think everyone has covered it all. I hope her family remains close to her and she heals both physically and emotionally. If there is anything I can send her, please tell me.

  59. Janet told me that many of you realized that it was me, Suzanne in Illinois, who has had this set back, and since I love to comment on Janet's blog, I will say, yes, it is me. There are 3 things that we need in order to heal, and they are: 1.God 2.A good attitude. 3.A strong support sytem. I have all three, and because of Janet and you, her remarkable readers, my support system is world wide! I lost 50% movement in my left arm and 10% movement in my right. Home health care said I was doing so well tnat they were ready to move me to outpatient therapy 3xs a week. I believe my recovery is helped through the power of prayer. And my head no longer feels confused as to what I must replace. I plan to carefully study all your comments, and create my own list. We are in the position to rebuild a much smaller home. My husband is not happy about a smaller home, but I am. Two years of The Gardeners Cottage has helped me see so many things in a different light. So, thank you, Janet, and thank you to my fellow readers with your prayers and essential lists. I could not possibly ask for more...well..except for you to know that I love reading your comments and think you are one exceptionally compassionate and intelligent group. Sending best are all always in my prayers -Suzanne in Illinois

    1. Suzanne,
      Thoughts and prayers are with you!

  60. Oh, never cease to amaze me. All of your comments over the years make it so crystal clear that you live your life with kindness, grace and fortitude. You are in my thoughts and prayers. May you continue to heal and your faith keep you strong. God-speed! Much love and hugs to you.

  61. Sending your friend some sparkle thoughts......

    I think my start over list would be;
    A good sleeping bag, a few comfy blankets, my phone and computer, a razor, a big comfy vintage couch for my friends (I'm the only one that likes to sit on the floor), 6 plates & wine glasses & silverware all colorful & mismatching (there are too many pretty patterns to choose from), a couple plants, a place to garden, a couple candles, some soft clothes, 1 each bath towel, hand towel, wash cloth, dish cloth, dish towel. The rest can be accumulated over time.

  62. Janet,

    I would be honored to help in any way I can. I will pray and send something once you let us know what they need.


  63. I got a new taste of what love really is when we were recovering from the double whammy of losing our home and possessions to the Oct '07 San Diego (Witch Creek) firestorm and our beloved nephew to suicide just 6 days before.

    I was devastated — and traumatized. But today, almost 5 years later, I can say I've been blessed. Despite many tears and dark moments, I am deeply thankful for the love and friendship that helped us realize that ‘this too shall pass'. The blessings of love and friendship are what kept me going.

    Through many weeks of stress and anguish, working through multiple problems, I felt nearly worn out, but amazed at how much I could endure and still keep on going. I remained encouraged by the grace and love of friends who called, e-mailed or wrote, or just located us and came by. So many people asked, "Is there anything I can do to help ? " — not realizing they already had-- just by asking. Every time someone reached out to us it felt like an embrace, like receiving yet another wonderful present.

    We found after losing it all that we actually "had" more than we ever knew. Our friends and family surrounded us with love, gifts, gift cards,
    pictures of our home from years gone by and so many more things. We were dumbfounded by how much so many people cared.

    I think it was Oprah who expressed so well – to know that people care about how you're doing when the doings aren't so good — that's what love is. I feel very blessed to have come to know this from personal experience.

    I was/am thankful each day for the love all around us and for the interest and positive thoughts and good wishes of our friends. And all the help we had as well. We have come a long way – but my healing advanced one day at a time.

    Suzanne--please keep focusing on the fact that you will have a brand new house, that will be realized by your decisions. When our home burned, there were many treasures lost that had been collected over the years from different places and countries, and wonderful gifts given to us by friends and relatives, but we got the opportunity to create new memories with new ‘things’. These new things now remind us of the pain we have been through and the growth we have made through this dreadful experience. We now have felt (even if we knew it only intellectually before), the blessing of knowing that it is not things in this world that are most important, but relationships.

    When it comes to this fire experience, we "victims" here in San Diego were once all green, but we've been getting older and wiser over time .
    The beauty of all this may be that now we are able to share what we have learned with others who experience disaster
    and tragedy. Maybe we can be guides for others like the Cedar fire survivors were for us ?
    The cedar creek fire survivors so thankfully led us through those blurry dark first months of November, December 2007 and January 2008.
    We saw our way into the sunshine, as you will too- eventually !!

    Before this experience, I am not sure how well I would have handled dealing with a fire family.
    I know my heart would lead me to some action, but it might not have been the most appropriate or appreciated.
    Maybe now I have gained a sensitivity that I did not have before..?..Suzanne, I sent you a private message. I hope to hear back from you.

  64. I think Shell just said what I was going to add...that the love of friends and family, knowing that you have people in your life who would sacrifice what they have to make your life better.
    Time will bring clarity about what and who are really important.
    May God bless you as you recover in so many ways.
    As you have shown, Janet, less IS more with the wisdom of age.
    May we, all, add your friend to our prayers and daily will make a difference.
    xoxo, Chris

  65. Suzanne, you are in our thoughts and prayers and I wish you continued success in your fight for recovery. I pray that your healing would be as positive as your attitude is. Thank you for reminding us about what’s important in our lives. You’re so right – you have all you need in your three things.

    I agree with so many that a comfortable bed and nice linens feel so good to sink into at the end of the day. If I could start over, my wish list would be:

    1. light – I would like the main rooms to have windows on at least two sides for wonderful light and cross breezes.
    2. wood floors
    3. small, but efficient kitchen
    4. big shower – ok, not essential but since I’m dreaming…
    5. minimal, but comfortable furnishings (the comfy bed, of course)
    6. porch, patio, or some kind of outdoor area to look at…
    7. a garden
    8. ADA friendly – I would like a home where I could age in place
    9. all of this in a Red Riding Hood city – not too big, not too small with wonderful weather

    For me, stuff would be acquired gradually, as I find out what I really need and no more, keeping in mind William Morris’ useful and/or beautiful maxim.


  66. Suzanne's courage is amazing. I will be praying for her recovery. I would suggest rather than specific items, a general philosophy of resisting the urge to go to a big box store and replace everything all at once. Instead I would replace items slowly with some thought as to quality over quantity. That way you can get to that point where you truly own only that which you love and is useful and will last. If I had to throw one thing in that I use all the time and would replace immediately it would be a Le Creuset dutch oven. It is so versatile and I've grown so attached to having one, that it would be the one thing that would start to add back a bit of normal to my life. Other than that, I've learned I don't need fancy china AND casual dinnerware/ silver flatware AND stainless flatware, waterford crystal AND everyday wine glasses, a stand mixer AND a hand mixer...... One type would suffice for each and I would definitely go with casual rather than formal. This could carry on into many things.

  67. too awful for words. I am so sorry for her. You have been much on my mind lately J xxx

  68. I followed through to your post from FF's blog. God, how terrible for your friend. Can I just say Janet you are a sweet person for checking in after not hearing from her. She has people who care and that's an essential. I wouldn't really know where to start with a list, but I suppose the basics food, shelter, love. Poor thing this and some of the comments has really got me thinking.

  69. This has been a mini awakening to read.

    Here is my list of what I choose as household essentials (BTW totally agree to resist Stephanie's comment above about the big box stores. I live in 700SFT with husband and pets):
    A device to connect to internet (iPad, laptop, or smartphone, etc.)
    Wireless router
    Pet items (I have two parrots and they require cages and toys)
    1 Le Creuset Dutch oven (I use a smaller one and it can double as a saute pan if needed)
    short glass tumblers, which can be used for water, juice or wine (some can also hold hot drinks)
    A table, which can double as a dining, office or gathering area.
    2 chairs for inside, 2 chairs for outside (these can be swapped back and forth, too)
    A lidded saucepan which can be used to heat water
    1 good chef knife, 1 silicone spatula, 1 veggie peeler, 1 wooden spoon
    wood cutting board
    A comfy bed, with 1 set of sheets and a blanket, pillows, etc.
    2 Turkish towels, which can also be used as a throw, scarf
    Very good tea
    Incense or essential oils, which calm me
    Clean water
    A patch of earth for growing something, even if only a few pots
    Windows and a nice view

    Suzanne: health and healing wishes to you - I think we are all pulling for you.

  70. Thank you for your help-it cleared my head and gave me direction. Shell said it will take 3-4 here is my beginning:
    1.Susan, Mark, and Sheree said a pet. My two pups were in the fire. One died, and the other ran from the front to the back of the burning house to sit beside me. He didn't get a scratch.
    2. Bible. Christy, and Vada, thanks. Mine was old and stayed on my night stand.
    3.Good bedding. Almost all of you mentioned a good matress, nice sheets, and blankets.
    4. Claudia,Hostess of the Humble Bungalow, and Janet.. White casual dishes.
    5.Stepanie, Kamila, and Amy...a red Crueset dutch oven
    6. Tammy J...pot holdets
    7. Miranda...toiletries
    8. have one another.
    My list is not completed, but know that as I study these lists, I will continue to add things.
    Just know you have helped me and I am grateful. -Suzanne in Illinois

  71. awhh...I feel so bad for your dear reader. We had a lot of people in Colorado Springs area loose their homes to fire recently, but thankfully most of them were not actully in the fire or hurt physically. I hear that burns are extremely painful.
    Essential list:
    family and friends
    place to live
    food to eat
    clothing to keep warm or cool
    transportation to and from job

  72. OMG Janet, my heart is aching for your friend. I am sending prayers to Heaven for a speedy recovery for her and her husband.

    My essential list would include a wonderful bed, a flat screen, a vase of roses, my rosary and Kiehl's lip balm.

    This is a great, thought-provoking post. You are an angel!


  73. My thoughts and prayers are with you Suzanne!
    My essential list would include:
    - a little appartment or house
    - a good matress and comfy sheets
    - a kitchen table and chairs
    - a pressure cooker
    - a blender
    - a radio
    - a few white dishes and cutlery
    - blinds or drapes at the windows

  74. Stephanie gave some really excellent advice - I also say what she said--"replace items slowly with some thought as to quality over quantity. That way you can get to that point where you truly own only that which you love and is useful and will last. If I had to throw one thing in that I use all the time and would replace immediately it would be a Le Creuset dutch oven. It is so versatile and I've grown so attached to having one, that it would be the one thing that would start to add back a bit of normal to my life. Other than that, I've learned I don't need fancy china AND casual dinnerware/ silver flatware AND stainless flatware, waterford crystal AND everyday wine glasses, a stand mixer AND a hand mixer...... One type would suffice for each and I would definitely go with casual rather than formal. This could carry on into many things..."

    YES I SO AGREE WITH ALL OF THIS-! SUZANNE WE HAVE BEEN IN TOUCH VIA EMAIL AND I AM SO HONORED TO BE ABLE TO HELP YOU..yes long term recovery from a total loss catastrophic event can take 3-4 years. For me I think it was 3. I did not suffer any physical injuries and I am almost 5 years post-fire. I've been pretty good for the last 2 years. grateful to have another chance to live my life! But you have had physical injuries and so give yourself plenty of time.

    I'm here for you. ready and eager to help you however i can. email me whenever you want.

  75. I am new to this blog and have enjoyed going back and perusing all your posts. I would like to send my condolences to your friend. I can't imagine all she has gone through. My thoughts and prayers are with her. For what it's worth, I love the idea of slowly replacing what she lost only with things she loves.

  76. I'm so sorry, Suzanne but also happy you and your husband will be okay.

    If I were starting over, a small, simple house and furnishings like Janet's looks like perfection to me. Nothing too fru-fru or fragile.

    For clothes, a few basic quality pieces that mix and match and a pair of ballet flats. I would replace my black, seat belt handbag and wallet (from Etsy), my make-up, toiletries and of course, Coco perfume.

    Bible, IPAD (instead of computer, camera and Kindle), cell phone and basic office red.

    Best wishes to you!
    Betty H.

  77. I don't know your friend, but I'll keep her in a bit of my heart - and send good wishes and strength her way!

  78. What a terrible thing to happen, sending healing thoughts to your friend, I hope all these people taking time to think about what she needs will help her pull through this difficult time. She will need ultra soft towels, bedding, clothing and underwear, everything natural fabrics and easy to launder. Hopefully she will take inspiration from you and keep it simple. I am hoping to spend some time this week eliminating junk and unwanted stuff, it frees your mind and releases a load; physically and emotionally. Sending love.

  79. what can i do to help, i will pray and send good thoughts your friends way. i would like to send them a few little gifts if possible so if you can let me know address and such i would be most appreciated. life is so very precious and i am so glad her was not taken even tho she will hve such a journey back to some type of normal we must keep her in our prayers for a very long time.

  80. What a heart breaking incident. I'm seriously at a loss for words. Sending healing thoughts to your friend.

  81. oh my gosh, this is the most heart wrenching post, please know that my heart goes outto you all, such a tragic story, the lists already here cover everything I could ever think of, my husband and I have moved to a 500 square foot apartment on the ninth floor of an apartment building after living all our lives in the country in a good sized house.Its been 7 years now and I have learned whats most important, whats to keep and whats to let go, living with what you truly love is most important, everything seems so small and insignificant after reading this post, please be well, and please keep us updated,

  82. I must have missed this post. I'm so sorry for your friend, but she's right, she's alive! Wow, I feel to awful for her. I think your list is perfect.

  83. So sorry to read this about your friend. My heart goes to her and her husband.

    In case of burn patients, an absolute must is Rosa Mosqueta oil to heal her burn scars. There is a lot of info on the internet abut this. It also works on surgical scars. I used it myself and can attest it does work.

    I just moved to a new place so I can tell her she will need bedroom furniture, lots of hangers for the closet, towels, linens, kitchen everything, including an espresso maker, towels, couches, dining set, ironing board and iron, vacuum cleaner, storage cabinet, filing cabinet, baskets - for bedroom, kitchen, etc., laundry basket, cleaning supplies including a microfiber mop, enzyme solution (pink solution), microfiber cloths.

  84. I too am so sorry to hear of what's happened to Suzanne and her husband. How lucky they were to get out of the house alive! Yes, something like this puts it all into perspective.

    You and your readers have so many great ideas here for home essentials. Mine would include:
    1. down comforter and cotton sheets
    2. keurig coffee pot with french roast decaf for me and green tea for my sweetie
    3. sonicare toothbrush and desert essence tea tree toothpaste
    4. laptop
    5. tv with streaming netflix
    6. music
    7. a few books
    8. art - something beautiful to look at
    9. nail polish for my toes

    My thoughts and prayers are with them.

  85. I am so sorry for her loss and the pain she has endured. No one should
    have to go through this. Thank God she is alive and even with burns
    she can go on but my prayers are with her as she heals.
    No one can relate to a loss like this unless you have lived it, and I
    have. I am fortunate that my husband saved us from a burning house.
    All 3 of my sons are alive, even our dog was saved. But our house
    exploded after a faulty gas water heater's pilot light was exposed to
    a breeze in our garage. It was not supposed to be located in our garage
    but we did not know this! We lost so much but in the end we are grateful
    to God for saving us and we have an even better house with so much to look
    forward to. Time will help heal the pain and suffering. You really learn
    what is important in life, it isn't the stuff at all. All of the Stuff doesn't
    matter anymore, really! So I am not going to share a list of things, it is a
    personal choice anyway. But just know that you really don't need as much as
    you think you do after a horrific loss. Little by little you will see what you
    really need and it is a chance to pare down and really enjoy every day with your
    loved ones instead of worshiping stuff like most of us do!

  86. Janet thank you for writing this post and Suzanne I am sending my prayers your way. Bless you and your family and I hope your recovery goes as well as it can. So many great lists here, I agree with everyone.

  87. A chilling story, thank God Suzanne and her husband are alive. To think that lighting the candle probably saved their lives is rather incredible.
    My thoughts and prayers go out to them.

  88. So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend and family's home and all their special things. Even more so the terrible burns will need great courage and strength. But wonderful that they are still alive and together.

    Here in Australia we live in a group of suburbs where bushfires roared through, lives were lost and over 400 houses were destroyed. Because most people didn't have any idea that their lives and houses were at risk till almost too late, most people just managed to escape with their lives. We were away for the weekend helping to plan for our son's wedding and because we couldn't get through by phone to anyone in our street assumed our home had gone too. But we were lucky, the street was safe, although the closest fire was only about 1 kilometre away up the hill. We couldn't get through because the power and phone lines were all down. It took people a long time to get over the fires. Much of our area looked as though it had been hit by a nuclear bomb or a holocaust. It was a blackened ruin. But it was wonderful how people rallied around the ones who had lost everything but their lives. Those of us who were lucky went through our homes to find clothing, furniture etc that these poor shell-shocked people could use in temporary accommodation until their insurance money came through. Those who had power and water invited people into shower and have a home cooked meal. Even local businesses offered things to help - some dress shops instead of having sales, gave new clothes away, garden centres gave plants to people who had lost their gardens. But time does heal most wounds or at least makes them less painful. Now driving into our suburbs, you'd never know there'd been a fire. Most houses have been rebuilt, gardens re-planted and people have resumed their normal lives and seem happy again, though no-one will ever forget the trauma our suburbs went through.

    It is so encouraging to read all the supportive comments above. Your friend must be pleased that so many people who are thinking of her and wishing her well. May it speed her healing. Best wishes, Pamela

  89. All I would add to everyone's lists are cats. And a friend like Janet!

    Carole in WA

  90. In terms of clothing, soft cotton clothes would feel good versus items like jeans. Lands End and LL Bean both sell knit cotton pants with elastic waists that feel comfortable and are easy to put on. (They look stylish with tops that are untucked, so the waistband isn't showing.) They are heavy enough to be worn year round and wash beautifully.


kindness is never out of style.

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