Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Stuff Owns Me

Since returning from my bike trip, I moved three times within 22 days:
  1. From the sailboat in Portland to a friend's home in Seattle, where I stayed for a week.
  2. From the friend's home in Seattle to a friend's sailboat in Seattle, where I stayed for two weeks.
  3. From the friend's sailboat in Seattle to a house in Seattle, where I will be housesitting for two months.
Each time I have moved, I have also moved my belongings.

I don't own that much stuff anymore, as I went thorough a fairly decent downsizing effort earlier this year. Everything I own now fits in my little Corolla...

...well...aside from the Corolla itself, Shirley (my bike, which fits on the car's bike rack), the house, a box of valuable mementoes (which I'm storing at a friend's place), and a few boxes of stuff from my youth (which are at my parent's house).

Every time I've moved, I'm reminded that I don't own my stuff. Rather, it owns me. The stuff requires my time and my energy.

It requires maintenance and cleaning. It requires a place to be displayed or stored. It requires that it be moved when I move.

As Thoreau wrote in "Walden":
...when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be house that has got him...for our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them...
Living for two months out of my bicycle panniers was a great exercise in exhibiting just how little I need to comfortably live. So, when I returned from my trip, I purged, donated, and sold even more things. And with each of my recent moves within Seattle, I've continued to downsize even further.

This further purging hasn't been for the purpose of owning fewer things. But rather so that fewer things own me. The less that owns me, the more free I am to live my life. To travel, or visit with friends, or housesit, or partake in whatever adventures the wind might blow in my direction.
"When he has obtained those things which are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life..." - Henry David Thoreau
The more stuff I shed, the more I feel as though I'm living the adventure.

As an aside, perhaps is now a good time to mention two significant changes I've noticed in moving from a sailboat back to a land home.

First, although the sailboat had an electrical-powered water pump, I preferred to use the foot pump to operate the galley sink. When turning on the kitchen sink in the land home, I find myself pumping my foot on an imaginary pedal. Dork!

Secondly, before use, the head is typically empty. (A "head" is the toilet on a boat.) So, when I would pee in the head, I could easily gauge the volume of my pee. (Yes, such things amuse me.) When using the toilet in the land home, I forget that the toilet bowl already has water in it, and so I find myself shocked at the volume of my pee! Double dork!


  1. I read a good quote in the Atlanta Botanic Garden: Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance. by Epicurus
    Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my things and dusting them, moving them around, etc. I like your bravery in letting go of stuff! Looking forward to learning more, Sarah!

    1. Great quote, MaryJo! I like that one! Epicurus is quoted often in the realms of minimalism. :)

      With regards to your comment about dusting...In Walden, Thoreau wrote about having three pieces of limestone sitting on his desk. In realizing that they required dusting, he threw them out the window, writing "I would rather sit in the open air, for no dust gathers on the grass, unless where man has broken ground."


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