RV Living: A Q&A + 7 Things I've Learned in Our First Month of Tiny

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We did a thing - a slightly crazy thing - forcing us into the lifestyle both my husband and I have craved for more than four years.

We bought an RV.

To live in. Full time.

With 2.5 kiddos.

The number of people choosing to “go tiny” is growing and, as someone who has always been in love with the concept of less but better, living in a big space allows for too much wiggle room (ie. hoarding). The confines of our tiny space allow for very little excess, and it’s a challenge that I’ve happily looked forward to for a long time.

A few of you asked about our square footage transitions, so here’s a quick run down of the size of the spaces we’ve lived in over the past few years. Our first (and only) home we’ve owned was a 2,400 square foot Victorian style home in Nebraska. It was beautiful and huge and we spent two years remodeling it, but we knew it wasn’t our forever space. From there, we moved to Colorado and our first condo here was a little two bedroom unit with enough space but no flexibility to make it our own. We left there and moved in with my parents for a season. We had a bedroom and a bunk-bed room for the girls. Now, our RV is a cozy 37 feet long with two pull outs for extra space, a bunk room for the kids and a separate “master bedroom” for AJ and I. It is small, don’t get me wrong, but it’s ours and it’s great. All of our extra belongings that we didn’t sell or donate (things like our dining room table and my piano, out of season clothes, and outdoor gear) are stored in a little shed on my parents property.

It’s been just about a month in our RV and, although the majority of our time here I’ve been battling morning sickness, we’ve gotten quite settled in and I’ve already learned so much. This blog post is simply me sharing my “initial lessons of tiny living” since I’m no where near an expert, and a quick attempt to answer a few of the most common questions I’ve gotten from you all. I plan on documenting much of our journey into tiny and plan to share a full tour once we get a few little projects out of the way and I feel the RV is closer to “done”. My goal is to get it finished by Christmas so we have room for a little Christmas tree.

For now, I want to share a few things I’ve learned this month and a few brands who’ve so sweetly agreed to help turn transform space from a weekend vacation home for wealthy elderly couples into a home for a family of four.

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  1. Bring the Essentials and Nothing More

    As I mentioned before, it was either, bring too much stuff and turn into a crazy woman, or choose just the essentials and create a place for each thing. Since we weren’t moving too far and had already downsized significantly after our move from the condo, I already had a pretty good idea of the things I’d need for the RV. We have just enough dishes for the four of us. We have just enough toys to not overwhelm the space (I can swap them out with others in storage to freshen up the excitement every now and than.) We have just enough clothes to fit our minimal storage options. And we have just enough bathroom essentials to get the job done.

    As for our clothes (one of the main questions I’m asked and one of my bigger hurdles thus far), here’s how I’m handling it: the RV has built-in storage alongside our queen size bed, over the top of it, and underneath it. The hang-up space is minimal (I’ll do a full tour soon!), so I had to create a mini-capsule of my most worn pieces. Since I’m getting more and more pregnant by the week, I knew I’d have to downsize and rely on pieces that are versatile, so it was an easy transition. I keep my extras under the bed, and my flat laying clothing and things like socks, bras, and underwear above the bed in the cupboards.

    The girls room has a lot of storage, so their clothes fit easily in the under the bed drawers. Aj’s closet is his own territory and I try not to look at it.

  2. Choose Aesthetically Pleasing Storage Solutions

Simply deciding where in the world to put everything was the biggest challenge. Our RV comes with lots of storage options, but of course, they’re not meant to house everything a family needs to survive, so I had to get a little bit creative. I’m thankful for brands like Urbana Sacs and Ten Thousand Villages who offer functional but beautiful (and eco-friendly/ethically made) storage solutions.

I put small things like my makeup, my Hand Made Beauty non-toxic nail polish (read more about them in my last blog post!), a few house plants, bathroom essentials, and cleaning supplies in my Urbana Creative Sacs, made from sturdy eco-friendly recycled paper, and store them in the open shelving in the bathroom and inside the vanity. They also sent me a few larger Sacs that I put my socks and underwear in and our toilet paper in another large one. They’re such a versatile and beautiful storage option that can used and reused for years.

3. Add Pieces that Bring You Joy

Since there is literally no space for “eh”, I made a rule for myself long before we even bought the RV that I’d only fill it with necessities and pieces I truly loved. I’ve had to do some soul searching to continue to nail down my “personal style” but I knew I wanted the RV to feel bright, cozy, and not cluttered. I’m using a lot of whites (hopefully out of reach of places sticky fingers can reach) and bringing in rich, rustic colors like burnt orange, deep navy, and forest green green when I need color. Luckily, I had most of the pieces I brought to the RV, but a few new additions are my Anchal Project throw pillow, my vintage runner for the kitchen I found on Etsy, and a gorgeous throw blanket from Quiquattro.

Anchal Project is an amazing brand that I’m honored to be working with - their pieces are made by women artisans in India and their designs are modern but cozy. I have their 22” Cross-Stitch Toss Pillow in rust and I love the pop of color it adds to our otherwise minimal bedroom.

4. Functional and Multi-Use Products are Everything

Aside from the few decor items I have in the RV, all other space is used for functional but cute storage and functional/cute everyday items. I’ve also come to rely on multi-use products that can serve multiple functions. I made all purpose cleaner that can clean literally any surface in the camper. My decorations also double as pieces I can wear (I hung my fedoras on the wall and have a small space to hang clothes for display on one of our bedroom walls (once the painting is finished!). Getting creative and learning how to disguise the unsightly things like remotes and cords with pretty baskets is a fun challenge.

5. Kids Don’t Take Up As Much Space As Adults

The girls we’re probably more excited than AJ and I were when we moved in. Since they’re so close in age (20 months apart) they’re used to sharing a space and their little bunk room is their kingdom. I have a few designated spaces for things like art supplies, play dough, blocks, and other toys, so they can have their own choice of things to play with.

I got a few questions about how I plan to encourage the girls’ independence and give them “space” while living in an RV. Although this answer isn’t necessarily a quick and simple one, my summarized answer is that kids simply don’t need as much space as we assume, and they really don’t need as much “stuff” as we assume. My girls have incredible imaginations, love playing together (usually) and can turn literally any space into whatever they want. If I ever sense that one of them needs a break from the other (usually when nap time needs to happen), we sit down, take a break, and give them space to play (or rest) separately.

6. Brighten Up the Space Wherever You Can

RV’s and campers are not known for their aesthetically pleasing instagram-ability. In fact, I think the opposite is usually true. They come with dark interiors, small windows and weird brownish beige walls. I knew that taking all steps I could to brighten up the small space would be one of my first steps to making it feel like “home”. My goal is to bring in as much white as possible, which includes painting the walls (a big process that we’re currently in the middle of), taking the weird brown curtains down and replacing them with sheer, bright ones, and adding white bedding.

The folks at Doplnok have been chatting with me for a long time and we finally decided that now was the perfect time for us to try out their fair trade, organic cotton sheets. The sheets are made with GOTS certified organic cotton and the brand is Fair Trade certified, which gives me confidence that their backing up their claims with action. The sheets were shipped in a gorgeous reusable box that will be put to good use in our tiny home.

7. Routine and Finding Out of the House Space is Important

In addition to the above, I’ve tried to set predictable routines and, especially important, make sure to get outside/out of the RV time as often as possible.

We didn’t decide to go tiny so we could spend our entire days inside cooped up in a camper - we did it so we could essentially be forced to get out more often, explore our home, and try new things. It pushes us out of our comfort zones, and I think it can only be a healthy experience for all of us, despite the obvious challenges.

Wintertime will be one of the biggest hurdles. Some days, it will simply be too cold to be outside, so I’m going to make a “Wintertime Fun Jar” full of fun inside ideas to keep us busy on the days where the winter blues strike. I’m so excited for our first summer in here though. Setting up the patio, letting the girls picnic out front, and (hopefully) getting to travel with it are a few things I’m anxiously awaiting.


One month down - countless more to go! I can’t wait to get more projects finalized so I can share a full tour of the RV. Stay tuned and, as always, comment away with any and all questions you may have!

Considering RV/tiny home life with kids? Read about our first month as a family of four in a 37 foot RV.

*This post was partially sponsored by a few brands who’ve helped me make the transition into RV life. Thank you to Urbana Sacs, Anchal Project, and DOPLNOK for making this post possible.*

Spring Cleaning Your Life || Guest Post

**This piece is a guest post from Katrina Gleason, the founder of Katrina Gleason Coaching.**


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Think of your life as a garden.

For a garden to survive, plants need the basic necessities, such as water, sunlight, and solid rooting. But for each plant to thrive, it needs space and an abundance of nutrients. If you prepare a small garden and pack it full of seeds, none of the plants grow very well. They compete for resources and tear each other down. The same concept applies to your life. When you have too many ‘plants’ in your ‘garden’, they rival each other for your precious time and energy. You end up with unhealthy plants and depleted soil. However, if you were to select specific plants and spread them out in your garden, they will all thrive! Examine the three areas of your life below. You get to choose which plants should stay and which plants aren’t the right fit for your garden.

Friendships/Relationships

We all have toxic people in our lives. Forcing yourself to interact with those who make you constantly unhappy is a waste of your time and theirs. You could be investing that time into so many different endeavors. Why spend special moments with a person or group that makes you miserable?

If you’re feeling guilty about distancing yourself from someone, please consider this. Do you add more value to the world by being around them? If not, there’s a good chance you’re far more irritable and negative after spending time together. It isn’t fair to the people closest to you when you take this negative energy out on them.

Human connection is powerful and it should never be taken lightly. Find the friends that mean the most to you and invest in them with your time and energy. There is always a give and take in friendship, but when someone is only taking and never giving, you need to examine your relationship.

Commitments

We all have commitments. Whether these commitments are to people, companies, or organizations, everyone is constantly taking on MORE. The best way I can illustrate this is with my own story.

For years I had been a teacher at my church’s Wednesday night program. My schedule was already packed with work and courses I was taking, but I signed up anyway because I had done so in the past. I felt obligated, even though no one was making me do it. The first evening, I had no time to prepare and I was so frazzled that something enjoyable became a very stressful night. At the end of my lesson, I decided I couldn’t teach on Wednesday nights anymore.

I felt like a failure for not being able to uphold my commitment, but when I really thought it through, the problem wasn’t letting go; the problem was saying yes in the first place. My initial reaction was that this would just be another plate to spin. If I’d just listened to myself from the start, it would have saved everyone involved a lot of stress.

If your commitments are draining you then do what you have to do to let them go.  Have those tough conversations, I promise it will all be worth it. And next time someone asks you to make a commitment, big or small, go with your gut on accepting. You don’t owe anyone a yes.

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Habits

We all have bad habits. Most of us are 100% aware of unhealthy habits, yet choose to do nothing about them. Look at your habits and pinpoint the ones that don’t serve you well. Maybe your bad habits are drinking too much, overeating, sleeping in late, binge watching Netflix, or playing mindless games on your phone; these habits have consequences! They STEAL your time and energy. It’s easy to view these as no big deal, but they are the weeds of your garden. You can never get back the hours wasted on silly endeavors, but you can change your habits so that you make the most of the time you have left.

I recommend replacing these bad habits with new, better, and healthier ones. Maybe you start getting out of bed as soon as your alarm goes off. Maybe you strive to do at least 5 minutes of exercise every day. A small step in the right direction is all it takes to get your positive momentum going.

Removing weeds from your garden will leave you with so much extra time and energy. Now, the key is to say NO to the things that you don’t want in your life. Take that free time and start doing the things you’ve been wanting to do for yourself! Take up a new hobby, learn a new skill, or just have some nice alone time.

Plaine Products || Zero Waste Products for the Whole Family

Plaine Products || Zero Waste Products for the Whole Family

I've been on my trek towards a more natural, healthy, ethical lifestyle for several years now and when it comes to my hair, I've learned to be picky. I've tried almost every "natural" method for taking care of your hair on the market. Shampoo bars? Yep. Sulfate/paraben/chemical-free? Of course. The "no-poo method" where you let your hair "adjust" to it's natural oils and then cleanse it with baking soda and apple cider vinegar, like, once a month? Oh yes. 

I've been feeling a bit burn out on the whole "healthy hair" thing and wasn't sure there was an actual product on the market that I felt good about. When I said I was picky, I meant it. I wanted all-natural ingredients that would actually help my color treated hair, not damage it. I wanted recycle-packaging that wouldn't end up in a landfill. I wanted to not smell like I walked out of a perfume shop. 

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Mindfulness + Wellness || A Guest Post

Mindfulness + Wellness || A Guest Post

Always matter, never mind; always mind, never matter. These are sentiments once expressed to describe competing lines of thinking about ourselves and the world around us. It was not until the birth of dualism that we would start to realize how important the two work together.

Today, science has shown us with multiple studies the importance of attitude and thought; that a person mindful of themselves and the world can live longer, healthier and happier. The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but the results are clear enough.

So why then is mindfulness so important when it comes to wellness?

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Introducing Thought

Photo credit: Ian Warren** 

Photo credit: Ian Warren** 

thought

THôt/

noun

  1. an idea or opinion produced by thinking or occurring suddenly in the mind.

  2. the action or process of thinking.


A while ago in a social media post, I called Thought my "brand crush", although now, after wearing their pieces for a few weeks, interacting with the staff, and reading more in depth about the heart behind their brand, "crush" seems to be an understatement. 

The word "thought" is a bit all encompassing, and I believe the brand chose that word for their new moniker, with all of its depth and weight, with great intention. Although I've worked with a lot of amazing brands who I truly believe are practicing ethically and carefully, I've been impressed time and time again with truly how much thought goes into the work Thought does. 


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You might know them by another name, however. Since their founding more than ten years ago, the brand was known as Braintree Clothing. Known for their easy to wear designs and classic, ethically made pieces, Braintree was originally a menswear line that branched into women's clothing in 2005. 

They've been growing ever since and now, with their collections sold in over 1,000 stores worldwide and their online community reaching even further, Braintree has adapted a new name to encompass their ever-improving, ever-evolving brand. 

Everything, from their materials, to their packaging, to their curated blog on their website, to their interaction with their customers is thoughtful, designed to leave a positive impact on everyone their brand touches. And I can say from experience that they do. 

Thought is still a small business, despite their success. A team of only 20 people run the in's and out's of the brand from a collection of offices in North London. Inspiring — just like "brand crush" — is putting it lightly. 

Their newly released SS17 collection doesn't disappoint. In these photos I'm wearing the Irena tunic — a wool printed tunic that is thick, durable, soft, and incredibly comfortable, the Saskia hemp cropped cardigan in terracotta — a lightweight cardigan that feels delicate but still heavy enough to wear during chili weather, and the Annabel hemp knit top in terracotta — a lightweight sweater with gorgeous cutout detailing and slightly cropped sleeves.

This is only a small sampling of their new collection, however. Each piece is equally as beautiful and I have my eye on a few more to add to my Thought collection.

Thought uses fabrics that are as gentle to your skin as they are to the planet — primarily bamboo, hemp, wool, organic cotton, tencel, rayon and recycled polyester — and one touch of their clothing makes it obvious that a great deal of care went into creating it. Their motto of "wear me, love me, mend me, pass me on" is truly slow fashion (and slow living) at it's best.   

Photo credit: Ian Warren**

Photo credit: Ian Warren**

Wear me, love me, mend me, pass me on

Although it's safe to say that my "brand crush" is still going strong, I think my feelings have matured into a deep appreciation for their methods and a feeling of obligation to support and spread the word about the amazing work that Thought is doing. 

If creating an intentional, well-designed, curated wardrobe full of pieces you feel great in and can wear for years to come is your goal, let Thought be your new go-to ethical shop. They're truly changing the way fashion is done, and that is a mission worth supporting. 

***To get your collection started, use the code LIV10 for 10% off your entire order! (Offer valid on orders placed before April 24th 2017).*** 

*This post is sponsored by Thought. As always, all reviews are sincere and SL&Co. only promotes brands we've actually tried and love. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this site (and a conscious life) possible. 

**To see more of Ian's photography, check out his website here