The central idea for this blog was to have a site to share our adventures as we make changes towards a more simplified life and hopefully from land to sea. It is our dream one day to have a sailboat and sail around the world. Since we came up with the idea, we have read probably hundreds of blogs and now watched hundreds of Youtube videos on families and couples who live, work and travel in RVs or boats full time. We have enjoyed their insight and input so much and have learned so much from them. We were also inspired by them to do the same and document our adventure.
If you read our Meet the Crew post, you know that I am the planner and organizer and so the videos and blogs that catch my interest the most are the organizing, planning and "how to make it happen" ones. Because we are more at the beginning of our journey of downsizing those have been the ones I have devoured the most. Much to my surprise, there haven't been as many downsizing detailed posts or videos as I would have liked, so I hope to share my experiences in that area.
One of the biggest parts of this transition is to downsize from a 2,500 square foot house to a boat somewhere less than 45' long and 13 feet wide. From the very beginning of our decision to move eventually to a sailboat, I knew it was going to be a big undertaking. We have lived in our house for nearly 20 years and have the accumulation of "stuff" to show it.
I have parents who are pack-rats and I have tried desperately to fight the hoarder tenancies flowing through my veins. Even with the best of intentions, it is extremely difficult to NOT accumulate things! We are still in the middle of downsizing and letting go of things. In one aspect we are lucky that we have been able to make this a gradual process, on the other hand, there are many times I have just wished I could drop a dumpster in the driveway and get it done in a week. No matter how you have to attack the issue, much of the process is the same. We are not even sure about our sail away date, but we are making plans and preparations so that when the opportunity comes up and we can take off to journey around the globe, our stuff will not be holding us back!
Here's How We Are Doing It
Make Your Goal a Priority
First of all, you have to make your mind up that the end goal is important to you! You have to see value in what you will get in the end. That value is different for everyone….for us it was circumnavigating the world. Buying a boat and sailing around the world has been a dream of mine since I was a young girl. I have had a very long love affair with the sea, but never thought I would have someone who would share my dream. I never imagined that when I shared my thoughts of sailing around the world with JR in a casual conversation one cold December day that he would say, "let's do it!" From that day on, we turned the dream into a plan and set up goals and timelines I will share in other posts. We knew at that point in our lives that this was not going to happen overnight. We still have so many things to take care of before it would be possible to cast off the lines, but we now had a goal to reach towards. We are definately people who need goals and something to strive for, even if those plans change, at least we have something to work towards.
I also feel like even if we changed our minds and found something we would rather do, downsizing and living a simpler life is only going to make us happier. So far in this journey every time we get rid of something we feel so much better and happier. It's less stuff to take care of, clean and maintain.
Cut Down on the "Stuff" Coming Into Your Life!
From the moment he said, "let's do it", a million things started flying around my head! There was so much to do and prepare for before we could leave and "oh no, how are we going to get rid of all this stuff?" We knew this was going to take time and during that time we would have to continue to run two businesses, take care of our family, find "the boat" and prepare for our adventure. That day we decided together that we needed to immediately cut down on what we brought into our lives so there wasn't more "stuff" to deal with. I don't know who said it first but that night the phrase "it won't fit on the boat" was born.
Everything we bring into our life either has to be something necessary for work, readily consumable, something to make the house ready for resale or it has to fit in our life on "the boat". In our previous lives married to other people, we use to think that "things" were so important, but now we know it's the experiences that we have with the people we love that are what is truly important.
There have been many events, both big and small in our lives that have brought us to this realization and now we are 100% certain what we want. I have never been a big shopper but I use to believe that the "things" we were surrounding ourselves with would make our lives richer and the more stuff we own would mean we were better off. Over the course of several years prior to the "let's do it" moment, many events changed the course of our lives and all these events really converged in that moment and changed my thought pattern forever.
"It Won't Fit on the Boat is Born"
Marketing experts make consumerism and shiny material things a hard habit to kick, but when I find myself looking a big new TV or another picture frame to sit on my shelf, I say to myself "it won't fit on the boat."
Sometimes that is a literal statement, meaning that item wouldn't actually fit in our new living quarters and other times it's a more figurative statement. It reminds me of our goal and how important that goal is and that all the "things" might get in the way of that goal. That one short statement has become our mantra and has had such an impact on helping us reach our goals. For anyone wanting to downsize, I would tell them to find their, "it won't fit on the boat" mantra and stick to it.
Get Rid of all the Clutter That's Already There
The next step was to get rid of all the "stuff" we have accumulated that we don't need. It sounds easy and obvious, but saying and doing are two different things. Especially when regular life must continue around boat plans. We also have lots or responsibilities and things that need to be finished and finalized, like finishing our daughter's schooling (she's in high school so we feel it's only best to let her finish), finalize career commitments, sell the house and all "the stuff".
While we are doing this, we really want to keep things "normal" for our family. Simple things that we know will not go with us on the boat but that we still enjoy using in the house are staying for now. For example, our antique bedroom furniture that will be given to the kids upon departure, our coffee pot which will be traded in on a french press or something like that for JR's morning coffee and clothes needed for winter and special occasions (funerals and weddings).
I have done the house clean-out in stages and as it's seemed natural. When I organize a drawer or closet, I pull out clothes I no longer wear and that "won't fit on the boat." During the kitchen remodel I had to empty all the cabinets so they could be replaced. Dishes I never used, didn't like or that were not leaving with us are boxed and ready for sale or the kid's homes. When I put things back in drawers or cabinets, I ask myself, "will it fit on the boat" or do we currently use it now? If, yes, then it stays, if not, out it goes. I will be posting more details and processes in future blog entries.
The last couple of Christmas' I have narrowed down the decorations, divided and marked ones for the kids and then last Christmas I finally threw out the artificial tree that I loved because but it was losing so many needles, the branches were getting bare. All the other holiday decorations are meeting the same fate and my yardsale pile is growing.
Declutter in Layers or a Complete Purge?
There are two ways to approach the purging of your current clutter, you can either declutter in layers or do a complete purge all at once. For the most part, I have done it in layers.
As a mom of 3 and a sentimental person raised in a home of packrats, doing a complete purge of things would be extremely difficult for me, especially when I first started this process. You don't realize how much stuff you accumulate in your lifetime and how much fits into a single family home. I never considered myself a hoarder in any way.
I really felt like I was a normal mom who kept things that were practical or useful. I never wanted to be wasteful and I always wanted my kids to look back and have some of the "things" from their childhood to pass along to their children. As our kids grew out of items, I saved their favorite toys or clothes and boxed them up. WOW! That stuff really adds up when you start a process like this. It's an overwhelming amount of stuff.
I realized early on that this was going to be stressful and can only wish I had the mindset of being able to just walk into a room and only touch something once like the experts say, decide what to do with it, and do it. Everything would be perfectly paired down and we would be ready to go in a matter of weeks! Well, the reality of the situation is, I would go into a room, open a cabinet or closet and my stress level would go up or I wouldn't be "in the mood" to deal with it at that moment and I would either start the project and never finish or I would always get distracted by other things that needed to be handled. This realization brought me to the conclusion that I needed to do this in layers and at a more realistic pace for my stress level. I needed to be able to go around the house and address items that we needed done on a daily basis so we could still continue to live our lives and be productive but when I cleaned and organized, I did it with the "it won't fit on the boat" mentality. After seeing how nice it was to have cleaned out cabinets and drawers with only what we need to live today, felt it started getting so much easier. It makes me smile to open the cabinet with the coffee mugs in it and not have 20 mugs for a family of 3. When I need something in
The Outcome and The Future
A big part of my future blog posts will have to do with this process and how it's worked for me and maybe how it might help you. The cool thing I realized throughout this journey is that even if our plans changed and for some unforeseen reason and we did not sail off or move aboard, I am so much happier with "the stuff" out of our lives. It's so nice to open a cabinet and not have things fall out on you or not be able to put something back in. Future posts will share with you how we managed things like the holiday decorations and the sentimental items. I will try to share the ups and downs along with the process of letting go and how it's working for us to move towards our dreams.