Sunday, July 15, 2018

Revisiting Our Possessions

Despite living on a boat, we're not really without possessions.
Back in 1998 when we met our first sailing mentor in the Virgin Islands, a full time liveaboard who chartered a boat only 4 feet longer than Cinderella, we privately dubbed him, "the man without possessions." I just couldn't figure out how one could live happily having given up tools, and bookcases, and photo albums and Grandma's quilt. (Remember, this was before the era in which you could scan these things. Now, all my library, my record collection, and the family photos fit in my pocket!)

So when we moved aboard, we got rid of a lot, but didn't get rid of everything. We weren't sure how long our life afloat was going to continue to be fun, though if I'd known it was going to be 16 years and counting I definitely would have made some different decisions! We kept some things that will be useful when we move to land again. And other things that remind me of people and places in my past that make me smile. The basic guideline was that we kept enough to furnish a one-bedroom apartment, plus anything that couldn't be replaced simply with cash; i.e., all the sentimental stuff. That softened the pain of giving away all of our history There really weren't many resources for downsizing back in 2002, so we sort of stumbled through by trial and error and wrote our own. And our things lived securely in a good friend's basement ... until this year, when the friends decided to sell their big house and move to Colorado. And that's how we ended up in a basement in Philadelphia, in January, going through boxes and boxes of saved possessions.

There were a few things that had us scratching our heads -- what were we thinking when we decided to store and not jettison this? Some things it had made sense at the time to store, but were overtaken by events, like tax records we needed to keep for 7 years (but that was 15 years ago, so out they go!). But mostly, there were a lot more, "hello, old friend" moments than "huh???" moments when we uncovered some bit of our past. I guess the bottom line is that while I try to be pretty thoughtful about possessions, I'd have to call us "streamlined" but not full-on Spartan minimalists.

 Remember my friend "M"?  She's the one who was giving up her life in sunny "Key West" to move to the frozen north in order to get her son the help he needed. (Not exactly Key West, that's one of the details I changed to protect her privacy; the real move is an overseas one.)  I was texting with her a few weeks ago, the morning before she and her family were ready to go to their new home. She told me they had downsized to the very very max, because shipping was going to be so expensive. They had checked a total of 160 kg (about 350 pounds) of possessions, for a family of 4, plus their carryons -- and that was all they owned anymore. Everything else had been sold, all their furniture, cars. The hardest for her, she said, was her books, but she found someone who had studied a similar subject in college who was delighted to have them, so that finding of a good home helped considerably. The boys also got into the act, selecting which toys to take and which to give away, and sorting through a lot of broken stuff. I joked that she was ready to live on a boat, like us. She said that with the going through everything, she found so many things that looked like they would be handy when first purchased, but in reality she only used them once or twice. Her house felt so much bigger with those gone. The last two weeks, they were living with just the basics, those essential things that were coming north with them. And, she said, "I'm definitely going to try to keep it small," in the next place. "I really enjoyed living with just the basics."

We get it, we really do. In some ways our last 16 years on the boat, has been a long vacation from our own "stuff" that has been in storage.

First time we've seen ice outside of a drink glass in years! Spent the night visiting a good friend in Annapolis, then on our way to Philadelphia in the rental truck to begin moving our stored possessions. The cold was just an extra incentive to hurry! (photo by Dave Skolnick)