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From 7,000 Sq. Ft. to 1,200 Sq. Ft. to 48 Ft Catamaran: Family of 5!

Now here’s a downsizing story for you! This amazing family of 5 bought their 7,000 foot dream home after the dad’s military retirement, when a visitor from Denmark and sudden illness inspired them to make a change. Within 10 days they put their giant home on the market and moved into a 1,200 square foot Airbnb.

That’s when they started sailboat-shopping, at last landing on a new-to-them Leopard 48 Catamaran which has even less square footage than their Airbnb. Now the family is spending more time together than ever during their sabbatical year on the sea.

Where will life take them next? Who knows! But for now they are finding that having less space truly does equal more family time. I love seeing people intentionally choose to downsize and minimize, because it shows that we can all benefit from tinier living, even if we could afford to go bigger to keep up with the Joneses.

Mom, Julie, shared their full story at the end of the photo tour below. Don’t miss it!

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Family of 5 Intentionally Downsize from 7,000 Square Feet!

Their three teen & pre-teen kiddos.

It takes all hands on deck to keep their boat running.

The kids get to do remote schooling on the Catamaran.

Cleaning the bilge!

Most of the family’s time is spent in the kitchen/living area in the middle of the boat.

Cleaning up goes much more quickly on the sailboat.

That said, laundry is always an adventure!

An itty bitty Christmas tree brings some holiday cheer.

Getting creative with dry good storage here.

Each kid has their own stateroom (and mom & dad have one too).

There are also a few itty bitty bathrooms on board.

Who needs more space than this?

Cooking is a bit more of an adventurous on a boat.

And there’s even plenty of space to go outside.

Now that’s a remote classroom if I ever saw one.

Oh yes, and their dog joined them!

Here’s an example of the catamaran layout for you.

Julie Shares Her Family Downsizing Story:

Hey! Thank you so much for being interested in our crazy sabbatical year on the sea story! Our names are Julie and Bill Boucek and our kids are Hendley (13), Boss (12) and Anna Bea (10). Our sweet yellow lab is Brandy Beth. We all live on our new (to us!) Leopard 48 catamaran. This is a BIG change going to a LITTLE space as our old house was almost 7000 square feet. My husband is retired military so we had gotten into the cycle of each move meaning time to get a bigger house. The ultimate plan was to purchase our dream home upon his retirement. And we did! And it was a beautiful home in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, overlooking a picturesque golf course. We absolutely loved living there, but it was a lot of space. In fact, it was so much space that we realized we had more than we needed so we started hosting international soccer coaches in our home. One day, we had a coach from Denmark walk into our house and he said, “You Americans are crazy. You all have these huge houses but you have to work all the time to pay for these houses so you are never home to enjoy them.” And that really struck a chord with me.
Fast forwarded to June of 2020. I was recovering from a crazy and sudden illness, Guillain Barre Syndrome, which left me temporarily paralyzed and we were right in the middle of COVID.
Our family was taking an overdo vacation to the Florida Keys. We were sailing on a Morgan 44 Monohaul Sailboat and one of the kids joked about how cool it would be to live on a sailboat. And it was funny then, but as the trip unfolded, and I saw how much fun we were having in such a tiny space, a seed was planted.
Long story short, we called a realtor friend on the way back to Atlanta and a SOLD sign was in front of our house within 10 days.
We moved into a tiny Air BnB on Anna Maria Island for a couple of months while we boat shopped and absolutely fell in love with tiny living. The place was so small that I could take the clothes out of the dryer and put them onto the kitchen island to fold without taking a step. The kids loved the fact that less room seemed to translate to more game nights!
Seeing how well we did there gave me hope that we would do ok transitioning to a boat, which is much smaller than the 1200 square foot Air Bnb.
We moved into our Air BnB at the beginning of August and onto our boat in October.
My husband is a consultant. He spent years traveling during the week, but since COVID travel restrictions, he can work anywhere. I am a stay at home mom.
We started this adventure for more family time, and I have to say that tiny living has given us that and so much more. It’s been fascinating for me to watch the kids learn to live with less. It’s been seamless. They are so much more resilient than the adults in this family. I miss my bathtub. Boss is ecstatic that he only has two drawers of clothes because “it makes it so easy to clean my room”.
The lack of bathroom space has been the hardest for me. We do not have outlets in our heads (what you call bathrooms on a boat) so that makes it difficult to use a blowdryer or hair straightener. The shower stall is also ridiculously tiny. It would take a PhD in boat yoga to shave your legs in there, but I’m determined to figure that one out before shorts weather! The kitchen (or galley as its called on a boat) is also tiny so we had to really analyze each pot or pan that we brought onboard. I’m far from a gourmet cook so that wasn’t too terribly hard for me, but people did make fun of me that I didn’t bring a frying pan initially but I did have 2 corkscrews! You definitely have to learn to prioritize with tiny living!
I think my favorite part of tiny living is having the people I love the most always close. In our old house, our kids could easily get lost in their rooms or the basement or the screen porch. Here, we all kind of congregate in the salon (living room on a boat) because it’s the room with the most space.
I, in no way, think this type of living is for everyone, but I am a huge advocate for trying it if you think you would like it, because chances are, you will! For so many years, I believed a bigger house translated to bigger success, but since moving to a tiny space, I’ve come to realize that the size of the house is irrelevant. Success comes from working together as a family to achieve a common goal. For our family, that is learning to live in a tiny space so we can sail together.
Find us on IG @theboucrew.

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

Latest posts by Natalie C. McKee (see all)

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Brenda Foster
    December 9, 2020, 6:47 am

    Lovely lifestyle, and what a wonderful, life enhancing experience and adventure for the children. And such a cool dog. Cannot comment too much about the catamaran as that idea is new to me, but I applaud the decisions the family has made together to make their life more meaningful and close. I too, have downsized three times in my later years, so I totally understand the delight that comes from knowing you are happier in a smaller, more meaningful place. Great job, great attitude, and thank you for raising three children who will certainly view life in a positive way and leave a healthy imprint on our planet.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      December 9, 2020, 8:04 am

      Yes I just love that they are daring to be a bit different!

  • jerry dycus
    December 9, 2020, 9:28 am

    While I like it, it’s sleeps 8 with 2 crew quarters hardly qualifies as a TH, more as a small resort island.
    I build, lived on a 32′ catamaran and rented the other side out as a duplex so you can use a far smaller one that doesn’t cost a fortune.
    And lots to run, care for as a too big boat starts to own you rather than you owning it. So buy the smallest, highest quality boat you can live on, usually between 20-35′ depending on boat type, number of people.
    That said some very lucky kids to live a sailing life.

    • Marcie
      December 10, 2020, 8:51 am

      Love this story. I can’t help but wonder though, where does your doggie do her business?

    • Natalie C. McKee
      December 10, 2020, 2:13 pm

      Ya it’s definitely not “tiny,” but it’s a HUGE downsize from their previous lifestyle, which is impressive!

  • Sheila Plourde
    December 9, 2020, 5:06 pm

    Loved her story. I can see what she means. We had a huge home and sold that and moved to a bigger home. Than we decided to move to the mountains and bought a pretty smaller home. Not tiny but it is way smaller. Boat is nice. I would be bummed about not being able to blow dry your hair. Course I blow dry a portion of mine. The kitchen looked nice and the state rooms. Reading her story was heart warming.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      December 10, 2020, 2:10 pm

      Downsizing seems to be rewarding! But yes, not being able to blow dry is a bit restrictive.

      • Eric
        February 2, 2021, 2:52 pm

        They are on a boat. They are outside. Instant blow dry. Or doesn’t that happen in the States? Good grief!

  • Pat Dunham
    December 9, 2020, 7:32 pm

    We lived aboard a 55 foot motor yacht with 6 children age newborn to 14 years old and loved it. Years later, most of the children and their children now, which are our grandchildren have continued to enjoy boating, some even becoming captains. It was a great life. We miss it.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      December 10, 2020, 2:08 pm

      Wow, Pat, that’s so incredible! Clearly they all enjoyed the experience.

  • Brenda Foster
    December 10, 2020, 2:52 pm

    For the gentleman who did not think this qualified as a TH, I look at it this way. The live in it, so it is their home; be it a boat, cabin, or shed. The heart of this movement is downsizing, not having a mortgage, eliminating stress in your life, bringing families together, contributing to the planet instead of taking from it, and living life to the fullest. I think this family, and their catamaran qualify as being a TH.

    Your catarmaran experience sounds awesome too. Way to go.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      December 11, 2020, 1:25 pm

      I totally agree with you, Brenda!

  • Jackie
    December 11, 2020, 4:53 pm

    What an adventure! Wishing you nothing but smooth sailing in your new lifestyle.

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