Selling our house, we brought a bunch of stuff to the boat. Too much stuff.

Too Much Stuff

One of the big problems in becoming full-time cruisers is over-stuffing the boat. Even though we’ve cruised full time before, and had been on the boat all winter (and knew just exactly how big it was – and wasn’t), we still brought too much stuff.

Now, some of that was “planned,” as we decided that something that was in the house was better than what was on the boat and thus we planned to take the better stuff to the boat and then donate the old boat stuff.

But in other cases — clothing is a big one — it’s just a case of thinking we need more and have room for more than we really do. Goodwill has gotten quite a bit.

Our boat, like any other boat, handles best when she’s not overly weighed down. And we work hard to keep her light.

And that means that we’ve been getting rid of lots of “stuff.” There are only a few other cruisers here in the yard, but they’ve been able to use some of the things we didn’t need. A case in point: we discovered that once we combined what was on the boat, what we moved from the house and what we both had in our travel bags, we had 9 bottles of shampoo and 7 of conditioner. While we would have eventually used all these, they were just taking up too much space and adding too much weight. We gave away all but two of each — and they were quickly taken from the “free” shelf here at the yard.

Next up: I discovered that we have no less than four sets of sheets, four quilts, and three blankets on the boat. There is our bed and a guest bed and we’re in southern Florida. Laundry is readily available, so I don’t need spare sheets (or if I did, we could use the guest sheets since we rarely have guests). Two quilts — one for each bed — and an extra blanket will suffice. Goodwill got the rest and the guest bed got half cleared off (that’s where I’d stacked all the extra bedding).

We brought all our lifejackets from the house. We knew we needed more in the dinghy (we had two permanently in it but scrambled to find more whenever we had guests or gave someone a ride) and preferred the ones from the house for SUP-ing. But now we have way too many — and while they don’t weigh much, they take up a lot of space. Rather than get rid of the extras, though, they are going in our storage unit since it’s already the smallest size and not full.

Electronics are another area ripe for paring down. It’s all too easy when something dies to put it in a drawer and forget about it, along with the cords, cases and anything else that went with it. I’ve been working on weeding those out whenever I find them. The dead items went to electronics recycling and the extras to Goodwill.

Goodwill is also getting a box of kitchen goods. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of items that the previous owner left and replaced with items of my own choosing that came from the house.

We brought a number of extra tools from the house and they’re heavy. Some we use only rarely (and would be unlikely to need in an emergency) and those are going to either stay in the storage unit (which is near the DIY yard, which is where we’re likely to use them) or will go in the car which we’ll take to the Keys this winter. we’ll have them available for projects but they won’t be weighing the boat down.

Even Paz has gotten into the act of paring down. She’s accumulated a number of toys and balls that she rarely plays with, and several bags of treats that she tried and didn’t like. An extra brush. Her bed from the house. Four leashes — one extra we’ll keep, but how did we ever get four extras? And the local no-kill animal shelter has signs all over town asking for donations of just those things.

Even Paz has pared down her belongings on the boat

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  • Emily Davidson
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    We are one year away from setting off (from the U.K.) I shudder when I think of all the stuff I have to disappear!!

  • Kate Ellis
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    We live aboard but weight wise, a few extra bottles of shampoo is the least of our worries. Those products are one thing I stock up on for remote destinations or huge walks to some random hole in the wall hoping they sell shampoo. We have certainly removed loads of clothes though.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

      A lot of it depends on where you are. We know that if we go to the Bahamas for a lengthy stay, the boat will be loaded down. Ditto when we were cruising in the Sea of Cortez on our previous boat. But when we’re in the US? No need — and it all adds up. We just had tons of duplicates of EVERYTHING.

  • Charlotte Caldwell
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    Isn’t it liberating to get rid of things.

  • Charlie Adams
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    It’s very liberating.

  • Nikki Dowden
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    I’m living aboard in two weeks or so…….. so much stuff to take, that I seemingly cant live without in the UK, the poor airlines! But when I get to Turkey I shall be ruthless and sort out loads to be deposited in the dog’s charity that the marina runs. Last count I had 22 pairs of shorts and 50 tee-shirts……. I know that count has increased. Whoops.

  • Kristi Cilles
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    It’s freeing to donate things, and pare down. When I moved into my Columbus house, I had a bed and a dining room table. You can always get more stuff if you decide to change course! It’s a good mindset to carry in life!! Looking forward to all your posts!! Prolly see ya this winter as my Columbus house has taken longer to ready for sale, and my Maine house is currently uninhabitable for the winter! Oh well, I guess I’ll have to buy a small sailboat and be forced to winter in Florida! Poor me!!!

  • Carol Zip
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    It’s a constant process. I periodically go through cabinets and weed out things I have, been using.

  • Sara Peterson
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    Just so you know, you can give to Salvation Army rather than Goodwill. Goodwill has gone into the ‘business’ of using other peoples stuff for profit and paying the ceo upwards of $500,000 dollars a year while it pays it’s people nothing. Salvation Army actually does try to help people and they will pick stuff up if you ask.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

      We give to all sorts of organizations. Right now, Goodwill is the only one with a drop station near us (SA doesn’t have a store near here, so no pick ups either). Salvation Army and several local charities got stuff when we were in Illinois. The local animal shelters always get the dog stuff. Boat stuff goes wherever cruisers put their “giveaway” items . . .

    • Trish Draze
      Posted at 16 July 2015 Reply

      Yep, I don’t won’t and haven’t used them in years. I seek out needy families and such to give to locally. Churches and shelters are a good source.

    • Barbara Lowell
      Posted at 19 July 2015 Reply

      I prefer to donate to Hospice and the Humane Society … if its building supplies Habitat for Humanity. These are more target audience related rather than generalized Goodwill. I heard the same about United Fund donations, but not sure if true, meaning they go to fuel the infrastructure. Further, what amazes me is how although I constantly cull my possessions to make my life in my little house lighter, I am always somehow acquiring “new stuff”. Its so fun to find things that make life easier and more lovely. I just bought 2 new pots to replace my well loved but well scorched ones, and strangely it was so hard to take the old ones to the recycling black and warped as they were. Have to be disciplined to let go of stuff. ;D

  • Sherlene Eicher
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    Been there! It’s so hard to live simply!

  • Donna Rohwer
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    I sooooo identify with this….I’m tripping over stuff everywhere. Time to get ruthless!

  • Jennifer Armintrout Holder
    Posted at 14 July 2015 Reply

    I love your articles! Lots of things to learn!

  • Heidi H
    Posted at 14 July 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the great article Carolyn. So timely as we downsize to a smaller storage unit, bring more stuff aboard, and get ready to sail south in about 6 weeks! Time is crunching in on us and trying to decide what we can live w/o is a daily exercise!

  • Paula B
    Posted at 16 July 2015 Reply

    Reading this made me laugh because of a flashback to many decades ago … Straight out of grad school we bought a Vega 27 and stocked it for cruising to the Bahamas. Of course everything was low budget so we crammed it with canned food goods, including mystery cans without labels that we bought really cheap. • After crossing the Gulf Stream to Bimini at an incredibly slow speed, we realized our folly. • So we started a competition to use the most cans in preparing a meal. That always made for interesting combinations and taught us a valuable lesson early in our cruising life. • Thanks for bringing back that memory.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 16 July 2015 Reply

      Love it! Great story (and as always, the problem with great stories is that first you have to live through them . . . )

  • Donna Melville
    Posted at 16 July 2015 Reply

    YES YES YES! we are currently getting our house ready for renters, with the intention to rent it indefinitely…and the job list goes on and on, as we keep doing things with the house that make it beautiful to US! SOMEBODY STOP US! and, the basement is so cluttered so we can hardly move. We are lucky enough to have “saved” storage space for our stuff in the house but still…and I realize why people DO just keep on the way they are. I remind myself when I feel overwhelmed that this all leads to what we want MORE…more travel, more experiences, more freedom ( financial and the YAHOO variety) I am inspired by you, Carol, and all the other boaters out there that have done the same thing…Thanks for sharing and allowing me this place to express my angst as we embark on the same journey! Anyone go to Zihuatanejo??? hope to see you there! Sailfest in February!!

  • Wendy Nichols
    Posted at 16 July 2015 Reply

    Oh my, we came down to the boat with a car full of gear, most of which went on the boat, was used once and then taken back to the car for storage. Its so difficult to know when you are away from the boat what it actually needs and how much room there really is. In some cases I have bought stuff especially and found it just doesnt fit which is annoying, but then I do love a challenge! We are limited in that most of our storage is very open so not great when actually sailing. Luckily we spent time onboard before committing to major changes as most of our early ideas we have changed!

  • Maryalice Falconer
    Posted at 13 September 2015 Reply

    Dear Carolyn…you have been so helpful with all of your blogs and different articles and your replies to me and to other boaters. Thank you SO much!
    We are leaving first of October to Mexico from San Francisco area and I’m still struggling with what to bring in the way of clothing. I put aside all of the clothes I’d like to take but it’s too huge! What do I REALLY need to bring? Do you have any tips of how to figure this out. We will be sailing for 6 months to start.
    Thank you for any advice you can offer!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 13 September 2015 Reply

      Since you’ll be there for winter, I’d say one or two pair of pants/jeans and a fleece with a couple of tops you can wear under or separately. Two or three pairs of shorts and at least 7 t-shirts, plus a couple of “better” tops. A couple of stained work t-shirts. Two swim suits. A simple dress or two (sundress if you’ll be heading towards Zihuat, with at least short sleeves if in Banderas Bay, Mazatlan or La Paz. Three pairs of shoes: walking sandals, sneakers and simple “dressier” shoes (but remember, you may be walking some distance in these — low heels at the most, I wear flats). A couple of pairs of socks for when it’s chilly. One or two nightgowns — you can wear your fleece in place of a robe. Plenty of undies — this is usually the limiting factor of when laundry HAS to be done!

      • Maryalice Falconer
        Posted at 14 September 2015 Reply

        Wow!! Thank you!! I will follow your suggestions!
        This will help me so much! I was feeling paralyzed when it came to figuring out the clothes situation!
        Happy Sailing!

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