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Randy and I were watching a documentary on Amazon the other night about minimalism and it got me thinking about whether living aboard a boat would be considered minimalism. The documentary titled, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, examines the many flavors of minimalism and follows two young men who are living meaningful lives by living with less. Their definition of minimalism isn’t about placing restrictions on what you can and can’t own or how many things you should have. To them, it is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom—freedom from fear, guilt, overwhelm and “freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around.”
There’s no doubt that there’s a real trend with minimalism and tiny houses with all the HGTV shows springing up like Tiny House, Big Living, Tiny House Hunters and Tiny House Builders. According to The Tiny Life, the most popular reasons for this movement “include environmental concerns, financial concerns, and the desire for more time and freedom. For most Americans 1/3 to 1/2 of their income is dedicated to the roof over their heads; this translates to 15 years of working over your lifetime just to pay for it, and because of it 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.” I’m sure there are plenty of folks looking into living aboard in the same way as a means of downsizing.
When Randy and I originally decided to move aboard a trawler, minimalism was the furthest thing from our minds. We both just love being out on the water so much and we wanted to be able to have a boat large enough to stay out on comfortably over a weekend or for a week or two in the Keys. This meant owning a boat in the 30-40′ range in addition to our home. Things were tight as it was and we knew it wasn’t going to happen. I hated the idea of waiting until we retired to follow our dream of owning a boat like that and so it was then that I suggested buying the boat and living on it. My parents had been living aboard for a few years at the time which gave me the idea in the first place. Randy immediately liked the idea and the rest is history.
We did our downsizing in stages—first selling the house and having a huge garage sale, then moving into Randy’s father’s place for a year, then downsizing a little more before moving aboard. I was surprised that I really didn’t have any issues parting with all this stuff. It was just stuff—furniture, lamps, decorative things for the walls and knick knacks for counter tops— it was all stuff I could live without. When we had our garage sale, I kind of went overboard. I sold everything including the dishes, silverware and coffee pot. So when we bought Blue Turtle I had to go shopping for those few necessary items right away (coffee pot!).
Over time, I started to realize how little I missed all that stuff. How much all that stuff over complicates life. We soon realized that there were financial benefits to living aboard. Now, I’m not gonna lie, those first couple of years on Blue Turtle definitely hurt the piggy bank and credit cards, but we realized once we got past all the initial upgrades Blue Turtle needed, we were actually able to pay off all debt and save money! Of course, it helps that Randy takes care of all maintenance on Blue Turtle now which saves us a lot of money annually. Our costs of living aboard are about the same if we rented a 1 or 2 BR apartment. It’s actually less since we don’t pay for water or cable and WiFi. And since we live in a much smaller space now, we take every buying decision seriously. When out shopping for things for the boat or for clothing, I mentally ask myself where this item will go, and if there isn’t space, what will I need to get rid of in order to fit it? It has really changed my mindset about shopping and makes every purchase deliberate. Because I don’t have a house to furnish and decorate or have a large walk-in closet, I spend much less when shopping than I ever did living in a house.
Even though it seems we are living with less, it definitely doesn’t feel like it. Our lifestyle is rich with gorgeous views, time spent as a family, awesome happy hours with great friends and fabulous vacations on Blue Turtle. Our life is richer living aboard because we actually do more. We ride bikes several times a week, where before, it was maybe a couple times a year. We are social with our neighbors on a regular basis, where before, we didn’t even know any of our neighbors. We spend more time outdoors catching a sunset, riding bikes to dinner or having a drink on the bridge than we ever did living in a house.
While it may seem like we are minimalists, I wouldn’t say that we are because we didn’t really do this intentionally. It sort of happened to us, and by way of living aboard, we just happen to live a simpler more meaningful life now. I don’t think we really have the time or energy to fully become minimalists, but I definitely see the benefit of downsizing and simplifying life. I can definitely see using the minimalism concept as a tool and a means to downsize and live with less. By cutting out the clutter and the stuff that is really irrelevant in your life, it allows you to focus on the important things.
I won’t say that the documentary we watched was enthralling, but it had some very interesting perspectives about how you can live a more meaningful life. Check it out and let me know your thoughts on living a simpler, more meaningful life.