Thursday, April 16, 2015

small living challenges

Years and years ago, before I even considered living on a boat, I read about Jay Shafer's Tumbleweed Houses. His houses are extreme. The initial concept used a flatbed trailer as their foundation and built up from there - a tiny living room, kitchen, with a loft sleeping area. The toilet was of the composting variety and they look more like elaborate RVs than permanent homes. But the market was there and since I first started checking out Tumbleweed Homes, the movement has exploded.

Then I moved onto a 27' sailboat - a closet compared to a "tiny house."

And now we've moved up in the world, onto a 36' powerboat with an aft cabin. Two bedrooms! Two bathrooms! A back deck! We're living large!'s still tiny for 2 adults and 2 growing children. When we first moved to our current marina we thought we'd put the boat up for sale and buy or rent a house. But, nearly one year later, we're still here. Floating through life. There are so many compelling reasons to keep us living aboard in our tiny space. But there are also so many challenges.

What makes it hard?
  • We constantly struggle with too much stuff. Too much stuff for us extra throw pillow or blanket on the couch. A new toy. A stack of magazines. In a house these extra things could just get pushed aside into a hidden corner, but on the boat everything is front and center. We have to be conscious all the time of what we buy or are given - we only bring things onto the boat that we have thoughtfully considered and already found a place for. Which means no yard sales or flea markets or thrift stores.
  • Tidiness. For peace of mind, it is imperative that we keep the boat tidy. The space is just too small to have cluttered shelves or piles of things on the floor. Since we use all our floor space, and every shelf space is visible, everything needs to be put away, or at least relatively tidy. So picking up, tidying, putting away happens a lot. And this is a foreign concept to me. I've always been VERY messy.
  • Everything is micro. The sink. The bathtub. The closet. We can't take a bath in the "bathtub" because it is just too small. It's perfect for the girls, but no dice for us. And try washing dishes in a toy-sized sink. It's a challenge. 
    me and a regular sized mug, to try to show the relative size of the sink
  • The lack of privacy. I do not exaggerate when I say that the only place I can get any privacy is in the bathroom. I'm sure that's true for most parents, but the bathroom is the only place I can shut the door and be alone. It's about 2' x 3'. And I can still hear every single noise on the boat while I'm having some alone time.
  • Sound carries. When the girls nap, all activity on the boat stops. They are very good sleepers, but their v-berth bedroom is only separated from the main cabin by a thin door. They're not upstairs or down the hall. I can't vacuum, wash dishes, or clean the outside of the boat while they're sleeping. Darn. I have to nap or read a book.
  • Food storage. This is a hard one. Our fridge is an apartment-sized fridge which is fine in the cooler months, but in the summer when it is HOT outside and in, I have to keep everything in the fridge. All fruit, veggies, bread, etc. And since we eat all our meals at home and we eat a lot of whole foods and produce, we have to go shopping a couple times a week. A gallon of milk takes up a large portion of the fridge and we go through one every 3-4 days. 
    that's the fridge on the left. This is an old picture...on the right we now have a 4 burner propane stove top and a small convection oven (which landlubbers would call a toaster oven!) above that.
  • Laundry. Yeah. That's up at the marina. Which means I can't do laundry when the girls are napping or after they've gone to bed at night because I can't leave them alone on the boat. I can't throw a load of laundry in the wash and switch it to the dryer when I get around to it, because it's basically a laundromat. I'm sharing with my neighbors so I need to be punctual.
  • Temperature control. We basically live in a greenhouse. That's fantastic in the winter, but it gets very hot in the summer. We don't have any big shade trees covering the boat so we live under full sun every day. We do, on the other hand, get great breezes off the water, so that helps. But in the dead of the summer when the a/c is jacked up, it's still 80-85 degrees inside. 
So, with all these challenges, why do we stay aboard? Here are a few reasons:

  • the other day at the park, Freja (age 4) correctly pointed out barnacles to her friend who had no idea what she was talking about. 
  • Freja doesn't know her left from her right, but she's getting consistently better at identifying port and starboard
  • we have a couple crab pots hanging off our dock and we get a few crabs a week. not enough for a meal, but a tasty appetizer.
  • We're outdoors almost more often than we're inside.
  • We have great neighbors that we see and socialize with on a near daily basis
  • We own our boat. The marina pays for water, trash, recycling, internet, laundry. Our bills are low.
  • We don't have a lot of stuff.
  • We've lived on this boat for almost 6 years...(knock on wood) almost everything works and *currently* our maintenance is low. When Hans has a day off, we can do something fun. No grass to mow, no hedges to prune, no walls to paint.
And this:

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