First Time RV'er — Living Fulltime in our RV!
We began our process to go tiny in February 2015, during what is now fondly remembered as “The Purge.” 18 kiddos have been in our home long-term. When we began our downsizing journey, we had 12 living at home. That's pretty epic and probably pretty gutsy.
Our minimalism journey was born from stress. Many people embrace minimalism for financial reasons or to leave a smaller footprint, which is fantastic ideals. But ours was solely due to reducing overwhelm. In 2015, I was working corporate, and I dreaded going home the entire drive home from work, knowing the house would look like a tornado and that I'd spend my evening, every evening, coming home to attempt to put it back together.
Two things happened very close together. Dane told me one day that he didn't feel like he could help me clean the house anymore because it was so overrun, and a friend came to visit. When she walked in, instead of relaxing, she said, “Wow, you have a lot of stuff.” Those two things made it impossible to ignore my stress.
We downsized over 70% of what we owned while at the same time beginning what was also known in our home as the “Mass Exodus.” 12 of those kids were born in 10 years, so while there were pregnancies, three kids in diapers, and two kids breastfeeding at a time for years, on the back end, we knew they'd all be leaving close together. We gave the kids the option of taking their bedroom furniture with them, or we donated it. We also continued to downsize the rest of the house as our family grew smaller.
On my google rabbit hole of searching, I looked into permanently downsizing our home, not just reorganizing it. My searches revealed minimalism, and a new world opened up to me. I began purging rooms one at a time, and our belongings lessened over the three-month process. Minimalism became freedom, and a new path was set. This was a path I had been on a few times in my life. Times when I recalled being at my happiest, in all honesty, but keeping up with the Joneses and the lure of consumerism, along with having a huge family, were battles that I had been losing.
With renewed purpose and a new beloved feeling of lightness pushing on into minimalism felt amazing. We felt less stressed, overwhelmed, and our home felt like a place we wanted to come home to. We were running things — our stuff was no longer in control.
As renters, we were able to move to different homes as kids moved out. We started with 2200 square feet to 1750 to 1440 to 1000 square feet. We had an ongoing process to consider what we regularly used as our family grew up and out. Moving into a 250 square foot RV suddenly didn’t seem to be as big of a hurdle as I might have once felt. No, I would have never anticipated this change in my thoughts and feelings. I did realize some minimalists continue to live in the house they own and shifted their priorities to maintain minimalism. In contrast, other people live only in what fits into a large backpack.
Minimalism looks different to all of us, and we all have to navigate that journey in our way. I knew we hadn't found our sweet spot yet, but I had a bit of hesitation that we would go too far in the opposite direction.
My concern moving into 250 square feet was doing all the things we usually did on a smaller scale. Our lives have been changed for the better with minimalism. However, minimalism is not deprivation. The answer to this concern was to pour over Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube and follow families that were already living this way. What did they use the most? What were their biggest challenges? How do you function normally in a much smaller space?
Dane and I knew the soonest we could consider going tiny was the summer of 2018 after the three girls that graduated high school had moved out, and we'd be down to two girls at home. Two kids from 12 just a few short years ago was the first time we felt like our biggest downsize was possible. We also knew it would probably be the summer of 2020 when we were down to only one at home.
We were ready to go tiny in a big way. Dane and I have had different ideas on what our big would look like. While he wanted a 600 square foot 10 and a half wide tiny house on property we owned and a Sprinter van for traveling, I wanted to buy a school bus and create a home we could park or travel with. Zoning laws for a tiny house wasn't quickly a viable option, and considering the price of the property, the cost was also prohibitive. Similarly, as we weren't planning on a DIY skoolie, that seemed like it would also end up taking more money than we were able to spend.
Dane and I had stayed a few days in a tiny house in Auburn, California, to get a feel for going small, and we realized we didn't entirely mind the foot-wide space, although it wasn't ideal. But we didn't want to sleep in a loft. Our choices continue to be whittled down. But the dream to go from a sticks and bricks traditional home to something out of the box was on the not-so-distant horizon.
In the end, the RV had some very appealing aspects. First was the availability — there is a lot to choose from. Second — RV’s cost much less than a skoolie or tiny house, and third, financing seemed to be easier if we went that route. The other benefit is that slide-outs are common, so we weren't locked into an eight-foot-wide home. We looked at RV's at shows and lots and narrowed down the floor plans we preferred, and decided not to get anything new. We also decided we wanted the engine included and the option to tow a car.
Our journey might not have begun with finance or a smaller footprint, but as the time drew closer, both of those became more of a draw. Knowing we could move or travel if we decided that we had a level of freedom, our new Tiny Home RV felt like life was filled with amazing opportunities. When we crunched the numbers and had a better idea of how much we would be saving. It was astounding. This made the drive to go tiny, even stronger. And then we did it. We bought the RV!