Becoming a Minimalist


Moving onto Banyan has FORCED me to be a minimalist.  I’ve never considered myself to be a huge consumer of stuff, but going through the process of moving onto a boat has opened my eyes!  It’s really pretty amazing the amount of stuff we had… and we didn’t even have that much stuff!

We had started reading some minimalist / small house blogs in the process of moving (just to get the juices flowing) and I have to say that I’m a half hearted minimalist.  I love the idea of simplifying, only having what you need and consuming less.  But, I like STUFF! I have to admit, our culture has done a number on me.  I don’t think I’m alone.

We have rock climbing stuff and bike riding stuff and ski stuff and snow shoeing stuff and horse riding stuff and cooking stuff and bee keeping stuff and kid stuff and camping stuff and entertaining stuff and … wait!  It’s not really the STUFF, it’s the activities that I like.  So, if we were not completely changing our lives, we probably wouldn’t have gotten rid of any of our stuff.  We like it, well, we like how it facilitates what we like to do, and I don’t see ANYTHING wrong with that… or at least I didn’t.

However, there was a moment in our process that really blew me away and has made me a minimalist convert. It started under my bathroom sink.  When I decided to “pack” the two small bathrooms I had to go over every item and decide what I was going to do with it.  To start off, I had a few boxes under the sink, a few drawers and two medicine cabinets to deal with.  After going through it all I had no less than three very full and very heavy bags of garbage.  I looked at it in dismay realizing that I had been living with and moving from house to house with that much garbage!  I’m sure I’m not alone here either.

Let me say how shocked I felt to THROW THINGS AWAY.  It feels so wasteful.  I’ve always felt guilty about doing it ever since the recycling movement got ahold of me.  But some things can’t be recycled or reused.  It’s gotta be de-owned and the Goodwill has standards too.

I had bags of little shampoo bottles, I had no less than 13 floss dispensers, 8 little partial tubes of toothpaste, 10 pairs of nail clippers and two full manicure sets (I don’t think either had ever been used).  There were old dried out lotion and nail polish bottles that you couldn’t’ even open.  I found an array of bottles and tubes half full of all types of products deemed unworthy and forgotten about.  Not to mention makeup from eons ago and hair devices that I couldn’t even remember how to use.  The interesting thing is that I don’t think I actually bought very much of this stuff.  It came in gift packs or was from a hotel or came with another item or I have no idea!  It’s stuff that ended up just falling into my life and living under my sink because I thought I would use it some day.

The other place that I got my socks knocked off was our file cabinets.  We had reams of paper in file cabinets, in binders lined up in cupboards, in boxes in the garage.  I found my pay stubs from my first real job at JC Penny’s in 1995, I found Cameron’s pay stubs from an even earlier time period.  I had boxes of sheet music from my high school choir days.  We both had our taxes from the time we first began doing our taxes.  I think Cameron had every invoice and receipt he had ever received.  I stopped counting the bags of recycling and shredded paper, it was just embarrassing.

And then there was gear.  Earlier I mentioned the stuff that we needed just to do the stuff that we liked to do.  Well… It’s worth going through that too.  I found that we owned (between the two of us) no less than 10 pairs of climbing shoes.  I have to admit that neither of us has been climbing in ages and even if we were climbing regularly… 10 pairs?  I found (again) the dehydrated food packs that Cameron purchased on sale somewhere on the east coast sometime in the mid 90’s that have been sitting around just waiting for that back packing trip…waiting and waiting and….  We also had two camp stoves that were decidedly extinct along with plenty of other camping items that have not been used for at least 10 years (and we actually go camping).

Kid gear.  I don’t think I have to go in depth here.  I think any of you who have kids know all about that.  All I will say is – Two huge boxes of cloth diapers, three high chairs and a box of maternity clothes.  And, my youngest is 6.

So, if I wasn’t going to move onto a boat, I probably wouldn’t have gotten rid of my climbing harness, my insulated muck boots or my electric tea pot, but what I hoped I would do is clean out my bathroom, my files and give away things that I knew I would never again use!  I kept all that floss…. I’m using that!  And that dehydrated food is now stowed with our emergency food rations.  But, realizing what you actually have is an amazing exercise.

For Example:  About six months ago I noticed that we had a few odds and ends of shampoo bottles lying around and instead of going to buy my favorite type of shampoo, maybe I should just suck it up and use what we had.  Well… I’m still working on the shampoo odds and ends.  I’m on the Pert Plus right now and going to move to the Pantene 2in1 here pretty soon.  It works great with that conditioning spray that I had left over and it gets me in and out of the marina bathroom shower faster (always a plus).  I had over 6 months of shampoo and conditioner in my house!  I did the same thing with olive oil, I made it five months just using up all the little bottles lying around in my pantry.  So, I’m guessing if I would just KNOW what I had in my house and USE what I had in my house before I bought more, I could probably live for years without actually consuming more stuff.  I know I’m not alone here.

An interesting aspect of becoming a minimalist is how much time it takes to get there and stay there.  A friend commented that the only thing standing in the way of her getting rid of stuff was time.  And she is so right.  It takes time.  It’s like spring cleaning on steroids.  You have to ask yourself at every turn “do I really need this?” and then not look away until you have answered that question. I had items that I couldn’t decide on and would return to over and over again.  Finally I gave myself a rule: If I’m undecided still at the third time that I am considering the item it’s gone – trash/goodwill/giveaway – gone.  I love the new guru of tidiness’ criteria “does it spark joy”.

Letting go is tough!  Especially with things that once had value, or have long ago emotional value or something that has real value, but not to you.  Like that really expensive lotion that is soooo expensive but gives you a rash… that needs to go.  But I do think letting go is worth it.  It’s shocking the amount of stuff that was in my house that I didn’t need, want or use!  If I look at it from a Chinese medicine perspective, it would be a metaphor for a lot of blockage.  Freeing up that space (literally and figuratively) is, well… freeing.

So if I wasn’t moving onto a boat I hope that at some point I would have been inspired to at least get rid of a few things and clear out the embarrassing amount of garbage masquerading as stuff-I-should-keep. It would have taken a month of Saturdays but, it would have been really worth it.  More than anything though, I think it has changed me when it comes to letting things into our lives.  That free hotel shampoo might not be so freeing.

A few updates and photos from the last week 

We had a lovely boat blessing with friends who prayed over us and over our boat Banyan.

We gathered together with friends to bless Banyan
We gathered together with friends to bless Banyan
Good food and friends at the Blessing of Banyan
Good food and friends at the Blessing of Banyan

Isa and Adelaide are loving boat life, doing their school work each morning and playing through the afternoon.  They have been a bit sick this last week so they have been relaxing with all their favorite Disney characters.  After going back to our old home for a very nice dinner with Janice, Vince and family, the new managers of Blossom Creek Farm, I asked the girls if they missed their old home.  They both promptly replied “no”.  I was a bit surprised.  I asked them why not.  Adelaide replied “too small”.  I have no idea in what lovely kid land a 43 foot boat is bigger than a 10 acre property, but it must be awesome.  We also had a big week of loosing teeth.  The tooth fairy has been busy!

Isa showing off her new toothless smile and her magnetic block creation
Isa showing off her new toothless smile and her magnetic block creation
The girls working on their school work diligently
The girls working on their school work diligently

Cameron is still working on projects.  As I write this he is building the fuel manifold.  The main sail is due to arrive next week and there are only a few more things needing to be done: connect the wiring to the mast, attach the fuel line to the tanks, install the high output alternator and associated regulators, service the engine and instal the SSB.  We plan to be pushing off from the docks at the Napa Valley Marina at the end of the month (but no promises).

Cameron working on the fuel tanks, getting them snug and secure in their spots
Cameron working on the fuel tanks, getting them snug and secure in their spots

I finished my last blending session today and only have a few more meetings next week with clients.  There are still barrel purchases to make and fruit sources to hammer out for the 2015 vintage, but the bulk of the work is behind me until I come back mid summer before bottling.  My big accomplishment this week was baking bread (in 5 minutes a day!).  I think it’s a skill that will come in handy on the high seas.

My first batch of rising wet dough. The family devouerd the first loaf of boat made bread.
My first batch of rising wet dough. The family devouerd the first loaf of bread.



  1. Auntie Kim says:

    the photo of the girls doing their schoolwork brought a huge smile to my face 🙂 keep growing those brains girlies!!!

  2. Mary Esther Palumbo says:

    Anne, I’m so excited for you guys! I’ll be following your blog and living vicariously through your adventures. I’ll keep you all in my prayers for health and safety along the way. Love you all!

  3. Jennie C. says:

    So true…thanks for the motivation to take a bit of time each week to clean out areas around the house….praying for you all as you make final preparations!

  4. Kristy vLS says:

    What a great read, you are a really good writer Anne. I know exactly what you mean in this post regarding the amount of stuff we have and don’t need and the time it takes to sift through all of it! Someday I too hope to conquer the bathroom cabinets and drawers. I can barely keep up with clothes the kids have outgrown that still hang in their closet!

  5. Pat Pence says:

    Hi Anne,
    Your great “Minimalist” writing couldn’t have come at a better time! I’ve been doing some Spring Cleaning, and your article really made me think hard about all the stuff The Pences have acquired in over 35 yrs. in the same house; trust me, you would never believe it! So, thanks to your words of inspiration, it now feels awesome to “heave-ho” stuff that should have been out of here ages ago! And even though I’m not looking to squeeze into a boat, I most certainly needed your encouragement to help realize my own minimalist potential!! God Bless!!

  6. Tom Rinaldi says:

    Wow…I am so blown away to finally get onto your site, see your future (I hope and dream!), and pray for your “Happy Trails”….May the seas be calm and inviting always!

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