Fire Evacuation List

I wrote this last year but the topic is so dreary that I never want to post it. However, it’s November and California is on fire again and I guess just will normally be from now on so this dreary stuff is important. We suffered the deadliest fire in our state’s history last week up North and many further evacuations in parts of Southern California are expected still today. Here are ways to help the victims of these fires. If you live in California and can temporarily offer your home/room in your home for evacuees and emergency workers see Airbnb here for Northern CA and here for Southern CA. Please remember that with most natural disaster, monetary donations are much more helpful than piles of physical stuff, something disaster workers often call “the second disaster.” 

Today I’m sharing our family’s fire evacuation list. I’ve always been a planning/prepared type but having kids turned me into an anxious, survivalist piece of work. It’s a fine line to walk between alarmist and realist and I try to do my best. So not long after we moved back to California, I made a list of things to grab if ever we had to evacuate not really thinking we’d ever need it. Though wildfire is a very real possibility in our neighborhood, this evacuation list was more of a just in case thing to ease my anxiety. The crazy thing is that last year I actually had to use the list. And I witnessed the horror of a deadly residential fire in our neighborhood. And now, several times a year, we are seeing community-leveling fatal fires, making this a very grim reality for people living in the Western US.

I was in the Target parking lot across town when I noticed a ton of smoke coming from the hills where we live, looking like the exact location of our house. My family was not home, but our dog was and I was hysterical by the time I arrived in my neighborhood, not knowing if our house was in flames and, more importantly, if our dog was ok. Thankfully he was but a home only 3 up from us was consumed with flames. I don’t want to go into details but we lost our neighbor in the fire, though we didn’t know anyone was in the home at the time. Heartbreaking and surreal doesn’t begin to describe it.

The fire kept reigniting and easily it could have jumped with a just a shift in winds, the preceding days being some of the windiest in memory. Our neighborhood is nestled into beautiful but scary brush covered flammable hills. We didn’t end up needing to leave, but for sometime evacuation was a possibility. Everyone, firefighters included, had the tragic Northern CA fires of the weeks before on our minds. The general mindset of neighbors was the same…screw possessions, we’re taking our families and pets and getting the hell out if need be. I wasn’t the only one packing a bag.

With fires, or any kind of disaster, minutes can really count so there’s no time for brain fog. I was pretty panicked and having a physical and personalized evacuation list (not googling last minute) was extremely helpful, comforting, and efficient.

A neighbor had mentioned that she separates her list into time categories, and I adopted that brilliant idea. If you have 5 minutes, you grab a, b, c and if you have 15 minutes, you also grab d, e, and f. The list is prioritized so you pack and prep what can in the time you have.

It goes without saying, if you have less than 5 minutes, you load your family into the car and drive. The massive death tolls of recent fires in heavily populated areas has been such a wake up call. Possessions mean nothing compared to your life so leave!

If you do have a few minutes to gather some possessions, load your kids and pets into your car and then back it into your driveway while you load, KEYS IN IGNITION. That way, if things deteriorate quickly, you are ready to roll.

I keep our list taped to the inside door of a cabinet at our kitchen desk. That is our home’s center of operations, so it’s convenient. Our list is very primitive, just scribbles on a tattered paper, but it does the job. (And, no, my list doesn’t contain even one vintage lamp!)

Here’s what our evacuation list looks like:

* the asterisked items are action steps to ready your home in an evacuation to make it easier and safer for firefighters to protect your home. They vary between households and this list is a great reference to help identify the ones that apply to your house. 

 

5 minutes

  • keys
  • wallet/purse
  • cell phones/chargers
  • cash
  • shoes
  • jackets
  • glasses (we’re blind over here)
  • any medications needed
  • leash
  • dog food
  • dog bowl
  • hard drive (photo storage)
  • important documents (all stored in one place!)
  • water jug

 

15 minutes

all of the above plus…

  • get dressed – including pants and tennis shoes
  • a change of clothes for everybody (pants, shirt, jacket, underwear, socks, shoes #2)
  • baby books
  • photo albums
  • cameras
  • sleeping bags
  • canned food and can opener
  • water jugs
  • *check on neighbors! – especially if you have older neighbors with limited mobility
  • *turn on exterior lights (makes it more visible to firefighters in dark/smoke)
  • *shut all windows and doors, leave UNLOCKED

 

30 minutes

all of the above plus…

  • clothes for everybody for a few days
  • toiletries for everybody for a few days
  • pillows
  • optional, depending on the situation….camping gear, lantern, radio, batteries
  • stuffed animals or a special toy for kids
  • computer
  • *turn on interior lights in each area of your home (again, to aid in visibility)
  • *open window treatments all the way (curtains, blinds, etc)
  • *bring flammable items from outside indoors (patio furniture, toys, doormats, trash)
  • *connect all garden hoses (better yet always have them all connected!)
  • *fill trash cans/buckets with water around home for firefighters

 

1 hour

all of the above plus…

  • more sentimental stuff (baby clothes, husband’s guitar, etc.)
  • toys, books for keeping kids occupied
  • *shut off gas
  • *move BBQ away from home
  • *place a ladder at corner of house for firefighter roof access
  • *remove flammable window coverings (for us, curtains and bamboo shades)
  • *disconnect electric garage door and close it
  • *flood roof and exterior of home with water
  • *move flammable furniture away from interior walls to center of rooms
  • *fill sinks/baths/tubs with water

 

A few more random things to keep in mind:

– In the heartbreaking scenario that you can’t take your pets/animals with you: DO NOT RESTRAIN THEM IN ANY WAY. Their best chance for survival is to use their animal instincts to flee. I’m in tears writing that but loving animal owners have had to make this call in recent days.

– I try to keep a stocked and updated first aid kit and flashlight in our family car as well as a couple emergency gallons of water, though we often end up using it for non-emergency times and I forget to restock.

– The minimalist in me thinks the amount of hoses we own and have hoked up on every side of our property is so ridiculous, but I will NEVER AGAIN complain about them and now proudly keep them connected and ready to flow. Residents within feet of our neighborhood fire fully utilized their ready to go hoses and believe that stash saved their home. I enthusiastically joined the more-hoses-than-you-think-you-need-and-they-are-always-connected club and all Californians should too!

– For insurance purposes, it can be very helpful to have the contents of your home documented in the unfortunate event that you lose it all. Yearly, I used to quickly walk through our house recording a video while I opened every drawer, cabinet and closet. It takes only a few minutes and you’d be surprised by what you forget you have. (Admittedly, I’ve slacked on that since I started documenting every house update, vintage furniture acquisition, etc on the internet…)

 

I hope none of us ever have to use any of this information, but the realist in me knows that’s unlikely. Please, please be prepared for the inevitable. Sending so much love to all the people impacted by these fires. And infinite thanks to the superhero firefighters and first responders who are battling blazes and saving lives. I’m heartbroken that my home state is up in flames again. Love you California. Stay safe everybody.

 

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A New Year

I know I’ve probably missed the whole end-of-year-wrap-up window, but I’m going there anyway today with year-end house highs and my new year house hopes! And I apologize in advance because this went way longer than I planned…just scroll down if you are looking for pretty pictures and bullet lists!

Christmas was a fun-filled, mad-rush to the finish line for us and then we spent the following week frantically finishing up our front yard and installing wood floors in my son’s room. After that, we were thankful to zone out last week in Lake Tahoe. It was a nice recharge for me. Away from the sight of our house projects/still not put away Christmas decorations with plenty of time to think and read and reassess and plan and make lists in my head – my favorite! And to decompress from the holiday crazies. And the year in general crazies.

Like most, I would say last year sucked in so many ways. It was a hard one. “Current events” were unreal. Like was 2017 an alternate universe??? Personally, it was really rough for our family as well. We lost two grandmas. And something I haven’t talked about before, but something that will define 2017 for our family, was a hard fought battle against OCD. I’m not talking the offensive “I like things organized so I call it OCD” kind of OCD (that I am previously guilty of and forever sorry for!). I’m talking consuming, terror-inducing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This isn’t my story to tell so I won’t go into details, but we figured out that one of our sweet, spirited, and strong willed babies has actually been silently battling OCD for like ever. Our summer was spent doing something called Exposure Response Prevention therapy (ERP), where you inundate/force your little child to do the very things that seem like irrational, no-big-deals to you, but that elicit the strongest physiological panic responses you can imagine from them (touch something with their right hand but not with their left). It was traumatic and devastating and hard. But so healing. And something that we will be revisiting forever because OCD isn’t something that’s cured. (I cried through the entire Season 2 of Stranger Things because I’m pretty sure the whole show, whether purposely written that way or purely coincidental, is a beautiful allegory for OCD. The Shadow Monster being OCD and Will being my child and Winona Ryder’s smoke-out of the monster being the heartbreak of ERP parenting.) I can’t express how thankful I am for answers and therapy and help and a path to freedom for my child, but also to distance myself from last year because nothing about it was easy. I have hope, that at least on this front, the worst is behind us…

But somehow, last year was a very positive year for our house despite being so heavy in other areas. I pretty much always feel like I’m not getting as much done on the house as I want so, looking back, I’m SHOCKED at all that we knocked out in 2017. Of course, it was only like half of what we set out to accomplish, but many unexpected and impactful projects were taken on as well. I feel like we finally turned a corner where it is more “home” than “excuse my construction pile mess.” It’s a great place to be! Some highlights:

2017 HOUSE HIGHS

mid century family living room abstract painting tulip table coffee I started reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic last week and it was SO inspiring! A great read anytime, but especially after the months of end-of-year craziness when you are so ready to get back to “normalcy,” and trying to figure out what kind of “normalcy” you want your life to have. I love her idea that we are all creative people and that we all have something to contribute, no matter how important or not, how life changing or not, how grand or not, how original or not, and whether anyone will ever see your creation or not. It’s about the process of making instead of taking and saying yes to the things that light you up, without guilt or excuses. Fixing up houses definitely lights me up, and I’m so excited to (try to) tackle these projects in our home in the coming year:

2018 HOUSE GOALS

  • PAINT THE DANG EXTERIOR. A house goal list fav that NEVER EVER gets done, 3 years and counting, but is on the calendar as our big summer DIY project.
  • Build a second screen for the front yard.
  • Reach ninety percent completion of our flooring and baseboards why are we still working on this nearing year 5????
  • Hang the grasscloth wallpaper that I bought last summer in the master bedroom.
  • Finish our very unfinished step down to our sunken family room
  • Build that wood divider I’ve been dreaming of between the dining room and family room
  • Do a low-key master bath fix up to hold us over for a few years (basically this plan, still unexecuted)
  • MINIMALISM TO THE MAX. Well, as max as a house loving, furniture hoarder can be. I want to be surrounded with an better edited collection of possessions.

I’m very excited to make time for a few other just-for-fun creative projects this year as well, but I mostly want to give the biggest thank you to whoever you are reading this! I have so much fun putting this blog together and sharing our weird house projects and connecting with all of you. Thank you for your ideas and your encouragement and for coming back every week to check in. I am so thankful for you all and I wish you and your homes all the best in 2018!!!!

xoxo Jenny

What I Bought Last Weekend

Let me tell you what this wannabe minimalist who hates Christmas consumerism bought during the sales of last weekend!I hate celebrating the birth of Christ by buying random stuff we don’t need, especially when humans all over the glove are in actual need of the basics. It seems so antithetical to me; literally the exact opposite of how we should celebrate. However, I’m all about being as responsible as we can with our money and shopping sales for the things we need/would buy anyway so that we can be more generous (currently our family’s favorite charities are Give Directly and Preemptive Love). So sometimes I hold off for a really long time on the extras I have my eye on. Both to make sure I really want them and to wait for lower prices. And this weekend lots of stuff I’ve been eying for months was discounted enough for me to purchase. So what did this intentional, over-thinking freak buy? This stuff:

1. Checkered Sweatshirt – I’ve talked about whittling down my wardrobe before and being more intentional about what I bring into my closet. This sweatshirt might not seem like a basic, but if ever I had a custom sweatshirt made just for me by all-knowing sweatshirt fairies, this would be it. Takes me back to my formative years when I had SKA on the brains 24/7. I just knew it would be my favorite thing to wear and I was right. I haven’t taken it off in days, literally wearing it right now. You wouldn’t think your husband would hate something that is so you but whatever…

2. Stevie mirror, CB2 (pictured above) – so this is out of stock and has been for a while. It was one of those things that I was like SHOULD I/SHOULDN’T I for too long and then it was gone and then clarity struck I knew I SHOULD HAVE BUT IT WAS TOO LATE. But I was window shopping/scrolling over at CB2 and noticed that it was still in my cart (???) and on sale, even though it’s been off the website for months, so I purchased and supposedly its showing up this week. Second chance score!

3. Vixen everything – this is hands down my favorite clothing line right now. I normally don’t spend this much on clothes, but the quality, fit, style is always so spot on (for me – I know this is a niche market!) that it makes sense to buy a few staples that I will love and wear for years, then less money on lots of throw away items that I will only kind of like and get rid of during my next closet clean out. Still, I can barely stomach spending so much so I always wait for this huge sale. FYI I added this and this and this and this but it oversold :(

4. NuLoom Faux Sheepskin Rug – admittedly, this was an impulse purchase but I’ve been on the lookout for a cheapish fluffy rug for my daughter’s room and this just might be what I’ve been waiting for. The Black Friday price was too good to be true so we’ll see how it looks in person.

5. Drawers for legos – I know these are nothing to look at but I hope they dramatically improve our household. We have a major Lego problem. LEGOS EVERYWHERE. I love them as a toy but we need some storage solutions. I’ve tried so many organizational options that haven’t worked for the way my kids play. They prefer to work on individual trays (utilizing every serving tray and plastic plate in the house at the moment!) for their many concurrent and longterm projects. But trays can’t easily stack or store. They can only sprawl and I’m going crazy. I hope this shelf of drawers that are essentially trays can clean up our floors! UPDATE: I THINK WE HAVE A WINNER! UGLY PLASTIC DRAWERS WHERE U BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!

6. Leopard Sweater – One more wardrobe addition, that was actually from last last weekend, was this sweater. This makes it seem like I buy a lot of clothes but I haven’t in ages. I’d rather dress my house than myself. Again, this is sure to be a worn til it’s trashed basic for me, so well worth it. Leopard and checkers = neutrals

WHAT I DIDN’T BUY BUT I WANTED TO – couldn’t find a way to justify the purchase, but I really wanted to. Maybe one day I’ll sell all the crap I don’t want on ebay to pay for one of these beauties, but this weekend wasn’t the weekend. I saw one of her large scale wall hangings last year at Trina Turk and it haunts me. Ceramic soul mate. If I ever see a windfall, you better believe my one splurge will be this. I could cry I love it so much.

We have most of our Christmas decorations up and I can’t wait to share next time!!! xoxo Your Freaky Weirdo