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April 2010

Flashback Friday: Tote Bags from Hell .. or How Do Live Aboards Handle Paperwork?

Does the mail pile up at your home or office? Do you sit right down and file things daily or weekly -- or do things stack up until you get to them? I'm a stacker and that doesn't work on a boat. This is a cautionary tale of paperwork, tote bags, and hosting an alert 87 year old sailor.

When we moved aboard, I was employed by a recruiting firm in town and left the boat every day to go to the office. We had one cupboard for our personal paperwork---a huge step down from a large oak roll top desk, an oak four door filing cabinet, and two custom file drawers EW built into our den. 

In other words, paper work on the boat was an issue from day one.

In January of 2005, I left my job and started Hire Well, LLC. a hiring consulting firm. I help small companies hire key personnel. I try to have a "paperless office", and find it is actually quite easy to work from my floating home. I have two cupboards over the dining/office area where I store files, the printer, paper, and other supplies. And I have tote bags.

Tote bags are a bad thing. Tote bags occur particularly in the summer when we want to go for a sail but I haven't dealt with the mail, balanced the checkbook, or filed. Sailing wins and papers go in a tote bag. In the tote bag they are "out of sight/out of mind" and there they stay. Papers are added or another tote bag is filled. 

 Three years ago I had five tote bags stuffed to the brim, crammed into the pilot berth. I called them the Tote Bags from Hell. They haunted me. They were the topic at a monthly business building meeting I attended. Yep, I was paying someone to tell me to get rid of the Tote Bags from Hell. I had to report my progress. It was embarrassing. 

Then I heard David Allen in an interview on our local public radio station. That day I bought his book, Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, and immediately began implementing his practices.  In one weekend I eliminated the tote bags and largely maintained that for two years. I highly recommend David Allen's methods, whether you work in a real office, a home office, or a floating office. 

But I have once again become a "Don't Bee."  

Between leaving the winter slip in early April, moving off board for two weeks, working on the boat, EW's surgery -- well stuff that had piled up beginning in February was now in two tote bags. Or in two large piles as I worked to eliminate the tote bags.

Now, that brings me to the 87 year old sailor. Remember the gentleman who recited Shakespeare to me? EW knew I wanted to meet him so last week he called from shore and told me to "Come up and meet Bud E." Then he paused, listened to Bud and said, "No, he wants to see the boat, we're coming down."

The Mess Bud Saw
 I had 5 minutes to pick up a bit before they arrived and didn't have time to stuff the piles into the tote bags. Bud was gracious, entertaining, and I was pleased to talk with him. We both ignored the piles. He told me about his sailing experience, his Navy experience, and his family's business. We discussed a CD learning program that he uses and he offered to send me the information so I gave him my mail and my email addresses. 

That afternoon, he kindly sent the information on the courses. 

Today he sent another email. Here it is in it's entirety:

Subject: David Allen paperwork system

Email: Sending by mail.  Best, Bud


Getting Fit for Boating

Oh my. this is the first time I've made a real effort to get in shape since I turned 50. It is much harder now than it was at 45 ... or 40 ... or 35 ...

In addition to simply losing weight I need to get stronger for pulling lines, going up the mast, working on plumbing. (Oh joy.)

Here's what I've learned about weight loss and me.

1. The calories in that chocolate no one sees you eat, still count. 

2. If you lose an M&M in your car, you will eventually sit on it.

3. If you sit on an M&M in your car - it does nothing bad to the leather seats but your friends will know you sat on chocolate. (Strangers will wonder what you did but won't say anything.)

4. The experience in numbers 2 & 3 above have done more to stop me from sneaking chocolate than the truth of number 1. Embarrassment is an excellent motivator!

5. Yoga is real exercise - with sweating and toning and physical exertion.  Who knew?

6. Years ago I could exercise all week, watch my food and alcohol intake for 5 days, eat and drink what I desired on the weekends and still lose weight.

7. At 53, that is no longer possible. Get over it.

8. There is no room on this boat for "fat" clothes and "skinny" clothes.

9. I have a bag of great summer clothes marked "TSFN" which stands for Too Small For Now.

10. I don't care about gray hair, or laugh lines, or that my feet are getting wider. Can't do anything about those things, anyway.

11. I do care about my weight and lack of fitness and I can do something about it. 

12. It won't be easy. Sometime things aren't supposed to be easy. (I truly hate that.)

13. As I lose weight all the "fat" clothes are going to Goodwill. If I gain weight again I will truly have nothing to wear. That would be more embarrassing than chocolate on my khaki pants. 

We Live - Aboard Sailors Aren't That Different From You - We Just Made a Different Choice

Non-boaters and casual boaters have one response to my recent post Sunday's Day of Plumbing. They are "in awe" of me. They think I'm special. They "can't imagine" doing what I do. 

I'm a good sport (most of the time) but other live-aboards have much more experience than I do at pitching in to make repairs. This may be new to me but it sure isn't new. Women who live aboard or who have gone on long distance cruises all have stories to tell (and bruises to describe)about the recalcitrant bilge pump or the stuck winch or lost halyard. We do what is necessary to keep the boat moving and safe and comfortable. 

That is no different than what any responsible person does - of any gender. As EW says, "You make your choice and then you make that choice right." 

You did that if you chose to have kids. That choice changed your life forever. I know a lot of incredible parents who are raising their children in wonderful ways that I never imagined. That was their choice and they made it right. 

I know a couple who left corporate America, purchased a business and moved their family to Maine. They have created jobs, are raising their family, and are active in their industry and in their community. That was their choice and they made it right.

There are folks of all ages who join the Peace Corps, take a year to build homes for Habitat for Humanity, or lovingly care for foster children. There are wives or husbands who choose to give up their career to help their spouse. All choices that they made work. 

Every lifestyle is a choice. Some choose a challenging demanding career; others choose time and travel.  The smart folks make the choice conscientiously and then make it right. 

We choose to live-aboard and some day we will choose to sail the world aboard La Luna. Just like those who choose other paths, we do what it takes to make this choice right. That doesn't make us special or worthy of awe. It does make us happy. And that's enough.