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.
|Moving aboard, we were able to take about a tenth of our possessions|
We got a letter from our then seven-year-old godson, asking us to describe what life on the boat was like. We told him that it was like being a turtle, 'cuz we went really slow, but we got to take our home with us everywhere we went. And that even though it was very small, it had everything his home did: a place to cook, a place to sleep, a place to hang out with friends, a place to sit an think. He got a charge out of hearing that our bed -- a.k.a. V-berth -- spanned wall to wall so we could never fall out of bed no matter how rough the seas got. (We didn't go into the fact that in rough conditions we'd actually sleep on the settee in the main salon with a lee cloth; too much information.)
But what really got him was when we explained that we didn't have room for very many things. One in ten, we told him. For every ten toys you own, you get to pick one to take with you. Same thing with books, and t-shirts. And we had a conversation about what you'd pick, and why; and if two small toys would be as good as one big one.
That simplification closely mirrored what we actually did. We had moved from a 2,800-square-foot house, to a boat with less than 280 square feet. And when we did the extreme downsizing we called "shopping at our house," for each category of possessions, we ended up with close to a 10:1 ratio of things we had to get rid of to things we could keep to bring aboard. Tools, we ended up with a bit more than 10%, and kitchen gadgets a bit less, since we only brought hand-operated things and big electric items like a waffle iron or popcorn popper or stand mixer wouldn't be practical. Clothing was right on, and most toys.
Things that could be replaced simply with cash, like a sofa or a car, we sold. For the sentimental or meaningful stuff, we got a storage unit. Technology was going to be our ultimate savior, we reasoned. All the music we owned, plus all we could borrow from friends or the library, would take the exact same amount of space -- essentially, none -- if we were willing to rip CDs to the computer or iPod. Every family photo could come with us, if we took the time to scan it. Every book I could ever read would take the same negligible amount of space on an e-reader if we were willing to repurchase it in digital form.
Interesting that our sorting rule for those things became, "Do I want to take the time and effort to scan/rip/digitize this?" The process gave a totally concrete meaning to the downsizing advice to look at each item and ask yourself if you saw it in the store today, would you buy it again if you had it to do over again?