How To Downsize Your Wardrobe For Boatlife

how to downsize your wardrobe for boatlife

Knowing how to downsize your wardrobe will help you no end when you move onto a boat. I never thought of myself as someone who buys ‘things’, but when it was time to pack up my wardrobe and move into a very tiny home I realised just how unprepared I really was!

Minimalism is ‘in’. We’re told – downsize your wardrobe and streamline your life. But who actually listens to any of that? Certainly not me. Until I had one tiny wardrobe that I had to share. Then reality hit.

how to downsize your wardrobe for boatlife
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Even knowing I had no space for anything other than essential clothes I still packed way too much, and when it came time to hang up clothes in the wardrobe I realised there was no way I could keep everything. Honestly, I tried everything. I stuffed things in drawers, I tried to suggest to Adam that he couldn’t possibly need 3 t-shirts, and I even tried to work out if there was room for additional clothes storage somewhere (no one uses an oven these days right?)

My attempts were obviously futile, and I had to admit defeat. But after a week or so I realised I didn’t miss the clothes I had had to get rid of. In fact, I loved downsizing my wardrobe. I had kept clothes I really, really loved or that were super practical. I didn’t spend any time musing over my outfit in the morning, because I had a much more limited choice of clothes I actually liked.

a girl wearing the same dress because she's downsized her wardrobe for boatlife
Downsize your wardrobe before you leave to make life a whole lot easier

So, if you’re wondering how to downsize your wardrobe to get you ready for life afloat, then wonder no further. Here is everything I learnt from downsizing in the hopes that you won’t lug half your wardrobe across the world, only to throw it all away once you get there!

How To Downsize Your Wardrobe For Boatlife

a boat sailing through british waters
Top tips on how to downsize your wardrobe for boatlife

Start With The Basics

The easiest place to start is to get rid of anything that’s no longer ‘wearable’. Put anything you find that’s stained, ripped or discoloured into a pile to send to a charity shop or recycling bin. Be strict here. Remember that your sailing clothes will take quite a beating, so you might as well start with clothes that are in decent shape so you at least stand a chance of them lasting till the end of the season!


Keep One Set Of Work Clothes

a girl who has kept a pair of messy clothes after she's downsized her wardrobe for boatlife
Keep a pair of clothes for all those messy jobs

My one concession to the rule above is that you can keep one top and one set of shorts or trousers for ‘dirty’ work – climbing in the bilges, doing the oil change and what not. If you’ll be spending long amounts of time to do boat work straight off then keep two, but if you’re sailing first then you’ll end up ruining something else along the journey that can then be a second pair of dirty clothes.


Give Away Clothes That Don’t Fit

a girl wearing the same clothes from her downsized wardrobe
Downsize your wardrobe by getting rid of clothes that don’t fit

This should be an obvious one, but I’ve fallen into this trap many times. Sadly sailing life won’t transform you from a size 12 to a size 8. Or at least it didn’t for me! If anything I put on weight from comfort eating on long passages and pigging out on local delicacies! An easy downsize to your wardrobe is to get rid of those clothes that really don’t fit you anymore. I found a skirt from when I was 12 lurking in my wardrobe – don’t be that person!


Think Weather

a girl looking out at sailboats in a dress from her downsized wardrobe
Pack clothes that suit the climate!

If you’re off for a sailing adventure in the Caribbean and you know you’ll be there for a few years then do you really think you’ll need those supper fluffy slippers? I made the huge mistake of bringing an eclectic mixture of summer and winter clothes for my boat wardrobe, and in Greece I have needed a jumper about 3 times. Of course, you will need some winter clothes, but think carefully about many of each winter item you bring (or summer if you’re sailing somewhere cold!)

Any seasonal clothes you do take with you, put them in vacuum sealed bags and store them away until the colder months. That way you make a whole lot more room in your teeny tiny wardrobe for clothes you’ll actually wear.


What Accessories Do You Really Need?

Limit the amount of accessories you bring to one or two staple items that will go with everything. You don’t have space to be changing up outfits all the time so bring accessories you know you’ll be happy to wear over and over.


Forget Fashion When You Downsize Your Wardrobe

a girl wearing a dress for sailing from her downsized wardrobe
Wear what you love

I don’t mean you have to start wearing crocs and socks (though by all means, be my guest). Living on a sailboat means you don’t need to play by the rules anymore. Decide what you feel best in, or what suits you, and only choose items for your minimalist wardrobe that fit that brief. It’s so refreshing to know you can wear whatever you feel most comfortable and most attractive in, and this mindset will help you sort through all the things you bought just because they were ‘in fashion’.

Because the fashion industry wants to sell you clothes you get marketed new trends for every season. If you let go of this concept then you’ll not only work out how to downsize your wardrobe, you’ll also save a whole lot of money that could be far better spent on adventures!


Set A Target To Downsize Your Wardrobe

When you’re trying to downsize your wardrobe for boatlife just pick a number. If you’re finding it really tough then start with 3, or you could go straight in with 10. That’s the number of items you have to get rid of. If there’s a lot to get through then you can revisit this every day, each time narrowing it down more and more. Try not to see it as a target number though, try to see it as a must do number. No cutting corners I’m afraid!


Try On Everything Before You Downsize Your Wardrobe

a girl sailing a sailboat at sea
Downsize your wardrobe by trying on every item before you pack it

Some clothes look great when you hold them up. So great that they’ve lived in your wardrobe for years. But now that you need to downsize your wardrobe for boatlife it’s worth actually trying them on. You might well find they don’t look half as good on a person as they do on the hanger!


Give Downsizing Your Wardrobe A Trial Run

If you have time, test it out. Pick out a boat sized wardrobe full of clothes and wear only them for a few weeks. It’s much harder on land, as there are so many different occasions to dress for compared to boat life, but it’s a great way to see what items of clothing you truly love to wear and which you just think you like. It will probably make you realise you only really wore a few items of clothing over and over anyway.


Hopefully these tips have given you the push you need to de-clutter and downsize your wardrobe for boatlife once and for all! If you found this article useful then please do share, and comment below. Thank you!

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2 thoughts on “How To Downsize Your Wardrobe For Boatlife”

  1. Pingback: How To Provision For A Sailing Trip | Sailboat Cruisers

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