What Makes A Home

Today I have something very special for you.  Lena who blogs at The Snazzy Turtle was gracious enough to write a guest post for us.  Lena lives in a lovely RV, and has a few thoughts on what makes a home a home.  I know you will enjoy it.

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We get a lot of different reactions and questions when people find out we sold our house to live in a camper. I covered several of them back in this post, but there’s one slightly less common one that always confuses me a little.

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People tend to think that living in a camper is transitory. That it’s not really a ‘home’, and living in one is a temporary solution while finding another place to settle down. I blame it on ignorance and HGTV. Although I do agree that for some people that’s definitely the case. And I won’t argue that we aren’t going to build another house at some point in time… because I don’t know what will happen down the road.
But make no mistake, this is my home. As would be anything that my husband and I lived in. It’s comfortable, it’s cozy, and it has everything I need in it. In the most basic Thoreau sense of the word it provides me shelter against the elements. In fact, if Thoreau was here I imagine he would lump us in with the masses of consumers that he diatribes against. We do have a big screen TV after all.
It hasn’t surprised me how easy it’s been to adjust to living like this. In reality I don’t feel like there’s been an adjustment, just a natural state of being. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but then I wonder why not? Just exactly what about living in a tiny house on wheels turns people off so much?

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We have the same amenities as any traditional house.
– A spacious living room with comfortable seating for several people.
– A functional kitchen with the means to cook anything I might dream up to eat.
– A dining room with space for four or more to sit and eat.
– I have more storage than I need, partly due to the fact that we sold our excess before starting and now pay more careful attention to what comes and goes.
– My bedroom is quiet and cool with room to sleep and keep all our clothes hidden away.
– I have a corner office that houses everything I need to work. It isn’t big, so there’s not much to clean and I take care not to let the desktop get cluttered.
– It comes as a bit of a surprise to some people that we even have running water in this tin box… a nice corner shower and all the other handy bathroom necessities.
– I even have a garden. It sits outside on a picnic table in the summer and makes for a homey green corner under our awning, and in the winter it comes in and cleans the air. If I so chose I could have more, I could plant tomatoes and peppers in pots outside, but for now I don’t want the upkeep that comes with more.

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And all of this is housed in 350 square feet. A space no bigger than most garages.

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At any given time you can come in my house (yes, it’s a house) and find a candle burning on the stove, the blinds open to let in light from outside, and blankets draped on the chairs for when I get cold watching TV. I can turn on the radio and have music playing in every room and outside at once.

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To me this makes it feel like home. Just as it would if I were in a studio apartment, a cabin in the woods, or a shack somewhere in the foothills.

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And as a bonus I have the freedom to pack up everything I own in the matter of less than a half hour and move it elsewhere. We’re not tied to one spot or one situation, we’re light and mobile. And the smaller space makes it easy to keep things neat and tidy and identify things that aren’t being used so they can then be taken away.

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What I don’t have doesn’t cross my mind. I don’t have pictures hanging on the walls or knick knacks sitting on shelves to be glanced at occasionally and dusted even less. I don’t have tiny calendars and business cards stuck to my refrigerator. I don’t have rooms to clean that I barely set foot in or ‘dust holes’ holding things I can’t let go of.

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Granted, some of that is probably due to my apparent leanings toward minimalism. I’ve certainly seen lots of people pass through here in campers packed to the vents with things they couldn’t let go of, and I’m constantly surprised at how much some are willing to work around just for the sake of having their possessions within reach at all times. So maybe we should consider camper living and minimalism two different things… although they feel like they go hand in hand to me.

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I might be partial, but I think both ways of life would be a viable alternative for so many more people than realize. They fit a million different situations… someone fresh out of school not ready to settle down but needing a space of their own. Someone who’s ready to work but can’t find a job in their hometown. A young couple not sure where they want to land. It’s a less expensive way of life, it allows you to move for work with no hassle at all if need be, and there’s a camper style for everybody. Have kids (or 50 pairs of shoes?), get a bunk house. Have even less than I do? Go retro with an Airstream. Want to haul around your toys? Um, Toyhauler.

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The full time camper lifestyle is growing behind the scenes of the mainstream American dream. Gone are the McMansions status symbols of 2008 as we go back to our early roots with lighter, more mobile lives. I’m in the position to see it first hand every day. And I think it’s a wonderful thing, with the possibility of solving more woes than just the restless need to explore.

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Lena is a a full time RVer, graphic designer, lover of cheesy 80s rap and SyFy movies, and self proclaimed minimalist. In early 2013 she and her husband Marty decided to sell everything they own including the house and simplify their lives. You can follow along at http://www.blog.snazzyturtle.com.

41 thoughts on “What Makes A Home

  1. I think life travelling around in your home on wheels sounds wonderful.. waking up each day if you wish to a new view from your window… Home is where the heart is.. and having had plenty of static camper van holidays when the children were small on the coast, I loved the cosiness of it . I will go check out her site, thank you for sharing :-)

    • Stephanie, wouldn’t it be wonderful to take our home with us when we took a vacation and not have to worry about where we would stay or how much a room would cost? I believe when living in an RV or any type of camper you are open to more of the scenic and nature spots than the tourist attractions such as big amusement parks as well, saving you a lot in vacation costs.

  2. Thanks again for letting me share with your readers Lois! I’ve been at a conference all weekend but I’m catching up on comments now, great thoughts!

    I will add, I don’t know if I would enjoy it quite as much with kids, BUT we’ve had more than a couple of neighbors here who have small children (one family has 5!) living with them. It’s definitely a different lifestyle that isn’t for everyone, but I’m glad so many are considering or have considered it. I love that it opens the dialogue for simplifying your life in some way. Although you guys obviously don’t have an issue with that. ;)

    • Lena, thank you. Your article showed we can be happy no matter what type of structure we call home. I think had I tried it when my boys were very young it would have worked out very well and we would have enjoyed it, yet when they were teens I would have needed a little more room and space from them at times than an RV would have given us. While I loved the music my eldest practiced on his guitar, there were times I needed a break from the same song being practiced over and over and over.

    • LuAnn, how fortunate you are to live in a “tin can” I really wanted to do the same and was very disappointed I couldn’t here. It worked out for me in the end, but I still think about a piece of land and an RV.

    • Heidi, I could see you living like that too. it would be very easy to maintain down the road with your M.S. which is a big part of why I wanted a smaller home the cleaning was taking a toll on me.

      Although I always see you with a garden and the need for a separate space where you could store a freezer or two.

          • Funny you say that – it wouldn’t be the first time. When one of my husband’s elderly cousins got to the point that he couldn’t maintain a home any longer, my in-laws bought a mobile home/trailer and parked it beside the driveshed and had him move in there. He took the meals with the family, but still had his own living space. It worked great.

          • Heidi, that was kind of the idea I had when I considered living in an RV. I figured I could live part of the time by one son and part of the time by the other. Maybe one month in each location as they are only about 100 miles apart.

            If someone offered me both a place to park and meals, I would jump. After 21 years of making meals for my boys I wouldn’t mind not having to prepare another meal. :-)

    • I love Lena’s home, it does look easy to keep clean and they found interesting ways to store things like the pet supplies that keep it out of the way.

      I think the size of your home would depend on how much outside space you had for your boys. I knew a family of 5, (3 children) who lived in a much smaller camper than the one Lena and her husband live in,they were very happy even though space was limited, but they had lots of outdoor space to use as well and lived in a year round warm climate.

  3. I gave full time RVing some thought for awhile. But now I can’t drive much so it’s out of the question. We were wondering if the RV could get up the hills with my books. Everything else could stay behind. :) Where ever your heart is, that’s home. Even in a tent. Nice post. No one should have to justify how they live. Diversity, what a wonderful word!

    • Marlene, I too thought the idea of an RV would be a good fit for me, but it just wasn’t feasible in this area as it gets too cold. I was just like you with my books. It took me years to break down and get rid of all my college textbooks. My boys used them some and I kept thinking they were good for research. My collection of fiction was huge, but that didn’t make sense when I can get them from the library.

      I too have faced a lot of negative pressures when I moved to my studio apartment. Why how I live should bother someone else still boggles my mind.It’s not like I asked them to do what I was doing. I believe there is some part of them that feels as if their life is some how off but they don’t know how to fix it. They see I am happy and are more upset because I am happy with my life than what size my home is, but the home is the only thing they can point to.

      Home really is where your heart is, it’s also where those you love are, everything else is just frosting on the cake.

  4. The only thing I didn’t like after an RV holiday (we call them campervans btw), was the whole toliet emptying thing! And if you don’t do that, you then need to trek to the toliet block. Otherwise, I don’t really mind the idea!

    • It would all depend here on where you park an RV. Some parks you can hook directly up to a sewer line so there is no emptying of the toilet. Although I still cringe at touching the hose to unhook it. :-)

  5. Sometimes I think about being an RV’er. Then I decide against it for various reasons. I love traveling and being able to go where I wanted when I wanted. But at this point in my life it just wouldn’t work. Who knows what I’ll do in the future though. :-)

    • I think a lot of us think about RVing as a way to have freedom, but for me I need a geographical home. If I had bought an RV I would have used it to live between my two sons’ homes. I miss the one a great deal and can only see him every couple of months.

  6. It is a nice life. I have been living mobile or as some of my family calls it living out of a suit case for over 15 years and love it. I did try a regular apartment for about a year and didn’t like it there was two much room and I kept spending money on stuff I didn’t need to fill it.

    • Phoenix, living mobile for 15 years you must really have things down to the basics. I envy you your mobility. I traveled quite a bit but at this stage I just want to have one location with a small place to live in. I don’t want to deal with rooms of stuff. Enjoy your travels, and thanks for stopping by.

  7. Wow! I love the idea of being able to pack up and move in less than 1 hr. You have all the comforts of home that you need. I would miss a bath tub though.

    • Jodi, I too would love living in an RV, I had considered it until I researched how hard it would be to keep warm in the winter and decided it wasn’t going to work for me in PA. Plus all our campgrounds close in the winters here so I would have had to park on someone’s property if I wanted to stay. My apartment was a good compromise, but how I wish my son’s had enough open area to park an RV I could have split my time between their homes.

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