On to the main topic of this post. Don't you love pros and cons lists? So concise and informative! When we were researching and considering doing this I read interesting stories on many blogs. What helped the most though, were the articles that got down to the nitty gritty, gave details, real life experiences. I was frustrated not to find as many of those as I would have liked. Then again I was obsessing and probably had an unusually intense need for information. ("Input, iiiinnnnpuuut!!")
Ok here goes. Keep in mind these are only based on my personal experience.
- It takes very little time to clean 480sf. Even with the mess that four young children and a dog can make. I can have it looking fabulous in about an hour.
- Forced family togetherness. When we are angry, there's nowhere to go. We are forced to work on self-control and conflict resolution. We spend much more time connected and engaged with one another. I absolutely love that.
- Increased outdoor time. Being confined in a small space does make you want to step outside more. Normally I'm really only happy being outside in nice weather...not too hot and not too cold. I've gotten much better about it now. The kids have done SO much exploring outdoors. They capture bugs and other hapless creatures for examination (and to be completely honest a few of them met an untimely demise that way). They play in the mud, run through the trees, ride bikes, conduct "experiments", collect rocks. I could go on. That's not to say we don't spend some days watching tv and playing video games indoors. The outdoors is sort of an extension of our living space though, and that's nice.
- Low cost. This depends on a few factors of course. Since we already had a a fifth wheel before going full-time, the trailer and truck payment were already part of our normal budget. The average campground monthly rate for us has been about $600. The utilities are partly or completely included depending on the campground. So it's cheaper in terms of monthly expenses. We've been able to put aside some funds towards moving expenses and purchases we will need for our new home.
- Flexibility: Wherever you go, you take your house with you. So convenient! If we want to stay an extra week somewhere or try out another area...we just have to switch reservations around. Now we haven't had the amazing experience of travelling around the country as many RV families have, but still,...a portable house is a nice perk.
- Not being tied to our "stuff". While preparing to move into the RV we purged many of our belongings. It felt great! The rest of our things are in storage, and occasionally we want or need something that is inaccessible (because it's packed in a box at the back of the storage unit) but for the most part it's not even an issue. The kids rarely ask for the toys that have been stored or donated. I had read on other blogs that this happens but was so surprised when it did. The things they begged for and treasured are not even part of their reality anymore. In fact I'm planning on sneaking over to storage and sorting through the toys again before we move into our house! Ha! Living in an RV also forces you to exercise self-control when it comes to acquiring things. There's only so much space to store and use things. If I can't use it or don't have room for it, I truly don't want it. I'm hoping to carry that mentality with me. Too much stuff adds unnecessary stress to your life. Google "stress" and "belongings" and you can pull up multiple articles on this concept.
- A sense of accomplishment. Doing something like this just to say that you did it would not be a wise undertaking. It takes a tremendous amount of planning and effort. However, now we can say we did it! We sold our house, got rid of the majority of our belongings, and lived in an RV with four kids ages 10 and under. Go us!! Lol. I'm so glad we can look back on this and realize that with God's help we were able to do something unique and amazing as a family. I'm so thankful for it.
- A stronger marriage. This ties in with the forced togetherness thing. In such close quarters you really can't hold a grudge, you really see each other at your best and worst, and you have very little privacy. (Ha!) I feel that Justin and I know each other better than we would have if we had spent the last 8 months living our normal lives. We've faced challenges and shared experiences that bonded us closer in a unique way. It's not something that can happen through attending a marriage seminar or trying to be a better spouse. It's just the natural result of doing this crazy thing together.
- Meeting new people. I am a people person. I LOVE the fact that I constantly get new neighbors. Many of them are retired folk (which I thoroughly enjoy) and we've met a fair amount of families also. It's so interesting and fun to get to know new people all the time. There's already the common ground of RV living, so most people are open and friendly. Only a few grouches. ;)
- Slower paced lifestyle. We don't have a big house and yard to take care of, we are not able to commit to as many outside activities. We spend more time being instead of doing. We have more opportunity to hang out, relax, play with the kids, and waste time on facebook. (I'm just being honest) Now I will say my days as a homeschool Mom are just as busy and chaotic. Time management is not my forte. However it still feels easier doing this life than it it did when we were in a house.
- SPACE!! When people say "How you do it??" they are referring to the tiny space. I know. And they have a point. When I want to get to the trash can in the kitchen, I have to wait patiently for Justin to come out of the kitchen, or hand him the trash that I am holding. The kids run into each other and trip over each other. The dog is always in the dang way!!
- Clutter. With a family of 6 in an RV there is no such thing as "a place for everything and everything in its place". Nope just not going to happen. Even when it's completely cleaned up and everything is "put away" there is still clutter. Some things have no where else to go so they sit out. Sometimes a pile builds up somewhere and it takes me awhile to clean it up because I have no idea where the items in it are going to go. For the most part I've figured out where to keep everything but there are little outliers. For instance, recently I became nostalgic and bought a box of twinkies. They will live on top of the stove until they are eaten because...nowhere to put them! By the way I'm sad to report that not only did my kids have no idea what twinkies were, but my taste buds have matured too much to enjoy them. Tragic. At least the 10 year old loves them. :)
- Sleep issues. We've struggled with our youngest, who was 18 months old when we started this journey. I spent two weeks prior to the big move getting her used to sleeping in the camper. However, she still has been waking a few times a night. I am a believer in sleep training and have used it with all my kids. It's pretty much impossible to sleep train when the room is shared by two older children. Most nights I am up with her around midnight and am able to get her back to bed. Sometimes up again around 2am. Every morning she comes in around 5am and stays in the bed with us...because I'm too tired to fight it and also she'll often sleep longer that way. If there is another child in the bed due to illness or nighttime fears, we are squished in together. I like my space!! At least we have a king sized bed. The other thing is that sound travels easily in the small area we live in. We spend alot of time whispering if someone is asleep.
- Privacy. Are you the kind of person who runs the water or turns on the fan or waits until your spouse has left the vicinity when you need to use the restroom? I know some of you are! I've gotten over that the longer I have been married, but as a female I still want to maintain a semblance of dignity. (Yes even after giving birth four times, a girl can draw the line somewhere!) It's really tough to do that in an RV. Lots of throat clearing and polite pretending you didn't hear a thing. ;) I also often lock the door when I'm getting dressed. The kids view the master bedroom as an additional play area, and I haven't discouraged that too much considering how much square footage we live in. There's a strong chance they will barge in while I'm dressing despite admonishments to knock.
- Dirt. Campgrounds have lots of it. I've had to give up on keeping the outdoor toys clean. I've had to be ok with dirt being tracked inside. With trekking through mud to the car when it rained. I've had to embrace dirt! It's really not all that bad, it just takes getting used to. Not much makes it into the camper, unless you count the amount that gets onto the kids. Nothing some bubble bath and laundry detergent won't fix. We have an all-in-one washing machine in the camper...I don't think I could live without it!
- Cooking. Cooking stinks in a tiny kitchen. That's all I have to say about it. We have a dishwasher that attaches to our sink and washes about 3/4 the amount of dishes per load that a regular dishwasher does. I don't think I could live without that either.
- Showers. We have a tankless water heater, which is AMAZING. Except for the fact that it performs poorly with low water pressure...a common problem in campgrounds. The campground we spent the summer at had bad water pressure, so we spent the summer taking showers that alternated constantly between freezing cold and scalding hot. If you have a regular water tank, you have less temperature control issues but run out of hot water quickly. So it's a trade off. Our particular model has a tub large enough to soak in, and it could not even be filled up with a standard 10 gallon RV water heater. So the tankless heater is worth it in that regard (for some reason no temperature control issues when filling the tub, only when using the shower) and I highly recommend it if you go full time.