My friend Crystal from Money Saving Mom wrote a post yesterday about the concept of downsizing your house. She mentions our decision to live and travel full-time in a 5th wheel, and asks her readers if they would ever want to simplify their lives by living small. It started a lively discussion in the comment section with a mixed bag of those who are excited about the idea, and those who would never consider it unless they had to.
It got me thinking.
If I could tell the naysayers what downsizing has done for me, what would I want them to know? I thought this would be a good time to share our point of view.
1. It Is Possible to Entertain in Small Spaces
Folks are always wondering how we manage to have company in such a tiny home! Having friends and family over can definitely be done with small dwellings, if you’re willing to get creative! Some of the most fun memories I have from before our fulltime RV days are from times when things were cramped and challenging. Like when the power goes out, or construction projects require us to find creative living solutions. These are the things memories are made of. If you have a small house but you want to be hospitable, you can make it work just like you have in other less-than-ideal situations. We have a comfy sofa and cot in our 5th wheel, or we can use community spaces in the RV park for larger crowds. In the future when we build our tiny house, our guests can stay in our unoccupied RV. The point is, where there’s a will, there’s a way. It can be done! In fact, I’ve found that people are happy to participate in something a little different from what they’re use to.
2. Alone Time Is Important (and do-able!)
As an introvert, it is absolutely essential for me to have time to step away and reflect. When we first started traveling, one of my biggest concerns was whether I was going to be able to find a way to get away! But it turned out to be easier than I thought. Since it was such a priority to me, I was able to adapt myself pretty quickly to my new environment, and find a way to get my much needed quiet time. Each morning I get up hours before everyone else to read, exercise, blog and reflect on the upcoming day. Then later in the afternoon when homeschooling is over, I retreat to my room for an hour to regroup before the rush of dinnertime. In the evening, hubby and I usually sit outside and talk for an hour or so, or occasionally take a dip in the pool. The moral of the story is, your need for solace can be met in small spaces just as it is in big spaces!
3. Small House Equals Close Family
It seems like common sense now, but I honestly never realized it. Living in close quarters causes you to have closer relationships! It’s true! In our old house, everyone had their own rooms and their own gadgets to occupy them, which meant our together time was pretty much limited to meals. But now we share so much more! Moving into a 5th wheel, the mood went from “every man for himself” to “we’re all in this together” almost immediately. It was amazing to see sibling rivalries disintegrate, and strong friendships form between family members.
4. Freedom Is Worth More Than I Ever Knew
I’ll be honest. The adventure part of this trip appealed to me in a big way. I wanted to see things, experience things and wake up with a day filled with newness and excitement. But I really didn’t understand how heavy a burden my old life was to me until I was out from under it. It’s like a thousand pound weight has been lifted off me. I no longer feel a slave to the typical American dream. I don’t need a big house with a shiny car and fancy clothes. I don’t need to impress people who really don’t impress me. I don’t need to weigh myself down with a long list of expectations I need to fulfill in order to have purpose and value. My purpose is to wake up, step outside my door and show the world to my kids. To marvel at it, and give praise to God for all he has created.
5. Fear Is Not The Boss Of Me
I am a fear-controlled, anxiety-ridden person. Just ask my husband. I am afraid of things most people don’t even think about. But through this trip, I have realized that even while I am battling my fear, I don’t have to be controlled by it. I can feel the fear, and not let it control my actions. I mean, I walked across a suspension bridge! I drove through the mountains with my kids and my house behind me! I felt all that fear, and I still did it. How wonderfully freeing to know that kind of courage is deep down in me somewhere! And the only way I could’ve discovered it was to be in a position to need it!
6. Determination Is A Powerful Thing
We are just average folks. In fact, we have more than our share of failures and regrets. We didn’t have a big fat savings account or exceptional mentors in our lives. And yet, we wanted this so badly we were able to make it happen! This is what has been missing in my life all this time. The BIG DREAM! I already had all the information and know-how I needed. I didn’t need another motivational book, or inspiring speaker. I needed to find my own audacious goal that was so important to me, I would be willing to sacrifice and commit and push through the challenging stuff to get it. If I had one take-away lesson I wanted to share with the world, this is it. Find your BIG DREAM and knock down doors to get it! It will awaken you and inspire you and motivate you like nothing else.
7. My Stuff Was Weighing Me Down
I had it all neatly packed in matching Rubbermaid Boxes, and labeled with my fancy labelmaker. So I told myself it was all normal and necessary. The extra kitchen gadgets the outgrown clothing, the forgotten toys. The half-done craft projects, the unread books. But if you put a gun to my head today, and asked me to recall what was in those boxes and the back corners of the closets, and in the garage and under the beds, I would be hard pressed to list even half of it. And now that it’s gone, I feel lighter, smarter, and less scattered on the inside. It’s as if this stuff occupied some long-forgotten part of my brain that can now be used for important stuff.
8. My Stuff Was Getting In My Way
When we were done selling, donating, recycling and trashing 90% of our belongings, I felt a certain freedom that I didn’t expect to feel. There was less to maintain, less to organize, less to store, less to apologize for. I felt like less of a glutton. There is something spiritual that happens when you free yourself from stuff. I don’t know if I can explain it, other than to say it makes you feel like you have stepped into a new life with new opportunities. It makes you lighter.
9. My Stuff Was Distracting Me From What Is Truly Important
There was this voice in the back of my mind that was forever saying, “Lori, you really should be knitting that scarf/organizing that closet/reading that book…” and the thought of all of it would overwhelm me. So I would retreat into some mindless activity, like television or the internet so I could avoid dealing with the guilt of my stuff. I was scared of it a little, I think because it represented such a time commitment. And when it was gone, so was my obligation to it. I was free.
10. I Didn’t Really Like Or Need Most Of It
I can remember having a whole garage full of stuff left after we had sold, donated and recycled everything we could. This stuff was the bottom-of-the-barrel crap-ola that had been overused, broken or needed some attention. In our community we had a “dump day” twice a year where you could get big garbage hauled away. When it finally rolled around, I remember the embarrassingly huge pile of junk sitting on display on the edge of my yard waiting for the garbage man to arrive. I didn’t leave my house for the entire day because I didn’t want to face my neighbors. I am still red-faced just thinking about it. That experience was my final lesson in the value of a simplified life. I would NEVER own something I didn’t absolutely love, or use frequently ever again. And whenever I think about buying something, I try to picture that pile of junk in my head!
The overall lesson for me through this life-changing process is to trust myself more. So often I wait for everything to be 100% certain and perfect before moving forward. But the good stuff in life is found down the less traveled roads, so I can’t possibly be certain until I step out and take a chance. My heart and my gut already knew where I belonged. I just had to take a risk and follow it. My sincere hope is that everyone reading this would be inspired to look for their BIG DREAM and chase after it with wild abandon so that they can squeeze every bit of juice out of life every day. I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to chase mine!
PS: If you’re on Instagram, you can follow us on our cross-country adventure HERE!