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I think the most popular question when moving aboard a boat is “where am I going to put all my stuff?” If you’re like me and don’t like clutter, this can be a challenging question. I recently went through Blue Turtle and completely reorganized a few areas that were driving me crazy. Even after almost 5 years living aboard (can you believe it?) I still periodically have to reorganize. As you live aboard, things shift as you buy new things and you may realize that there are certain items that you need easy access to and others that can be put away in harder-to-reach storage. Continuing to streamline a boat interior to work for you is an ongoing project. I’m always looking for better and more aesthetic ways to store items on our trawler because the space is so small, I not only want it clutter-free but also appealing to the eyes. Below are a few boat interior storage ideas that have helped me along the way in organizing our stuff and keeping Blue Turtle clutter-free inside.
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Baskets, crates and bins
This is an obvious one. You walk onto any boat and go inside and you’re going to see plenty of baskets and storage containers. Baskets are great because they come in all shapes and sizes and they look nice as well. When it comes to crates or bins, I like to opt for wooden ones over plastic since they look nicer and blend better with the interior. Wooden bins and crates can also be painted to blend with the interior or provide a pop of color. Fabric or cloth baskets are great to use since they are more flexible than their plastic or wood counterparts and can fit into difficult spaces.
Drawer dividers come in very handy on a boat. Drawers and compartments on boats are all sorts of odd shapes and sizes and sometimes they can be very large. I used these expandable bamboo drawer dividers to organize my galley drawers. I like them because they are well made and sturdy not to mention they look nice. I’ve tried expandable plastic ones for organizing clothing in my deeper drawers in the aft cabin but they are flimsy and I doubt they are going to last long. I was doing a search online and I didn’t realize that they have the same bamboo dividers for deep drawers. I will definitely have to look into that for our huge under-the-bed drawers.
Using different types of hooks on a boat is a no brainer. We have all types of hooks from wall-mounted hooks to hooks in our cabinets to hold coffee mugs to hooks in our hanging lockers. I must say that installing a wall mounted wood hook rack in the stairway to the aft cabin for hats was one of the best things we did. I was getting tired of finding hats all over the boat and decided we needed a central location to hang them. Hooks are great to utilize space not being used in cabinets and closets and they’re great to hang items you might need to have easy access to like flashlights, dog leashes or keys. Plus, there are so many different decorative types that you can really get creative with them.
Installing shelving is great for large open storage spaces where you’re not utilizing the full space. When we removed an old propane stove and replaced it with cooktop, we were left with a very large storage space. It was great but it was deep and we were only utilizing the lower half of the space. Installing a pre-cut wooden shelf like this one enabled us to use both lower and upper half of that space. We also used the same type of shelving to hold our blu ray player in the aft cabin. It used to lay on the bed and Randy would kick it at night so we decided the shelf needed to have it its own space. I used a couple of these Scotch clear locking strips between the player and shelf to keep it in place so it wouldn’t fly off while under way. Probably the best shelf we ever installed was a white storage cabinet, shelf, towel rack combo in the aft head. We were lucky enough to have empty wall space above our toilet and this cabinet not only gave us great storage but also a shelf and rack to hang a bathroom hand towel.
If you need to purchase a piece of furniture for inside your boat it’s a great idea to make sure it serves some other purpose—like storage. We had an old bamboo stool that we used for seating at dinner time that was about to break so I went in search of a replacement. Since we have a hi-low table and the boys sit on the couch during dinner, I needed a low stool or seat for myself to sit on the other side. Instead of looking for a stool replacement I looked for storage ottomans since they are about the height we needed. I found a great little ottoman that opens on a hinge where we could store things. It looks great, provides additional seating and foot rests and we can stow things in it. Decorative and functional.
Device charging station
This is probably my favorite clutter-free storage item. We have a lot of devices to be charged on Blue Turtle and I got tired of seeing all the devices laying on our countertops taking up coveted space, plus the cables and cords look very messy. I purchased this bamboo device charging station from Amazon to charge my devices (Apple watch, iPad, iPhone and wireless headphones) in our aft cabin. When it came, I realized that the front divider sections were too small for my iPad and phone with their cases, so I was able to remove them by tapping them out with a flathead screwdriver and hammer—easy fix! Now everything fits and all the cables and cords are inside plugged into a 5 port USB charger inside the bamboo box.
Next up, was dealing with the stuff that would get dropped onto the galley countertop everyday. This would be Randy’s 2 phones (1 personal and 1 for work), our full size iPad that we use for navigation, Corey’s Kindle tablet, an iPod for music, then wallet, keys, sunglasses, etc. It was driving me crazy to see all the clutter that took up half of my galley countertops so I was determined to find a solution. I didn’t want a charging station to sit on the counter top, plus I couldn’t find one to fit all the extra stuff (wallet, sunglasses, etc.) anyway. The cabinet above is so narrow and I couldn’t find anything to mount under it. I decided that it needed to go into a drawer. I shuffled my silverware, utensils and other drawers to clear out the top drawer in the galley and decided to turn it into a device charging drawer/junk drawer. I used one of the bamboo dividers mentioned above to section off a charging side and a side for the other miscellaneous items. I bought a second 5 port USB charger and mounted it on the inside side of the drawer using Scotch clear locking strips. We ran the electric cord out the back of the drawer and drilled a hole on the side of the cabinet so the cord could come out and plug into an outlet. I now have a clutter free galley countertop and am enjoying the extra space.
Clear Zippered Storage Bags
For storing items longer term, like Christmas decorations or any other item that you only need to dig out occasionally or once a year, we use clear zippered storage bags. These are like the ones that you get when you buy a blanket or comforter. They’re great since you can see what’s in the bag and they keep the contents protected from moisture and dust. I have several of these with Christmas decorations, PirateFest costumes and anything else we only need to dig out occasionally from under the mattress storage in the aft cabin. I’ve also heard great things from other cruisers about the vacuum sealed storage bags for storing clothing and bedding when not needed at the time. You’d be surprised at the amount of storage space most trawlers have on them in the way of hatches and compartments. While these hatches and compartments may not be ideal for storing things you need quick access to, they are great for those items you don’t need everyday and these plastic storage bags are great for protecting them in dusty or damp spaces.
The above are a just a few ideas and items that can help you organize the interior of your boat. I’m sure there are many other boat interior storage ideas out there and would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below if you’d like to share.