Living Tiny vs. Trailer Trash

*Photo taken in Moab, Utah when we were traveling out to Nevada with our newly-purchased Airstream. Here we were just getting our feet wet with Airstream life, and Michael and I both miss it dearly. 

An Instagram post I saw over the weekend got me thinking about the difference between living tiny and living in a trailer park. Is there a difference? I mean, aside from the fact that the minimalist movement is huge right now, is there really a difference between choosing to build your own tiny home and having to live in a trailer? The Instagram post I read suggests that yes, there is a difference. As a baby, I lived in a trailer. My mother has pictures of my first year of life in our trailer, which in my mind was just one of the many houses or apartments we called home over the years of my childhood. We moved a lot, and in my younger years I never had issues with how my house looked. Usually my issues were around the jealousy of the toys other kids had, or the food their parents bought. Houses were not a thing I worried about much. I knew a lot of people, including both sets of grandparents, who lived in trailers by choice because they wanted to scale down from taking care of a whole house. So, my experience with trailers is vastly different than maybe some people who lived in a trailer park their whole lives, or who felt a need to escape the trailer park lifestyle for their own sense of happiness. Maybe I need to consider how hoighty it seems for me to blab about living tiny; after all, some people probably hate being trapped in their city apartments the size of postage stamps, or their run-down trailers on the wrong side of the tracks. Let’s get into this.

The biggest difference I can see between the two camps is money. Well, maybe. On the surface, if you go digging around on YouTube for videos about living tiny, you can find a vast array of fancy homes built for style, function, and the choice to live minimally. Lots of people choose living tiny for reasons like wasting less energy, wasting less time on housework and general maintenance, and wasting fewer resources by reusing products in the build. Many tiny homes are built to be eco-friendly in many ways, and it does take a good deal of cash to build some tiny homes that can be totally tricked out with electronics, solar panels, fancy lighting, and expensive finishes. People with the cash to pay for fancy stuff are certainly out there building tiny homes. On the other hand, I have seen lots of people building their own tiny homes because they can’t afford mortgage debt, need to share space with parents and would rather have their own home in the yard, or bought a house they can’t afford and need to get out from under it. I have watched a lot of videos shared by individual families or couples whose sole motivation for building tiny was to save money, not resources. Some of these people are building with a very small amount of capital, and are salvaging a lot of the materials they use in the build. Their reasons are financial…so what’s the difference between living tiny and getting a trailer? In this instance, very little.

When I think about the amount of space available in a mobile home as compared with the space in a tiny house, I actually think a trailer usually has more room. Some tiny houses are built bigger to accommodate the individual’s needs, but a trailer generally has more square footage than the typical tiny house you see built on a trailer. True tiny houses are meant to be moved, though some people do build them on foundations. A mobile home can be moved, but usually isn’t moved once you find a lot to rent at a trailer park (and I mean mobile homes, not RVs). One set of my grandparents who lived in a trailer had two full baths, two bedrooms, a space for laundry, a bumped-out living area, a screened porch, a shed out back, and more cupboards in the kitchen than I have in my current house. The other set of grandparents had a double-wide that felt more like a regular house than a trailer, especially since there were two porches on either side of the trailer, one of which was more like a family room because it had windows and was air-conditioned in the Arizona heat. That trailer was also equipped with two full baths, three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and breakfast nook/foyer. Lots of closets, plenty of space. Trailer trash? Not either of my grandparents’ homes. My grandparents were more privileged than many people who live in trailers in the US, if for no other reason than they were white, but I know a lot of people who live comfortably in trailers.

When Michael and I were living in our Airstream, which was effectively a tiny house on wheels, we had no laundry, a living area which incorporated the kitchen and dining in one space, one closet for our clothes, a small bathroom which had floor space barely large enough for your feet, and a bedroom that only accommodated our mattress with no floor space at all. We had storage over our heads and a dresser built into the wall. That’s more what I think about when I think living tiny. In a trailer, you have room to move around people in the living areas without having to scoot past or move aside—unless you have too much stuff, which is only the fault of the homeowner—but when you live tiny you usually don’t have that luxury. Everything is scaled down to be as minimal as possible in tiny homes, from square footage to storage to what items you choose to have for specific reasons. Most things in a tiny house serve double duty, and must be cleverly designed. A trailer has more space and usually still feels more like a house than an RV or tiny house.

In general, I think there are two different types of people who buy mobile homes, just like there are people who build tiny. You have those who must live in trailer parks because they can’t afford a traditional home, and you have people who are tired of maintaining a traditional home and prefer the life of a nice trailer park where life is simpler. It’s the same with tiny homes. There are people who choose to live tiny because they want to make less impact on the planet or they prefer a minimal lifestyle, and then there are those who see it as a cheaper option to owning a home in an economy unfriendly to homeowners. Some people retire and buy expensive RVs the size of buses, sell their homes, and live the travel life. Other people work remote jobs, save up for an RV, sell their home or escape their city apartment, and live the travel life. I think if people want to see living tiny as a thing of privilege, a choice only made by fancy white people with money to burn, then they are allowed to believe that notion. I am not a fancy person with a lot of money, but I did work hard to plan the life I wanted to live, and I chose carefully with my husband to purchase a used model of a good RV. Airstreams last a long, long time, and we knew it would be easier to revamp an old interior than to build from scratch. It also gave us options to stay at RV parks, when many tiny homes are not allowed due to insurance limits.

My impression of the tiny house movement is that there are just as many reasons and types of people choosing to live tiny as there are reasons and people who live in trailers. Those of us living in the US love our stereotypes, we love to point fingers, lay blame, and stir up trouble. If you live in a trailer, the only reason you have to allow anyone the power to call you trash is if you believe it about yourself. I don’t think anyone is trash, and many of my favorite people lived in trailers. It’s not trashy to live in a trailer, unless you decide to make it so. Whatever other people want to think is up to them, but what really matters is what you believe about yourself. No one can do anything about that except for you. Whether you want to save money to live tiny, you want mobility, you want less work, or you want to use fewer resources, are any of those reasons too hoighty? Should we have to make rich people feel bad about living tiny because they want to be kinder to the earth, or just have freedom to live where they want without a big impact on the planet? If the discussion of living tiny as a thing of privilege is the concern, I believe that’s an impression some people are entitled to have if they wish. Maybe this is more deeply concerning because we see this as a white people thing, and not welcoming to people of color, though I generally think of white people when I picture “white trash,” not people of color. Is that just me? Maybe.

Considering the fact that it does seem to be more of a movement by white people (myself included), I have no doubt that class comes into the equation. If we’re talking about middle class people, then we are certainly talking about a group of people making the choice to live tiny. They may still have to make sacrifices to build a tiny home, but they are certainly more privileged than poor people who feel forced to live in trailers due to a lack of money. Rich people living tiny can live anywhere and buy anything, so of course their tiny homes are going to be far more fancy and upscale than one you build with your own two hands using repurposed supplies. This is the kind of debate that can be unending. We can go round and round about who gets to live tiny and why, but I still maintain that even if you feel you’re living tiny because you don’t have a choice, you still get to choose how you feel about it. We all do. I could allow people to make me feel bad about my choice to live in a shared home so we can save money to build our Airstream interior or purchase land for our tiny home. But what purpose does that serve? Why should I feel bad about saving money to make myself happy, and to live in the woods where I can be quiet? A trailer is a home. That is all. If someone else wants to cut down a person for where they live, it can happen even to a person who lives in a mansion—think about some of the most ridiculous mansions you’ve seen on TV, and imagine how much ridicule people get for building them. There are some wackadoodle houses out there, but if they make people happy, why do we care?

If governments don’t get in the way, and if Wall Street doesn’t obstruct the finances, tiny homes could be the answer to a lot of problems created by the foolhardy greed of the housing market. Living tiny makes less impact on the planet, which is very, very important right now. If we allow agencies with the resources to build tiny homes for the homeless, we could change lives. A lot of lives. For all the people who still live with their parents because their school debt or inability to get work prevents them from having their own home, tiny homes are a possible answer. I looked at a few articles about the “privilege” of living tiny, and how it seems like a mostly white thing, a mostly middle-class thing. That may be true now, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If enough white people make enough noise about the stupidity of the regulations hampering the growth of tiny house communities, then people of color will have less concern about getting in trouble if they want to build. Sometimes those of us with privilege can make way for those who have less. That’s my goal, at least. I see it as a chance for freedom in many ways, and I think that’s for anyone who wants it, not just white middle class people. Most of my life I’ve lived on the edge of poverty, but I still know how to be smart about saving and repurposing. If I can do it, anyone can. Maybe I’m opening myself up to arguments with this idea, but my thinking falls into the camp of making one’s own way in the world. Ignore the haters, the stereotypers, the naysayers. Let them gripe about who deserves what. If you’re a person of color who wants to live tiny, go for it. Who cares what anyone else thinks? Make yourself happy, live free. If you’re a rich mofo with a ton of cash, go build a tiny house on a desert island and be happy living free there. Whatever floats your boat. And if you’re a person who can build tiny houses for the homeless and you have property where they can be parked…go for that, too. This is supposedly still a free country, so live how you like, trailer or foundation, tiny or big. Be yourself, and fulfill your own destiny. Own it. And if you want to call me either trailer trash or privileged, you’re welcome to your opinion. What I know is I’ve worked hard for what I have and I am happy to be where I am now. Get out there and live a beautiful life, friends. You only live once. Define yourself.

Comments are welcome, especially from those who feel I am being unfair in the content of my post here. Do send me your love letters, friends. I enjoy hearing your genuine concerns and am interested in keeping an open mind. All I ask is that we all take good care of each other, even if we disagree. I will love you no matter what your opinion. 


Trees Bow to Bruce But We Are Cozy in Our Small Space

*Picture taken in Nelson, NH during winter storm.

Winter storm “Bruce” has come and gone today in New Hampshire, and the trees of the woods are frosted white, bowing low to the ground with heavy, wet snow and ice. Ominous cracking sounds emit from the woods every once in a while, followed by a cascade of snow thumping to the ground, sometimes accompanied by a large branch. Countless tree limbs are down all over the place, and we lost power here in Nelson once in the middle of the night, and again mid-morning. With all this excitement, what does one do? Well, one enjoys the fact that school is cancelled, which means time to play in the snow. What else would I do on a snow day? Very fortunately, Michael gifted me a pair of snow shoes only last night—who knew the perfection of that luck?—which meant I got to try them out today. They worked like a charm. I have wanted snow shoes for ages, and now that we are wintering here in New Hampshire, I have some. Winter hiking, here I come. Aside from the winter weather, I thought I should share thoughts on tiny living again. It’s been a while since I shared anything about our Airstream or living tiny, and it’s about time I write about it again. Thus, I shall share the ideas Michael and I are cooking up for our future in New Hampshire, and what we hope to do after establishing a cozy homestead.

Right now, Michael and I are renting rooms in a lodge which has shared common space in the kitchen and living room. Mostly, we don’t go downstairs much other than to cook and eat, so our living arrangement is actually rather tiny right now. It’s a good thing, since our intention is to stay tiny for good. After living in our Airstream for a year, we fell in love with the lifestyle of freedom, more time for fun (because you’re not wasting time taking care of your house), and the smaller footprint which meant smaller bills. So many good things come from tiny living, much of which came as a surprise to me. I didn’t expect to find myself so happy in such a small home, especially when I left behind a house full of stuff I thought I needed. Very little of what I left at home turned out to be important to me, and when we got back to Olean to clean out the house to sell it, we got rid of probably 80% of what we owned. Really, the things I found that mattered most were either items made for me, or were mementos of some kind. After that, books were my biggest thing. I mean, words are my first love, so I can’t help myself when it comes to stories. Art and pictures were another big one, but you can see from my list that all the things which mattered are less about the material and more about the inspirational value. As a result, we narrowed down our stuff to the bare necessities and sold or gave away the rest. It felt wonderful to be free.

Here in our little rooms, we have quite small spaces which remind me somewhat of how much room we had in the Airstream. Both Michael and I miss the Falcon (for you new folks here, that’s what we called our Airstream: the Aluminum Falcon) every day, and we’re still trying to figure out how to find the resources and space to be able to rebuild it. Until we figure it out, the Falcon is patiently awaiting us to rescue her from a kind friend’s yard, still a hollow shell with nothing but wires clinging to the aluminum ribs. In the meantime, we also have been looking for land in New Hampshire. We intend to build a tiny house on the property, a cabin no larger than 500 square feet. Even that might be too big, but we plan to make part of the space a sort of studio for art and woodworking. Both Michael and I miss doing things with our hands, as we didn’t have space to take any of our supplies while on the road with the Falcon. We don’t have space for it where we’re living now, either, so it will have to wait. The plan, once it comes to fruition, is to find a parcel of about 20 acres which abuts a state park or land conservancy of some kind. Our hope is to preserve the land against any future development and to keep the woods healthy and alive. We expect to live on a small portion of the land and let the rest be a sanctuary of nature.

At the moment, Michael and I are still deciding on details of décor, but the current idea is to build a log cabin. I’m not entirely sold on it, as I’ve never been too much of a log cabin person, but Michael insists that we can build it for virtually nothing if we can fell our own trees. I told him that sounds like a lot of work, but he says he can do it. Okay. Maybe. I’m still not sure, but I might be persuaded. My ideal was actually to build a tiny house in the style of an arts and crafts home, or maybe a contemporary build with burned cedar planks on the exterior. Still, if it saves money, maybe a log cabin would be okay. We think the interior footprint will be about 20 x 20 downstairs for the living space, which will be open floor plan for the living room and kitchen, with added space in warmer months in the form of a screened porch. Upstairs will be smaller at about 10 x 20, but we plan to stack the screened porch to have a second level off the bedroom as a sleeping porch. I get giddy just thinking about it. We have our eye on certain places we’d like to buy property, but we really need to sell our Olean house to make the transition easier. Fortunately, Michael’s brother found siding on Craig’s list that matches what Michael used on our Olean house, so that solves the problem of paying full price. Come warmer months, Michael can get the siding done, and hopefully we can toss it on the market.

Of course, we also plan to keep traveling once we do purchase land. The whole idea of living in New Hampshire arose for the sake of Michael’s nursing career (aside from the fact that we love it here). New Hampshire is a compact state, and being residents means he can enjoy the reciprocity of the 30 or so states which also honor the compact licensing for nurses. It will make traveling much, much easier when we go back to it—lots less paperwork and expense by avoiding the fees and time of applying for a new license in every. single. state. For now, we expect to establish ourselves in the lovely community of Keene and the surrounding area to enjoy the rewards of New England life. It’s a gorgeous place to explore, and we’re happy to be here. Even when we travel again, it will be nice to have a place to call home, and the goal is to eventually build a couple of other tiny houses on the property so we can invite friends and family to stay comfortably. We want a place to bring people together, but also a place to pass on to people we love, a spot in the woods that we hope to keep sacred and alive. Living tiny is giving us a lot of benefits we never expected, and we want to pass it on to the next generation if we can.

If you’ve been thinking about living tiny and are having trouble with the idea of giving up all your space and all your stuff, trust me when I say you won’t miss it. The US has become such a throw-away society (along with other countries in the world), but if we start cultivating a space just for the things which bring us joy, it changes your perspective entirely. Go watch a few videos about tiny living if you aren’t sure about it, or even better, find a way to test it by living in an RV or cabin for a month or two. See if you can handle it. I’ve said that before, and I’m saying it again because it bears repeating. Tiny living offers benefits far beyond the wallet. It’s a lifestyle of freedom, joy, wonder, and lightness. If you have dreams, start working toward them because you only live once. Don’t wait for the future. Do it right now. Hang those photos where you can see them, write down your ideas where you can read them every day, and keep telling yourself those dreams are your fuel. They will grow when you give them the water of your hope-filled mindset.

Bright Beginnings

*Photo from our room at the lodge in the woods with my birthday flowers gracing the space. 

After a long, hard month of constant work, finally my husband and I are rewarded with a small respite in the woods of New Hampshire. It’s been two years, nearly to the day, since we began our travel life in Keene. Both Michael and I fell in love with the region around Mount Monadnock for so many reasons, not the least of which was the woods; being here still feels like a dream or a vacation. When you dream about doing something for a long, long time, it can take a while to believe you’re actually doing it. We took a lot of time to deliberate the decision to come here to make ourselves a home base, a safe little cove in the woods where we hope to be able to enjoy the splendor of the outdoors for the rest of our lives. Our eventual goal is to build a tiny cabin in the woods, along with another cabin or two for guests, and to have plenty of acreage to preserve against development. We want to make as little impact on the woods as possible, to be able to enjoy it and hand it off to future generations of our family to enjoy, too. That’s the goal, eventually. For now, we are renting a pair of rooms in a lodge, the same place we rented when we first came to Keene, and we are searching for property to buy. Meanwhile, we still have lots to do.

Last week my birthday came and went with only a quick dinner at a local ice cream stand in Olean (Twist ‘n’ Shake on Constitution Ave. is my favorite spot) in the midst of a flurry of packing what we would need to take to New Hampshire the next day. Michael still worked on a few finishing flourishes around the house while I ran from room to room digging through the many boxes containing what’s left of our worldly possessions. It amazes me how much stuff we still own, despite selling the majority of our furniture and giving away so much of the unneeded clothing and household junk. We’ve had a lot to sort and shuffle from place to place, and we will have to do it again when we find a home to buy. Though I think a lot of people are stressed by such circumstances, I honestly feel excited about where we’re headed with our lives. It’s a lot of work, sure, but I get to wake up every day now to the sound of trees and birds, the fresh air, and the green. Even if this place isn’t mine, I have a screened porch where I can sit and enjoy the quiet anytime I want. What could be better? I actually enjoy the fun of exploring new homes, too, so as we get to imagine the possibilities for where we plan to live, we get to tour lots of places with a real estate agent. I love it.

Since our arrival in New Hampshire only a few days ago, it’s been a whirlwind of activity. We did take a day off from work to give ourselves time to recoup from all the hard work, but we had to unload our supplies and find a place for everything in the lodge, and then I had a job interview while Michael squared away paperwork for his new job at the hospital. Since he’s taking a big pay cut to have a regular position at the hospital (travel pay is quite a bit better), I am taking a job at a local Montessori school as a teacher’s assistant to help make up the difference in income. It won’t cover all the loss, but it helps, and I’m excited to be around little ones again. Young children help us remember what’s important in life, and remind us of the delight of exploration and the wonder of discovery. I’ve missed that energy lately, and I began my education career at a Montessori school in Olean nearly 30 years ago. Working at that school gave me the foundation of so much positive influence for parenting and teaching later, and I am thrilled to begin serving as an educator in that environment once again. It makes me smile to think about getting civilized about school again, and look forward to the positive influence of the orderly, creative, and intelligent design of Maria Montessori’s legacy in my life. Years and years ago I discovered that Maria Montessori’s birthday is the same as mine, one hundred years to the day. She was an incredibly ambitious woman who revolutionized education so much that even decades after she developed her scientifically-proven method, it still seems progressive to most of the education world in the US. Working in public schools squashed my spirit, especially after being in the calm, nurturing classrooms of a well-run Montessori school. And now I shall return to my education roots. It feels right.

Though we still have plenty to do to settle ourselves in the Keene area, we also still have plenty to do in Olean. It weighs heavily on Michael, because he is the one who really has to do the hardest work on the house. We still have siding to finish, a big job which will require help, and we’ll need to do it in what little time we have on weekends. It’s not going to be easy. Plus, we still have the Airstream sitting patiently, waiting for us to come to its rescue while it sits forlorn in a friend’s yard. The innards having been removed may make it impossible for us to use it as a means to transport the remainder of our belongings, since we aren’t actually sure how roadworthy an Airstream is without the structure of walls on the interior. If anyone knows, we’d love to have you comment below. We don’t want to compromise the Airstream’s integrity with too much weight inside it, especially since we have to travel over the Green Mountains of Vermont to get here. Hopefully when we buy a house here we’ll have a driveway or spot in a yard where we can park it. We still want to rebuild the interior so we can travel with it again. Baby steps. The Aluminum Falcon will be reborn one day, better than ever, a phoenix from the debris of demo.

Now that we are living in New Hampshire, I will be grateful to have more time to dedicate to my writing again. It’s been such a grind every day with the Olean house that I haven’t had much time to write. After years of building my writing up to the point of publishing and daily goals, it felt awful to give up so much time to reno work. I hated it. Though I needed a little break for a week or so to get back some creative flow, after a month it almost felt as though I was crushing my creative energy under the exhaustion of so much physical exertion. I’m so glad to finally be away from that house and getting back to a routine of what I really need to be doing. Writing is what I do, it’s when I feel most myself; without it I am a rudderless boat in a fast-running current. Don’t get me wrong—I didn’t give up writing entirely, but a lot of writing I would have been doing needed to wait until the reno work was done. What I discovered in the process, however, was that I need to have more work balance so I can stay true to my writing goals, even when we later have to build our cabin in the woods. I dropped the ball on a lot of projects I had started, including the publish date of my sequel, and my August newsletter to my email list. These are bad things to let go, and I have already decided never to do that again, not for any reason. When you work for yourself, it can seem to others as if it’s okay to do other things, especially if your work is still not putting out big financial returns. Mostly I’m good at ignoring what others think I should be doing, but I allowed the reno work to consume me for the last month. Never again. Mistakes are how we learn, and so I shall move forward with knowledge and experience.

So, while I stare out the window at the trees as they wave in the wind, and I continue to enjoy the flowers my hubby got me for my birthday, I think about what’s next. Day by day we inch forward into the life we want to build. We are finally living where we want to be, we have jobs secured, we are in the woods for the moment. While we consider homes to buy and time for finishing the Olean house, we also must still sally forth with the mundane tasks of cooking meals, shopping, walking the dogs, and cleaning. Balance is a fine line, a tight rope of stability where you have to focus on every step carefully, rather than thinking about the height. It’s hard to stay in the moment, but it’s worth the attempt. Living in the now means enjoying the taste of your food, breathing deeply, being grateful for what you have around you right here and now. Though Michael and I feel relieved and happy to be in New Hampshire—and it does matter where you live—I still believe that mindset is the biggest asset in any situation. No matter what is happening around you, if you can center yourself with goals, be present, find even a small tidbit of gratitude, and see the good…all things are possible. All things. Begin by finding your strengths, and build on them. Find your worth in what you’ve survived, and be the good. When we look for ways to help, look for the moments to be of service to others, to contribute in even the smallest of ways, beauty arrives at your doorstep. I stand at the threshold of possibility now, just as I did two years ago, and again 30 years ago. The cycle of what we learn returns in many ways if we pay attention, and none of our mistakes are wasted. We carry them with us as unpolished stones until we decide to take them out and notice them again. Life is a river full of stones. Ride the current without a rudder, or stick your hand in the water to find out what’s beneath the surface—the choice is yours.

Want to Live Tiny? A Few Thoughts on Preparing….

*Photo taken in Ely, NV, showing our beloved Aluminum Falcon. How we miss her! We are so ready to get back to living tiny.


*If you like my blog posts, consider taking one of my courses, which you can find on my Resources, Courses, and Short Stories page.


If you have been considering living tiny and have yet to take the plunge, let me encourage you to dip your toes in the pool first. Since Michael and I made the choice to live tiny in our Airstream, we both agree we have no desire to ever live large again. Living in the Airstream gave us a little over 200 square feet of space, and neither of us missed the space from our home of about 1600 square feet once we got on the road. Some folks have reasonable trepidation about scaling down a household to fit into a small trailer or RV, but there are ways to try the lifestyle without too much commitment before you go whole hog. Then again, I also appreciate those who are willing to take the risk without knowing the outcome, which is what Michael and I did to some degree. As I have shared in previous posts, we bought our Airstream sight unseen and began living in it the day of purchase, followed shortly by traveling across the country in it immediately. We wasted no time in living the tiny life, though we kept our home in Olean just in case. We did have a back-up plan of sorts, but driving to Nevada from New York really meant we would have to make it work at least for a while. If you’re interested in living tiny, I am going to share some ideas for how you might prepare yourself for such a venture, especially if you plan to travel.

First and foremost, living tiny offers you freedom. Even if you live in a permanent small structure you build with a foundation, you get freedom from having to clean and maintain a massive house, which all by itself is reason enough if you ask me. Since I’ve been back in our Olean house working on it, I have been entirely too overwhelmed by all the housework, the painting, the patching, revitalizing flooring, and especially the STUFF. All the stuff! Holy cow, I didn’t miss it at all, and I can’t wait to get rid of every last bit of stuff I don’t need. Until I lived tiny, I didn’t even realize how much all the stuff weighed me down not just in time, but in my spirit. You worry about keeping things clean and looking nice, not losing them or breaking them, but also you tend to go out and purchase more stuff when you go shopping, which only feeds into the problem. If you walk around your house right now, I imagine you probably have several rooms of stuff full of items you don’t need, don’t use, and wouldn’t miss if you gave it away. For your first foray into living tiny, try this: put a bright sticker on the side of every item you have used in the last week. Every time you use something for the next month, put a sticker on it or next to it, whether clothing or dishes or movies or tables…whatever the item is. After the month is over, you will have a general idea of what things in your house really matter to you, and that you find are necessary.

When you live tiny, you also see space differently. While you might think that living in a small space would mean that you feel confined, annoyed by the other people with whom you live because you are on top of each other all the time, or that you won’t have room to do anything, think again. When Michael and I lived in the Airstream with two dogs on the large side, we were both pleasantly surprised by the fact that our relationship got better in the smaller space. We spent more time doing what we enjoyed, more time outside, and more time having fun. The small space seems to create an atmosphere of intimacy, and I suspect that the close quarters causes one to touch the other occupants in your home more often, and it encourages sharing more conversation, eye contact, and just being closer in general. Even families with several young children who go tiny report that they feel this closeness as a win, not a frustration. It’s the opposite of what you would think, and it really does translate from a sense of intimacy in a relationship to also feeling more intimate with the outdoors. Instead of just having your own backyard, the whole world begins to feel like your playground. Exploring became the norm for us when we went tiny because we could. To test your ability to live in a smaller space, you can start by choosing a room in your house which is close to the size of tiny home you might want to buy or build. Empty the room of everything other than what you believe you need in a tiny house (especially after you did the previous exercise of what you use in a month), and set up the room with only the things you need, including your bed, couch or chairs (pick one or the other), small table, lighting, clothing, shelves, food, dishes and kitchen supplies, and anything else you know you want (but be choosy). Arrange the room so that you have a sort of kitchen if you dare, even going so far as to try cooking on an induction cook top and using a toaster oven if you think that’s how you want to go. If not, use your household kitchen, but tape off all but a small amount of counter space and cupboards. Use only what you believe will fit into a tiny house, and see how it feels to live in that space.

Finally, I suggest deciding whether or not you require mobility. You may want the freedom to roam, which means you will want either an RV or tiny home on a trailer. If you want the freedom to move, know that it comes with some compromise. I do not recommend purchasing an RV new, as the price tag is very high for even small RVs, and they lose value immediately after purchase. Instead, buy one a few years old. One of the biggest challenges of living in an RV has been staying warm when it gets cold, even in warmer areas. No place in the US can avoid some cold weather during the winter months, and it can mean trouble if you aren’t prepared. Knowing how to keep your water supply from freezing is important. You also may require skirting around the base of the RV to keep the underside warmer, and to keep your holding tanks from freezing and potentially cracking (an expensive fix). Having an air exchange is also important when the weather turns colder, as you will run the risk of mold growing from all the condensation created by cooking, breathing, and showering. Heat and air conditioning will be a must for any RV or tiny house, and the insulation must be good enough to keep out both heat and cold, regardless of where you live. I can speak to the worth of having an RV if you plan to move a lot, as our travel trailer is easy to move whenever we want. Tiny homes are certainly mobile if necessary, but a lot of thought needs to go into the build if you plan to travel a lot. Moving once a year is one thing, but moving every couple of weeks or months may be more than a tiny house can handle. It really depends on the build, and whether or not it’s equipped with the same tanks and hook-ups as an RV to allow for ease of travel, especially for long distances.

The other aspect of the mobile lifestyle is whether or not you have a job which allows for this mobility. If you work online, travel might present at least one challenge: internet access. Though this is rarely mentioned in any TV shows or articles, internet has been a huge hassle for us. To date, we have been using a portable WiFi unit which operates using the data from our mobile phone plan. It’s been quite inconvenient. If you want to stream Netflix or Hulu, it uses a lot of bandwidth (even when you set those to low frequency), and then we find ourselves partway through the month with little to no data left because our stupid phone company squelches the line after ten gigs. Though we looked for other options like using a satellite service, that requires a contract, and it was expensive. Relying on the WiFi at RV parks was usually out, since those are public networks which anyone can use, and aren’t safe for banking or making purchases online. Also, there are usually so many people using the WiFi that it gets loaded down and is too slow. Research your internet options and learn what you can do. There’s only so often you can rely on coffee shops or public internet for service, and we found most RV parks don’t have internet access you can link to your RV directly now that so many people use satellite.

Aside from the mobility of your work, be aware of hidden costs of living the RV life. Parking for a night or two seems cheap until you park for a whole month and have to pay the expense of night-to-night parking. Even the less expensive parks will run you over $1,000 in a month if you stay night-to-night, and we found paying for a full month at a time was much cheaper. Each park is different about amenities and whether or not they charge for services, so take that into account, too. The cost of driving gets pricey when you have to tow a trailer, as the gas tank will eat your money much faster when towing. Being mobile can be expensive, so you have to weigh it against how much your monthly bills cost at your large stationary home, and decide whether or not the price is manageable. If you find people who can host you at their property, that would be far more affordable if you can strike up a good deal, especially if they have a septic system you can hook into (a reason why many tiny homes are equipped with composting toilets), and a place for you to hook up your electric and water. With the tiny home community getting bigger every day, there are lots of folks willing to host tiny homes or RVs. On the other hand, if you plan to purchase land and park your tiny home there, you will save yourself loads of cash in a downsize. It all depends on your goals. Even if the expense doesn’t seem to be less, the mobility might make up for that, along with the tiny lifestyle. You will be happier with less, of that I am certain.

While you pare back your wardrobe, kitchen essentials, tool box, and knick-knacks, be mindful of the reasons why you want to live tiny. If you want freedom, mobility, and a simpler life, then living tiny will most likely make you very happy. However, if you are really attached to your collections, your neighborhood, your cars, your massive stereo system, or any other things you own, perhaps you need to find out how much you really can live without. Perhaps you need to get the RV and live on the road for a while, keeping the house and the cars for a while to see how you feel about leaving it all behind you. Michael and I kept our Olean home for over a year while we wandered the country, though we know now that we are dedicated to living tiny. We have no intention of going big again, and can’t wait to unload the weight of all this stuff in all this ungainly space.

Every family is different, but even if you go tiny, it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing everything. If you can build or know someone who can help, you can make your home to suit your needs. Michael and I plan to have a stove with an oven so I can still bake and cook food I love. You don’t have to use a toaster oven if you want a real oven. Just find an apartment-sized oven, and do the same for a fridge. Find a way to incorporate the means for your space to serve double duty (like a couch that doubles as a bed, a table that is also a desk, a bench that serves as storage for shoes, etc.). Arrange the space to serve your family needs (like building in a dog kennel under a side table, finding places to store extra seating for guests to visit, getting creative about how you can have a bathtub if you really need one). All things are possible in the tiny home, even when you purchase an RV you remodel to suit your needs. Sometimes that is a great option, because the RV is already built for travel and you can rearrange the interior to make it your own. So many options are out there with tiny homes now, and if you take the time to look up homes on YouTube or watch HGTV shows for a while, you can find a plethora of choices. The sky’s the limit. Think about going tiny. Even with some of the downsides I mentioned, you may find the lifestyle is totally worth the few annoyances. Few people who go tiny regret the decision, and maybe it’s time you find out why. Get out there and find the beauty in the tiny life!


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Greetings from Limbo, and the Heaven and Hell of a Transient Lifestyle

*Photo taken outside of Ely, NV on Success Loop. See the deer hiding?

Hello, darlings. Greetings from limbo. Michael and I are still waiting for news about his next contract, and in the meantime we twiddle our thumbs nervously hoping we can secure something soon. This is the nature of contract work, and it can be both frustrating and stressful, even while it can be incredibly invigorating and liberating. For the moment, we will endeavor to enjoy the remaining time we have here in Nevada, despite waking to snow on the ground yesterday morning, snow which is still stubbornly sticking in places around the RV park for the first time since we’ve been in the Carson Valley. Apparently we have another storm on the way tomorrow. While we wait for news and weather, I thought I would invite you into a more intimate space about our travel lifestyle. Grab your afghan and a hot cup of your favorite beverage.

Perhaps our existence appears romantic and filled with delight, carefree fun, and magical experiences. Well, at times our lives are all of those things. And then sometimes it’s miserable, difficult, and anxious. Regardless of the negatives, both Michael and I have gained immeasurable benefits from living on the road for the last year and a half. We both learned to appreciate what we truly value, the people we love and miss, and discovered more clearly what we really want out of life. We have both been pleasantly surprised by living on the road, but I feel compelled to expose the pale unsightly underbelly, right along with the joys, of a travel lifestyle. At the end of this post, I will also share a list of fun things to try in your own life so you can dabble in more travel, even if you believe it’s out of reach because of time or money constraints.

Let me begin with how we arrived at owning and living in our Airstream. Michael and I have only been married for five years, and when we first started dating he was still in school working on his nursing degree while I was teaching in public school and college. One day Michael mentioned he had been entertaining the idea of travel nursing, and as he shared his idea I felt the tingle of what Elizabeth Gilbert likes to call “Big Magic,” that inkling stirring in your gut when your very soul responds with a resounding YES. Ever have one of those moments? Goosebumps! From there, the idea of traveling cycled through a limping treadmill between my heart and my head, rattling through countless possibilities about how we could actually make this dream a reality.

We talked about this lifestyle for years before making it happen; meanwhile Michael finished his degree, started working full time at a hospital an hour away from home (one way), and his schedule was five days a week, 3-11pm. Grueling. He had only one week of vacation that first year of work, earned only through the hours he logged, as if vacation time is some sort of piñata-type reward instead of a sanity-preserving benefit all workers in demanding fields deserve. I kept slogging at my teaching jobs and continually getting the short end of the employment stick, even though I worked hard, maintained a great rapport with my students, installed the hinge in the back of my neck to nod my head to all my bosses, and dedicated my entire adult life to the field. Our work lives were exhausting and soul-sucking.

At some point we both committed ourselves to attaining the freedom we sought in the dream of traveling, and we started to plan in earnest. For a year or so we schemed like thieves about how we could live on the road. We needed to wait for my kids to graduate high school and both be settled in college or jobs to support themselves. We needed to accommodate our two dogs. We needed to figure out what to do with our home in Olean. So many pieces of this puzzle had to be orchestrated, not to mention Michael needing to choose a company for his employment. Lots of horror stories were shared with us from people experienced in travel nursing, stories about how some companies didn’t support their nurses, and researching agencies became its own kettle of fish. Eventually, we settled on testing the waters with a company Michael liked, traveling to a place not too far from home in case the experiment failed, and renting a temporary space before purchasing anything permanent.

Our general consensus before starting really was that both of us would prefer to build a tiny house, but we chose to compromise by deciding to search for a used Airstream we could remodel to make our own. This decision came about after lots of research about tiny living, and learning that finding a place to park a tiny home is often difficult or impossible due to zoning laws and insurance companies. Our thinking then turned to the possibilities of having what we wanted in a tiny house, but built into the sleek frame of an Airstream travel trailer, a brand of RV which never goes out of style and has quality in its build to last. Of course, we have yet to actually remodel after living in the Falcon for almost a year, but that’s another story. Also important, we are still waffling about whether or not the Falcon can be a sustainable way to live due to the fact that its aluminum frame is difficult to heat in temps that drop into teens and single digits, an unavoidable aspect of weather pretty much everywhere in the country, even in the warmest states. We are also facing the reality of problems with condensation when it gets really cold, a difficulty we didn’t even consider before purchase. Thus we gamble our intentions with reality, and attempt to sift out the wheat from the chaff.

Our first six months of living on the road were spent in a pair of rooms connected by a bathroom in a lodge outside of Keene, New Hampshire. Living in the woods, even for that short stint, convinced us we definitely wanted to commit to traveling, so we began looking for used Airstreams to buy.  You may be wondering at this point why we went the route of used trailers. In all honesty, new Airstreams are wildly expensive, well out of our range of affordability, particularly when we also needed to purchase a truck capable of hauling the heavy load in any terrain. We eventually found a used Avion, a sister to Airstream (and competitor until the company was bought out and became Fleetwood) in Louisiana. After Michael confirmed with the man selling his RV that he would hold it for us, we took one of Michael’s rare six-day stretches off from work and drove two days straight to see what we hoped would be our new home. Oddly, the man selling the RV never showed.

We sat in the driveway of this guy’s house for at least an hour in the cloying damp night, crickets singing from the fields around the house accompanied by the sounds of a dog sniffing at the privacy fence surrounding the back yard. Eventually we sought out a room to rent for the night. Michael sent several messages to the man, none of which were answered, even though on the morning of our arrival his last message stated he expected to finish his work out of town in time to meet us. The overnight turned into a long breakfast in the morning, but we finally had to make the decision to leave without the Avion, despairing that we spent so much money on the long trip with nothing to show for it. We never did find out what happened to that man, and we hope it wasn’t an accident of some kind, though we may never know.

Our time in New Hampshire came close to wrapping. We had no prospects for where we would live at our next assignment, a contract in Ely, Nevada. Then we got lucky. Michael happened upon an Airstream for sale in Illinois, and he happened to be the first to inquire about it. A couple of weeks later we pulled into the parking lot of the dealership in Casey, Il to pick up the Aluminum Falcon, purchased before we ever laid eyes on it. It was chancy, but we followed our guts and lucked out. Our luck might have gone another way; we could have ended up buying the Avion and being forced to tear it apart before ever living in it, something we didn’t have time to do before leaving for Nevada. That Avion was not in good condition, and it needed a lot of work to be livable. Though the Falcon is 30 years old, the interior had been maintained and was immediately livable after cleaning it thoroughly.

During this year, we have given ourselves a crash course in RV living. We have learned about holding tanks, how to juggle appliances to avoid tripping circuits, the need for heat tape on the water intake hose, how to strategically utilize awnings to moderate temperature in the desert (and to never leave the awnings down when away—NOT EVER), and to accustom ourselves to “military” showers with a tiny six-gallon water heater. We also learned how to dance around each other in the small galley space down the center of most of the trailer; had to gain muscle memory of the interior areas to avoid hitting our hands, knees, shins, and elbows on virtually everything; and to manage to share this small living area with two dogs and different sleep schedules. None of it was easy. Sometimes we got cranky and argued. There were moments when both of us blew our stacks. And yet, even with all the troubles, we both now fully appreciate and love living tiny. Neither of us wants to go back to living in a full-sized house again.

My point with this story is to relate to readers that making a choice to travel or live tiny may take a lot of dedication to research and a willingness to take risks, but before we started this adventure we were not terribly comfortable with our income, nor did we have lots of resources. We started out armed mostly with the grit to try this life to see how we felt about it, knowing we could always go back to our home in Olean anytime. A lot of things about traveling did not work out the way we planned or expected. Originally, our plan was to stay relatively close to home. But then the available jobs through Michael’s travel company didn’t pay well enough close to home, not enough for us to cover the costs of living on one income. We ended up in Nevada chasing higher-paying work, and that has left me completely disconnected from my kids for the first time in their lives. After being away so long, I am hearing the siren calling me home to make sure my ducklings are surviving. I also miss the woods.

I think Michael has come to love it here in Nevada for a lot of reasons, and he is finding it difficult to leave. He does, however, agree that New Hampshire was beautiful and admits he could live there one day, as could I. We hope to get back there soon, and maybe we’ll even settle there eventually. Who knows? For now, I just want to get closer to home so I can see my kids more often. Something else that bothers me is the unexpected difficulties I have faced with finding any work as a writer online, and also with securing any workshops to teach here for extra money. I consider myself fairly good at selling people on my workshops after so many years of teaching, and normally I can at least get libraries to throw me a bone, but I’ve had little luck here with any of my usual tactics for extra income. As a result, Michael has been carrying the load of supporting us entirely on his own, and I hate it. One good thing that has come out of my time free of paying work is all the writing I can do, and I have spent a lot of time learning how to manage myself as an indie author. I might not have done that if I were busy working, so that’s a plus. But my writing isn’t paying any bills yet. More like filling a change jar over time.

Trials aside, we have seen monumental shifts in our lifestyle. We spend more time hiking and have had the unbelievably thrilling experience of visiting several National and State Parks while traveling out West. In every place we’ve lived we’ve been blessed with meeting wonderful people. The more we travel, the more I realize we are all the same, everywhere in the country. We all want love, need to pay bills, struggle with fear and anxiety, and have to deal with the mundane aspects of life, like grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and taking showers. Everywhere we live, we find that people are just people, whether rich or poor, black or white, religious or not. We all have dreams and desires and wants and needs, every single one of us. Michael and I feel fortunate to have made friends and acquaintances in all the towns where we parked, and each person has been a little light of happiness. All of you are special and spectacular in your own way, and our lives are richer for knowing you.

While we wait for news, we gently detach from the womb of kind souls who gave us a warm place to call home in the lee of the windstorm of hate and division across the globe. What’s sad is that if you look on social media as a cue of the state of our mindsets, I believe we do ourselves a disservice. When we hide behind our avatars online, many of us feel free to blast our worst selves into the electronic static of phish and bots and trolls, regardless of fallout, as if the act of vomiting our own darkest of hearts online may flush the line of fear from our veins. Really, we hurt ourselves the most when we spread our hate like lard over the online community, forgetting those people have feelings just like us. When we spread acts of hate like sharing gossip, tearing someone down for a differing opinion, or spreading outright lies, it only poisons our own hearts and distances the options for having a real relationship with another person. Regardless of the politics or beliefs of any of the people I have met on the road, I have found everyone to be genuinely friendly, kind, and thoughtful. All I have done is listen to their opinions, acknowledged them, and shared my own with what I hope was thoughtfulness in return. In doing so, I have befriended climate change deniers, Trump followers, white supremacists, extreme liberals, religious fanatics, LGTBQ activists, ex-cons, moderate feminists, apathetic homebodies, and everything in between. None of them yelled at me for who I am, and I didn’t do that to them, either.

Instead, as I met more and more people, what I find as a common thread amongst everyone is that none of us can be pigeon-holed. Though a person may support Trump’s policies on one hand, on another he may also be a wonderful math teacher who lovingly donates time at a food pantry every week. Another person may be a staunch Bernie supporter who also serves as a city cop and attends a conservative Christian church every Sunday. We are all full of a rich and varied set of beliefs which cross over the spectrum of pigeon holes, and traveling is teaching me on an exponential scale that humanity is fragile but enduring and incredibly creative. And love is definitely more powerful than hate. And living tiny is a gift of joy. And dreams do come true, even in tumultuous times. And, and, and. Put that word in your day, then see what happens. The bills need to be paid, AND….My kids have a game later, AND….I have to fix the toilet, AND….Where will that word take you?

If you feel envious of our travel life, may I make a suggestion? You can try a few tricks I used to use (and still do on occasion) to give yourself a taste of travel. Give yourself a fun, happy, memorable experience to get yourself out of the daily doldrums of habitual life. I have been accustomed to a tight budget since I was a kid, but I have always been a gypsy at heart. Travel makes me happy, but it can be expensive. Here are a few options for travel to get away for an afternoon, a night, or even a couple of weeks on a budget:

  • Set a change jar somewhere close to where you keep your wallet, then every day empty your change into it. Use the change to fund a trip out of town when it adds up to enough.
  • Find a place you really want to see (near or far) and wait until it’s a good time to go camping. Car camping saves a lot of money for lodging. Also, Airbnb can make trips much more affordable if you haven’t tried that route yet.
  • Want to dine at a fancy restaurant while traveling? Eat there for lunch and save up to one half or a third of the price you pay for dinner, then go shopping for sandwich makings or eat at a food cart for dinner.
  • Stay in a quaint B and B overnight in an expensive area, but wait for the off season to keep costs lower and avoid crowds.
  • Look for free and low-cost opportunities for fun by exploring city or town calendars for festivals, parades, concerts in village squares, self-guided tours of historic places, donation-only museums, or events around holidays.
  • Google your own city or town to look for attractions you may not have considered or even known existed. Find an adventure in your own backyard, and see your home from the viewpoint of a tourist!
  • Pack a picnic and jump in the car. Stop at the first place with a free view you’ve never stopped to enjoy and throw down the blanket.
  • Go backpacking. The view you earn carrying all that weight on your back will be that much more memorable and special, and all the food will taste more delicious. Really.

Now you are armed with ideas to give yourself an escape or well-deserved break. Take it. Americans work too hard and don’t play enough. It’s part of what’s dividing us and draining our compassion collectively. For that matter, you could always call a friend and get together for coffee or a drink and just catch up over a few laughs. If the world is weighing you down these days, find the light. If you envy what someone else has, start planning how you can have it, too. Don’t let time or money stop you. We only live once. Make the most of it, and remember that joy is often on the other side of struggle and pain. Make the most of that, too.

As always, please feel welcome to share links or stories of your own travel interests, post photos, or comment on the content I offer. Do remember to think about your intention before you post, and be kind to everyone here. I look forward to hearing from you!