Friday, April 24, 2015

Blogging from A to Z: Too Many "Things"

During April, I'm participating in the Blogging from A to Z challenge -- one alphabet-themed post per day, starting with A is for Aruba Aftermath and ending with Z is for ... I don't know yet what Z is for, I'll figure it out when I get there.

Waaaaay too many grooming products! This is what I removed; enough to fill an entire liquor carton.

Dan's working on carpentry on El Galeon today, leaving me alone on the boat to write.  Or rather, to procrastinate doing any actual writing.  Remember I said before, when I was writing on the letter "D" that it was time to declutter and downsize again?  Well, I was so desperate to not write that instead, I decided to start that project by cleaning out the bathroom ("head").

We have, by boat standards, a great deal of storage space there in the head: one drawer the size of a shoebox, two narrow shelves, and a locker that could probably hold a case of wine.  I realize that by land standards, this doesn't sound like very much for two people.  But then, part of the benefit to me of living afloat is that our focus is turned away from the huge obsession with appearances that seemed so prevalent in our land lives.  We don't have complex grooming routines; in fact, we're almost obsessed with the opposite, with plainness, as I discovered when I realized I was becoming my historical alter-ego Seaspray. Thankfully we don't have medical issues requiring a lot of lotions, pills, or potions, either.  A toothbrush, a bar of soap, and a bottle of sunscreen ... what else could we possibly need? Yet somehow, those lockers are full.  How could we possibly have filled those lockers to capacity?  No, beyond capacity, all the way to stuffocation.

I boldly decided to find out, so I started by completely emptying the lockers.  There were a few things that were simply out of place -- I found a pair of earplugs, spare lead for a mechanical pencil, a wine bottle opener.  In a bathroom the size of a telephone booth?  How did that happen?  There were also some things that appeared excessive on the surface, but were legitimate back-stock.  Dan loves a particular sunscreen that we can only get on Aruba, so we bought a year's supply (4 bottles).

But then I got to "the rest of the story."  Seven half-used bottles of different kinds of hair products, including some that were specific to my long, chemically-straightened hair. Which I cut off and went short and natural, oh, in around 2013.  A dried-up tube of lipstick that I got when my friend Jenn was selling Mary Kay.  That was when we both lived in Michigan.  But we moved away in 2002, which means that lipstick is probably 15 years old! Numerous brands of bug spray, each with a different kind of active ingredient, from chemical DEET to organic lavendar oil and everything in between. Okay, that made a kind of sense, since as we travel there are different types of critters in different regions, but still -- enough is enough! Lots of toothbrushes.  We get new ones every time we go to the dentist, and apparently we haven't been changing them out as regularly as we should.

One thing I realized that was holding me back, was that with each item I was considering getting rid of, I was debating how to deal with it.  Was it really trash, or was it donation-worthy, or was it something we should put in storage for now, because we'd need it again in a different season or location?  You know all those organizing sites that tell you to approach a project like this with a bunch of labeled boxes -- keep, not sure, donate, mend, trash, etc?  That approach didn't work for me.  So I decoupled "do I still want this in the head now?" from "what should I do with it?" The first question has a simple yes/no answer, the second had many more options.  Indeed, once I had that insight, the work flew by.  Or maybe it was just that I really really didn't want to write?

When I was done, I had filled an entire box with things that didn't belong in the bathroom, or at least, our bathroom.  I categorized, and came up with a microcosm of all the reasons for clutter that apply anywhere, and on a much larger scale than just the bathroom:

  • Failed experiments: Things we tried and didn't like, but couldn't figure out what to do with the rest of the bottle. Throwing it away would be wasteful, but who would we give it away to?  For that matter, why would I give a friend something that I didn't think was wonderful?  Yuck.  If I'm going to give something to a friend, it should be the best of its kind that I know of, not the leftovers.  Guess these can go away.
  • Planning for every possible contingency: Things we needed once and might use again, however unlikely.  We're keeping them "just in case."  I found some extra packaged pre-moistened wash cloths that we used after Dan's brain surgery 9 years ago.  They might be helpful if we ever go into extreme water conservation mode, I guess.  Just in case.  Except they dried up, even through the packages.  And in 13 years of living aboard, we've never been that short of water.  Guess these can go away.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Things that reflected not who I actually am, but images of who I wish I was.  I'm just not the kind of person who will do a 5-step skin care routine twice a day every day.  Even if it makes my skin feel slightly better than soap, water, and an infrequent moisturizer, I'm just not structured enough to do the other. That expensive system just sits in its basket on the counter, gathering dust and looking at me reproachfully.  Guess these also, can go away.
  • Freebies and travel sizes: Free samples of heavily-scented laundry products?  Um, no thanks, I prefer the unsmelly versions.  So the other just sits, taking up space and stinking up the locker, until I "forget" the packet in some marina laundry room somewhere.  And for the rest of the single-serving size products?  You know, I get lots of these from random hotels or welcome packages, but I'm not really going to use some weird off-brand.  If we're just going on a short trip, I'll decant off small amounts of our favorite products into travel-size bottles to use.  Guess the freebies, too, can go away.

 My next goal is to use the same logic and insights I gained on my clothing locker, on the galley, a few other categories aboard, but not on books or tools -- you can never have too many books or tools!

Simple.  Yeah, this is more my style!


  1. I have a lot of those small sample size products floating about. I never use them, so I probably should just get rid of them. Trying desperately to figure out how everything is going to fit on the boat!

  2. Haha, I think many of us have this belief that sample sizes will magically solve all kinds of emergencies that we want to be prepared for. But maybe they are fantasies, that weigh us down.