The Downsizing Dilemma!

It seems that creating a more minimalistic lifestyle is all the rage these days. Even people who aren’t planning on living on a boat are seeing the benefits of downsizing, getting rid of the clutter in their lives, purchasing experiences instead of material things. Everywhere I look there are articles about how to spring clean your life, but equally there are also all the advertisements and flyers in my letterbox encouraging me to buy more stuff!

Studies that show that in the long term, purchasing experiences make you happier than that big flat screen TV. The issue people have with this is that experiences, like show tickets, or a holiday, only last for a short time, but TV’s and new cars last for a long time. Still I’m sure there aren’t many people who reminisce on their death bed how enriched their life was after they bought that TV or new couch. Travel on the other hand brings many rich rewards and experiences. Same with a boat!

The sooner you get started the better. Think of how much money you would have saved had you not purchased these things in the first place! Material possessions can end up being a hindrance to living more freely. The thought of having to move all my household goods from one house to another sends shivers up my spine.

And if you don’t have lots of material possessions, think of how much money you will save by not having to insure those items as well!

Well we made a start on this last year, and this year I plan to continue. I feel it has to be easier if we are able to spread this out over a few years. A large pile of unwanted things is accumulating in my garage as we speak.

Here is how to go about it.

Start Early

Getting rid of your stuff can be a painful and time consuming process. Even if you are a year or two away from sailing, the earlier you start, the easier it will be. You will have time to come to terms with the things you will need to leave behind, and figure out the best way to deal with them.

Think about the $$

If you have opened a boat savings account, you can deposit any money saved or money earned from selling things in to that account.

Stop Buying Things

Sounds simple right? The rule is that if I buy anything now, it has to be something that will come on the boat with us. No more glass vases, no more furniture, cut back on buying makeup, fancy dresses and high heeled shoes. Try to use the things that I already have instead of buying something new. Put the money I save from not buying so much stuff in to the boat savings account.

Make a list of what you need

A great idea from Jesse in the comments below: Tell your friends and family that you are downsizing. If you have a list of the things that you are going to need on your yacht/travels if anyone wants to buy you gifts for birthdays or Christmas, they can get you something useful that you are going to need – as opposed to something that you will potentially have to store/get rid of, as you get closer to the time.

Your list can also keep you on track for the things that you are saving up for. You can do research on the various different products available, or purchase things when they go on sale. Having time to make these purchases means you can get the things you really want, as opposed to making impulse decisions when you go to move on the boat.

Getting started

If you are feeling really daunted about the task ahead, then read this book. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Houses are great spaces for accumulating lots of things you don’t actually need or want any more. But you are loathe to just chuck them out. I don’t want to contribute things that someone else might find useful to land-fill.

Start in an easy room – perhaps a spare bedroom. Take everything out. Give the room a good clean out while it is empty.

So what are you going to keep and what are you going to get rid of?


Now go through all the things you have removed and make four piles:

  1. Stuff you are going to keep – put it back in the room
  2. Stuff you can sell – take photos and put them up online as you go
  3. Things to give away/donate – put them straight in your car and deliver them round to the people you are giving them away to in the next day or two.
  4. Stuff to throw out/recycle – put it straight in the bin!

Try to minimise the pile of things you really aren’t sure about getting rid of. If you can’t bear to part with them right now, put those things in a box and stow them away in the garage. Revisit those things again later – when you’ll need to be a bit more ruthless.

Consider that the stuff you’ve got stored away that you aren’t using could be super useful and really loved by someone else.

Set a goal to do one room a day or a week, or just a single wardrobe/cupboard/bookshelf at a time. Don’t try and do your whole house at once as I find its just too exhausting. Try to keep the momentum going though.


Sentimental Items

You are bound to have a few treasured memories that you can’t bear to part with. You’ve got a couple of options.

I have got two big plastic tubs with lids that contain things like photographs, letters, cards, school reports etc. I have got a separate one for Seth. All those special little things that you like to look back on every once in a while. The tubs can either be stored in the corner of a garage, or under a bed somewhere out of the way.

Another suggestion is to digitise these memories. Scan the letters, photos, take a photo of the special item. Keep the memories that way.


I am a bit of a (boating) magazine hoarder. Instead of keeping the whole magazine, tear out the pages, or even better, scan the pages that are of interest to you and create some kind of filing system for keeping that information. Recycle the rest, or take them down the your local doctors surgery waiting room.


Buy a Kindle and download all your favourite books. Sell, donate or give away all your other books.


Go through your clothes and immediately remove anything you haven’t worn in ages, anything you don’t like and anything that doesn’t fit. From the things that are left behind, put your hangers in the wardrobe backwards. Then when you wear something and put it back in the right way round. I read something that says that you only regularly wear about 20% of the clothes in your wardrobe…

Anything you don’t want, you can either donate to a charity shop, have a get together with friends and do a clothes swap session, or there are sometimes shops that sell clothes on behalf – they usually take a 50% commission on the sale price.

We always hand down kids clothes to someone a bit smaller. We have done well from people who have given us their kids clothes once they have grown out of them. A great way to save money too when they grow so fast.

Considering Storage

I do some work for a storage company and am constantly amazed at the amount of money people spend on storing their junk. You really don’t need more space – you need less stuff! If you are going sailing for a few years and want to keep some of your things, calculate how much it will cost to store that lounge suite vs how much it would cost to buy a new one when you get back.

If you do decide to put things in storage, shop around for the best price, take particular care to ensure that things are packaged well. Consider potentialย water leaks and rodents in storage units and pack accordingly.

Renting out your house furnished

If you are planning on keeping your home, and you want to keep some of your things as well you could consider renting it out furnished. You probably wouldn’t want to leave your favourite antiques and personal stuff in the house, and you might want to consider getting a property manager to do regular checks, and keep an inventory of all the items. You might also want to think about wear & tear on your things, and also bear in mind that if you rent it out furnished, then you are also responsible for repairing any of those things that break – like appliances for example.

If you have a large garage, you could think about shutting all or part of it off and storing your things in there, or leaving your personal bits in boxes in the attic.

Going Digital

I have copied all my old DVD’s and CD’s on to the computer and now have all my music on iTunes.

I still like printed photo books for displaying photos, however now lots of our photographs are now published on Facebook, on the blog or stored on our phones or computers.

How about scanning all those instruction books on to your computer? Do you really need to keep the paper copies in 20 different languages? Again I do like paper copies of reference material. Perhaps you can just cut out the pages of your preferred language and store them instead.

The issue with having everything digital of course is if you lose your computer somewhere along the way, you can also lose all the original data. Andrew has got a Time Capsule system, where everything is backed up every night. Hopefully we can transfer that on to the boat somehow as well. There are also great cloud storage systems, but they can be a bit difficult to access when you aren’t near any internet coverage.

Downsizing Digital

While we are on the digital theme, how about having a clear out on your computer?

Get rid of any old documents you don’t need, set up a new filing system for the ones you want to keep, delete duplicate or bad photographs, clear out your emails, unsubscribe from any email newsletters you don’t need or read, ‘un-like’ any Facebook pages or groups you don’t want to follow any more, ‘un-friend’ any people you don’t want to keep in touch with any more – particularly negative people who fill up your timeline with distressing stuff, delete any music you don’t like from your iPod etc.

The 20/20 Rule

Another article I read suggested don’t bother keeping anything that you can buy for less than $20.00 from a shop less than 20 minutes away. Hmm I am not sure on this one. Although I see its merits.

Any other suggestions and tips? Everything we own will need to be reduced down to fit in here!!



26 thoughts on “The Downsizing Dilemma!

  1. The freeboard seriously went down when I loaded on all our stuff for the family!, we gave the kids a box each and said when its full its full! We stored a lot of stuff so we did’nt have to re-buy when we came back but storage is expensive!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it is expensive. I guess there will always be those sentimental things that you want to keep. Photos etc. We might keep our houses and rent them out, so perhaps we could leave things like that in the loft or something!


  2. You’ve got it well covered there – great article (again!) – When we rented out house, the furniture we thought we might want back we sold to the renters with the agreement that we’d buy it back – no hard feelings if it fell apart. Family stored some ‘special’ stuff we didn’t want to sell, but we took weeks to get it down to just about two small boxes….. it is very liberating!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Viki, If I had let my wife sort out all our stuff when we made our piles she would have a pile of shoes (to keep) and her clothes. I would have everything I owned in the pile to throw out.
    You are right in that we need very little to live full lives. My only piece of advice. When you go cruising for everything you bring onto the boat you have to get rid of the same amount of items. Whenever I say this my wife suggests she gets rid of me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha haaa!
      I hadn’t even considered that we might have different expectations on what we might both take. Hmmm might have to have that conversation early on. I have noticed that Andrew has many jackets…
      Good suggestion re the one thing on means one thing off – would save on gradually filling up and slowly sinking your boat. I guess boating people have difficulty becoming hoarders!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes and no! You’d be surprised how much stuff you can store in a boat… Though having a lighter displacement one helps because you see the waterline drop… I think almost every sailor has found something aboard at least once that they’d completely forgotten they had! Loss aversion is so hard to beat!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. When we left the UK a few years ago, after selling the house all 5 of us moved into our 7.1m motorhome for 4 months. It was a very small space, but we found (after a few modifications) that there was enough room for everything we needed in life. Everything had a home, and so long as it was returned to its home after use there was never a problem with space.

    After moving to Australia and into a massive 5 bedroom home we felt lost in all the space and never settled properly – and I still miss living in the motorhome!

    The kids all prefer to stay in one bedroom even now, so we end up living in houses with lots of empty rooms as we condense ourselves down into the minimum space – for no apparent reason!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Viki,

    We started about 2 years before we actually moved aboard. It takes a lot more time than you think to get through it all. You’re doing the right thing by starting now.

    You seem to have all of it down. The only tip I would give is to not get too caught up in how much each item is selling for compared to what you paid for it. It’s tough. There were a number of items we turned down reasonable offers on that we ended up selling for a lot less in the end. We also gave more to charity than anything. I probably made 12-15 trips to Goodwill.

    In the end, it is the best feeling to have it all reduced down to that small amount of things that you actually use and that will fit on the boat. Totally worth it.

    Oh, one other quick tip. Start an Amazon Wish List. We made it very known that we were reducing our stuff to move onto the boat. When friends or family said they wanted to get us something for a birthday or holiday but wanted to get us something we could use for the boat, we would just send them the wish list. It worked out great and we got a lot of the cruising related stuff we needed.

    Good luck and fair winds,


    Liked by 2 people

  6. Dovid and I are still working on this! I have my things in the quarter berth that I need all the time but I still have things in storage here in Oregon and SO MANY sentimental items boxed up in my friend’s garage back in Arizona! It’s so hard! Thanks for this post! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We have the same dilemma: 2 houses, 2 or 3 years to go, one catamaran that does not enjoy being overloaded. If we learn to be tough and get rid of stuff, we might reduce the scary storage bill!


  8. As someone who has already gone thru this, downsizing is awesome! When people ask what i want for Christmas my response is “nothing!” Because i don’t need anything else. I can make do with everything i have. I practically lived out of my car for a month on a long road trip between visiting friends and family and i too was surprised with how little i actually needed, even after having downsized!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Having just gone through this, we can tell you it is a painful process. It sounds easy. Our friends would just say, throw everything away. It is not that simple. We have some treasures that we would hate to part with. We wound up with a storage unit and had to make hard decisions about what we kept.

    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff


  10. Within the last few months I have gotten rid of three car loads of house stuff clothing and I don’t miss any of it at all.
    When we finally cut the lines we have storage space in case we need to come back a few month later, but the longer we are gone I think the less we will need when/if we come back.


  11. We stored a small amount of things which we were happy to see again when we got back to land; surfboards, skateboards, camping gear, a good selection of quality kitchen items. We borrowed a fridge, we found a couch on the side of the road as well as chairs and a dining table. I have lived with two pairs of shoes for the last year. I dont want to OWN THINGS anymore (other than a boat). Get it for free or second hand and its all easy to give away! What you compromise on style, you gain on living lightly and getting away easier. Having said that; our boat “things” include two ukeleles, several surfboards, a guitar, multiple wetsuits, climbing gear etc. The things that really matter right??


  12. Haha! the eternal war between my skipper and me! Decluttering! He loves it and he does it as a hobby when he gets bored! I have a lot of craft and things to do when I get bored (drawing, painting, dremelling,cheese making, boat gardening); when the weather is grey and we can be outdoor, or when the computer is flat.Therefore, I NEED (for my sanity and creative restlessness) a couple of bag full of stuff that are not for the boat (let’s say about 12KG) but my skipper never has the use for it… therefore the constant war…because he can’t have control of all the items of our boat…
    Anyway, I declutter regularly, I like it too and I also found a trick: when he enters his moods of getting rid of stuff, I always have a couple of things (given by our relatives usually) that I pretend to hold on too and then willing to agree reluctantly to get rid of it… A bit like a sacrifice to the god of asceticism.. But it worth it, our boat sails amazingly better any time we manage to get rid of 50KG….. ๐Ÿ™‚


  13. Pingback: Not for Navigation | Astrolabe Sailing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.