After anticipating cruising for years, you’d think we have plenty of time to optimize space used in Totem’s various lockers, shelves, and other stowage areas. We’d know exactly where to store those things which fill out the essentials of life afloat, along with plenty of the extras which make life fun.
Hah! Even after four plus years, we still have a long way to go to reach storage Nirvana. I’m skeptical of any cruiser who claims to have it nailed, although there are many who may combine an OCD tendency with fewer complications than the Totem crew (*cough* IT’S THE KIDS, REALLY *cough*) to achieve such exalted status.
The thing is, we still have too much on board.
Despite massively purging the “stuff” in our lives, we still have too much kicking around. Keeping things organized and, well, findable is a constant challenge. I was told by a long term cruiser once that the basic rule was that for every item brought on board, something had to be taken off. That sounds great, and it’s a good principle, but often not really practical.
Then, there’s the little matter of finding what we need, when we need it.
I have an Excel spreadsheet I use as a guideline for provisioning. Columns along the row of each staple listed identify where I’ve stored the many things on the list. And you know what? Some of those items actually are correctly stored in the coded location. The problem is that storage is dynamic. We’ll move things as one locker gets empty to avoid things banging around, or find we need to shuffle items to accommodate something of a particular size. Somewhere along the way, the tidily noted location on the spreadsheet becomes meaningless. At the moment, I know we’ve got soy sauce on board somewhere. I know it in my heart, I really do! But darned if I can find it. Call it spreadsheet fail…I’ve looked everywhere. How does a 750ml bottle of Kikkoman get lost on a boat?
There’s a lot of context needed to name essentials.
Before personal preferences throw all rules out anyway, the differences in short vs long term cruising and provisioning options in different parts of the world and priorities of the crew make a “top 10 essentials” the stuff of cute glossy magazine articles but not practical reality. What we needed when we left Bainbridge Island is different than what we needed when we left Mexico, which was different again from when we left Australia. When we cleared out of Queensland in September, we dedicated an insane amount of space to items for trading and giving away for our months in Papua New Guinea. It really was essential for the last few months, but certainly not something we had not needed to do previously.
Our priorities, and our biggest space splurge, reflect our family’s specific interests and needs. Because we have three children ranging from 8 to 13 years old, that means resources that support their learning as we travel, and the things that are special or important to them.
We have a ridiculous number of books, from my childhood set of Little House in the Prairie stories to the set of encyclopedias. I think we must have a few dozen different field guides, from the coffee table variety you can get lost in learning from, to the quick references that help us make the most of identifying the plants and animals around us. The advent of ebooks, something we didn’t really have available when we left, has helped us cut down a lot- although I still have a preference for flipping through the traditional printed versions of my well-thumbed guides. But all those digital books mean I have a deep stash of appealing reading available anytime (I won’t pretend to have any fancypants taste, but I cannot get into the book exchange mainstays of sci fi and Patterson). I no longer need to stash the physical version to avoid getting twitchy. But still, it’s hard to let go of the Patrick O’Brian set, even if we *do* have them all in ebook formats.
And then there’s the space we take up with things we collect. We love beachcombing and have a large locker full of finds. Do we *need* these things? My goodness no! But we cherish them. I can look into a storage bin and picture the very beaches we found different treasures. I’ve got a big bag of shells waiting to be hot glued onto fairy lights…for three years and counting. Arrowheads, a dessicated swordfish spear, endless bins of shells.
Well, it is December. Maybe it’s time to tackle those shell-covered lights.