Living on a Boat – Savvy Minimalism

By Kevin Gibbons

We recently published an article describing the differences and similarities between Minimalism and Savvy Living. The takeaway is that Minimalism focuses on the escape of consumerism and maintaining just the essentials, while Savvy Living is about choosing where to spend your money based on what is important to you.

We have a friend who has managed to meld both of these philosophies in what we think is a fairly unique way. Tim lives on a small boat with his girlfriend. As romantic as this may sound, it does have some challenges. Some are obvious, some less so.

“Multipurpose” is by far the most attractive word in Tim’s vocabulary. With space at a premium, everything must do more than pull its own weight. This means rather than having a set of five screwdrivers, he has one screwdriver with interchangeable tips. A multi-tool LeathermanTM is much more valuable than a pair of pliers. What struck me about this outlook is how far it has permeated their lives. Everything, no matter how small or trivial, occupies precious space, and must be critically evaluated before it can be brought on board.

Cooking and food storage have their own set of challenges and rewards. Tim and his girlfriend eat better and healthier than many of our friends and clients. Because they cannot store very much food, they eat fresh more often. This limited space also affects the way they shop. A common solution to high food prices is to buy in bulk –places like Costco and Walmart have built lucrative businesses around that model. Tim, on the other hand, thinks long and hard about buying a quart of milk as opposed to a half-gallon. The space in the refrigerator is just so limited. So, if he can’t buy in bulk, he has to be savvy in other ways. One of the primary ways they control their food budget is by eliminating waste. If you only buy food you can eat in the next 2-3 days, you are much less likely to throw excess away due to spoilage.

One aspect of Savvy Living that is very popular with many of our clients and readers is our focus on reducing clutter in your life. Clutter occupies precious real estate, both in your home and in your mind, as you are constantly shifting things and reminded of the disorganization in your life. If you want to avoid clutter, try living on a 30-foot boat! Nothing makes it on board unless they truly love it and need it.

Those are some of the more obvious considerations one would think of when living in a small space like a boat. But there are others that feed into this same type of lifestyle. The way the electrical system is wired on the boat, the outlets on the port side are on one circuit and the outlets on the starboard side are on another circuit. So they have to always be cognizant of what appliances they are running to avoid tripping circuit breakers. This means coordinating things like boiling water for coffee right before using the stovetop to cook breakfast. (Can’t do both at the same time!) Knowing that the water tank holds 110 gallons means they can take three showers each and cook for three days before they have to refill. Using the last of the water in the tank is a much bigger deal than using up the last bit of toilet paper on the roll!

What all this does is encourage them to lead a purposeful, intentional life. All the basics are well-thought out and fairly structured. Now this does not mean that Tim is a boring person! He is one of the most creative, dynamic, fun people I know. He is a brilliant mechanic and creator, a crazy, unashamed dancer and just a pleasure to hang out with. But, with his essentials taken care by the necessity of a solid plan and regimen, he can focus all his creativity on his recreation and fun.

I don’t know if the boat led him to be so organized or if his innate organization skills led him to living on the boat. I suspect the latter. In other “serious” aspects of his life, Tim has struck me as very organized, logical and methodical. What I do know is that following his example of creating a solid structure around your critical needs like home and food can free your mind and resources so you can be more creative and better enjoy the fun aspects of your life. It’s all about striking that balance and enjoying today while knowing you are taking care of the important things.