Stowing Papers

Ironically, organization becomes a bigger deal when you live in a small space, even though you have less things to organize.

It was a great paper pileup, a wad of receipts, and essential documents mixing it up at the bottom of my backpack. They had to go somewhere, but they couldn’t stay or else I would have nowhere to sit. Living on a boat means knowing where to put things, and knowing what to go on living without. Like a game, to keep or not to keep.

Automatically, when going through a paper pileup I ask myself “do I need this?” Because there are definitely papers I need, like my birth certificate, or car paperwork, even receipts for things I need to return. The important documents go in a sealed waterproof folder, and the less essential ones go in my backpack. Those ones are easy.

A little more challenging is things like cards, not very important certificates, business cards and other non essential paper trail documents. For those, I usually end up throwing it in a pile for a few days (weeks) and forgetting about it until I’m trying to find something. Those ones kill, because I’ll just move the pile around, procrastinating sorting through it because I don’t even want to think about what might be lurking in those papers. Like a letter from the DMV reminding me to pay another fee for tags or taxes or for existing. Or worse… the library sending a late notice for that book I can’t find!

That’s the worst, losing things. It’s not like I have many places to misplace things, or even many things for that matter. It drives me crazy, knowing what I’m looking for is probably just feet away, hiding right under my nose. At that point i just have to start displacing everything I own, looking in every backpack, every drawer and making my place look like a tornado just rolled through. After several hours (minutes) of looking I’ll just give up, because obviously the house elves are just playing a trick on me, and I’m not going to find my toothpaste until it wants to be found.

The hardest things for me to get rid of and to not buy or be gifted are books. I was such a bookworm growing up, and had quite a collection by the time I moved away. Even when I finish a book and don’t plan on re-reading it, I want to keep it around, like some kind . I like the look of books all lined up on a shelf, by size or color or preference. They have such ambiance, just taking up space. The problem is that I have no shelves. Well- actually I have shelves just not book shelves. My shelves are for clothes and non perishables, dinner ware and a few spices, tools and ties and life vests. Books are lovely, but to be certain, they take up too much room. The number of physical copies I can have at a time is probably three or four, two of which are manuals

This makes the case for ebooks pretty strong. Instead of shuffling books around, making trips to the library, or spending money on copies I can’t keep, I can have what I’m reading right on my tablet or in my pocket. Actually, I can have hundreds of books saved that I can read again and again. I know the argument, you’re going to say “but I like holding a real book. I hate reading off of a screen!” But if you’re reading from your phone screen you’re doing it wrong! I hate reading off my phone. It’s too small, the glare is terrible and my arm gets tired holding it up so I don’t have to be looking down.

Want to know the secret to ebooks? It’s tablets. I love my iPad because it’s lasted a number of years now without any problems, the display is great and the battery lasts forever. I do wish that I got it used like my phone, instead of paying hundreds more for something new. Besides, as far as pricing goes, if you want a new device you’re better off going with a far cheaper Kindle or Samsung Tab. But all in all, it’s actually been a great investment, mainly because it cut out paying for books all together! Seriously, if you haven’t been to your library recently you probably didn’t know that nowadays most public libraries have an entire free ebook collection. All you need to do is go to their website then follow the links to their e library and login with your library card.

If you have a Kindle, it’s really easy. Just download the book you want and it shows up in your reader. Even if you don’t have a kindle, you can get free books from your library if you just download the (also free) Overdrive app or the Amazon Kindle app on the tablet you already have. I like these reader apps and have used them forever over the ibooks app because you can change the display, the text size, the fonts and you can even use them to download and listen to free audio books.

Going digital is a big part of preserving space for me. Any paperwork I’m not sure about, I just take photos of with the CamScanner app on my phone. It turns photos of documents and automatically adjusts the brightness and contrast so you can actually read it, plus it flattens papers so that your photo now looks like an actual scanned photocopy. It makes it easy to just name it and file in away in the cloud so it doesn’t take up space anymore. Tablets are great to for streaming movies and shows, so I don’t need a big DVD collection, bulky cable boxes or expensive channel packages. They’re pretty under-rated and the perfect solution for saving both space and money.

If you’re interested in trying out a tablet, here are some good deals on few different devices I’ve picked for you to check out!

Tiny House vs Boat

Considering going minimalist? Tiny homes, RV’s and even converted buses are becoming more mainstream alternatives to conventional houses and apartments. However there are unseen pitfalls to these trends and to life on wheels.

Photo by Seb [ P34K ] Hamel

First off, you need a place to go, there’s no such thing as free dirt after all. Unless you own land, you can’t just park and live wherever you want. Even if you plan on living in the city, there are zoning laws to consider. Most residential  zones have laws prohibiting buildings of certain sizes, or have strict infrastructure standards.

Photo by Katie Barrett

Beware of these picturesque images of a more simple existence. It is fantasy. Most of us in the modern world depend on a little something called electricity. How do you clean your clothes, power your computer, light your bedroom or keep food cold? Electricity is everywhere and not everyone can do solar power. Not just because of climate, but also because of the expense. It’s true, the panels themselves are becoming more affordable and may only cost you a few hundred, but the rest of the solar equipment can be costly. Batteries and converters alone can be priced in the thousands. If you really want to go the solar route check out my post about going solar.

Photo by Miryam Leon

Speaking of fantasy, ever seen one of these modern minimalist tree houses? Ever wonder where the toilet is? Yeah me too. The thing is, running water is just a part of life for most of us. Most of these tiny houses in the middle of nowhere or shipping containers with futons set out on a cliff aren’t actually practical. When you live on a boat in a harbor, the Marina handles all those things, often with facilities like showers, toilets, sinks and laundry rooms.

Where are these people anyway? I can never seem to figure out where exactly these tiny houses, buses and recycled urban shed people live. It always seems to be under the premise of “off grid” or in some hidden corner of the world paradise. I don’t know about you, but I like having visitors now and then. I like being a part of society (most of the time) and I find value in things like grocery stores and coffee shops because I don’t want to grow my own bananas and sometimes I just really want a nice foamy latte while I soak in the free wifi. But that’s just my way.

Photo by Benjamin Zanatta

Life on the road works for a lot of people, it’s just important to understand the realities. Every way of life has problems that need to be solved. There is value to living in the suburbs like there is value to living in a city high rise, there is no value in painting a false picture or choosing a path that’s not your own. There are easy ways and hard ways but the best way is always your way.

So You Want to Go Solar?

I was recently talking with a coworker about solar power. He had been telling me for a while about his plans to save up for an RV to convert and run with solar power. The first time he brought it up, he was super excited because he just ordered himself a few groovy panels that only cost a few hundred each. I was always curious about how much it actually costed, and I was impressed, because I thought they were supposed to be super expensive. But low and behold, here were some affordable panels! They were really cool too, because they weren’t like they big heavy and sharp industrial panels you see on buildings. Instead, they were flexible, thin and lightweight.

This is the one he showed me on amazon. I wanted to order one too, but I held off.

For vehicles or vessels, aerodynamics are important. It impacts speed, gas mileage, even placement and accessibility are important. Especially on a vessel, where tripping or stepping on something hard with sharp edges might mean taking a swim.

A solar powered sailboat is definitely appealing to me, it would mean weekend island hopping and coastal cruising with a working fridge, with heat and the capacity to charge electronics all without a noisy generator. Beyond that is the implication of world sailing- of going anywhere with just wind, water and sun.

I didn’t hear much about it for a while, but when I asked a few weeks later he didn’t seem so excited. He said he didn’t realize how expensive the entire installation set up was. The panels themselves weren’t any good without the different inverters and batteries. As it turns out, the panels are the cheap part of the setup- to find decently rated kits online I had to totally change my price filters to include results in the thousands of dollars.

So far, I’ve found a relatively cheap kit that includes almost everything for under a thousand bucks. The real wallet killer are the special lithium batteries, which end up costing as much or more than the kit each.

All in all, I would really only need about four thousand for everything, which isn’t really much compared to the tens of thousands it costs for houses and office buildings- but you’re talking to someone who pays less than four hundred a month for rent, and who’s car isn’t even worth two grand. So it looks like my rainy day fund is now a solar fund for the foreseeable future.

55 Little Reasons to Become a Minimalist

There are tons of benefits to living minimally, here are just a few reasons to get you started

1. For a sigh of relief

Stress starts to melt away when you have less to worry about, when you leave what worries you behind you never take that deep breath of relief for granted again.

2. To get your priorities straightened out

If affording your rent tops your list of priorities you’re doing it wrong.

3. For room to think

Less means more brain capacity freed up for more important things.

4. Time to relax

If you can’t remember the last time you slept in, or the last time you had nothing to do you might be exerting to much energy into cleaning and maintenance. The only thing we really have to spend is our time.

5. To have energy for the big ideas!

With all that extra time and relaxation, suddenly you have the motivation to go for what you’re passionate about.

6. Space to forget

Forget about your unhappiness, your life “fillers” and your regrets. Those things don’t move you forward and only serve to keep you hung up on the unimportant details.

7. To save your hard earned money

What is it that you wish you could save for instead of spending it on your water bill? See my article on how much it costs me to live on a boat.

8. Working less

Don’t really have many things you need all those hours for except to pay the bills? Maybe you really want the time to have fun instead? Reducing your living expenses may just be exactly the thing for you!

9. To break out of your shell

When you don’t spend half your time at work and the other half at home, suddenly, you have to meet more people and do more things than just sit alone at home on the couch.

10. Appreciation of the outdoors

If you live in a 30′ by 6′ rectangle, you probably don’t want to hang out there all the time unless you want to have cabin fever! This is where your relationship with nature begins.

11. So people quit buying you stuff

Do you enjoy spending time with friends and family but hate birthdays and holidays like Christmas and Valentines day? That might be because you don’t have the materialistic bug, which is great for a minimalist lifestyle. Now you have the perfect excuse to tell people not to get you anything; you literally don’t have the room for it!

12 . For more time to play

Quit flaking on your friends and partners, have the time to go out and have fun instead of working extra hours to make rent or spending your entire Saturday organizing and cleaning.

13. Getting comfortable with yourself

When you stop filling your life and your space with endless distractions, you’re forced to spend more time with yourself, and more time on yourself.

14. Making more friends

Not enough happens to you when you’re stuck at home. You miss out on meeting all kinds of people, and miss out on connections you won’t make otherwise.

15. Less time spent with your TV

Cable, Netflix and movie binging is a great way to check out of life. How many hours per day do you spend in front of a screen? What about in a month or a year? What could you spend that time on instead?

16. For your health

Some of the major causes of death in our country, like heart attacks, cancer, stroke and diabetes type 2 are heavily impacted by a sedentary lifestyle. Want to live longer and healthier? Minimalism helps contribute to an active way of life.

17. To find yourself

18. To really see whats around you

Open your eyes, look around yourself and be a part of it all

19. Inspiring your sense of adventure

Putting yourself in a different environment makes you an explorer of the unknown, who knows maybe you’ll get a taste for it!

20. Confidence

Feel empowered about your decision making, your capability and your potential to do anything you put your mind to

21. For your family

Be more present and have more time and energy for your family instead of putting it towards stress and worry.

22. To try something new

23. Live without fear

Fear of what’s next or the what if’s are what hold you back from taking the leap for your dreams. When you have less physically you literally have less to lose.

24. Breaking away from the norm

25. To find your happiness

26. Putting yourself to the test

You’re stronger than you know, and it just takes a leap of faith to find out just how amazing and capable you really are.

27. To understand freedom

You are not restricted by the confines of the social norm, nor are you bound by the expectations of others, by the cost to live or the things you think you need.

28. Satisfy your curiosity

Nothing is permanent, if you’ve always wondered what it might be like to live with less why not give it a try? You can always go back to the way things were, if you never try anything new you’ll never learn, and things will stay the same.

29. Kill your materialistic and superficial habits

Find yourself hating all the unnecessary junk you buy and collect? Or feel that your status is intrinsically correlated to the things you own or don’t own? Minimalism is a great way to change those feelings and that way of thinking.

30. Be more than a human bill payer

Ever feel like your purpose in life is to pay bills or be a paycheck for someone else? The reason is having a high cost of living, and the only way to stop feeling that way is to live below your means in a way that is still abundant in the ways you care about.

31. Rediscover wild abandon

32. For getting over your writers block

33. To inspire others

I admit, it’s always a bit of an ego boost to tell people that I live on a boat and see their eyes bug out as they start asking me questions like “do you cook there?” and “how do you go to the bathroom?” Just by being different and a more unique version of yourself, you inspire and open up new worlds to those around you.

34. Become the person you always knew your were

Never feel like the life that you’re living isn’t really you. Sometimes when we just go along with what we think we’re supposed to do, we lose sight of what we really want to do.

35. To see clearly what you love

In a life devoid of things, you learn what it is you truly hold close to your heart

36. Gaining new wisdom

37. For finishing off your bucket list

Or to make one if you’ve never sat down to write out your dreams and aspirations!

38. To become closer to those you love

39. Living a life of luxury

Luxury doesn’t necessarily mean million dollar properties, a ten car garage full of hotrods or vacations that cost thousands. Luxury can be things you already have, and is as simple as living a life feeling that you have enough.

40. To travel!

Who would’ve thought? That having less makes it easier to leave everything behind to see and experience what you’ve always wanted.

41. Time to pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read

42. So you keep learning

Feeling stunted? Or like you lose a few braincells every time you have to go through your junk drawer to find a pair of scissors? (You just know you’ve bought like five pairs!) Might be a sign you’re ready for a change,

43. Discover skills you never knew you had

Ever try something brand new, like ceramics, scuba diving or gardening and feel that you were born to do it? When you get stuck in a sleep, eat, work cycle you don’t get to find those parts of yourself.

44. To feel more genuine

45. Letting go of what holds you back

Minimalism is realizing the joy within yourself, rather than seeing it in the things and circumstances around us. You can start practicing this mindset without lifting a finger, by internally letting go of what takes joy away from you, and by finding things within yourself that make you happy.

46. To smile and laugh like you used to

47. Getting over yourself

We are just a tiny spec, on a little ball floating in a big universe. The things that you think are important, are really just a fleeting moment that time will undoubtedly forget. It’s easy to let life pass by, day after day concerned with distractions. That’s what makes living in the moment, and doing the things that bring you joy precious.

48. For sobriety

This one isn’t as obvious as some others, but for those of us that struggle to stay clean, having lots of distractions and ways to numb ourselves to life is what makes it easy to never face the real problems. Consciously choosing to be awake and open to living a life with less of what hurts us is a major game changer.

49. Ditch wasteful habits

50. Stop feeling envious

Comparison is the thief of joy and mother of bitter envy. When you live a life of luxury within your means you stop comparing yourself to everyone around you.

51. A chance to start fresh

Nothing is worse than feeling trapped in your current circumstance. Sometimes what you really need is a chance to start again doing things a little differently.

52. To leave the rate race behind

53. To have control over your life

You are the master of your own universe. No landlord, university or boss should take that truth away from you. You have exactly as much control over your life as you take

54. Because you can

You’re doing something right the moment people start telling you that you can’t. Grit and passion will always accomplish more than passive compliance.

55. Because you want to

The biggest reason to do anything? Because deep down it’s something you really want for yourself. Remember you can always change your mind.