Smaller Spaces: 5 Lessons From A Sailboat Captain

Source: via Evonne on Pinterest

Downsizing a space, or moving into a smaller one is a common experience for many. This doesn’t necessarily mean giving up a certain lifestyle. Sometimes, it just means making the most out of an attic conversion.

Whatever the circumstance, when you do move into a smaller space, the issue of efficient storage becomes more and more pressing. Well, how do you best manage it? 

One person that you might not think to turn to would be the sailboat captain, with a sailboat being something of the ultimate in smaller, compact spaces that balances comfort and style with the practical considerations that have to do with storage.

Tim Brookes is such a person. Learn about his strategies for better storage, and innovative living in small spaces (even if they’re on dry land) here …


Everybody knows that living on a sailboat can be uncomfortably tight, and living productively in these small spaces can be challenging. My live-aboard experiences have provided me with a wealth of sailing stories, some euphoric and some downright nasty. But the more useful lessons, and the topic of this article, involve the innovative use of limited space.

If you are considering downsizing, living in relatively small spaces first requires an adjustment in thinking. For some this is a very difficult task; for others not so hard. I always enjoyed tent camping, staying in small hotel rooms (the “sardine cans” of Tokyo come to mind), and sleeping over in my Grandma’s tiny farmhouse attic as a kid, so adjusting to cramped quarters wasn’t too hard for me.  For those prone to claustrophobia, the journey to small-space tranquility can take a little more adjustment time.

My first discovery was how little “stuff” we truly need to live a rewarding life. Many of the conveniences and possessions we treasure have very little real purpose in our lives. It is often habit that keeps us from parting with these things, but that is subject of another article (and perhaps beyond this writer’s pay grade!). The idea here is: get rid of excess stuff or adopt a “less is more” attitude.

Here are 5 ways to start living small.

1. Identify the multi-use capability of your “things”

Seek out the “Swiss Army knife” in everything. For example, the multitude of uses for reusable bags, or a table that can turn into an extra bed.

Source: via Susanna on Pinterest


2. Everything has a “place”

This is essential to efficient small space living. Items out of place cause physical and visual chaos, and ultimately waste valuable time getting things back in order. Always remember that “getting small” requires changing typical habits and behaviors, particularly in the beginning.

Source: via Jean on Pinterest


3. Use vertical space

Storage areas above eye level are often overlooked. For example, a small storage space at floor level can be extended up to the ceiling, exponentially increasing its volume. To keep the center of gravity low in boats, use space below decks for valuable storage. Going higher with weight can negatively affect a boat’s maneuverability.

Source: via Joanna on Pinterest


4. “Intentional living”

Be thoughtful in all of your actions and choices. Every purchase must be evaluated for its fundamental usefulness. If it isn’t essential to better living, it probably is best left on the store shelf.

Source: via Tia on Pinterest


5. Go digital/update your technology

In today’s world, we can easily and efficiently access and store information, music, visual media, and much more. We no longer need “space-eating” file cabinets, paper, CDs, DVDs, and large stereo receiver systems. We now have flat screen TVs, powerful laptop computers, and space-saving, energy-efficient water heaters. Newer innovations such as easy to use digital tablets for reading and all-in-one clothes washer/dryers are also becoming more practical.

Source: via Lid on Pinterest


Reasons for going small

The unintended consequences (intentional for some folks) of living in smaller spaces include a much lower cost of living (reduced hard costs of rent or mortgage, utility bills, etc.), a more sustainable way of life, and a significantly reduced carbon footprint. The benefits of this kind of lifestyle change are obviously enormous; so like comedian Steve Martin said: “Anybody here want to get SMALL?”


Thanks, Tim!

Tim Brookes is the Managing Director of Storage Concepts a UK-based mezzanine floor & suspended ceiling company.



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