Since beginning this journey nine months ago, many people have asked us what it’s like living in a travel trailer. It’s hard to really explain since this life has become the norm for our family of five, but I’ll do my best to give you a little look into our daily lives.
I’ve divided this blog into four sections: Practical tips (for those contemplating living in an RV), relational tips (for anyone living in a small space), things I can’t wait to say good-bye to, and things I love about living in a travel trailer.
For those of you interested in why we are living in a travel trailer, you can check out my blogs:
After reading through, let me know if you have any other questions that I missed. Comment below and share what stuck out to you the most. Do you think you could live in a travel trailer? Why or why not?
Get a library card. We had to get rid of most of our books when we moved into the trailer, so being able to visit the library once a week is amazing. The kids come home with dozens of new books to read, we can pick out some new cartoons to watch, and I can find some good books for myself.
Give your kids their own space, even if it’s just a drawer or cupboard to put their stuff in. They need a sense of responsibility and authority.
Get rid of anything that isn’t necessary, but keep a few special things that bring you joy (mine is my Nathalie Parenteau painting in our bedroom).
If you’re living with children, make sure you’re able to have some kind of privacy. Just because you’re living in a travel trailer, doesn’t mean you have to be abstinent.
Take walks. Get out of the trailer on sunny days. When it’s rainy, go someplace where the kids can play, like the library.
Keep toys to a minimum and organize them in small bins. Only take out one thing at a time. We personally have Legos, another building set, plastic animal figurines, board games, and stuffed animals. They also enjoy workbooks like dot-to-dot, Mad Libs, and coloring books. We have lots of art supplies.
Put things away when you’re done using it. Clean up right away. Some people use disposable dishes so they won’t have to do the dishes as much, but we prefer to reduce waste where we can and just do the dishes more frequently.
Figure out a work-out routine that works for you whether it’s buying a gym membership or taking a daily run. I typically run or jump on my mini trampoline (here’s the one I use) in their morning, then go inside for strength-training exercises.
Optimize storage. We have hooks and clips everywhere for kitchen utensils, towels, and the kids’ artwork. Use small bins for easy access. We even took out our microwave (we don’t use them) to utilize cupboard space.
Ask for help. If you’re parked in an RV park, good news! You have fifty neighbors who know the ins and outs of RV living. Chances are, someone can help you or give advice on ant extermination, leaks, or clogged tanks.
Communicate! In roughly 300 square feet of living space for five people, we don’t have room to isolate ourselves when we’re upset. We have to be really good at communicating how we’re feeling and what we need.
At the same time, we need to have so much grace for each other. We will get in each other’s way. We will upset each other. We will annoy each other. There’s the understanding that sometimes we’re the perpetrator and sometimes we’re the recipient, so if we want grace for ourselves (since we know we’ll need it), we need to give grace freely.
My husband and I are very intentional about spending time alone. The kids go to bed around 8:00 or 9:00 each night, so Josh and I are able to close the bedroom door and hang out. Sometimes we need to have a serious discussion. Sometimes we need to relax and laugh with a good show. Whatever it is, we make sure we get our connecting time almost every evening.
Living in a trailer is definitely not for you if comfort is your priority. While Josh and I have made sure we have our nightly oasis and quiet connection time, the rest of the day is spent navigating the different relational dynamics in our family. When you don’t have the ability to escape, you have to deal with your crap. You have no choice.
If you are not up to the challenge of diving headfirst into necessary conflict, this lifestyle is not for you. There’s no room for skirting around the issues and pretending everything is just fine. We can’t just stuff our emotions and expect to survive in these circumstances.
When someone is having a rough day or feeling particularly anxious or upset, it’s very obvious. There’s really no hiding it. For example, when I start feeling anxious about not having any income and not knowing when we’ll finally get into a real house, it usually manifests in me wanting to clean the crap out of the trailer and trampling anyone in my way. “Pick up your toys! Who left the markers out? Why am I always having to vacuum in here?” It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to see that there’s something deeper that’s bothering me.
Things I can’t wait to say good-bye to:
Dumping the black (poop) tank every couple days and dealing with the smells that go along with it.
Little to no privacy. There are no locks on the bathroom or bedroom doors. If you’re uncomfortable with your naked body being seen daily by all members of your family, trailer life may not be for you.
Doing the dishes three times a day so that the sink isn’t overloaded.
Walking two blocks down to the laundry room to wash clothes.
Squatting down and reaching into the oven to manually light it every time I bake.
No yard. The kids have a strip of grass, an Astroturf rug, and RV parking spots to play in. Better than nothing, but I can’t wait to have a yard someday.
Ant infestations. Ants in the cupboards. Ants on the countertops. Ants crawling up my arm.
The necessity to put everything away when we’re done using it. If we don’t pick up, we don’t have a table to eat at or a kitchen to cook in or a floor to walk on.
A very small water heater. We need to be extra careful with the amount of hot water we use. We have enough for one five-minute shower, so we conserve by shutting the water off while we wash up and shave.
No bathtub. I never knew how much I would miss a bathtub. Even having a larger space to shower would be great. A small shower stall when you’re trying to shave your legs is not ideal.
Thirty by 16 inches of counter space to prep dinner. And, yes, I just measured.
Decision-making at the store dictated by how much room I have in my fridge/freezer. “Sorry kids. We can’t have frozen chicken and ice cream.”
My kids not having their own rooms. The girls pull a mattress out every night to sleep on and my son sleeps on the dining room chairs. I can’t wait for them to have their own space to decorate, take care of, and organize. It’s hard for them not having a space to call their own.
Not getting good sleep because the rain hitting the roof of the trailer is too loud and/or the wind is so strong that it’s rocking our trailer with each gust.
Things I love about living in a travel trailer:
Living simply. Before we moved into the trailer, we lived in a small apartment unit. Before that, we had a large home. We’re getting used to the idea of downsizing and living simply. It’s very freeing to get rid of things you don’t actually need. It frees up time and it frees up your mind because you’re not busy worrying about the million things you need to take care of.
It’s cheap. The price we pay for living at an RV park is less than half of what we would be spending on a two-bedroom apartment. While it would be nice to have a larger home, it’s also nice not having the strain of a larger rent or mortgage payment.
We actually have an amazing view where we’re parked. I can see mountains, trees, and birds all around. Granted, we’re also next to a busy interstate, but even car-watching can be fun while I’m exercising outside in the morning.
The opportunity for creative thinking. When you have limited space, you have to be creative in how you store things.
Being close with my family. I didn’t realize how much I love our closeness until my family had the opportunity to stay in my sister’s larger house for a week where the kids had space to roam and play. Many times, it’s really hard living in cramped quarters because we are literally running into each other and unable to escape to another place in the house to be alone. But what I appreciate is that there is no room for avoiding issues. If there’s any kind of conflict, we deal with it immediately or life gets really hard for everyone. Plus, I just love my family.
H20 at Home cleaning products (I don’t sell this)
Hand pump for five-gallon water bottles (because we don’t drink the tap water here)
Velcro strips for hanging pictures, our outdoor LED lights, our white board calendar, etc.