The Value of Stuff

Teresa Carey Words 13 Comments

What is the value of stuff?

When Ben and I flew to Panama to pick up our new boat, we carefully selected each item we would bring with us. Because we were flying we were limited by size and weight. Each tool, article of clothing, pot and pan was carefully chosen from all our belongings. Each bag was weighed, stuff was added or taken out, and then weighed again.

“Why is this bag 12 pounds overweight, when just a few minutes ago it was fine,” I asked Ben, “How many things did you add?”

“Only a tool,” he shrugged. Of course, it was a gigantic 24″ crescent wrench!

“Do you honestly think this is necessary,” I laughed as I pulled the 12 pound wrench out of the bag. There would be times on a boat when a wrench like that could be critical, but we still decided to leave it behind. It would have cost us $100 in additional baggage fees if we took another bag so the wrench could come along. In that instance, it was simply a measure of cost-benefit analysis when deciding the “value of stuff.” You remember your high school economics class, right? I’m surprised I still remember — considering our teacher encouraged us to share answers on our tests. “This is Econ class,” he would say, “You can barter and trade for answers!”

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 3.28.01 PMBack Home

Now that we are in the states, we were able to collect the wrench and all our other belongings. They are loaded on the boat and I was assigned the task of making it all fit, or disposing of the extra. If you are following on facebook, you may have witnessed my progress and frustration!

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Before buying Rocinante, our Norseman 447 Ben and I each had our own boat, our own set of tools and things. Now we share a boat,which incidentally came equipped with it’s own ‘boatload’ of tools and things. We have a locker just for wrenches! We have spares hidden in ever nook and cranny. We even have old broken spares as spare for the new spares! I want to toss most of it, but people are warning me that someday I might wish I had that single obscure strange tool I threw away today. Oops!

Another cost of having too much stuff is the visual clutter that interferes with the feng shui and harmony in the living environment and therefore life. I believe a cluttered room leads to a cluttered mind!

The Cost Of Stuff

There is a cost to having too much stuff. In one extreme, packrats and hoarders drown in a debilitating pile of stuff—things they believe to be useful and valuable. Yet because there is so much of it, finding, organizing, maintaining, and caring for all those belongings becomes a hassle. Another cost of having too much stuff is the visual clutter that interferes with the feng shui and harmony in the living environment and therefore life. I believe a cluttered room leads to a cluttered mind!

I haven’t always had a lot of tools and spare parts. When I owned Daphne I had very few, in fact. Sure there were times when having this tool or that would have expedited a repair. But never was my safety compromised because of lack of extra stuff. I borrowed or purchased items when I needed them, or found creative ways to use things I already had to get the job done.

Making Decisions

So, how do I decide the “value of stuff?” As I comb through each locker I simply ask myself, “Is the cost of keeping this aboard greater than the benefit of having it in the unlikely moment I will want it?” If the answer is yes, then it is time to say goodbye!

Once all the stuff is organized there will be a few empty lockers for YOU to stow your stuff! Come aboard SV Rocinante for a sail training adventure this summer. Guaranteed $100 off your tuition just by commenting on this post!

Comments 13

  1. Kevin Murphy

    We are in the process of sorting through a lifetime accumulation of possessions in order to sell, donate, or give away all but what is going aboard Dragonfly with us. Since the boat is a 1984 Ericson 26, this means nearly everything has to go! While we are storing a handful of things, we are having to think hard about the cost of storage vs the true value of those items!

  2. Alan

    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I just had a neighbor with a water tank crisis and I had just the tool and the parts for the job, parts incidentally from a boat I sold years ago but insisted ok keeping the spares just in case. I was glad I had the parts and tools but digging them out unearthed a chandlery of junk I don’t now nor will I ever personally need. This led to a complete boat cleanse finding all sorts of someday items. I’m 90% through and have been having a very difficult time getting rid of these “bowling balls on a boat” that potentially could be useful someday. You coined the term Simplicity so I will answer your question with a? Can you ever really be prepared? Do you want top be? I could drop a 100k on my boat today and still wouldn’t be finished nor would I have every item I wish I had. I’ve pared down to a good set of basic tools that covered rebuilding my boat, everything else is being sold or donated. My motto is, If I want something and I don’t have it I don’t need it. There is nothing wrong with being creative and resourceful in a pinch…Simplicity rules the day.

  3. Lee Roski

    Hey Ben & Teresa-
    Congrats on your Jester nomination.
    It’s my opinion that the cost benefit analysis is exactly why one should want to solo sail.
    ….replying to 2 posts in 1.

  4. Chris Troutner

    I went through the same process last year that you are going through now; when I paired down from a 40 foot houseboat to a 27 foot sailboat. Good on you for keeping it simple. I wholeheartedly agree with your reasoning.

    Here is a trick that I used to walk that fine line with boat parts: I keep the bare necessities aboard the boat, but I have three 18-gallon rubbermade containers in storage. Every 3 months I dump them out, evaluate the contents in terms of cost-benefit, and relabel the outside.

    Three totes like this is a lot of stuff! Yet it never seems like enough. Doing this provides a happy medium for me. Maybe it will for you too!

  5. John Janek

    As a heavy truck diesel mechanic in a past life and a basic handy man, and with no sailboat repair experience, it would seem each boat, car, building etc. are different and will only require certain tools to maintain it and to one’s ability to do more complex repairs. Some of my wrenches in a set are almost unused. The trick would be to determine to tools needed to do the basic’s. Usually experience tells us which “deep” socket(s), “line” wrenches I need etc. after we have to make a repair. I hate to throw anything away that can be used or re-used but you probably can only take so much. I heard of a truck driver who carried all kind of parts in his “cab over” truck sleeper, alternators etc. He had a wreck onetime and some of those parts came from the sleeper into the cab and worked him over pretty good. Good thing is at sea you should not have to worry about making an abrupt stop. I wish you all the best with the new boat!

  6. Ashley Banks

    This was a wonderful little reminder about the importance and value of the things that you allow into your life… maybe I do not have any experience with my own boat(yet!), but these concepts can definitely be applied to all aspects of one’s life- Being a musician, I can at times look around and say to myself, “Did I really need FIVE C harmonicas? That I never played…”, “Should I get a fourth set of strings for my guitar? You know, just in case the other 3 magically evaporate into thin air??”
    I loved the lines, ‘Another cost of having too much stuff is the visual clutter that interferes with the feng shui and harmony in the living environment and therefore life. I believe a cluttered room leads to a cluttered mind!’- I think I will write that down in my notebook of quotes to remember…

    On another note, I am finishing up my application this very minute and am super excited to finally send it in to you guys!

  7. John

    Interesting challenge. I’m in the debate of moving onto the water. Having fun reading the various boat ads and walking the local marinas. Came down stairs the other morning and said ‘Where is all this stuff going to go?’ Grandma’s Chinese brass candlesticks that I am recovering from years of tarnish and wax build up were the trigger. Not to mention the 14 blooming orchids that adorn my morning sun room.

    The econ 101 analogy is smack on. I guess so is the consideration of the size of a boat to find. Currently I sail a Montgomery 15 pocket cruiser. More like backpack tent camping than cruising.

    I guess what you decide will just make you stronger. Surely the pack rat can not or chooses not to decide.

  8. Mike White

    Teresa you and Ben are a true inspiration to all old and young sailors alike .I love your thrift and pragmatic view of the true importance of “stuff”. I wish you all the best and I am so proud of winning the first “prize” of true art from the heart …it will have its own spot on my boat forever .

    I know you and Ben will do super well in all your endeavors.

    Far winds and less than lumpy seas!


  9. Scot

    You know, one of the reasons I am building my own boat is so it has the features I want where I want. One of those features is space. My significant other and myself require a little more elbow room and need get away places to hide from time to time. Therefore perhaps the most valuable commodity for me and us is actual space. That space then in turns allows for a bit more “stuff” that the two of us might want even if only one of us thinks this or that item is needed.

    I am building a george buehler schooner design, one that has the looks I like in a “classic sailing ship” appearance with the boat stretched out proportionately to 65ish feet. Yes it’s much bigger than most people believe is necessary, but it IS a semi retirement home. Plus we like to entertain so the extra space will be nice for all of us our guests included to stretch out.

    I guess this comment is exactly the opposite of the purpose of your post, but to keep it in scope, the one “thing” we must have is “space”.

  10. Tim Frusti

    I have 40 neckties in the closet. At least 20 haven’t been worn since the turn of the century. As the kids moved out, it seemed easier to expand into their closets than to get rid of stuff I no longer use. My siblings and I laughed and grumbled about the stuff we had to deal with in Mom’s closets after her funeral. And here I am, setting up a repeat of that frustration for my own kids some day. It would be a good idea to move into a sailboat and be forced to simplify my stuff now, when I can laugh and grumble about it myself.

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