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In any tiny living space, storage is one of the biggest challenges. It is even more unique on a boat due to the increased chance of mold and odd storage spaces.
What to keep in mind when storing things:
- How often you’ll need to access items
- Keeping items free of dirt, mold, and mildew
- Ease of storage so items will be more likely to get put away
Here are a few items, organization tips, and boat storage ideas that make living on the water more manageable.
1. Creating Easy Access Storage
A recurring challenge with storage on a boat is keeping items within easy access. Sure, there’s a ton of storage under the bed or down in a crash locker. But what about the things we use every day? How do we get to the things we need daily while keeping the boat from looking cluttered?
I saw these storage bins on The Wynns YouTube channel and knew I had to hunt them down.
Storage Box Features
High-sided storage containers also keep the boat feeling less cluttered.
These Scout brand bins are water-resistant for easy cleaning. They also have handles to grab them from a shelf when you need to look for something.
ALTERNATIVE: The Scout brand is a bit pricey. For a more affordable option, try foldable fabric bins from Walmart or Target. Just make sure to spray them with a mold-prevention spray every couple of months.
Recessed Storage Area
Anywhere you can secure items in a recessed wall or window area is an opportunity for storage.
Our boat has an aftermarket addition (it’s really just a piece of wood) to secure items in the galley’s window. It adds storage for plastic bags, reusable paper towels, cleaning supplies, and the perfect spot for regrowing green onions.
This addition keeps items accessible and in place when we’re underway.
2. How to Utilize Clothing Storage
Keeping clothes free of mold and mildew is always a concern for boaters. The more layers you can put between your clothes and the boat, the better off you’ll be.
Clothing in a Wardrobe
To add two lines of defense to wardrobe clothing storage, use hanging storage shelves. Then use baskets to add another layer of protection and to keep clothes organized.
The baskets pull out so you can see what you have without creating a mess.
NOTE: Boats will often have wardrobes with a vertical bar. We punched holes in the top of the hanging shelves and rotated the hanger to hang vertically. Remember to measure the width and depth of your wardrobes to find the right size hanging shelves.
Clothing Cabinet Storage
Shallow storage containers work well in cabinets for larger clothing. Clothing drawer organizers are ideal for underwear, socks, small t-shirts or tanks, and even bathing suits.
Containing your items neatly in a storage container is the best way to avoid the area becoming a mess.
Mold & Mildew Control
We use a variety of moisture control for our clothing wardrobes.
- DampRid hanging bags in the closet (be careful where and how you hang these so they don’t move around too much and get a hole underway
- Use DampRid refillable cups in cabinets where you can sandwich them between storage bins (may only be a good option for catamarans since the collected water can spill)
- Charcoal bags provide odor and moisture control (recharge in the sun once a month)
- Eva-Dry mini dehumidifiers are great for shelves (these have to be plugged into an outlet to “dry-out”)
- If you’ll using hanging shelves or fabric drawer organizers, spray with mold spray once every 3-4 months
3. Boat Galley Storage Solutions
The galley is one of the most crucial areas to have adequate storage. If you want to enjoy cooking on your boat, easily getting to your cooking tools and ingredients is essential.
Here are a few of our favorite ideas for storage in the galley.
Storing Ingredients in Baskets
These baskets have been a constant on the boat and during our RV days. The handles allow you to easily pull the baskets out of a tight space to see the contents. You’ll find things in your fridge and tiny cabinets with little effort.
Maximizing space while being able to see what you have is vital in a small boat galley.
READ NEXT: You might also want to check out our sailboat galley essentials list.
Storing Small Amounts in Easy Reach
One of our favorite tricks is having a small container of dry goods within easy reach.
We use 6 oz. containers for things like cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder. We use a larger air-tight container for things like flour. We store the bigger box or bag securely under our settee and then refill it when needed.
This method keeps bulk storage fresher and makes baking muffins or making pizza dough much more efficient. Not having to go for a deep dive to retrieve the larger store-bought package of dry goods saves time and effort.
Hanging Galley Tools
Using Command strips to hang things in easy reach is a helpful storage idea for living in a small space.
One of our favorite ways to utilize command strips and other hooks is inside cabinets. Hanging kitchen tools such as spatulas, cutting boards, oven mitts, and the cheese grater makes accessing tools for cooking on a boat much more effortless.
Placing a Command hook in a convenient location to hang your cleaning rag or dish towels is an excellent way to give it a home where it can dry.
Command’s line of hooks is full of variety. See all sizes and colors here.
4. Ideal Long-Term Storage
Storing things more long-term on a boat requires a different approach than items you use every day. Here are a couple of ways we store seasonal or rarely used items.
Vacuum Storage Bags
Vacuum bags are a favorite long-term storage option among cruisers. Even if you don’t deflate the bags, they protect items from water and mold. Use them in the bottom of cabinets, under berths, and any storage area that isn’t opened often. When in doubt – bag it!
- Creates 80% more storage
- Double-zip seal and triple seal valve Vacuum
- Small size is great for clothing and small towels, medium and large sizes are great for comforters, blankets, and bedding
- Includes hand-pump
Jumbo Size Vacuum Bags
The jumbo bags are perfect for storing luggage bags and backpacks. We even use them to protect the cats’ soft carriers and scratching boards.
How to Store the Bags Onboard
For extra clothes and bedding, you can remove the air and store the bags under a berth inside a Rubbermaid tub. The tub makes it easier to stack the bags and keeps them from sliding around and risking a puncture.
NOTE: Using vacuum seal bags can be a little tricky without a standard vacuum cleaner. We use our handheld Dyson with the attachment removed to suck out most of the air. Then, finish with the hand pump attachment included with the SpaceSaver bags above.
Collapsible Storage Bins
Small and large – these Scout brand bins are great for storing extra kitchen gear, food, tools, and more.
Storage Bin Features
READ NEXT: These storage bins also made our list of 10 Essentials for Life on a Sailboat.
5. Taming Outside Locker Storage
Outside locker storage can be tricky. It’s often more exposed to the elements – water, dirt, and temperature. Crash lockers and larger lockers can also be tough to get in and out of. Here are a few tricks we use to keep them organized.
Do not underestimate this simple storage item. We love our 5-gallon buckets for many reasons, but they also double as storage. In our outside storage, the watertight lids keep the bucket contents dry.
Since they have handles, they are easily moved around and can be fetched with a boat hook in crash lockers.
In our cockpit storage, they make use of horizontal space while keeping everything organized. It’s also easy to remove the buckets when the storage space needs cleaning.
TIP: Keep a list of what’s stored in each bucket. Create different color combinations with the buckets and lids to tell them apart.
You can pick up 5-gallon buckets with lids at Walmart or Home Depot for a very reasonable price.
Straps for Power Cord and Hose Storage
These durable straps with handles make storing hoses and power cords a breeze. They allow you to get a handle on the mess and tangles that occur.
It’s easy to lower them into the front crash lockers and then fish them out with the boat hook when you need them. For us, this opened up more storage in the easy-to-access lockers in the cockpit.
6. Best Collapsible Items
When it makes sense, opt for a collapsible item. In the galley, it might be a collapsible colander, mixing bowls, or measuring cups. Here are some other collapsible items that are practical on a boat.
- A small collapsible stool is instrumental for many projects. Ideal for when you need a seat to work in an area or reach something a foot higher. When flat, store it in a locker.
- Collapsible tubs are helpful for many projects and daily chores. Essential for conserving water for washing dishes, washing clothing, or kitchen towels. The tub below is the right size for most tasks and fits in the sink. We have one for dirtier jobs and one for laundry.
You can also find collapsible dish drying racks (or tubs), as well as larger buckets and bins for washing or carrying laundry. We love this durable collapsible laundry bag.
Best Way to Store Items on Your Boat
Every boat is a little different. Certain things that work great on one boat might not work well on others. So get creative with your storage options!
Your most effective method to fight storage woes is to be selective about the items you bring on the boat. Revisit all storage spaces seasonally and get rid of things you aren’t using or that aren’t serving a purpose.
Want more lists of boat gear for your liveaboard life?
View our guide for lists of essential sailboat gear, galley must-haves, what to wear sailing, and more.
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