We are downsizing again. We recently moved all of our worldly possessions (apart from a couple of boxes stored at my parents…thanks, mom and dad) from Mapache to Mapache 2.0. After selling a significant amount of house/boat-ware at a swap meet, we packed 18 dock-carts (about the size of a wheelbarrow) of stuff from the original boat in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle into a rented cargo van. We then drove it across Mexico and unloaded those 18 dock-carts-worth of stuff, one cart at a time, into Mapache 2.0 in Ensenada. Our original goal was to get the two Mapaches side-by-side in Banderas Bay, but the active hurricane season canceled that plan. So now, we are splitting time between two boats and two cities.
The living space in the new boat is much more open. We have space to stretch without bumping into a wall or each other. But, because the new Mapache is the same overall size as the original, we lost storage space. So, after returning the rented van, we started the process of organizing and purging.
Goal: Open Spaces
At the time of our first major downsizing from a house to the boat, the tiny-home obsession had just started and minimalism was trending. Minimalism was touted as a movement toward decluttering and, thus destressing, one’s life by reducing the quantity of possessions. Before that, minimalism was a term used for a genre of art (painting and visual, then music, film, and architecture). And, perhaps predictably from that history, the movement has moved toward a goal of attaining a specific image, rather than its simple mental-health purpose. The rich and famous often show off their minimalist décor in their not-tiny homes.
I grew up learning that you don’t throw things out, not in a hoarding way but in an anti-waste way. Many of us cannot meet the minimalist aesthetic, even in our tiny homes. We cannot afford to buy throw-away items when we need something, only to buy it again later. And when we do buy something just because we like it, that item represents more than something pretty, it represents the hard work that went into obtaining the money to pay for it, even if it is a simple tchotchke.
But I understand and aspire towards the concepts of having fewer belongings to worry about, focusing on experiences over possessions, and enjoying open space. And all of those are part of the original minimalism art and the original minimalism movement. Living on a boat helps (and sometimes forces) us to meet those goals. This lifestyle grants us access to the widest open spaces—the world’s oceans, beaches, and coastal wilderness. Still, not every day allows us to explore those spaces. And that’s when the space inside the boat becomes important. We like having open space inside, but it forces us to reduce the quantity of our personal belongings. Our method in doing so is the same now as it was when we moved from a house to Mapache.
How to Declutter
We started with a pile method—three piles in our living room: gift, sell, and keep. Any items we consistently used went in the keep pile and the rest was split between sell and gift. The visual of the piles and the physical size of our keep pile motivated further and necessary paring down. We sold the handful of big ticket items on Craigslist, and we had a weekend-long garage sale. We donated everything left from the sell pile to appropriate nonprofits. Of course, it was nice to see some green to reward us for our efforts, but the sale-price was never as much as we valued our property. The more satisfying reward came from the gift pile. Giving something we cared about to a person who equally cared about it was gratifying, and thus the easiest way to downsize.
We gave blankets and sleeping bags to people without homes. We gifted art and household items to friends with similar tastes to us. The thought that went into pairing items with recipients was not insignificant. We even gave an old globe to one of our favorite local bars that displayed a collection of globes above their liquor bottles. Everything went to the person who would most appreciate it.
Our Tiny Home
People often ask how we can live on a boat. Our boat serves all of the purposes of a bigger home. We have a living-room, a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and even a private outdoor space with a BBQ and (usually) an ocean view. It’s just that the places are within a few feet of each other. With that limited space, the most important tool is organization. Even with fewer belongings than the average American, organizing those belongings in a way that keeps them in their designated places is key to preventing our small space from becoming overwhelmingly cluttered. But, as in any living space, another important tool is purposeful decorating so that, while we clean dishes or work on our computers, the things around us inspire and uplift.
Now, we get to work on our piles. Mapache 2.0 will soon have all of her compartments packed, but organized, and her living spaces filled with the art, photographs, and plunder that remind us of good people, places, and experiences. Then, our focus will turn back to Mapache, the Original, and her sale to someone who will care about her as much as us.
The rented cargo van, loaded with all our worldly possessions
Meet our rented cargo van.
Roadtripping across Mexico–first leg, first state: Nayarit
Roadtripping across Mexico–first leg, first state: Nayarit
Roadtripping across Mexico–first leg, second state: Sinaloa
Roadtripping lessons: this is how you pass in Mexico–make a third lane between semitrucks
Roadtripping across Mexico–second leg, third state: a very wet Sonora
Roadtripping across Mexico–second leg, third state and The Wall (with an open door that this saguaro seems to be celebrating): Sonora
Roadtripping across Mexico–second leg, fourth state: Baja California
Unloading our belongings into Mapache 2.0 –one of 18 trips with this dock cart
Captain Rob welcoming me to our new tiny home, Mapache 2.0
Inside Mapache 2.0, before we unloaded the cargo van
Inside Mapache 2.0, after we unloaded the cargo van (not pictured: the full cockpit and the full bedroom)
The ramp struggle is real. Meet our Ensenada Marina neighbors. They are lovely.
Cruise ships dock behind our little marina every other day. It’s a nice to see Ensenada back in action after the COVID pandemic.
Ensenada is as vibrant as ever.
The maneuvering of giant cruise ships provides regular entertainment at the Ensenada marina.
Our VIP seats for the Ensenada marina entertainment
Turns out that new boats still come with boat projects.
We are currently back with the original Mapache in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (near Puerto Vallarta), working to sell her.
Hurricane Kay pushed some big seas over the sea wall in La Cruz.
The sea wall in La Cruz doing her job against the big swell caused by Hurricane Kay.
Our neighbor to the apartment we are renting in La Cruz while we sell the original Mapache