Narrowboat Space Saving Ideas [13 TIPS]

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Welcome back to Canal Boat UK, where we only talk about narrowboats 🙂 Today’s topic is a very important one – space saving! Narrowboats are often somewhat compact places to live (unless you have a 70 footer or a wide beam!), so space saving ideas can go a long way to improving your quality of life whilst on board. Don’t live a cluttered life any more, follows our simple tips…..

We also have an article about our live-aboard narrowboat housekeeping hacks. You may also want to check that one out!

Throughout this article, you can simply click the product image to go and view it over at Amazon.

Tip 1: Accessible Under Bed Storage

Don’t allow your bed to be a dead area in terms of storage, there is a lot of room under your bed that could be better used. The most common use is to have draws accessible from the side of the bed. Personally, I prefer the idea of having the top of the bed lift up for storage purposes. The area it gives you is much more flexible than simply having draws. And even more importantly, it is easy to operate and access. I find if it is a drag to get into storage, you simply won’t use it! The challenge is finding a narrowboat ready bed with this feature. If you have no idea what I am talking about, see the image below.

Tip 2: Folding is your Friend!

Hunt out as many foldable or packable items as you can, the space savings will soon add up. Most people think first of foldable tables and chairs, which can be packed away when not in use. It allows you to have a sit down dinner whilst still saving space. And is more flexible than having a fixed dinette, handy on smaller boats.

It’s not only furniture that can be packed up though. With the advent of silicon there are a wide variety of kitchen bowls, drainers and even saucepans that can be made collapsable! Your kitchen cupboards will suddenly feel cavern-like 🙂

Tips 3: Go Digital!

There are sacrifices that have to be made for a better life on a boat. One of them is to ditch the books, CDs and DVDs. All of these can be replaced by their digital equivalent, freeing up a lot of space on your narrowboat. And reading books on a Kindle or iPad is not as bad as you think, you will soon get used to it. If you simple refuse to get rid of CDs or DVDs, at least take them out of the covers and place in a binder. If you can’t live without books, at least be more ruthless with the ones that you keep.

Tip 4: Don’t Hoard!

As a narrowboater, try to live a minimalist life, space is more important for your sanity in the long term! Go through all your possessions and be ruthless about how often you use the item. If it is not often, simply get rid or donate to a charity shop. With a house you can hoard, but with a narrowboat you don’t have that luxury. If you have prized possessions you really don’t want to loose but don’t use often, you can try and ask friends or family to store for you.

I realise that going minimalist can be hard for many, so I would recommend books such as the one below to give you pointers. Then there’s no excuse 🙂

Tip 5: Get a Roof Box

Everyone thinks of roof boxes for cars, but for some reason I don’t see a lot on narrowboats. In fact, the roof of your narrowboat can be great for storage in general. I see a lot of boaters putting their coal and/or firewood up there.

Just make sure to get a lockable roof box if you want to store valuable items up there, and have someone physically attach it to your boat for good measure.

Tip 6: Saucepans with Detachable Handles

You would be surprised how much space saucepan handles take up. Not only can you buy saucepans with detachable handles, they can stack too. This allows you to have a whole set of them in a small compact space! It’s a win win for anyone that enjoys cooking on the canals!

Tip 7: Vacuum Pack Extra Clothes

Did you know that you can buy vacuum bag systems to store clothes without the luxury of air? Well, they exist and they are awesome. You could store your Winter clothes like this in the Summer and vice versa. And most come with a hand pump included. Simple! Even better if you can find some that work from your vacuum cleaner. Even more space saved!

Tip 8: The Step Storage!

I am not going to talk much about this, as I think it is pretty common knowledge within the narrowboating community 🙂 But just in case…. you can make the steps in and out of your narrowboat into storage boxes too. Most simply have the top of the step act as a lid and lift off. When on a narrowboat you really do have to maximise all the space available to you!!

Tip 9: Sliding Doors

Again, I am sure this one is pretty common knowledge, but if you do have any regular doors, see if they can be replaced by sliding doors instead.

Tip 10: Use Your Walls & Hang Stuff!

Most narrowboats have much less cupboard space than even a small house! This is where the walls come in! There are many wall mounted storage racks you can buy to put anything from plates to towels! These days, these racks don’t have to be cheap plastic crap either, you will find some that look pretty stylish and ‘farmhouse’ style! If you are a narrowboat chef, a wall mounted spice rack is also a must!

On the subject of racks, these floating shoe racks are perfect for boat life too. When a level is not being used, it doesn’t take up any space! Ingenious!

As well as wall racks you can have metal bars to hang things from. With some metal bars and hooks, you can make a flexible hanging storage system. Most people use these for hanging kitchen utensils from.

Tip 11: Combine Electronics

I would encourage you to think about the different electrical gadgets you use, and consider if you can combine them in order to take up less space. One example would be if you have both a computer and a TV on your boat. Maybe you could but a thin all in one computer that hangs on the wall and acts as both a PC and a TV. With bluetooth technology, you can control both from the comfort of your sofa.

There are even some nifty lap trays specially designed for use with computers 🙂

Tip 12: Ditch the Pump Out!

Pump outs can use a lot of space on a boat, with the accompanying massive waste tank and all. Unless you really can’t live without it, I would highly recommend replacing it with a composting toilet. There are some really great ones these days that are odourless (when used correctly) and space saving. When you add up all the pipes and tanks involved with a pump out, it’s just not worth it for me! Especially on smaller boats. We do have a whole article talking about toilet options if you are still not convinced!

Tip 13: Modular Storage

As well as maximising your storage, it also helps if you can make it flexible. Modular storage units are perfect for this. The modular wardrobe below is a great example of this. It will be easy to move and good for fitting into whatever tight spaces your narrowboat has left over. They look pretty cool (to me anyway) too.

Enjoy the Space!

Well, I hope these simple tips can save you some valuable space! If you have any of your own narrowboat space saving tips we would love to hear all about them in the comments section below. You never know, we might even find the time to update the article with your amazing ideas 🙂

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