Living aboard makes you grossly aware of the difference between needs and wants.
A need is something that you must have to survive. A want is everything else that you would like to have but can survive without.
While we all learned about needs and wants growing up, we were never truly penalized for surrounding ourselves with wants disguised as needs.
When living aboard, this lesson is brought back to you with an iron fist. Boats are smaller than houses, and thus you will not have all the space you would typically have available for collecting false needs.
Yes, you could always put up an extra shelf in a boat to display your favorite nick knacks, but this fine display will only last until the next yahoo comes barreling through the harbor and creating a huge wake. Your boat will pitch and roll, causing all your delicate trinkets to fall over and break.
If you bring all of your false needs onto the boat when you first move aboard because you couldn't bring yourself to part with them; the boat will help motivate you to get rid of them. Either the boat will break them, or you will get frustrated with the lack of space and willfully choose to discard them.
The true need for space will soon overpower the false need for stuff. You will quickly learn what you really need and what has been shoved down your throat by the corporations as something you need. This distinction may take some time, but eventually, we all get there.
Once we reach this point, we begin to see what is truly important in our lives, such as personal enrichment, well being, and happiness; all of which do not require the purchase of the latest "As Seen on TV" item.
The smaller your first boat is, the quicker this lesson becomes apparent. I started out alone on a 45 foot sailboat, and it took me a few months to realize that some of the essential items I brought into the boat were not as necessary as I had first thought. Once this enlightenment had been reached, these items were quickly carted off the boat and sold at a local swap meet. On the other hand, one of our neighbors started off on a 27 foot sailboat as a couple with a dog. They reached these understandings in a matter of weeks, as space for them was a significant premium. They have since moved up onto a 34 foot sailboat where their enlightened views have carried over, making them feel spoiled by all the space they have around them.
Living in a marina will buffer you a little bit as extra space can be had quickly. Many liveaboards have a large dock box located at the foot of their slip where they fill it to the lid with junk that they hardly ever use. Once the dock box is filled, they then begin to open up storage units which further allow them to accumulate clutter. While they do live in a tiny space, their storage capabilities are still vast. They will sometimes continue to hoard items that they can't bear to part with until they realize how infrequently they visit their storage bin on shore and how much it is costing them a month to keep their junk.
I was also guilty of this practice. I had a shed in my parents yard filled with junk from my apartment that didn't fit in the boat when I moved off of land. This shed was full of junk that I never touched in 5 years! Then a tornado came through my parents yard and wrecked the shed. I had the choice to either rebuild the shed or discard the shed and all of its contents. My first thought was "I need this stuff" and then I realized that had I truly needed any of this stuff, I would have brought it to the boat by now!
And so, the shed has been dismantled and the contents discarded. I have not missed a single item that was in there.
To further make it apparent what we really need vs what we want, you need to cut your ties with land all together. This will make it impossible to have a secret stash somewhere outside of your boat as you will be forced to become fully self sufficient. Every need must be within your hull, and every want will be stealing space from a need.
Maddie and I have decided to cast off the docklines and go cruising. In doing this, we have further downsized our belongings. There is a major trend in the items that have been removed, they are all appliances! We have taken off hair dryers, toasters, blenders, and the like because we will not have the electrical means to power them. Instead we will use towels, pans, and knives to do the same work. We were concerned that not having these appliances present would make our lives harder, but the truth is we haven't noticed a difference. Maddie has cut her hair shorter to make washing and air drying easier, we use the same pan that we cook our eggs in to make toast, and we don't fret the need to finely chop vegetables on a cutting board while cooking. All of these appliances took up a lot of space and caused us headaches as they would draw immense amounts of power, sometimes causing the breakers in the boat to trip! Instead, we have traded all that noise and stress for peace and tranquility where we achieve the same end result without the clutter, cost to purchase and operate, or fear that the item will breakdown from exposure to the marine environment. Instead, we are able to lead our lives happily and carefree, without all that stuff in tow.