Narrowboat life habits I would take back to a house

narrowboat life

We live on a narrowboat. A 55ft grey craft called Tipsy Gypsy. Things are not always easy, but the benefits outweigh the struggles we might not have living on land, so we’ll stick to this lifestyle for as long as we can. If you want to read more about the move, I shared some details in this blog post.

Unsurprisingly, life on the water is different. We’re completely off the grid and travel a few miles every 2 weeks. Some things are 100% amazing and others make us realise how easy life is in a house – you never have to worry about resources like water and electricity and your Amazon parcel just lands on your doorstep.

However, narrowboat life also opened our eyes and made us see that the defaults of land life are sometimes useless and wasteful.

Today I’m sharing a list of habits I would take back with me to a house on land. I also asked a Facebook group of women living on narrowboats, so I’ll include their answers below.

1. Using less water

When I asked on the Facebook group, 80% of the answers mentioned water usage. I remember the long showers, doing the dishes without turning the tap off,  flushing the toilet a hundred times a day, doing half loads of laundry and the list can go on.

When living on a boat you have a limited amount of water – in our case a tank of 700L. Every 2 weeks when we move, we include in our journey a water stop to fill it up, but most of the times it’s not empty yet. We use approximately a cubic metre every 5 weeks, compared to a minimum cubic metre every 1 week or so we used in the house.

A few ways to save water:

  • Don’t keep the water running the entire time you’re doing the dishes
  • Save toilet water by placing something in the water tank, so it effectively becomes smaller
  • Alternatively, don’t flush if you only had a wee. To quote someone on the group “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down”
  • Limit your shower time and turn the water off while you’re not using it
  • Only do laundry when you have a full load
  • Only wash your hair once or twice a week

The towpath is our garden

2. A smaller fridge

Here’s something that might surprise you. We don’t have a fridge on the boat. No microwave, electric kettle or blenders either. You can’t go more basic than this. Don’t even think about mentioning a washing machine! And although we had a very hot summer, we managed just fine.

We used a few bags of ice on those days when the temperatures passed 30 degrees, but because we don’t eat meat or dairy, our food doesn’t go bad as easily. We shop often for fresh food, but also have plenty of cans, staple foods like pasta and rice and dried food such as mushrooms that don’t need to be kept cold.

Looking back at the monster of a fridge and freezer we used to have, alongside with all the electrical appliances, we realise we could have saved a lot of money on electricity throughout the years.

3. Solar panels

For us, solar panels mean independence. Daylight gives enough energy to power our devices and light bulbs, so we don’t need to be “plugged in” and tied to an energy company. In a house that would mean fewer bills or at least less money spent on them. Who wouldn’t want that?

Yes, I know solar panels are not free.

4. Less cleaning products

Whatever we use needs to be biodegradable and 100% natural because it ends up in the river, so we settled on one single cleaning product for everything – dishes, bathroom, floors. We buy it in big 5L refill bottles, optimizing space and saving money. You don’t need a different cleaning product for each room of your house.

5. Less waste

Since we’re not part of a council, we need to take care of the waste we produce. Finding bins, especially recycling ones, is our responsibility. Carrying bags around town is not a very pleasant activity, so we very soon found out that the best solution is to produce less, no matter if it’s recyclable or not. If you follow the blog, you know we’re already into minimalism and sustainability, but we needed to up our game even more for boat life.

Life on water

6. No TV

I used to be a TV junkie. This is how I grew up and I couldn’t imagine a life without one. Whenever I had time available, I turned the TV on. Even just to hear something in the background. Even if I saw that same episode of The Big Bang Theory for a hundred times.

Of course, considering we can’t have a fridge, a TV would be a big fat luxury. But the cool thing about it? I don’t miss it. If I’m tired in the evening, I go straight to bed. I have moments when I do nothing because I have more time. I appreciate silence. And I read more.

We were brought up and lived in a way we see as the default. Sometimes you don’t even consider that it can be done in any other way. Not having a fridge? Is that possible? It is, you just need to have an open mind and search for alternatives.

Do you have any of these habits even if you live in a house? Or are you tempted to implement any?

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