We’re in love with stuff.
When I say that, I’m speaking very much in the general, cultural sense of “WE”, meaning the entire nation of the United States. When you look around and notice the proliferation of “U-Store-It” facilities, you’ll see what I mean: Americans love stuff.
And before you get your hackles up and accuse me of being all high and mighty and holier-than-thou, let me just say I’ve got way too much stuff at my house, stuff I haven’t used in 20 years, stuff I don’t remember what I might use it for… I’ve even got stuff I NEVER had a use for – but I kept it anyway, hoping that someday I would.
And that, my friends, is what we’re trying to correct. We call it “downsizing”.
10 years ago I escaped the ruins of my first marriage and a 97-acre farm that included about a half-dozen buildings to store stuff in. After an auction and a 30-ton dumpster, I had my half pruned down to the maximum possible overload on a 28′ Uhaul truck and an 8′ utility trailer.
Since then, I’ve moved 4 more times, and each time I’ve left a few more things behind. Now, however, we’ve been living a settled life in one spot for the last 4 years, and the pile is getting bigger again.
This has to change. Nicki and I will be giving up the lease on our 1450 sq/ft house (with a 1450 sq/ft basement!) in July and moving onto a 32′ sailboat – actual living space about 130 sq/ft. We’ll also have a 36′ fifth-wheel RV, which will become our summer home when we return to Maine to work for cruising chips, but while the RV has room to store living goods, it does NOT have room for extra furniture or boat parts – it’s a 300 sq/ft tiny house on wheels.
And I have that utility trailer I mentioned, now filled with my carpentry tools and the aforementioned boat parts that no cruiser can be without.
So how DO we downsize our lives?
Well, we won’t need most of our furniture, seeing as how the boat and the RV are already fully furnished. We have a couple pieces of nice furniture, but most of it is just serviceable-but-not-special pieces we’ve picked up over the years. Yard sale, donate or trash if we must, most of that is going.
Books? I love books – the printed word on paper sort. But though I always want to keep every book I enjoy, the reality is that with few exceptions, I won’t re-read them. We’ve sent box after box to the church book sale, given some to friends for “safe-keeping”, and kept only current reference and a few special ones. (My entire collection of Richard Bach (for the philosophy as much as the stories), and everything I can find by the “first couple” of low-budget cruising – Lynn & Larry Pardey.)
Oh, and books on passage planning, weather forecasting, sailboat/diesel repair, and that sort of thing.
Do we really need three sets of dishes? We only use one – the rest can go. Let’s dump the extra bread pans we never use, and the bowls that scratch the counter. Where did all these plants come from? Donate those to the plant sale – I can grow more when and if we finally move back ashore semi-permanently.
So you get the idea. We downsize by looking at what we really need to live, and find new homes for the items that don’t serve a real need. It’s hard sometimes, but you know, it’s also extremely gratifying. Be it clothing, careers or houses, until they’re gone, you don’t realize how much these things actually own YOU, rather then the other way around.