Spring cleaning twice a year

It’s a pretty consistent theme in our lives: we move every six months. This means we pack up our stuff, move it somewhere new, and then unload it again. Each time I am amazed at all of the stuff we accumulate. When we moved out of our house last year (a MANSION, relatively speaking), I was shocked at the amount of furniture, clothes, dishware, personal memorabilia, and other items that we stashed away in less than eight months.

Recently we packed up s/v Laurel to prepare for a 3 month long road trip in our sprinter van. S/V Laurel is a 40 foot long sailboat and often it seems incredible that the space can hold a family of three (plus a 50 pound dog!) in less than 100 square feet.

laurel2 laurel3 laurel4It does have a surprising amount of storage. All of those doors and drawers held everything we own – clothes, food, dishes, bathroom supplies, gear, bags, shoes, toys, stuffed animals, diapers, and more.

So when we unloaded everything and took inventory, I decided that if we are going to survive in a smaller space (like 50 square feet!), even more downsizing was necessary. This time it was our bathroom. We have enough medical equipment to open a hospital, and while we thankfully have never used most of it, I wondered, “Is it really that important to have five ace bandages and seven types of painkillers?”

For the van we need to stay organized and stay simple. There is just not that much space for storage. We are taking one plate, one bowl, and one utensil per person, plus light cooking equipment. Our bathroom kit fits in a bag that we can easily stow, and our clothes will be the bare necessities. Everything else we will pack in my Honda Accord that we are leaving behind.

All of this pairing down and sorting made me wonder: what do people do who live in giant houses for 30 years do with all of their stuff? I definitely have an issue with stuff. In fact, maybe my disease is considered the anti-hoarder. It’s true I often spend more money replacing furniture and clothes every other year, but I also feel so liberated holding only the essentials. (Read this article or visit this website for further inspiration.)

And after a few days of living in relative luxury while housesitting for a friend, the benefits of tiny living are hard to ignore. For example, cleaning on the boat consists of dishes and a quick sweep of the floor every morning (our floor space is roughly 25 square feet). Our belongings are confined to a few spots and pick-up takes about 3 minutes, compared to 30 minutes of toy gathering in a large space. Living in a small space also encourages us to leave the house more, and no room for a TV means we never lay around stuck in a Game of Thrones marathon (which I admit to sometimes missing). We read more, eat together more often, and spend time walking around the marina and talking to the neighbors.

We may decide to set up a more permanent nest in the future (stability is important for kids, I hear), and when that happens I’ve decided two important things must occur: we will continue living minimally and I’ll need to “spring clean” all year long.

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