One of the cruelties about falling deep into debt is that you need a few things to get out of it: maybe a car to commute to the job that will help you pay back your bills, or a subsistence wage that will feed and house your family while you work on that, or a minimum quantity of cash in the bank to cover things like gas to run that car, or medicine to keep you moving.
If debt collectors seize any of those things, repaying debt becomes that much harder. Because of this, states have protections called "exemption" laws that limit what creditors can seize from a family teetering on destitution. These laws have become particularly relevant since the onset of the recession (or the rise of what the National Consumer Law Center calls the "lucrative and fast-growing debt buyer industry").
Not surprisingly, exemption laws vary dramatically depending on where you live, and the NCLC considers many of them to be outdated. In a survey of what these protections currently look like across the country, the NCLC argues that not one state offers all the minimum standards you might need to really survive debt. Some states (Massachusetts and Iowa) are much better than others (Alabama, Kentucky and Michigan).
This is the geography of where your car, your home, and even your household goods, are up for grabs. Yes, that includes cooking utensils, bedding, furniture and appliances:
All maps courtesy of the National Consumer Law Center.