On short notice we had to have an estate sale. It is not that we were in denial. I mean, when you decide to move out of a 2800 square foot home, with a 2000 square foot shop and two storage buildings, you know that you are going to need to sell a lot of stuff. But we had a plan.
"Man plans, God laughs" - Chuck
We informed our landlord, my dad, that we were going to go on our sailing adventure and intended to be out of his beautiful home at the end of May. So the house was listed for sale as he did not want the hassle of managing a rental from 500 miles away. None of us could have predicted that the home would sell to the first people who looked at it, one day after it was listed.
The buyers wanted a two week close. This was not even a possibility, so it was extended to a 30 day close during negotiations. We had intended to have a yard sale, followed the next month by an estate sale. But with the compressed timeline, we combined the two ideas into one large estate sale.
To ready my family for moving onto a sailboat, I needed to give them some direction and encouragement. Brynn and Barrett would need to cleanse themselves of years of toy and stuffed animal accumulation. It started slowly at first: they would need to pick half of their toys to donate to other kids in need. This task was easy for them, as they had done this before.
Then the day came when I gave each of them a cloth shopping bag that would hold about 1 cubic foot of stuff and told them that anything they could put in the bag they could take on the boat. Barrett found this to be a difficult challenge. He literally climbed into his toy box and began making two piles: one to keep, and one to sell.
The problem was, he simply was not willing to give up his toys, even the ones he rarely, if ever plays with. It went something like this:
1. He would pick up a toy and decide its fate.
2. In his 6-year old southern drawl, Barrett would declare the fate of the toy - "sellin'" or "not sellin'"
3. He would throw the toy out of the toy box and into the appropriate pile.
The "sellin'" or "not sellin'" comment came about every two seconds as if he were a tickin' clock. As you can imagine, the "not sellin'" pile was quite large and the "sellin'" pile was small and mostly comprised of broken and forgotten toys. Not being close to completing his sorting, he had far exceeded his one cubic foot budget.
The young'n had to be confronted about his decision makin' process, and the inevitable crying began. After some few minutes of Melissa talking it over with him and some consoling, he seemed ready to accept the fate of his toys. As he resumed his position in the toy box, it became obvious that he understood what needed to be done. The "not sellin'" pile continued to grow at a rapid pace.
Brynn had an easier time with the toy reduction process. The part that gave her the most difficultly was scaling down the stuffed animals and dolls. Since she had enough of these to cover her entire bed, her brother's bed, the floor, and the closet, getting them reduced down to just three was to be a monumental task. As one would imagine, she had great attachment to the older ones - those that had been part of her life since infancy. But then she also had recently acquired animals and dolls that she had chosen herself.
There were a few that Melissa and I ruled out from the beginning. The very large teddy bear that was as big as her, or the full size fashion Barbie head were easy no-go choices. But for the rest, we had to let Brynn decide for herself.
"Do my Barbie dolls count?"
"No. But you need to fit them in the bag."
"If I put this in the bag and it sticks out, can I take it?"
Even as parents, it was a struggle for us. Children are always a challenge, but when they are smart and defiant, it can tax your entire being. Convincing your young children that "less is more" is not an argument they will ever be willing to accept. They are unable to see the light you are attempting to shine upon them.
At some point you must drop the subtle tactics, call in an artillery strike, and bring the building down around them. You have to accept their attempts at making deals and throwing fits as the growing pains that they are, and knuckle down. The boundaries get set and they are unmovable. You compel your children, by whatever means are necessary, that they will submit to the challenge and persevere.
"If you want to live truly free, everything important to you should fit in one duffel bag and one backpack" - Shane
The adults, including Nya, are relegated to what you can stuff in a duffel bag and backpack. Tools are an exception to the rule. In Nya's case, her tools are a sewing machine and its accessories, a laptop computer, and cameras with gear. I personally know that she can succeed in this challenge. She has never been the wanting type of child. It has been a rare occasion that she ever used any gift she was given, spending the majority of its life in a corner of her room before finally being sold or given away.
How Melissa will approach this challenge is unknown to me. She has an entire lifetime of living in a house or apartment full of stuff. How do you, after many decades, condense your life to a duffel bag and a back pack? How do you even start the decision making process? When you have never had to break down your personal choices into what is actually important and what is a luxury, where do you start?
"What is the secret to life? Breathing" - Shane
Food, water, shelter. Other than breathing, those are the necessities of life. We are obviously not going to pack the food or water in our duffels. Clothing is shelter, and clothing is easy to sort, for the most part. But what about the other things we use every day that never come into our minds as being necessary or not? Do we believe they are necessary because we use them every day? Or, do we never take notice of our conveniences and luxuries simply because they have been part of our lives the majority of our existence.
I once asked a family member, "if your house was on fire, other than your pets, what would you want to grab on your way out the door?" The answer floored me. "My TV" said one member. I once had another family member, fleeing from a wild fire that was threatening their home, take all of their firearms and ammunition, but left behind medicine, food, money, clothes and other things I would consider far more important and necessary for the given situation.
I like to look at things of value in a different way. What cannot be replaced, not with money or time, and does not include the life or a person or pet. I have only ever been able to come up with a single item: photos/videos/art. Once lost, photos and videos of your past, your children's lives, times with friends, etc. are lost for good, except for in your memory, and mine is fading fast. I can replace, clothes, food, furniture, TVs, kitchen appliances, house, cars, computers, and all of the other trappings of western culture.
My duffel bag is easy. It will contain my hard drive with decades of memories. Sure, I will put some clothes in there as well, but the hard drive is the important part. We will not talk about my tools though. That is just not fair. I mean, we have a 37-year old neglected boat to work on. Of course I am going to need tools - a lot of tools. And being as I do not have anyone but myself and the waterline of the boat to answer to ("must be nice," says my wife while proof reading this), I will be taking a massive amount of tools and spare parts.
We are about to embark upon an adventure whereby our family will be able to bond and grow closer over the miles of sea and social experiences found only by living and traveling on a boat. We will not be trapped in a construct that encourages debt and living beyond one's means, where consumption is encouraged and freedom of thought and critical thinking are discouraged.
By minimizing our lives, we can bask in the world that lies before us and live vicariously within it. We will no longer satisfy our desires, unsatisfactorily, through a TV screen or the internet. We will actually live life, embrace challenge and share in the beauty of the world. We are not actually condensing our lives, we are expanding them!