Living in a tiny space
In March 2019, I traded my comfortable two-bedroom house on a spacious 1/3 acre mountainside lot for a 20′ travel trailer in a tiny rented space in an urban RV park. Many people questioned my sanity, and most asked if it was a temporary move.
The first question is always debatable, but not the second. It was not a temporary move.
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of tiny homes. For decades, I’ve read about them and the people who built them and lived in them. I’ve purchased plans to build one, drew my own plans, and even started collecting materials with which to build one. But, it always seemed the time was never right. Plus, “official” tiny homes are heavy. Because of this, they’re not really as mobile as they sound; most are certainly not something you could move on a whim. I wanted something I could move whenever I wanted, with the truck that I had–my beloved Ford Sport Trac.
By the fall of 2018, I knew I wanted to move closer to the Puget Sound area. At night, I dreamed about kayaking the Puget Sound, exploring the inlets, islands, canals, and bays. I wanted to smell the ocean and wake up on a beach. I wanted to explore the San Juans, and I read every book I could find about kayaking the Inside Passage and watched videos on YouTube.
The Sound was calling me.
The mountains, too.
I read about the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. I dreamed about exploring the Olympic Mountains and studied topographic maps of the northern Cascades. I felt isolated in my tiny mountain community where I found few who shared my interests. (OK, nobody!) I wanted to be in an area where I could take classes and learn from others. And I wanted to find like-minded people with whom I could share my experiences.
But living in the Puget Sound area is expensive. I knew I could find a job, but I didn’t want to spend all my time working just to pay living expenses. That’s no fun! I wanted a healthy balance between work and fun. Which, to me, means spending way more time on fun than work.
After a lot of thought and research, I decided to look at travel trailers. They’re relatively cheap and light-weight, and I knew my Sport Trac could pull one. I visited several RV dealerships in the Spokane area, looking for something less than five years old and weighing less than 3500 pounds. Unfortunately, nothing met both my requirements and also my budget. I was beginning to get discouraged, when a salesperson showed me a 2009 Springdale. I was reluctant. It was both bigger and older than I wanted. But, it had been well cared for, and it looked brand new. And, although at 4400 pounds it was almost a half ton over my goal weight, it was still within my Sport Trac’s towing limit.
Best of all, it was $4000 under budget.
The massive rear window flooded the trailer with light, and it had a full bathroom, including a tub. The kitchen had all the amenities of a regular house, as well, including a huge refrigerator. The smallest external storage compartment had had a pet door installed on the inside wall, creating a great space for a kitty litter box. No litter box inside the trailer! How cool is that? The only feature with which I was not satisfied was the huge queen-size sleeping platform that took up the front quarter of the trailer. It was dark and dreary and cave-like. But, a sawzall could fix that.
Did I mention it was $4000 under budget?
I bought it, beefed up my Sport Trac’s towing package, and took it home.
I spent the winter modifying it, turning that gaping sleeping cave into a light and airy room with a comfortable, dual-purpose daybed. I built shelves with a customized corner space for my iMac and a charging station for my toys. I used colorful fabrics to brighten up the rather dull autumn decor and hung my favorite original paintings to make it feel more homey. And I worked on packing up my house and getting rid of nine years of accumulation.
When a new job offer came through at the beginning of March (actually, FOUR–I got to take my pick!), I was ready to go. I hitched up my new home and drove off with the early morning sun reflecting in my rearview mirror. Nine hours later, with snow still melting off the roof, I pulled into Olympia. I already had a space reserved in an RV park.
That was five months ago, and not once have I regretted that decision. I love my tiny new home. Cleaning it literally takes 20 minutes and 12 Clorox wipes. Literally! The only thing it was missing was a washing machine. Amazon to the rescue! I found one for $50 that works fabulously and takes up very little space.
Do I miss the massively more spacious house? Nope. Before I moved into my trailer, I took a good look at the space I was actually using. I slept in the bedroom, I used the bathroom, I did minimal cooking in the kitchen, and I sat in my recliner in the living room when I wasn’t outside, sleeping, or at work. I barely used the 880 square feet, except for storing crap. Get rid of the crap, and I didn’t need the space.
By downsizing, I didn’t give up living space–I gave up storage space.
And now? I use every single inch of my 160-square-foot home. No space is wasted. I have what I need and nothing more. I have a place to sit, a place to cook, a place to sleep, and a place to shi…shower. And everything is put away unless it is actively being used. It’s far more efficient way to live and less stressful, especially since I’m not tied to a mortgage or a huge debt. Moreover, my cost of living is really super low, especially for this part of the state.
Cheap living in Olympia? You bet!
Living in a 20′ travel trailer is not for everyone. But it is for me. I like living in an RV park–it’s like waking up every morning in a campground. I feel like I’m on a perpetual vacation. And, I can hitch up my house and move anytime I want. It’s easy to change my view, my neighbors, or my address. I could even swap out my house, if I wanted to!
There’s freedom in owning less and owing less.
Stay tuned to more on tiny living!