Living in a Small Space
What is it like to live in 330 sqft.?
Efficient Use of Space.
Letting Go of Stuff.
Living with America as Your Back Yard.
RVs with Two bedrooms
Motorhomes vs. Trailers
We once lived on five acres in a 2000 sqft. house. We wanted more room so we added on another 2000 sqft. Our master bedroom was 450 sqft. with 20 foot vaulted ceilings. Then we down-sized. We bought a 2800 sqft house on a lake. We had almost an acre of property with 300 feet of waterfront, a dock and a boat for water skiing.
Why would anyone leave all this? Many people don't understand why we would sell everything and move into an RV.
Though we left a beautiful house, we also left huge mortgage payments, property taxes, utility bills, home maintenance, yard work and a routine life style. A routine that included waking up at 5:30 a.m. Ed was off to work, kids off to school and Cheryl running errands and managing a homebased computer business. Evenings included PTA meetings, community meetings, soccer moms and t-ball, mowing the lawn, (6 hours a week so no need to stop at the gym,) not to mention shrub trimming and household maintenance, and the rest of the responsibilities that go along with life in suburbia near the turn of the millennium. Though Ed had a great job, he felt little personal satisfaction from his daily efforts. We were involved in a progressive parent-teacher co-op at our public school but it was plagued with all of the regular public school problems. Most importantly though, when we left, we left a routine of routine -- always knowing what tomorrow would bring; a life of little spontaneity. As Bill Murry said in the movie Groundhog Day, "Have you ever found yourself waking up to the same thing everyday and no matter hard hard you try there is nothing you can do to change it." (I'll clean up this quote the next time I see the movie)
So now we live in a 330 square foot 5th wheel. We sold the house, the land, the boat, the furniture and the mortgage.
So what is it like living in 330 sqft?
We have all the conveniences of home -- the electronic
gadgets, lots of books, kid's toys and projects, bikes, scooters, skates,
skateboards, wetsuits, snow skis, and most recently, Arctic caliber clothing called "Refrigiwear" to survive the cold Alaskan winter. We even have suitcases to use when we go on "vacation."
All though we don't live in a "house" we do have a home. This is a perception that is difficult for non-RV'ers to grasp. When we traveled with a PBS equivalent Japanese film crew it took two weeks for them to realize this. The members of the crew would routinely comment about how we have so many things for camping. Eventually they realized we aren't camping; we are living in our home. We also hear people say, "that's really neat what you guys are doing, but I don't think I'd like camping for such a long time". Guess what? We don't like camping for more than a few days either
It took us three or four months to fully transition from feeling like we were on vacation to feeling like we were home in our RV. Today, four years later, our RV has all the feel of "home" and many times life even feels routine.
Space is not a problem if we keep things put away and don't get too many projects going at once.
What we have is mostly usable stuff. If it doesn't get used -- it goes. What we don't have are decorative items like pictures on the walls or lots of decorations. Last year in Key West we realized that we don't buy very much "stuff". Key West is filled with tourist memorabilia and "arty" shops. We used to go on vacation to "tourist destinations" and come back with lots of memorabilia, souvenirs and arty stuff. Some was functional but most just ended up in a box in a room downstairs that our older kids called "The Dungeon."
Now we try to fill our life with activities and experiences rather than surround it with property and stuff.
Our trailer feels the smallest when we are in a location
that is rainy, cold, or worst yet, muddy. In these conditions we
stay inside more, the boys pull out their collection of K'nex building toys or start other projects that take over the house. Because of this we usually stay where the weather is warm with the door wide open. With our awning out a warm rain isn't much of a nuisance. Besides, in much of the country an afternoon rain blows through in a few hours and then it clears up again.
As time goes on we slowly buy more and more stuff. A new pair of binoculars at Yellowstone, A small charcoal barbecue in San Diego, a guitar and amp for Mitch in Washington, toys at Christmas, a unicycle, a waffle iron, a bread maker, and on and on. Over time either space or weight becomes an issue and we either get rid of a few things or stop by our 5 x 10 ft storage locker near Seattle and swap items out.
Even with only 330 sqft. we still have more stuff with us than we have time to use. We find that the happiest times of our lives have been when we have gotten rid of stuff -- including old routines, and set out to started new adventures.
As I type this I 'm surrounded by six inches of snow on
the rim of the Grand Canyon and as soon as the sun starts to come up I'm
going out to take some great pictures for our webpage and Christmas cards.
No J.C. Penny's studio photos with a backdrop screen for us anymore.
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When we first took off in our new fifth-wheel trailer
we had enough space for everything. During the first six months we
ways to arrange stuff, bought new sized or shaped storage containers, built new shelves and found many creative ways to hang and store
even more stuff. The problem became one of weight rather than the space itself. RVs are built to utilize space much more efficiently than a conventional house.
For many there is a life style change that comes with full-time RV'ing. We don't have a 48" big screen TV, but we do have two TVs -- one in the living room and one in the bedroom. We don't have every type of electronic kitchen gadget, but there's room enough for a toaster, small food processor, waffle iron and mixer. The kids really missed having a waffle iron so we bought one. It's hardly used and becoming a candidate for the endanger appliance list. If you like to weave your own rugs it may be hard to pack a large loom and if you like to restore antique cars you'll find it difficult to do from a mobile lifestyle. In our travels we have met or heard of people with a grand piano in their RV and several others that tow a large utility trailer with his and her motorcycles and a full set of tools and spare parts. Many RV'ers carry bicycles, kayaks or canoes. We also met a woman that has her own kidney dialysis machine in her RV.
So if you enjoy a life style of walking outdoors, reading a book along a lazy stream, visiting national parks, meeting lots of people from around the world, and generally doing things, going places, seeing the sights, riding bikes, fishing, kayaking, wood carving, flying model airplanes, knitting, painting, and photography to name just a few, you will find that an RV has plenty of space. If you like going to swap meets, garage sales and tourist shops that's fine too. However, if you like to buy and collect all the crap they have for sale don't even think RV'ing as a full-time life style. You can still spend most of your time RV'ing but you'll need a house to put all of your stuff in.
For efficient use of space we added a custom built bookshelf under a vanity/desk in the bedroom. We ordered two more shelf boards from the manufacture for the bedroom closets, mounted a spice rack above the range, and bought a 9 piece set of stacking cookware with removable handles. We took out one of the two recliner-swivel chairs to make room for a work surface for a third computer and general work surface for the kids. Our coffee table has a solid bottom which provides storage room for books and the kid's learning material and we added casters to the bottom so it can be easily moved about. To store long items such as fly poles, tubing, and a windsock pole we mounted a ten foot length of 4" PVC pipe with end caps to the underside of the trailer. To store smaller fishing poles and hot-dog skewers we attached fasteners to the upper side of storage compartments. Binoculars, telescopes, night scopes and our GPS is stored in the truck, We do have a lot of space in the storage compartments on our truck and there we have a full set of tools, our three burner professional grade outdoor grill, ropes, ax, tree saw, golf clubs, boogie boards, small charcoal barbecue, bulk foods and drinks, scooters, roller blades and more. We even recently added a table top patio heater to our collection.
During the first year we rearranged and juggled storage
containers quite a bit. Now, about twice a year, we may buy a new
sized tub or discard a previous container or file box as our needs change.
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Even if you don't plan on moving into an RV, clearing out a collection of stuff is a refreshing activity. Getting rid of stuff can be a difficult and agonizing chore for many. But after it's gone it opens up space in your life for new beginnings. It not only opens up space but it also opens up time. The summer we moved into our house on the lake most of the stuff we brought with us remained packed in boxes stacked in the garage. That summer was filled with time to enjoy new adventures and activities.
We had decided to move into an RV almost three years before we finally sold our lake house. We had plenty of time to sort and toss and give away stuff, and we did. It was still surprising how much work was left the day a buyer came along and said, "I'll buy your house as is, cash, close in seven days." We had to move quickly to dispose of the remaining items.
Here's some pointers on clearing out stuff.
If you haven't used something during the last year, it
can probably go.
If you think you might need it someday, but can buy another one if needed for a reasonable price, chuck it.
If you haven't used it in three years don't waste time thinking about it.
If it's part of a future project, set a specific time to complete the project.
If you don't finish the project, forget about it and chuck it.
If you have kids that have their own houses and families, ask if they want some of your stuff.
If your kids make a face or hesitate it probably means it's junk anyway.
If you don't want to just throw away usable items, drop it at the Goodwill.
If in doubt, throw it, dump it, give it a way. (I prefer giving useable or repairable items to someone that could use them.)
Remember, in the end you can't take it with you anyway.
Next winter we'll have to get our snow skis out of storage
and they're way in the back. So we plan on sorting through everything and
reevaluate the storage decisions we made three years ago. Maybe we
can downside from our 5' X 10' storage unit into a 5' X 5' unit.
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One thing RV'ers like to do is follow good weather. Northern states in the summer and Southern states in the winter. People always ask us, "where is your favorite place?" I always respond with a question, "what time of year?"
In a way our RV becomes a place to sleep, eat, change clothes, watch TV and all the other stuff you do inside a house. We have outdoor chairs, a nice folding table, a professional three burner propane grill, outside speakers for the stereo, an awning, outdoor lighting and a patio heater. This provides a great place to entertain and enjoy dinner. We recently bought a 13 foot screen room that sets up in less than ten minutes and provides great protection from mosquitoes when needed.
What is different is our front and back yard. It's always changing. One day it may be the rim of the Grand Canyon, a small island in the Florida Keys, a beach on the California Coast, or an RV park overlooking the Statue of Liberty. Outside our window while eating breakfast or dinner we may see a moose or a grizzly bear, watch surfers or snowboarders, look at a tug pulling a barge, marvel at the fall colors in the Northeast, or enjoy a spectacular pink sunset reflecting off white capped mountains raising straight out of the Gulf of Alaska.
During the day we explore national parks, historic sites,
visit museums, search out great restaurants, hike, bike, visit family and
friends around the country, walk about a city, go for a drive, take our
dog Cocoa swimming, go sailing, kayaking, or other activities that an area
has to offer.
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We have a single bedroom in our 5th wheel trailer. There are now several manufactures that offer two bedroom units. This works well for families with children that need their own space. Our living room couch folds out into a queen size bed. Our boys used to fold it out each night and sleep in it together. For the last year our older son, Mitch, has chosen to sleeping on a floor mat and the younger son, Max, sleeps on the couch without pulling the bed out. Having the living room as their bedroom has never been a problem for them, (at least we've never heard any complaints.)
As summer comes on we're thinking about getting a wall tent and then they can setup their own room with cots, a table, and a few other things. It will mean more setup and teardown if we do this, but they'd probably enjoy having their own "house" for awhile.
Most two bedroom units are longer, ranging from 35 to 40 feet. Although our daughter's family just bought a 32 foot Mallard trailer with two bedrooms. The kids room has two bunk beds. The lower bunk goes across the back from side-to-side. The upper bunk is perpendicular to this. The feet of the bunks cross over each other so each bunk has plenty of headroom at the top end. A picture would work good but I don't have one at this time.
Class-C motor homes provide sleeping area over the cab,
but generally are fairly small for full-time RVing. I haven't seen
any two bedroom Class-A units but I'm sure they are out there.
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There are some pluses and minuses to motorhomes and trailers. I think it really comes down to personal preference however. We've talked to people with each and have met some who have had both. Here are some of the things we have heard
Advantages to a motorhome
While driving, the kids can sit at the table, play games, take a nap, grab a bite to eat, use the restroom.
Can tow additional car so that you don't have to drive around in a truck, especially in big cities
Typically more under belly storage space
Advantages to a trailer
While traveling, the kids are traveling in the truck, thus providing a captive audience to do math flash cards, discuss the world
passing by or other travel or educational activities.
Configurations with more livable space available for the length.
Configurations with three, four, even five slide out rooms for more space.
No need for an additional car
Disadvantages of a motor home
If the engine needs work your entire house is headed into the shop.
When you drive down a bumpy road you get to listen to everything rattling around you
Disadvantages of a trailer
The rear bumps up and down more than a motorhome since it hinges at the hitch. Especially rough on units with a rear kitchen.
5th-wheel vs. Conventional trailers
Since a fifth wheel trailer hitch is over the rear axle of the tow vehicle it is more stable and tows a lot nicer, and
heavy trailers can be towed
Conventional trailers are usually lighter
With a conventional trailer your pickup truck can have a canopy for additional storage, or even working tools, if you must.
A Suburban can pull a conventional trailer.
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Copyright Nodland 1999