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GRATIAS: Home vs. Stuff vs. the Hurricane

Submitted by Melissa Gratias on Thu, 10/20/2016 - 9:26am

So we had a run-in with a hurricane recently.  I don't know about you, but I was glued to the TV watching Matthew run alongside the Florida coast.  I was scared and shocked at his decision to visit our 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 a straightforward decision.  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.  Right, Ruel?


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. 


Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. Based in Savannah, Georgia, Melissa is available for nationwide consulting and speaking engagements. Contact her via email at or call 912-417-2505. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit her website,