Thursday, October 30, 2014

Don't organize, just purge!

Choosing a life afloat means choosing to live with less stuff. We just don't have the space. Minimizing, purging, reducing, and downsizing are all becoming popular. This article from the New York Times bounced around on my Facebook feed for a couple days. Marie Kondo, a Japanese home organization expert, encourages people to clean out the clutter in their lives by examining each item they own by asking themselves: "Discard everything that does not spark joy, and do not buy organizing equipment."

This made me laugh. I sometimes find myself on an organizing kick: surely there must be some boxes or baskets or shelves that could contain this mess? And then I scroll around on Pinterest for hours looking for the right kind of catch-all for that space. I may buy a basket or two, or reconfigure a cardboard box for the space, but, more often than not, I realize my main problem: too much stuff. Overstuffed bookshelves don't elicit the same kind of relaxed feeling in me as, say, an overstuffed chair does. Instead of buying bookends and creating dividers to contain the stuff, I simply get rid of some of the things.

This is the one space on the boat that we "organized."
 It used to be a bench, but only a 3 foot clearance to the "ceiling," it would only work for kids.
We took the bench out and built shelves.
Bottom left: art supplies. I constantly clean and assess, otherwise it quickly overflows.
Middle: baking goods. I recently went through all my baking supplies and now only have what I really use.
Far right: cookbooks and alcohol. Ahem. Someone needs to purge the cookbooks and I can't do it.

The bookshelf in the main cabin. This is what it looks like everyday. I didn't spruce it up for the photo! It's nice to have a clear space where the girls can spread out books, add toys, and use for a play space. And it also looks so much nicer than a shelf crammed full of books. (Like it used to be.)

Parents of young children are also embracing this emerging trend in minimalism. Less toys =  less stuff to pick up and put away at the end of the day. Less toys = kids will actually use the toys they have. Better yet, less toys =  greater chance for imaginative play. Freja spent hours yesterday creating and playing with her farm, which was the inside of a cardboard box that she had decorated with stickers and markers. Matilda, meanwhile, played on the back deck in the baby bathtub, pouring water in and out of containers.

I feel like I'm moving more and more towards a barren aesthetic - no knick knacks, empty shelves, clear counters - because my mind can rest when my eyes can rest on a clear, clean space.

And the one clear counter on the boat. This space is always clear; my visual sanity. A quiet place to rest my eyes.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Raising boat kids

The view out our back door.

These are some of the responses I get when I tell people we live on our boat with two little kids:

"How do you do it?"
"You're such a trooper."
"You're a saint."
"You live on a...?"
"So...where does everyone sleep?"
"What do you do about toys?"

It is so hard to explain that my life is not much different from a landlubber's life. I have the words. I have 101 different ways to say that my life is similar to any stay-at-home-mom's, but it's hard to explain it. I say things like:

"It's like living in micro."
"We basically live in a small apartment, that floats."
"We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, a living room, and a back deck."
"It's no harder than living in a third floor walk-up in the city."
"You should see the pool."
"We have less stuff. We go outdoors a lot."
"The girls are little, they don't need big spaces."

Small girls play in small spaces.
This is the "kid space" - a corner of the main cabin that is designated as "kid only."
An impromptu reading nook, about 2 feet x 2 feet. Perfect for 2 small girls.

But even when people come over to the boat and see the space and the layout for themselves, they still shake their heads and say: "I don't know how you do it. I know that I never could."

Since I'm living out of the mainstream, I rarely walk into the mainstream - into someone's house or apartment - and shake my head and say: "I don't know how you do it. I know that I never could." (Which, don't get me wrong, is a totally understandable and fine thing to say. I absolutely don't take offense at all.) But what I want to say when I'm in a house is:

"Oh my word. There is a lot of stuff to clean."
"Wow. We'll have to buy a lot of furniture if we ever move ashore."
"What is in all these cabinets in the galley-I mean, kitchen?!"
"How long does it take to clean the whole house?" (Seriously, the idea of cleaning a whole house is daunting.)
"A full-size washer and dryer, steps away from the bedroom?!"
"How exactly do you start up a lawnmower?"

I drool over the counter space and the dishwasher. I love putting one girl down for a nap and not having to keep everyone else quiet so as not to wake her. I love watching the girls run around like crazy.

Living in a boat at a marina is a lot like living in a third story condo without an elevator. We have to schlep groceries from the car, down the dock, and up into the boat. I have to heave the stroller onto the boat. We have a great back deck, awesome views, and the option of going on vacation without packing a bag. We have all the amenities of living in a community with none of the work: trash, recycling, water, pool, clubhouse, barbecue areas. 

Four people living on a 36' boat. The girls have their own beds that no one else can go in without their permission; Hans and I work to give each other time and space alone. But, it's true. We are on top of each other, a lot. Sleep is difficult; it seems like someone is always waking someone else up. The girls fight over their toys, Hans never has a minute at home alone because we're always here, Matilda always seems to get her hands on things like markers and sunglasses and phones no matter how hard we try to keep that stuff away from her, the shower is tiny and only useful when I can't make it up to the marina, I wish the girls had bigger toys like a train set and an easel, I would love space in the galley to store a deep fryer and a food processor and a juicer. The small space means we have challenges and we have wants. But, overall, small isn't a bad thing. I embrace small.

Small space means: 
  • less stuff
  • less clutter
  • less things to buy (we have no room for throw pillows, decorative vases, end tables, or knick knacks)
  • more time outdoors (it's easy to get bored in a small space. The great outdoors is our living room.)
  • lots of emphasis on non-toy activities for the girls: art, music, dress-up, and imaginary play like cooking are big hits
We're outdoors, a lot. Hanging out by the inlet, watching boats.
You know, because we don't get enough of that at home.
We have challenges, yes. But I'll venture a guess that living in a big, or even medium-sized house has its own, different set of challenges.

Good living.