Thursday, June 2, 2011

Making do with less (while we still have more)

After making the decision to move to a sailboat, my biggest concern was that we simply wouldn’t be able to adjust to the confines of a boat.

Let me start by saying that we don’t live in a sprawling mansion. Our current townhouse is a modest 2 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom unit measuring slightly less than 1,400 square feet (including a partially finished basement). Obviously, our boat will not be as large as our current home. While you can’t really compare a boat’s square footage to that of an actual house, if we had to provide an estimate, we’d guess the boats we are looking at are probably around 400-500 sq feet. From that number alone, many might conclude the size would be too confining for two adults and a dog, but you have to remember you’re comparing apples to oranges. Unlike a house, the interior design of boat focuses on space efficiency. So, it isn’t the drop in total square footage that concerns me. A cozy space is much more appealing to me than an expansive one. What makes me nervous is the reduction in the size of practical amenities and appliances that we use every day (the kitchen counter, the refrigerator, the bathroom sink, the shower, etc.). On boats, these everyday things are smaller than their house counterparts. You simply aren’t going to see a massive sub zero refrigerator installed in the galley of a 50 foot sailboat.

My worry is that, over time, utilizing these smaller items will slowly eat away at my sanity. You see, major catastrophes aren’t what make you truly crazy; it is the small little things that you put up with day in and day out that slowly chip away at you until, one day, you snap like a twig. It’s the daily attempt at shaving your legs in a shower so confining you must do the splits in order to reach your ankles that causes you to come apart at the seams. It’s having food fall out of the fridge every time you open the door because is too small to accommodate the necessities that makes you develop a twitch. It’s elbowing your spouse every night as you brush your teeth because you are forced to huddle around a miniaturized bathroom sink that causes you to slowly crack. These are just a few of the many everyday scenarios that, when compounded over time, cause mental breakdowns. If possible, I’d like my husband and I to avoid such a fate.

To prepare ourselves for the smaller space in which we will soon live, we’ve tried to figure out ways to make do with less space, while we still have more of it. We started first with our shower. For some reason, we have two separate showers in our one upstairs bathroom (yeah, it doesn’t make sense to us either). There is a bathtub/shower combo, as well as a separate stall shower. Upon moving in, we decided to use the bathtub shower. It was the larger of the two, so it seemed like the natural choice. In preparation to move on a boat, we have switched showers, and now only use the smaller stall shower. Unlike the bathtub shower, the standalone shower mimics what will likely find on a boat. So far, shaving has not involved contorting my body, which gives me high hopes for my future mental state.

The next area we “downsized” was the kitchen. Our current usable countertop space is similar in size to what we’ll likely find within our boat’s galley (as long as we don’t store anything on the countertop), but just in case it is not, we’ve been trying to use only one of our counters. We went from using all of this (plus a large chopping block, not pictured):

To only this:

So far, the change in usability has been negligible.

In my mind, the refrigerator will be the biggest challenge –especially during holidays, and as our family grows. To help with the transition from a standard fridge to a boat-size refrigerator, we’ve recently cut our usable fridge space in half:

Slowly tapering our current lifestyle to simulate what we’ll likely encounter on our boat is helping us prepare mentally for what is coming our way. My biggest concerns with boat living were the smaller shower size, the potential reduction in kitchen counter space, as well as the decrease in refrigerated storage. So far, with the reductions we’ve made while still living in our house, we feel confident that, at least these three things will not cause us to plummet off the deep end anytime soon.


  1. I should have shown you all of our fridges. I wish I could get have a fridge like yours actually.

  2. You can come over and look at our fridge anytime, Jamie!

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