Reflecting back on our 6 months living in an RV while we built our home, and sharing some life lessons . . . learned the hard/unconventional way.
It’s been a little over a year since we moved into our renovated RV while we built our home. What an adventurous, exhausting, challenging and liberating time it was. Having been in our new (very unfinished) home for 5 months now, I often reflect back in order to appreciate our new chaotic surroundings, and see just how far we’ve come.
This current reflection, that prompted a new blog post, came as I held a copy of the newest issue of Better Homes and Gardens: Small Space Decorating.
It was such a delight to finally see the feature of our RV inside the pages! Even more delightful and rewarding to see my name listed as the photographer inside one of my favorite magazines!
I know none of this would be possible were it not for wonderful supporters like you. Thank you so very much!
Seeing these images brought a flood of memories, and I realized I never did share some sweet images my friend Sandy captured for us, just before we sold our RV. So I’d love to share them with you and a handful of the lessons we learned while spending our time in such close quarters.
Some of these lessons are beautiful and I’m so grateful for them, and some . . . well . . . simply share the reality of living in an RV with 6 people.
LIFE LESSON #1: INDOOR PLUMBING IS WHERE IT IS AT
I wrote about some of our stinky issues, due to the “lovely” nature of living with an RV black tank.
I am a smell sensitive person, so figuring all that out was the bane of my existence in the RV. Even though we still only have one almost finished bathroom in our new home – I’ve never been so grateful for indoor plumbing!
LIFE LESSON #2: LESS IS MORE, BUT IT IS OKAY TO LONG FOR MORE
The key to keeping your sanity in a very small space, is not having too much stuff. If there was too much food, clothing, toys, etc. – then I went crazy. Embracing minimalism was a must for me in order to keep our tiny home feeling good. “Less is more” took on a whole new meaning.
But, I longed for my stuff! I couldn’t cook things I was used to because kitchen gadgets were limited. I couldn’t create things I wanted to, I couldn’t relax the way I wanted to, and I couldn’t entertain the way I wanted to. I learned to be happy with what we had, but I couldn’t wait for the day to see my “stuff” move out of storage and into my hands.
Being organized with each nook and cranny was also very essential. You can see how I managed to feed a family of 6 with limited storage space!
The bathroom area was also very important for keeping only essentials and keeping them very organized.
LIFE LESSON #3: COUNT YOUR MANY BLESSINGS
I made a daily conscious effort to talk with my kids about all the “pros” of living tiny. Somedays, all I could muster was the phrase “I’m thankful we are together” in our family prayer – but other days I came to feel very blessed for what we had.
We had lots of time together! We had treasured moments of laughter. We appreciated Sunday’s so much because daddy didn’t work on the house and was with us. We were so grateful that cleaning the house was a piece of cake and took about 1 hour to make sparkle.
We were extremely grateful that we lived next to cousins who provided endless amounts of fun and adventure. I was so grateful for the relationships and friendships that grew between them during that time.
Counting my blessings, even when I didn’t feel like it, was my lifeline to surviving this time.
LIFE LESSON #4: CREATE TO COPE
One of my best creations was born in this time adversity – TIDIBTS Planners! I couldn’t create or decorate like I was used to in our previous home. But that didn’t mean that ideas and creativity didn’t burn inside of me.
I did have a computer though, and I used it to the max to dream up my perfect day planner. I had the time to figure out how to create a product and worked on designing it daily with my wonderful graphic designer. It was an amazing and exciting time to work on something I’ve never done before, and take this huge leap of faith.
While TIDBITS Planners has just begun and I have big plans for it yet, I am grateful for a slower time that allowed me to turn my focus to creating a dream that likely wouldn’t have been possible had I had all the responsibilities and creative distractions of a home.
LIFE LESSON #5: PLAN FOR ADJUSTMENT PERIODS
Gearing up for the “big move” into the RV was exciting. It sounded adventurous and I had visions of ease and relief in the idea of living tiny. I wasn’t prepared for challenges, in all honesty.
Instead of tiny bliss like I imagined, I was faced with resurfacing feelings of depression and anxiety. I did not prepare myself for “the adjustment period”.
Our lives changed drastically very quickly, and it threw me for a loop! But after about 3 weeks, our new normal became comfortable. I wish I would have given myself more grace during that adjustment period.
I found the same thing happen during this current period of quarantine. Having to shift my schedule and routine to allow for kids at home all the time and adapting to my new roles, sent me down the same spiral.
But after a few weeks, we settled into our new normal. However, I was more mindful of the last adjustment period and remembered that things would get better and easier after a few weeks – and they certainly have.
LIFE LESSON #6: YOU CAN THRIVE, NOT JUST SURVIVE
When things got tough in the RV, I always said to myself – just survive. I had really low expectations of my growth and progression as a person. However, I signed up for this mentoring program created by the most inspiring and insightful woman I’ve ever known – Brooke Snow. What I found was that I actually could thrive – no matter how difficult the circumstances.
I worked hard on some changes I wanted to make in my life, namely, becoming a morning person, and trusting the Lord with my business. I saw huge change in my life and the way I viewed myself by working through her mentoring program! When we finally moved into our new home, I realized I had done so much more than survive – I had thrived.
I was so grateful to have had that program at that time.
LIFE LESSON #7: GIVE YOURSELF LOTS OF GRACE
Finding myself in less than ideal circumstances allowed me to lower the expectations I had of myself and feel God’s grace. I learned to be kind to myself and with the help of my sister, realize that I was pretty amazing for doing what I was doing.
I trudged through the days and gave myself imaginary high 5’s for living tiny with 4 kids, and pretty much raising them on my own. I knew it was a time we would all never forget, and I enjoyed the idea that my kids would know that dreams don’t come easy – but chasing them is always worth it.
LIFE LESSON #8: A PURPOSE IN ALL THINGS
There were many times I felt we had made the biggest mistake. There were many times I wished we could have turned back time and never made this move. I grew very weary of it.
In hindsight, I realized some major blessings. 1 – We were able to sell the RV for a profit and save loads of money on rent or mortgage. Money we desperately needed for building our new home.
2 – My kids needed this time with their cousins, to forge friendships and to share such treasured memories.
3 – I needed to shape my character and learn some hard lessons about myself – my strengths and my weaknesses.
Indeed, God had a purpose for all things.
I get comments all the time from readers who feel inspired to do the RV life with their family. My mind wants to scream, “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” to them, but my heart knows that they feel inspired for their own reasons – for their own lessons to be learned.
I’ve been asked, “do you regret moving into an RV?”. My answer – you never regret anything that helps you grow, or helps your children learn valuable lessons.
Did I enjoy it? No. But I’m still grateful we did it.
If you would like to get this issue of BHG in your hands, they are offering free shipping if you buy right here. It is also in stores, but if you have a hard time getting there, ordering online works great too.
Thank you so much for reading my story and life lessons. And thank you so very much for following us along on our DIY adventures! Working on our home is slower than I would like, but that is the DIY life!
I’d love to hear of your adventures and what you learned from them as well.
Feel free to read all the blog posts I wrote about or time in the RV.
You can also shop all my RV sources here.