Living aboardSailing&Living

Moving onboard

Downsizing, minimalism and priorities

Are you planning to move an entire family to a boat? Or maybe there’s just two of you. Even if you’re by yourself, it may prove challenging to fit all your belongings into tiny lockers of your sailboat. 
If there is some downsizing necessary, it is good to evaluate what you actually need for your new life. Everything from clothes to kitchen utensils needs to be reviewed and you might be surprised how much clutter accumulates over the years. Of course, there are people who already live minimalist lifestyle before moving onto a sailboat, so it’s not the same for everybody.

Some easy tips to start:

  • Anything that uses electricity – do you really need that toaster/hairdryer/smoothie mixer? You do not have to get rid of an appliance if you use it regularly, but be aware of the power and voltage requirements on a boat. The power converter may be needed, or even a generator.
  • Clothes that don’t fit, are damaged, you never wear or that you won’t need due to climate (you don’t really need a full winter gear if you plan to sail in tropical locations). 
  • You won’t need many shoes once you move onboard – a phrase “Will I need shoes today?” is common among sailors. Some flip-flops or sandals will do for the time you spend wandering about marinas. Save some comfy shoes for hiking and longer land-trips, but ditch the shoe “collection”.
  • Luggage takes too much space on a boat – you really only need a few bags onboard. A hard-shell suitcase is impossible to store on most ships, so a collapsible one is a better choice. Other than that – your favorite backpack, a shopping bag (you don’t want to use those plastic ones, if possible), cosmetics case and voila – you’re all set. What more do you really need?
  • Personal items are important – choose wisely what sentimental objects you put in the boat. Photographs are really good because they are lightweight, but you can pretty much forget taking your grandmother’s porcelain tea set. It will break eventually. And you will be sad. 
  • Speaking of which – breakable things. If there is something precious to you, but fragile, store it off the boat. Let your relatives or really, really good friends take care of it. 
  • I hate to say it, but your books need to go – somewhere else. Salty air isn’t good for the paper, but it’s moisture you should be worried about. So get most of the books in form of e-books, pdf files, or audiobooks. We’re not saying throw them away – keep some, but keep them away from the wettest areas.
  • Cosmetics and make-up – keep only what you really use, switch to eco-friendly alternatives (remember – everything you wash off, goes straight into the ocean). 

What about the new things I need?

If you need to purchase some things, purely because you’re going to live on a boat, do not worry about it, but think it through. 
Cold climate or tropical? This is an important factor, it will determine much of your wardrobe and heating/cooling needs. Investing in a sleeping bag is not a bad idea either way. 
Swimming gear – everything from the basic swimsuit to scuba diving gear. There are so many items connected to swimming and diving. We can’t tell you what to buy, that depends on each person individually. However, you should have basic snorkeling goggles, to check the bottom of the hull.
Daily life stuff – kitchen utensils, plates, drinking glasses. Perhaps you need to buy the seemingly mundane items as well. Do not worry, keep it simple. Unbreakable things are a plus.
Watch how one couple’s moving took them to Ikea to “buy less stuff”:

New beginnings

However stressful, moving can be a very liberating experience. Especially if you’re fulfilling your dream and getting rid of a bunch of stuff in the process. Remember why you started to do this, remember how you want to live. Sustainability is a word that gains more importance every year and also the core principle of many sailors. Trying to live with fewer things and less impact. You actually do not sacrifice that much, in the grand scheme of things. All you need to do is plan and prepare. Be spontaneous, by all means! If an opportunity of the lifetime approaches, take it – move. Even with a small amount of time, you can have a clear vision of what needs to be done.
Good luck.
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