Okay. For starters, I’m being a bit dramatic when I say survive. This lifestyle is a bit edgy- but we chose it, we love it, and it’s changed the way we think about so many things. It’s not actually about surviving the small space, it’s about thriving in it!
Our Edgy Lifestyle
Our family of 8 lives full-time in a 37 foot RV. Yes, you read that right. We are a part of the Fulltime Family Movement, joining thousands of others across the country in a quest to get rid of the stuff in our lives and pursue freedom in an exciting way.
We’ve been traveling in our home on wheels for about two years now, and the unique lessons we have learned along the way have made us a much stronger family! We share one bathroom that is the size of a single wide refrigerator. And, you will often find one child brushing their teeth while standing in the shower, another standing on the edge of the sink, a younger one squatting under the legs of the pedestal, and another conquering multi-tasking while sitting on the pot. My children can’t escape me. There is no place to hide. And mama hears everything.
Because of this closeness, we have developed some pretty wicked teamwork skills. Everything has it’s place. The kiddos know that if they make a mess in the bunkhouse, they won’t have any place to sleep that night. These are real life consequences; my favorite mothering power. A deep clean takes about twenty minutes, leaving more time for my current binge-worthy TV show. Or going for a run. But probably, watching TV. And there is the most wonderful feeling of satisfaction after sweeping all of the earth that was tracked into my tiny home right back out the front door. No dust pan for this mama.
When new friends find out about our lifestyle, they almost always ask first about where we store the clothes. Americans just really love their clothes, huh?! There are so many other logistical questions that pop into my mind. But everyone’s worried about the clothes. Sometimes, I want to mess with people and tell them that we live free and wild, so we don’t own any clothes. In all fairness, we do live in 300 sq. ft. with 8 people, so not much would shock them at that point. After the initial weirdness wears off, we almost always hear about how they have dreamed of living this way someday. The minimalist lifestyle calls to many people. So, I thought I would share two ways we take back our time. You don’t need to live as a nomad to benefit from these tips – they work in 4,000 sq. ft. spaces too!
Embrace The Family Closet
I get it. The never ending laundry pile exists in all types of homes. When we lived in our sticks and bricks house, I was so frustrated with the piles that took over the couch! I would bribe a child to fold the annoying pile, only to watch it all get knocked over by the ninja toddler five minutes later. And who actually enjoys putting the laundry away? Like, in the right drawers? I decided that there had to be a better way to spend my time, so I went searching for other large family laundry methods. That’s when I discovered the family closet.
Every family member keeps their entire wardrobe in one shared closet. It looked like a laundry day dream to me! Because our closets aren’t meant to hold ridiculous amounts of clothing, we all had to decide which items were our favorites and let the rest go. For the kids, we came up with 5 summer outfits and 5 winter outfits per child. Mom and Dad got to keep a few extras. We bought hanging shoe compartments for each person and matched up each of the outfits so that they were ready to go. Glory! Glory! My OCD was geeking out! We perfected our Family Closet for several years before moving into the RV, so the transition was relatively easy. Four to five outfits per season, with clothing being replaced as needed. If something new comes in, something old goes out. Change the number to whatever makes you feel comfortable, and try it out! And then start dreaming about all of the extra things you can do with your new free time. And your laundry pile-less couch.
Clear the Kid Clutter
You know, the scribbled on piece of paper that is their most favorite drawing they made…that day. The 52 army guys, 47 dinosaurs, and countless naked Barbie dolls. (Why are they always naked?!) Or how about the unending supply of birthday and holiday gifts that flood your home and take over your corners? I don’t want to see it, so where does it all go??? We have several solutions for the kid clutter challenge.
Take pictures of all the sweet artwork, handwriting sheets, and paper mementos that have gathered on every table surface throughout your house. I recommend starting in the kitchen! What you want to keep is the memory of that paper, not an annoying stack of sheets that will never actually be looked at again. Keeping the mementos digitally saves your counter space for something even more beautiful. Empty space. I’m a minimalist, y’all.
Get rid of some of the toys. It won’t kill the children. It won’t make them less intelligent. You’d be surprised by how creative our kids can get when we don’t overwhelm their play space with toys that do all of the work for them. Have them choose their most favorite play things and organize them neatly in containers. When everything has a home, it’s much easier to keep the space picked up. Put the rest of the toys in the garage if you aren’t ready to donate them! You’ll get there.
For birthdays and holidays, we always encourage experiences over toys for our kiddos. Most kids aren’t going to remember the toy that broke after a few uses, but they will almost always remember the time Uncle Taylor took them to the basketball game and bought them their very own popcorn! You can get very creative with these experiential gifts, and they don’t even have to cost money. We enjoy doing scavenger hunts to announce the gift experience, writing it on the back of a puzzle that they must first put together, or keeping the event a surprise to build anticipation. Those are the memories that will bring smiles to our kids’ faces when they are grown!
It Starts Here
So I may have lied in the title of this post. Doing these things and embracing minimalism, is not always easy. If getting rid of your stuff is scary to you, that’s understandable and you aren’t the only one that feels that way. Our American culture has taught us to collect things, hoard things, buy things on sale even if we don’t need them, and to rent a storage unit if we have used up all of our current space. Start small, and perhaps do it with a friend. I know I’d love to spend the day with you! Pick a small decluttering project that seems manageable and enjoy the freedom you feel once it’s completed. But be careful, it’s addicting!