As trendy as “tiny living” may be at the moment, deciding to take the plunge into a smaller space, be it a camper/RV, a trendy tiny house, a small apartment, or anything that feels “restricting” spatially can be more than intimidating.
For anyone who doesn’t know, my family of four (five any day now!) has been living full-time in an RV travel trailer since September — nearly 9 months. There have been lots of struggles that come along with going tiny, and equally as many benefits in that time and I’d love to share a bit of the back story here in case anyone reading is considering downsizing too.
As odd as it may seem, I’ve never considered myself a minimalist. If you’ve read my blog for years, you may remember when I really got into intentional living and began downsizing our belongings and creating capsule wardrobes for myself. That phase, about four years ago, was the most “rigid” I’ve ever been about minimalism and although it was extremely beneficial for my mental state and for learning how to say no and create a home I loved, I eventually got burnt out by the rules of true minimalism and gravitated towards something closer to “intentionalism”.
I don’t believe in intentionally depriving yourself of things you love, nor do I endorse the purely aesthetic mentality that the word minimalism can evoke. I think living with less is much more than curated white walls and sticking to a color scheme for your entire life. Real life is messy, tiny or not, and the size of your house or the amount your own won’t change any of that.
RV living for us, so far, has been empowering because it’s been an intentional decision both my husband and I made together to move towards our goals of getting out of debt and buying or building a home in the near-ish future. It has been hard, especially during the winter, and we’ve had plenty of “what are you doing with your lives” looks and conversations from friends and family. But, in spite of it all, we’re both convinced this path is right for us right now, and for anyone who may be toying with the idea and enchanted by the freedom that tiny living can bring, here’s a bit of our story…
Due to a host of reasons, Aj and I, like most people, felt like we could never work our way out of our debt we had accumulated together over the past five or six years. In that time, we had two babies, bought/remodeled/sold our first home (accruing more debt in the process), moved to a new state with a higher living cost, and still battled with things like student loans and car payments.
I know this story isn’t unique. Everyone reading this probably has debt in some form or another. But we knew that if we were going to move forward with the kind of life we envisioned for our family (one of flexibility, freedom to travel, and not being held down by finances), a season of restriction would help us dig ourselves out.
We didn’t (and still don’t) know how long this season will last. We were careful not to put any time constraints on ourselves because we knew that the second we said we “had” to live in an RV for two years or three years or any amount of time would be the second we started resenting it.
Instead, we’re focusing on the freedom we have, the new appreciation we have for our belongings/space/and each other, and the excitement that we aren’t bound down by a “next step”.
We’ve always both loved the appeal and freedom of “mobile living” and have followed multiple people for years who have done it with children, so we knew we weren’t alone in the fact that it seemed to make so much sense to downsize, move into something with a payment we could realistically afford, and “rough it” for a while.
We toyed with the idea of remodeling a used RV, but eventually landed on buying a new one when we considered how rough Colorado winters are and our need for specific things like a bunk house for the girls and a bit of extra space for the baby we knew would be joining us.
We bought the RV, with help from my parents who we were living with at the time, in September and since then, have paid off the vast majority of our debt, have been able to start a savings for the first time in our marriage, and are finally feeling like our feet are underneath us. Restricting space for this kind of stability is so worth it.
How did you decide “how tiny” to go? Did you test it out first?
We did lots of research before deciding what kind of RV we wanted. AJ had been pushing this idea for a year or more (it actually took me the longest to get on board) so he knew his stuff when it came to different sizes and models. We wanted it to be as comfortable as possible and we knew that separate sleeping spaces were a MUST for us. I also wanted one with an “open” middle space to give us the most homey feel possible.
We didn’t test it out, which felt scary, but we had lived in small spaces before (1-2 bedroom condos and even shared a single bedroom at my parents’ house before this), so we knew a small space wouldn’t be that big of an issue.
How does it work with kids?
One of the most common questions we’re asked about is if our kids like it. At 3 and 5, they’re pretty much along for the ride right now and are able to adapt really easily to every space we’ve lived in thus far. RV living has been no different for them, it’s a home and a safe space that is theirs. They still have plenty of toys, activities, and things to do inside, but I’ve loved the way tiny living has pushed us to get outside more and push our boundaries socially so we don’t get too stir crazy.
If the girls were older and were more actively seeking their own spaces, I don’t know that we’d commit to this longterm (maybe a summer or a year).
Every child and every family is different and their needs are different, and if we sensed that this was in any way, limiting our children’s ability to thrive, we wouldn’t do it. If anything, it’s taught us all lessons that I hope my girls cherish as they grow up.
Do you feel comfortable/cozy in a tight space?
Anyone who knows me knows that coziness is my middle name. I rely so heavily on atmosphere and creating home-y spaces, that I told AJ long before we moved in here that I’d need to make it our own if I expected to make it work. I painted the walls, added shelves and wallpaper, hung decor, and did everything I could to make it feel like “me”, and honestly, this space has been one of my favorites to transform.
Decorating in here is a great exercise in “intentionalism” because not everything works in such a small space. I can only bring in things that serve a purpose or truly cozy up the room. Throw pillows, blankets, warm colors, and decorating it with the same care that I’d decorate a bigger home has made it feel like just that.
How to know if it may be right for you
Although I wouldn’t take the decision to sell (or store) your things lightly, I also don’t think making the decision to go tiny has to be as scary as it seems. It’s not the only way to get out of debt, find a lifestyle with more freedom, or push your own boundaries and I don’t think it’s right for everyone. That said, if the thought of RV living, buying a tiny home, or downsizing at all excites and inspires you, that urge shouldn’t be ignored.
For us, this was a journey years in the making and not a spontaneous decision, so I would suggest downsizing your current space first, and going from there. Get in the habit of saying no to things you don’t love, learn what items in your closet you wear most, declutter your kitchen, clear the junk drawer….these little habits will make tiny living so much easier because you’ll already be used to living with the essentials and not much extra.
Ready for an adventure
Wanting a feasible way to get out of debt
Ready to downsize your belongings and keep only what you love
Looking for freedom to travel
“In between” plans and looking for something temporary
Wanting to teach your family (and yourself) lessons on the value of less, living sustainably, and creating lifelong memories along the way…
…tiny living might be right for you.
It’s not the only way to achieve those goals, of course, but 9 months in, we wouldn’t trade this season for anything.