shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.


December 8, 2014

We all talk about how living on a boat makes us minimalists, and for some of us this is true. But there is still room for "improvement" if living minimally is your goal.

Being a minimalist means living with less. People around the world are coming to realize that stuff is often more of a headache than its worth. If you put the idea in terms of living on a small, simple boat, it just makes sense. Here's the scenario: the less stuff you have, the smaller boat you can live in comfortably, the less money you spend maintaining and operating your boat, and the more time you have to enjoy your lifestyle because you're not running the rat race to pay for it.

A tote of toys is plenty.

Now, I'll admit, being frugal (or just a downright tightass, if you ask my husband's opinion) makes minimalism a conundrum for me. I'm completely in favor of buying less. That fits in with my "less is more" philosophy just fine. But the problem I have is getting rid of stuff I already own. When we moved onboard 14 years ago, I brought two boxes of staples for my stapler. I was a teacher. Staples were like gold. I didn't want to run out. In the past 14 years I have used less than a tenth of ONE box. I will likely run out of staples approximately the time I am 74 years old. But I cannot bring myself to get rid of the extra box of staples we've lugged around for the last 25,000 nautical miles. So when you take a look at my rather strict list below for minimalizing, feel free to keep my two boxes of staples in the back of your mind. None of us is perfect, but if you truly want to haul around less stuff (and pay less in order to store it) here is my "three is a crowd" theory.

There are a lot of ideas out there about how to live with less. There's the 100 Item technique that says you pare down your possessions to only 100 essentials. But on a boat, there's another dimension to consider. Does my foul weather gear count? Does my offshore harnass have to be in that 100 items? What about PFDs? Anchors? EPIRBs? You get the idea. So since I can never get a good answer to these questions in my own head, I go with the three's a crowd method. The gist of it is this: there is never a reason to own three of anything. Naturally, there are exceptions to every rule, but you get the idea. So let's look at some specifics. (This is assuming you are talking per person for personal items, and on the boat for community items, and that you're living in the tropics, where every sane person should be.)

Especially when you live on a 33-footer.

Things you only need one of:
a comfortable outfit to sail in
winter coat
tennis shoes
dress outfit
rain gear
anything in the galley: pots, pans, serving utensils, French press, etc.
reading/writing/emailing device (iPad, laptop, whatever)

My theory is: when one gets completely worn out, you can go get another one, but why would you have more than one?

Things you should only have two of:
long sleeved shirts
tank tops
swim suits
buckets (only because they are multipurpose and two take up the same room as one)

Because you may need to be wearing one of these clothing items while the next one is being washed, two is an acceptable number.

But nothing beats experiences, like spending time with Papa.

Things you can have one per person plus one:
bath towels
cloth napkins
dish towels
hand towels
wash cloths
drinking glasses
coffee mugs

This allows you to have one guest. Any more than that will likely bring their own eating utensils anyway, especially if you ask them to. It's not an unusual cruising request.

Or hanging out at the park

Things you can have all of you want, but none of the other:
electronic books (no paper) (I know, I know, I didn't say this was easy, I said it was in a perfect world.)
music stored electronically (no CDs)

Naturally, all the food you can carry and eat before it spoils is not only acceptable, but expected.

Has anyone said yet, "Hey, I've read My Boat Lists and you have a LOT more than that!" The truth is I did at one point, yes. But I refuse to buy any more of the items listed above and things are slowly wearing out. I have half the number of tank tops I had a year ago, for example. They wear out, I don't replace them, boom, I have more room to actually be able to locate the stuff I do have. So I am slowly working my way toward this minimalists list. The holidays are always difficult in this regard, because 'tis the season for giving. But what I am asking for this year, and would like to give as much as possible, is experiences, not stuff. There are a lot of ideas online for doing this. Here are a few of my favorites:
The Gift of Not Giving a Thing
Giving Experiences not Things this Holiday Season

Or going to the fair with Grandma and Papa

For me, the biggest inspiration to not give things this year is the fact that our youngest son, his wife, and our only grandchild are spending their first Christmas as live aboards on a 33-footer. It would be unfair to them to give our grandson a mountain of toys. Instead, I think we'll give experiences: a trip to the zoo, cookie cutters so he can bake with Grandma, the makings for a homemade kite, anything that we can do together that will enrich his life without clogging up his toy box.

While I can appreciate an inability to throw things out that you already own, maybe this will inspire you to simply BUY LESS. Make do with what you have and remove yourself from the commercialism that keeps us tied to jobs, land, and the rat race. Less is more, and three's a crowd. Would anyone like a box of staples?

MONDAY we'll share a few tricks for reading water depth by eye, before you run aground.

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