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.
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Something interesting happened along the way, though. Having this statement written out led me to a super-easy litmus test benchmark for all kinds of decisions about where to invest resources for my group. Subscription to a pricey journal? Will it help them do better science? New piece of lab equipment? How about preparing that annual report on our activities for Headquarters? Should we spend a lot of energy on it, or just do a bare minimum job? Every one of these questions became a very simple yes/no, when seen through the lens of whether it would help them do better or more valuable science.
That lesson, of having a litmus test that simplified decisions, carried over perfectly in our downsizing and our life afloat. On land, our house on its better days adhered to the William Morris dictum, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful," although "beautiful" in our case was expanded to also encompass the beauty of items that had sentimental meaning even if their aesthetic was lacking. I suppose that making us smile wistfully when we looked at them and remembered how they came into our lives, was both beautiful and useful!
In our radical downsizing to move aboard we overlaid a second litmus test onto the Morris one. This one came to me courtesy of cruising friend Linda G. When deciding what to bring aboard, she advised, your priorities should be: first, safety; then tools; then "everything else." It was a simple, effective hierarchy.
During the hectic years of getting ready, living aboard at a marina, working at conventional jobs during the day and doing boat projects in our not-so-spare time, we developed a third litmus test. This one was, "If it doesn't make the boat safer, or sail better/faster, it's a lower priority." So the early times involved a bigger anchor, new engine, and oversize windlass. It was only much later that we got around to things like painting, and converting the icebox to actual refrigeration.
Now that we've got the boat pretty much the way we want it, projects are just regular maintenance (although there's always some cool shiny piece of newly-invented gear to covet). Our priorities litmus test is more about what we want to do with our lives than what we need to do with the boat. It's simple, and it was also my New Year's resolution: Be together. Be happy. Have more adventures.