As I heaved the black plastic bag off my shoulder and into the back of our friend Adam’s truck on Lopez Island, the relief was more than physical. The mental side of giving away things that no longer fit in our lives is always powerful. It’s a liberation of sorts.

The bag was the last of our second kayak load of stuff that we’d paddled ashore and it was good to give it a new home on a small island community that we love. Because often, the only reasonably affordable places for island families to shop are consignment or thrift stores, which almost every island has.

Living on a full-time cruising boat means that we really only have enough space for things that we use regularly, will use eventually, or that have something to do with sailing and safety. Our storage spaces are well conceived and for the most part convenient, which allows us to use them efficiently. But in order for our storage to work, everything must have a home and a purpose. Some things no longer had either.

So what didn’t make the cut?

What led to our recent purge was twofold: Magnus getting older and the impending arrival of fall and eventually winter.

As Magnus has gotten older, he’s physically grown out of clothing and has matured out of baby gear such as a bouncer seat, kicking mat, swing and toys. This is stuff that we are glad we will never have to buy again, but we know that as the boys get older and grow out of things, there will always be new belongings to take their place.

Clothes, toys and books all needed to go
Clothes, toys and books all needed to go

Days and nights have been a little cooler lately, which had us grabbing for warmer clothing more often. Most of these clothes had been packed up and stored away in April, so it was time to pull it all out, sort through it and switch it over. This presented the perfect opportunity to weed out a bunch of clothing that we don’t wear anymore or simply don’t need. That black bag, it was full of clothes, including things that we hadn’t worn in over a year and a shirt that I couldn’t bear to see myself wear in one more photo.

Our clearinghouse started at clothing and then kept going. We combed through the boat to find things that aren’t used anymore, and some that probably don’t belong on a boat in the first place. Books, an electric mixer, hairdryer and bulky bath towels didn’t make the cut. Who needs a hair dryer on a boat anyway — isn’t that what the wind is for?

And sadly, I finally decided to part ways with my home gym, too. Though my two 20-pound dumbbells and Perfect Pushups were going to good use (*not really*), it was time for them to walk the plank.

After dropping all this stuff off in the truck and returning to Yahtzee, the difference probably wouldn’t be all that noticeable to the untrained eye. But to us, there is a little more space in the bookshelf, in the boys’ rooms and in our closets, and a little less stressful clutter. And on a 39-foot boat, that makes a big difference.

Giving stuff away might allow us to put our feet up and relax more often
Shedding the clutter allows us to kick back and relax more often

How we make it work

A buzzword that gets thrown around a lot these days to describe people who live on boats, in tiny homes or in RVs is “Minimalist.” While this term has been applied to how we live on Yahtzee, I don’t, because we’re not. Not intentionally anyway. I tend to find that all too often, “minimalists” use their purposeful lack of stuff as a way to elevate themselves over people who choose to have more, to sound better than. And that’s just not how it works.

For us, purposefully trying to be minimalists would be putting far too much unnecessary thought and effort into the way we live as compared to others. We don’t need to call it anything. Instead, we just live the life that allows us to be happy, healthy and comfortable, and if it happens to involve a relatively small amount of material things, then so be it. The outside labels can fall where they may.

It was — and always is — immensely gratifying to get rid of things that we no longer use or need. And the bottom line aboard Yahtzee remains that if we have each other and the boat isn’t overflowing with unnecessary stuff, then we’re good to go.

A tip of the cap to the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the title inspiration, and a big thanks to Adam and Laura for helping us get rid of our stuff!