The All-Consuming Hobbit Hole
One reality that became immediately apparent after our decision to live aboard is that we (especially I) have way too much stuff. I won't deny I'm a packrat. I clearly remember picking up a broken electrical component for I-have-no-idea-what out from the lee of the curb, thinking I'll find a use for this. That was a few years ago, but my habits remained more or less unchanged until very recently. When I found my one thousand square foot condo in Seattle, there was no need to get rid of anything. After all, I had room.
In an odd and unintentional way, I set out to turn my new space into a cluttered, cozy little hobbit hole. And I had a good head start on that. I brought in the piles of books I'd amassed, the art, the reams of old sketches, the knickknacks galore, the art projects to-be: you name it, I probably had at least one of it lurking somewhere within the house. When I was growing up, it was no different. I enjoyed having things, even worthless and broken things. It wasn't about having more or having better, it was simply about having a curious and interesting collection to ponder over. What if I got bored someday? Well, then I'd certainly have something to amuse myself with! Quite possibly, it was all about potential: art waiting to happen, knowledge waiting to be revealed, and skills waiting to be developed.
Really, a lot of waiting. And I rarely acted upon it after moving into the condo. Instead, it sat.
There was always something better to invest my time in: one-off projects, work, mostly work, games, work, whiling away time on facebook. In fact, I accomplished extremely little during my time here, as embarrassing as it is to admit. I almost feel that the impending house situation and my job became excuses for putting a halt on my productivity.
The last few months have brought drastic change. My roommate exclaimed aloud when she saw our room a week ago. "Where's all your stuff?!"
Enter the Craigslist
It isn't easy to sell everything you own on Craigslist without giving it away for free. People flake, other people flag your posts, and an abundance of people are more determined to "make a deal" than take a good one that's already been offered. But slowly, I've sold things I never thought I'd find a home for: custom cosplay armor, candle-making supplies, half a bisected sheep's skull (I'm not even kidding). It seems that if you wait long enough, someone who wants it will stumble across your post. And fortunately, for the time being, I have time. I'm not looking forward to the fire sale that comes at the end.
Sometimes, you can entice people with a ridiculously stupid photo:
I can't wait to photoshop my fabulous derby hat onto Putin and see who bites.
Other times, you can entice people with eccentric flavor text that accurately describes the product:
But most often, I've simply decided that some money is better than none, assigning a value that's less than the market, waiting for someone who wants it to come along. But how did I even get to the Craigslist postings? How did I decide what would stay and what would go?
I'd actually been downsizing before the boat came about. Expecting an eventual move to a Seattle shoebox-sized condo devoid of space and personality, I decided I'd be proactive and get rid of a few things. Moving into my house with my accumulated hoard had not been a fun experience (many thanks to those who helped me move), and I wasn't looking to repeat it. I'd purged some books and clothes from my collection, but nothing on the scale of our current goal.
This is our bedroom as of a week or so ago:
Let's see... what's missing from this picture? The entire closet to the right now contains a handful of shoes, some hanging garments, and a small stack of towels. Before, it was full. Also missing:
- A drawing desk
- A mass of art supplies
- A bookshelf
- A dresser (full of clothes)
- LOTS of books
- Another small shelf turned nightstand
- 4 tatami mats (these still haven't sold, along with a handful of the books)
- Tons of knickknacks and other assorted items
How did I get to this point? One of my closest friends from work recommended Marie Kondo - a Japanese master of decluttering - I did watch a brief seminar from her, which was helpful, but was far from a one-stop shop for clearing my house.
To extremely over-simplify, she identified a method of picking up each item and asking, "Does this bring me joy?" If the answer is no, it's out. If I had done that with my room, I would still be shuffling through the piles of books right now. In my case, it's been a matter of boiling down to, "What do I actually need on a boat?" But, her method has actually been extremely useful to me, though I've tweaked it a bit.
Clothing was the easiest and first on the list. I had a decent array of clothing, much of which was for costumes or special occasions: 90% of the time I'm clothed in jeans and t-shirts. Clothes wear out and are easily replaceable: even without the upcoming transition, they already have a natural impermanence. I picked out eight days worth of my favorite non-disintegrating shirts, a few pairs of pants, and then picked about 5 articles of "special" clothing to augment this with - dresses, blouses, and so on. A heavyweight, lightweight, and medium-weight jacket also made the cut. For now, I'm holding onto my sock collection. Hopefully I'll wear out my least favorite socks before the move and then transition on to the good stuff.
The clothes that didn't make the cut were divied up into two piles: awesome outfits and donation fodder. I shopped the awesome outfits around to our local secondhand stores, collecting a few dollars where I could, and everything that wasn't bought became a tax receipt via Goodwill.
My modified Kondo method is this - I pick up items that I feel a reluctance to part with and spend a moment reminiscing over them. How had they brought me joy in the past? What had I loved about them? I'd take a moment to acknowledge that before letting go. I didn't want to be angry or upset because I was forced to get rid of something I didn't want to. Everything has to go, and I need to accept and embrace that.
The irony is that many times, I pick up items and realize that it's all just potential: This item has yet to bring me anything, because I've never invested time in it. And it never will because I have so many other things to do.
For things that are truly sentimental, things that I can't stand to just donate, or know won't sell, I find them a home: someone who will appreciate them and who just might love them as much as I have.
That's been the last month or two of free time - creating and maintaining 50+ Craigslist posts has been quite a task, which The Sir has helped me hugely with. As of today, it looks like we have a few months left to sell everything and, hopefully, find our boat. And our boat hunt has taken a bit of a turn. I hope to follow up soon with what's on the radar.