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.
Way before minimalism was cool, we found we had to design a minimalist lifestyle simply to fit into our new maritime world. We have fewer possessions and spend less money on "things" partly as a conscious choice to free up more of our time and respect the environment, but also of necessity. We have so little storage space, we had to figure out what "just enough" of everything looked like. We learned that the fewer things you have, the more you value each one. I experimented with having 33 items of clothing instead of a closet full -- and of course, none of them need to be ironed or dry cleaned. We have room for a decent collection of hand tools, but we no longer have a full woodshop. And if you come over for dinner we'll serve you healthy tasty food, but you'll be eating it off of Corelle plates and drinking your wine from plastic wine glasses -- we won't be impressing you with table service of breakable crystal and china, though we value your company.
The real attitude adjustment, though, was realizing that a simple life isn't necessarily an easy one. Heating our suburban house took a simple turning of a dial or pressing a button; heating the iconic cabin in the woods probably requires hours of work splitting and stacking logs. Simple, not easy. So too on our boat -- those memorable moments in that pristine anchorage require the navigation and timing of the tides and reading the weather, and leaving may require raising a heavy anchor and washing the mud off the chain. (Luckily we've now got an electric windlass to handle this task!) And since we're carless, because how could you move a car from island to island, we walk, bus or taxi everywhere ... slowly. That also requires additional logistics -- how will I get my purchases home if they are heavy, or if it starts to rain? Simple, not easy. Getting anything out of a locker or putting it back involves a 3-D game of Tetris as we negotiate efficient use of our limited storage space. Without space or water supply or sufficient electricity for washing machine or dishwasher that get things clean with a push of a button, we do those tasks by hand as well, which takes a lot more time and work. Simple, not easy.
Putting in that effort, though, makes things feel more valuable, more focused. Dan, working with a chef's knife, gets into a rhythm he calls the "Zen of vegetable chopping" that is unachievable with a food processor. Our recreation often consists of sitting in the cockpit reading, or paddling our inflatable kayak or going for walks or dinghy rides. Of necessity, this life is slower, and each task fills our minds as we do it. Simple, not easy. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
Saturday Spotlight | "The Essence" By Deb Akey
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