“Mommy, I want some headbands” – Isa.
I replied with love “Yea? Why?”
“Because the bathroom is so empty and it makes me not feel at home, there’s no stuff in it” – Isa.
It’s so true. We have this overwhelming urge to fill our space don’t we? Not only our space, but other peoples spaces too. It’s been a really interesting experience coming back into this consumer driven culture after living fairly free of it for a year.
Even before we flew out of Mexico we were falling victim – “We should get some gifts for friends”, then it was “I have to get a gift for a birthday” and then, naturally “I must stop off at the market to bring them something special for dessert”. Things are the language of love. In Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, he talked about the nature of gift giving and how many people very much associate it with love. I personally LOVE giving a well received gift, it’s very satisfying. So, I respect it, I understand that giving generously and receiving graciously are part of our nature and culture. Its wrapped up in tradition and symbolism and.… there are cultural expectations. But HOW we do it, can make a difference. In my blundering back on land, I’m trying to take home some of what I learned aboard. If I can imagine it being in the trash in 2 years… I’m not buying it…
When on the boat our gift of choice was a loaf of fresh baked bread. This was always received with enthusiasm and it probably cost us 5 pesos. One of the things about boat people is that we are all on a tight budget and everyone respects that, even remotely elaborate gifts are OUT. But thoughtful, handmade or just sweet re-gifting is totally IN. I will never forget my deck of cards and bottle of wine I received for my 37th birthday from SV Agamere and SV Wild Rumpus collectively. Replicating this on land is tricky!
Minimalism is such an interesting idea and it sounds fairly easy…just have less stuff! I envision naturally hued modern spaces, sparse but well organized… But the reality is… When Tommy has a birthday party and your kid is invited, what can you bring that satisfies your values of minimalism! I wish I knew the answer… I brought Legos because, my kids love legos… And I didn’t re-gift because, that just felt strange on land. What would have been totally cool in our boat community would have been a slight here. I thinks it’s mainly because – its there. There is just so much at our fingertips that if you don’t utilize it, it means you didn’t put an effort out. So, showing effort… Well, I’m going with the home made bread for now and for kids, I’ll have to get creative, and that, is half the battle.
Resisting the urge to fill our own space is the other half of the battle and it really is the harder one. We have had 6 years of practice though so we are getting better. For the 5 years before we left, I knew that we were going to be getting rid of most of our stuff. Kinda puts a damper on accumulating stuff. Every purchase was weighed and balanced… would this go to the boat? Does this replace 2 other items that both need replacing? Is this important enough to be stored while I’m on board.. Some things YES. It didn’t stop me from purchasing and enjoying my lovely Antares saddle. But it did stop plenty of frivolous purchases.
Now we are faced with this large 4 bedroom house. When I put my clothes away into my own personal walk-in closet I just laughed. It was so empty! But I felt a deep and primal urge
to fill it up too. Naturally, I’m not going to… but I might need a support group to keep me honest. That, and the fact that we only have so many suitcases and this hiatus from ocean cruising won’t last forever…