Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Necessary Things

Silas is really enjoying his white fleece rug lately. He whips himself into a frothing ecstasy of sheep hair, drool and baby snot, burying his face in its fluffy folds. It’s actually a poignant sight, since I just sold the thing for ten bucks on Trade Me.

So far, I’ve hawked his rocking chair, his changing table, his curtains, most of his Christmas presents, and his bed. It’s getting cold down here at the South Pole, and when we go outside Silas looks like a baby war refugee, wearing six layers of warm-weather clothing instead of the snowsuit I sold for five bucks.

Trade Me is the New Zealand version of Ebay, an online auction site we’re using to dispose of all our worldly goods. Sometimes this makes me feel light and carefree, unfettered by the yoke of material acquisition. And sometimes I feel like a crack whore.

I think the low point was when the woman who was purchasing our full-length mirror ($20 bucks) and our shoji screen ($17.50) handed me two twenties and told me magnanimously that I could keep the change. “It’s such a good deal!” she said with her mouth, but her eyes were saying: You slut. You buy that baby some FOOD with this money, and clean up your act, you cheeky slag.

Of course, it is also possible that she was reacting to the empty wine bottles she had to step over in order to enter our home, scattered on the floor like the refuse from some yuppie frat party. But those aren’t mine. The bottles belong to Silas. He likes to bat them around the floor, chasing them like balls. Balls that can shatter into a million shards of glass. But the kid needs something to play with, now that we’ve sold all his toys.

Space on a boat is limited, and so a sailor must separate the essential from the superfluous. Silas will get to keep all of his books, because books are essential. He will get to keep a few of his toys, because it’s nice to have something to play with. But the sheepskin rug would rot into a moist and hairy sponge after a few weeks in the tropics, so that is considered superfluous. And the Talking Elmo doll, which I’ve always suspected was possessed by the Devil, has got to go.

Sometimes I panic, imagining our collection of stuff as bobbing flotsam on a rough and stormy sea. Without our possessions, we won’t have anything to hang onto, nothing to reassure us that we are decent, normal parents.

All we will have is jugs of fresh water. A few months of provisions. Books on the shelves. One another. And the waves, rocking our baby to sleep at night.

We’ll have the essentials.


  1. Getting rid of stuff has become an addiction for me. And living on the boat is my excuse. It's like losing weight, and since I can't seem to manage to do that, why not lose the stuff?! I love when people have babies and register for all the crap. I just smile smugly and think of all we went without being aboard -- no crib, no stroller, no exersaucer (just the name hints at something sinister), no googly gaggly baby gadgets. He favorite "toys" are rocks, shells, sticks, little wooden gnome people we make ourselves, and his playsilks. Oh yeah, and the world. Forgot that one ;)
    Did you know "the stick" was recently inducted into the Toy Hall Of Fame? Seriously, and people wonder why we want to run off cruising?
    Enjoy the purge!

  2. you are awesome, and make me gasp for air as I laugh nearly to death. I hope we run into your family on our way around

  3. how do you always manage to keep it so nasty? i'm getting ready to move back aboard too... amazing how things do pile up.

  4. I sold off everything I owned years ago to head for the Caribbean (where I am now). It was amazing to see how much useless crap I had accumulated. Have fun satisfying the Urge to Purge. I know I did.

    It's incredibly liberating to jettison the crap and get off of the consumer treadmill. And getting out of the rat race was a good move too. As I see it, the real trouble with the rat race is that the rats always win.

    Anyway, you guys are just amazing, and the gift of love, freedom, and adventure that you are giving to Silas is incredible. I am SO impressed. Please keep sharing your lives online.

    Silas is a very lucky boy.