Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.
My husband and I used to be hoarders. We had a camera collection, a clarinet collection, and three sets of china. We collected every good deal we found at rummage sales and flea markets, and we inherited numerous family heirlooms. Every nook and cranny of our house was filled with stuff that had been stashed out of sight. It took hours to clean the house, yet it was never satisfactory enough for us to invite friends over. I remembered, fondly, the cleanliness of our uncluttered home, the week we first moved in. That was the one week of my married life, where I had free time and considered pursuing hobbies.
It was on a trip to Florida, three years ago, that we met a couple who called themselves “minimalists.” We were so intrigued by this concept, as it seemed to lend itself to a stress-free lifestyle. We knew that minimalism would look differently for us, as we had a house and a toddler, but it was still something we wanted to try. Once we got home, the decluttering began, and we started to seriously question the crazy amount of possessions that we owned.
Two years later, the three of us spent our first season living aboard a 29-foot sailboat. This brought our commitment to minimalism/simple living to a whole new level. Housework took me 5 minutes every morning! We had time to have real discussions and do things that we wanted to do. Maintaining our possessions was no longer my focus; meeting new people and seeing new sites took its place.
Unfortunately, that season was cut short when our boat ran aground and required repairs. When we got home, it was back to the same-old, same-old. We felt like we were drowning in stuff. Housework became an all-consuming activity, and we were still never happy with the results. That’s when we decided to do the “great purge” and reclaim our house. Any item that we hadn’t used on the boat was questioned. After a week of daily carloads being taken to Goodwill, we finally began to feel comfortable in our home.
This summer, with the keel newly patched, we were able to complete the season, living on our sailboat for 91 days! Being immersed in this lifestyle gave me many lessons that I have brought back to our house on land. Let me share a few of them with you:
- Having fewer possessions, we were forced to be a part of the community, in order to get our needs met.
- Living in such a small space, meant that we were not owned by it. Such a small amount of time was spent managing our possessions, that we always had time to meet new people and listen to their stories. We found the sense of community that is so lacking in modern society.
- Through sailing—sometimes through difficult situations—we developed a respect for nature and a feel for its rhythm.
- Spending time together, through a shared passion, we realized that there is more to life than earning a paycheck. Work is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
- We learned that our daughter would much rather spend the day in a playground full of kids than in a bedroom full of toys.
The biggest lesson that we learned this past season is that minimalism is about more than just possessions. We learned to be intentional with our time and our money as well. We’re no longer “busy,” so that we are able to focus on the things that really matter to us in life.
Read more from Bethany at My Journey to Ithaca.