Learned From My Boat
By Trish Lambert

'5 principle and what I learned from my boat'

What have I learned from my boat in an environment that bombards us from all sides with a variety of tempting goods and services that promise to fulfil us, it can be a real challenge to decide what we really need versus what would be "cool" to have.  So what have I learned from my boat? 

The messages, simply put, seem to be that "more is better," and that the more we have, the happier we will be.

Is More Better? 

Counter-movements to these messages have taken the spotlight from time to time; these tend to stress the "simple life" and criticize the "rampant materialism" of the world today.

These movements become popular, I believe, because we do resonate with the idea that we would be happier if we simplified our lives, both fiscally and materially.

We understand that pressure to acquire more and better things tends to create financial pressure that in turn creates stress-stress that can really rob us of the satisfaction all that stuff was supposed to provide!

I used to sneer at what I thought of as mindless materialism, even while I was coveting that pair of shoes in the window or planning to upgrade the computer that was working just fine. I've changed my mind, though, I have learned from my boat.

Mindless Materialism:

Now I think that the temptation stems from a different side of the human psyche:  Call it the collector gene. I propose that the drive to collect belongings is instinctive rather than voluntary, and that left to our own devices, we will keep amassing stuff until our houses, garages, and rented storage spaces overflow.

Further, I suggest that, if we really do want to simplify, we need to construct external checks and balances that will help maintain discipline in our acquisition habits.

I have constructed some checks and balances of my own, and share a few of them here to spark your thinking about what might help curb your own natural tendency to collect stuff.

I have adopted many of these strategies more by accident than design and learned from my boat. For the better part of two decades, I have lived aboard small sailboats-the largest a 43-foot ketch and the smallest, my boat is currently a 30-foot home and have pursued what is known as the cruising lifestyle .. kind of like RV-ing, except on the water.

Learned from My Boat 5 Principles:


1.  Limit living space:   Between the small living space on my boat and the mobility of the life, my husband and I literally cannot amass a lot of belongings.

This is really the first external check: Our choice of lifestyle automatically limits how much stuff we can acquire. This is one of the main lessons I have learnt from my boat.  At least to some extent!

I suggest, though, that limiting living space can be accomplished without resorting to the kind of lifestyle I've chosen. Adjusting the amount of room needed for comfort will naturally impose restrictions on how much stuff can be acquired. This may be a tough one to accomplish, but it's worth considering. 

2. Purchase with meaning:  When it comes to "non-essential" furnishings such as jewellery, artwork, and knick knacks, we only buy things that have a story behind them.

Every piece of jewelry in my collection has a memory attached to it-the silver necklace my husband bought me when we were in Italy, the gold pendant my mother wore when I was a child, the silver earrings we bought on a memorable visit to California wine country.

I have learned from my boat which has few walls and the few boxes stored in our landside rental space are filled with artwork and knick knacks that we've sparingly collected in our travels, and each item has a story.

When I'm tempted to buy something I see in a mall store or boutique, I can pass it by because it doesn't have any special meaning, or place on my boat. 

3.  Purge on a schedule:  Our collector genes still function even on my boat, no matter how stern we are with ourselves about getting new things.

Our greatest weaknesses are T-shirts (cheap and useful souvenirs of the places we visit) and music CDs (we are both music hounds, and like having the entertainment when we're anchored in some remote spot), but there are other things we think we must have-usually some piece of boat gear that would make life "easier."

We have found that we need to cull the inventory around twice a year, either donating castoffs to charity or selling gear at a mariner swap meet. 

4.  Create wardrobe boundaries:   I maintain a work life on land so I keep a foot in the corporate world, which requires a very different wardrobe from the clothes I wear on my boat.

The choices of "career wear" available to me definitely stimulates my collector gene. Years ago, I decided to limit the colors that I wear-in my case red, white, and black.

The impact has been significant: I can keep my shoe inventory down, I can pass up a lot of the offerings displayed in the store, and everything in my closet matches! 

5. Exercise product scepticism:   We buy what we need of the quality that will work best, and this takes conscious thought. We started limiting our household products and goods by default because of the limited space on my boat, but do it now by choice.

How many different kinds of soaps and cleaners do we really need to keep our living space maintained? Why buy a set of pots and pans when all we ever use is a skillet and the microwave?  Another lesson learned from my boat!

Does a kitchen spoon really need to be embossed with some famous chef's name to be effective, or would one bought at a "99-cent store" work just as well? This strategy can streamline the budget as well as the inventory this I have learned from my boat!

These are a few of the external checks and balances I've come to use over the years that help discipline my drive to acquire. While these might not fit your particular circumstances, there are probably other strategies you can use to offset the promptings of your own collector gene, and that will help you increase quality by decreasing quantity!


Trish Lambert has been a cruising sailor for over twenty-five years and a first mate three times, with three different skippers and three very different cruising styles.

She knows first hand what makes cruising successful, and what she has to share may surprise you! Whether you are a skipper or first mate, a singlehander or part of a cruising couple, sail boater or power boater, Trish has learned from my boat insights that will help make your cruising dream a reality.

Article Source:  Ezine Article by Trish Lambert


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