During the month of April last year, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge - one alphabet-themed post per day (except Sundays). I had such a good time with it that I'm doing it again this year. I'm loosely organized on the theme of downsizing, minimalism, and small-home living that I've learned in 14 years of living on a small boat. I'm starting with A is for Anchoring Out, Anger-ing Out, and ending with Z is for Zout and Zwarte Peper (Dutch for salt and black pepper). Click on the A to Z logo on the lower left sidebar for links to many other bloggers participating in the challenge.
|"Well, but surely there's something you like to collect!" This cute (but maybe not super-practical) teapot is for sale here.|
When we lived in Colorado, I had a friend named Joan who was way ahead of her time, a minimalist long before minimalism was cool. my friend Joan told me that one year in late November, anticipating the family Xmas reunion and gift exchange, her family asked her what she collected. Nothing in particular, she replied. Then she told me that one of her aunts asked her to choose some category of things to begin to collect, so they could gift her with things when she and her husband came home to the Midwest for the holidays. Joan came up with green pottery, seemingly at random, more to placate the aunt than because she really loved it, and in later years they built special shelving in their dining room to display the various pretty green platters they were given.
Think about that for a minute. This aunt asked her to take up a hobby collecting something, anything, not because Joan needed it or it gave her pleasure, but so that they could give it to her to show that they cared. Twenty years later it still baffles me. I have this image of these lovely, well-meaning Midwestern ladies who perhaps had been so brainwashed by material culture that they couldn't fathom how to please their niece without buying her things.
All of that goes triple on a boat. We just don't have room for collections (other than digital books, music, or photos of course, that take no space, but didn't exist at the time Joan told her story), or even very many non-essentials. Heck, we don't even have room to box, pack, and store gifts for mailing to distant land-based friends! So for gift-giving occasions, we learned early to seek things that never come in the wrong size, style, or color, never don't quite match the recipient's style, and don't require complicated shipping other than a simple envelope. We give gifts of experiences.
Over the years we've given an annual family membership to a local natural history museum, concert tickets, a cooking class for two. We've pre-paid a cleaning service, and sent friends for a day's sailing charter trip. A spa day or race car driving would work too. In a slightly different vein, I have one liveaboard friend who says, "If I can't eat it, drink it, or smoke it, please don't gift it to me." My friend Christy, masterful hand at this, gifts each of her nieces a memorable girl-trip for their 10th birthday -- this year, there was a trip to Disney World. I'm betting that gift will last forever and never wear out.
Memories, education, friendships, health ... these most important things aren't "things" at all.