When All Your Stuff is at the Bottom of the Ocean...

Back in 1996, before we became lawfully-wedded roomies, Roomie and I lived in Hilo, Hawai'i. The picture above is the lagoon just outside our apartment. You can even see our lanai (balcony) if you look at the upper righthand corner of the terracotta-coloured structure in the background.

Destiny led us to Hawai'i when Roomie was offered a position as Instrumentation Engineer at a telescope on Mauna Kea, one of the Big Island dormant volcanoes. Because he's no fool, he accepted the job. And because I'm no fool, I followed when he asked me.

Truth be told, Roomie never really asked me to go with him.
"Yes, I did ask you because I wanted to find a job in Hawai'i or some other warm place so that my girlfriend would want to come along."
"I think I would've remembered that."
"You never listen to me!"
"I do! Did you even consider that maybe that conversation was all in your head?!"
"What did you say, Mumbly Joe?"

Anyway, I digress...

Although we had a lot invested in this, our biggest and farthest move to date, Hawai'i was really just another stop in our adventures. Being in our mid-/late-20s with no commitment to mortgage or children, we were always on the go, moving from apartment to apartment, job to job, trying new things, and enjoying this fun and carefree time.
In retrospect, our possessions were few, which probably facilitated our nomadic lifestyle, but at the time, we thought we had a whole lot of crap... a huge dresser, a futon & frame, a retro diningroom table with chairs, a trunk, a coffee table, a non-stick pot, a cast iron pan, dishes, and of course our computer. Apparently, it wasn't that bad because the movers easily packed our belongings away in a mere 6'x6' wooden crate for transport by boat to Hawai'i.

Roomie then hopped a plane to start his new job and waited for our things to arrive 3 weeks after. Meanwhile, I stayed behind (in an empty apartment with only a black-and-white TV and futon mattress) to finish the last 3 months of a job contract with the railway.

As I counted the days before I could join my sweetheart, I was blissfully oblivious to the crisis unfolding in Paradise. You see, there was a very real possibility that our belongings were at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

Roomie told me that, when he found out, he went through a whole gamut of emotions... shock, then disbelief, then panic. Who could blame him? There he was, all alone, in a foreign land -- foreign for us landlocked prairie people, at least -- with NOTHING.

Then the most curious thing happened. Suddenly, he felt free.
In a split second, he realized that if our stuff was truly gone and lost, he had nothing to worry about. The possible demise of our belongings were not his fault, so he was free of any guilt. And anything we would need could be easily covered by insurance and his new income. For a while, he enjoyed the feeling of not being weighed down by stuff.

And THAT is a feeling I've been chasing for a very long time.

Before Roomie moved in with me, I had very few things. I didn't want to have the latest gadgets or gizmos. I still don't. It's my way of rebelling, I suppose. I grew up in an environment where the acquisition and care of material things seemed to come before all else... and I mean ALL.
So, now I'm decluttering, getting rid of the un-essential things I mysteriously acquired, and will work on saying "no" to any future un-essentials... because my kids, my roomie, and my peace of mind come first.

But do I want to get rid of everything? Can I sell/donate/get rid of everything I own like Karen Kingston did to fulfill her dream of living in Fiji, or like Jane Siberry to remove the things that weighed down her creative wings so she could fly? Am I really prepared to live minimally? And will I panic and worry like Roomie did even though we had so little back then?

I suppose this is an endeavour that will always require a good deal of intestinal fortitude, no matter how much or how little we start out with. As long as the feeling of freedom follows, I'll just keep going.


  1. Great post, Nenette. I always feel better when I've gotten rid of stuff because I hate to feel cluttered. Also I've never regretted anything that I've given away. It's true what people say -- out of sight, out of mind.

    I also wrote a post about downsizing not too long ago.

  2. So true, Zandria... I've already had the Goodwill truck come by three times over the summer, and I honestly don't remember what went. :)
    Great downsizing post!