Narrowboat Space Saving Ideas

So, the clue is in the name… “narrow” boat. Anything with a name like that should say to you that you are going to have to give storage some thought. There’s actually a surprising amount of narrowboat space saving ideas to be had however. In this article We’ve compiled a list of tips and some general guidance.

Top Tips for Narrowboat Space Saving ideas

#1 Take a seat

Chairs have to be the hardest thing to store. Ever. Ok you can tuck them under your table… but then you are still robbing yourself of some valuable storage space. Folding chairs can be easily stowed against a wall or bulkhead when they are not being used. And the best bit is that when the weather is warm, you’ll be able to take them outside to sit on the bank.

#2 High bed/ false ceilings

You sleep in a bed, and little else. Think about the amount of room the bed takes up just sitting there. There’s certainly plenty of room underneath. By elevating your bed by a foot or so and being careful with which direction you have it facing you might very well be able to free up a fair bit of storage space.

#3 Full of hot air? Not likely…

Vacuum bags are amazing, and you don’t even need a vacuum cleaner to condense your soft goods. They work by removing all of the air out of fabrics, bedding and clothing. You’ll be utterly amazed at how much you can fit inside once they are fully compressed. Once the air has been sucked out, these bags form a really compact and rather rigid ‘package’ that can be stowed almost anywhere… Like under the bed!

#4 Digitise

Piles of papers? Files? Magazines? These can soon add up, and as you’ll already undoubtedly know, every quare foot of space counts onboard a canal boat. A better solution is a tablet or laptop computer. You can download and store any written information (or even films and music) digitally. Just make sure you have a backup!

#5 Wine Boxes

Do you know why they put round pizzas in square boxes? Its because storing flat shapes is actually a much more efficient use of space… And if it works for pizzas, it will work for wine. Now if you are like us you won’t need an excuse to buy a bottle or two extra, so get something that is much easier to store.

#6 A Bowl in One?

If you need several of the same item but all in different sizes then you could possibly think that this is going to take up a lot of room. In particular bowls. Bowls can be used for almost anything, you can mix ingredients or use them as ways to serve things such as salads, or even your morning cereal! If you get a really ergonomic bowl set that fits together seamlessly then you are getting quite a few bowls without costing yourself valuable cupboard space.

#7 Get a handle on things… or off

Pans can be super annoying. If it wasn’t for those handles, they’d stack together rather neatly. But you can’t get pans without a handle….

Au contraire…

It is now entirely possible to get a pan set with removable handles. The pans stack nice and neatly within each other saving loads of space and the handles can live wherever you can fit them. The additional bonus of a pan set with detachable handles for boats, is that they are really easy to wash up, especially in smaller sinks.


#8 Scale the Mount…

One of the biggest and most inflexible things on a narrowboat is the TV. We have a couple of ideas where you can save space when it comes to the old gogglebox.

The first might be a bit extreme, but the simple life is half the fun of living onboard a narro

wboat. We may suggest doing away with it entirely!


Well you won’t be without your favourite programmes. Remember when we talked about digitising? Provided you have a tablet or computer, you should be able to watch your favourite flicks with a hand-held device.

Ok so it may seem a bit extreme to throw out the television. Fortunately, we’ve move on quite a bit from the days of having a ‘box’. Flat screen televisions are pretty much standard nowadays. If you purchase a decent wall mount then you should be able to place your tv on the side of your cabin.

#9 Not Just Any Old Bag

The snag with using rigid storage solutions is that when they are not in use or not completely full it is space wasted. They still occupy the same volume whilst literally doing nothing apart from getting in the way.

So, what’s the solution?

If you could have a set of bags or boxes that would fold down flat when they weren’t in use that could only be a good thing?

Canvas storage bags and boxes represent the ideal solution. Its actually easy to get organised and once you find your groove, you’ll know in which ‘segment’ of a box or bag all of your items are.

#11 A String Best?

You need to raise your game if you are going to find storage solutions on a canal boat. We mean this quite literally. We’ve borrowed an idea which is very popular amongst the maritime community. For flexible and space staving storage, think about nets and hammocks.

They are really easy to mount almost anywhere, with a decent hook set and a bit of imagination you can stow anything from socks and spare canvas bags, to oranges and onions.  They are really inexpensive. Basically, the more hammocks and slings you can get set up, the more room you’ll have on the floor.

#12 Bungie Jumping

An assortment of bungie chords is a good storage solution when living on board a narrowboat. You can make loops, railings and suspend loads of things. One really great idea is to have shoes pinched between them and a bulkhead, this will save you piles of floor space which can then be put to better use. When twinned with a good set of metal hooks you are literally only limited by your imagination as you’ll be able to hang everything from pans (or pan handles) to coats and items of clothing.

#13 Go all ‘Captain Hook’

If you have gone down the route of hammocks, slings and bungees then you may very well need something to secure them to the various flat surfaces that you are going to use. Screw in hooks require no specialist tools (just a little bit of elbow grease). They will allow you to position a chord, net, or bungie absolutely anywhere.

And the best bit?

You can do your famous captain hook joke with your sleeve when you’ve finished the box of wine.

#14 Outdoor boxing!

Don’t limit your space saving ideas for a narrowboat to only the interior of your vessel. There is quite a bit of room outside too. A roof box shouldn’t cause too many height issues and it is designed to remain waterproof on most cars on wet motorways at 70 miles per hour. So, we reckon you’ll be alright using one on your narrowboat. Whilst we wouldn’t place valuables inside, or anything you really treasure; a roof box or two may be well worth considering.

#15 Get inventive with your shelving

So, shelf space may be at a minimum onboard a narrowboat. Twinned with this is the slightly unusual geometry depending on how you have the interior configured. A cubed and fully customisable shelving unit might just fit the bill nicely. You could have all of the cubes in one long line or set them up pretty much any way you like to ensure that you have an optimum amount of shelf space.


General guidance.

In addition to our list it is well worth looking at some general concepts. The first is seeing an answer to ‘how much room is there in a canal boat’ In a different light.

Look at your boat in terms of ‘volume’ and not floor space.

Each flat area within can be used to store something. And we don’t just mean the floor. That includes the walls and ‘dead’ areas that you wouldn’t normally think of, such as above your bed, under your table, or on your walls.

Maximise all of your space.

What do we mean by this? Well every time you create more space think about how you can further optimise the ‘new’ space that you have created. This goes hand in hand with our next tip…

Combine storage solutions to optimise all of the space you have. Want an example? Ok well we suggested using a higher bed as a great storage solution, but how are you going to use that new space? If you are inefficient with it then it again will be wasted. Let’s say you want to store clothes and bedding. Using underbed storage and a vacuum bag will give you plenty of room.

However, if you are storing socks in your vacuum bag, again that is space wasted. Why not use some square netting and a few hooks to store often used items on the wall or in the ‘dead space’ above your bed?

Go minimalist

Ok, here is the brutal truth… If in doubt, throw it out.

You aren’t going to be able to fit a ‘normal amount’ of things on board a canal boat. Living a slightly more minimalistic lifestyle is kind of what it is about.

Think about what you really need to carry, not what you want. A couple of comforts is fine, but if you are miserable because you have to move the PlayStation every time you want to chop the vegetables you have to ask yourself which is more important? Likewise, do you really need a 52-inch plasma screen and a pile of books, or will a tablet that you hold on your lap serve the same purpose for both?


It is probably one of the first questions that people will ask when they find out that you live onboard. How much room do you have in a canal boat? Or where do you fit everything on a narrowboat? If you can answer ‘you would be surprised’ with a glint in your eye and everything that you need around you, then you will have achieved your aim.

It isn’t always the most comfortable or easiest, but there is a certain zen-like joy in living with only what you need. Hopefully you’ve found our narrowboat space saving ideas to be of some value, and maybe got some of your own?





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