Our 1 Year Fulltime RV Living Anniversary

One year ago last week, we purged & sold 90% of our belongings and moved into our 30’ camper (187 square feet) fulltime.  It’s funny because a couple years ago, living in an RV was something we only dreamed about for retirement “one day”, but now it’s our every day reality – and we LOVE it!

I really meant to update a lot more during our first year, but life got in the way of my blogging.  I’ll work on that and try to do better this year.  I can hear Yoda now saying “Do…or do not.  There is no try.

Let’s recap the past year, shall we?  We moved out of our house and into our camper on March 30.  For the next 5 months, we enjoyed life at a campground in Maryland near Rob’s work.  It was a great “first home”.  We woke up each morning to a beautiful view of the water, made some amazing friends, celebrated all 3 of our birthdays there, dealt with a couple storms with no issues, cooked and ate lots of meals outside, went swimming often, & fed lots and lots of ducks.

 

Memories from Bar Harbor RV Park in Maryland

PhotoGrid_1460856979231

IMG_20160416_122420982IMG_20160407_184829249~2

IMG_20160525_194540956-2

IMG_20160625_091703224

IMG_20160620_111000699_HDR

IMG_20160115_134800122IMG_20160405_151642035_TOPIMG_20160406_092552937_HDR

 

Then, before we knew it, it was time to move down south to Georgia.  The Army said it was time to go, so we went.  That’s how it works.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – it was the easiest PCS move ever!!  We took a 2 week vacation to get down here, camping and sight-seeing along the way.  Then, we settled in at a campground in far eastern GA right near the coast.  Or so we thought.  It turns out we weren’t settled after all and that God had other plans for where he wanted us to live because then the hurricane happened.

We’ve now been at our current campground – Beaver Run RV Park – for 6 months and we couldn’t be happier.  The campground, the people, the friends, the community….they all truly make this a HOME. 

 

IMG_20161117_150731

A really great playground where the kids feel right at home

IMG_20161011_082312

A beautiful spring fed lake perfect for swimming, kayaks or paddle boating

IMG_20161007_104921036_HDR

So, how has it been for 3 people and a cat living in 187 square feet? 

Absolutely wonderful!  Does that make us crazy? Probably, but we’ve learned to embrace that title.  There are definitely bigger families than ours in tiny spaces, though. 

 

Seriously, this has changed our lives for the better.  Pretty frequently, Rob and I check in with each other to see if we still like this way of living.  Every time we both answer a definitive “YES!”.  In fact, we often say we can’t believe we are getting to live like this daily. We’ve always loved camping and getting to do it every day makes me feel spoiled.  Life is just more simple. 

 

We spend so much less time cleaning.  Our weekends are now filled with family time instead of cleaning house, yard work and chores.  In fact, we’ve had to get really creative finding jobs for Emily to do to earn money.  She does a lot of chores just for being part of the family, but we also pay her a salary for certain jobs as a way of teaching her how to handle money wisely because that takes practice.  However, with this lifestyle there are a lot less household jobs to be done!  The entire camper can be cleaned in under 30 minutes, and there is no yard work to do.

 

We buy less stuff & spend less money.  There is no room for a bunch of randomness, so we think twice about every purchase.  It has to have a true purpose and a place to go once it’s inside the camper.  No shopping sprees at the thrift store on a whim, or buying random things at a yard sale just because.  If something comes in, something else probably has to go out so better make it worth it.  I also spend more wisely at the grocery store because there is only so much room in the fridge or pantry to put things.  We are forced to use up what we have before buying more.  We make great use of our Amazon Prime for shopping though because we can buy our vitamins, cat food, cat litter, and even clothes without going to the store and being tempted to buy more than we planned.

 

Our daughter THRIVES in this environment!  She gets so much outside play time! She practically lives outside, which is truly her element. She rides her bike, plays at the playground or just in the nature with other kids, participates in an art class here at the campground, and is enjoying meeting new people too. 

 

Even the cat is happier.  She has several choices of prime seating right in front of a window where she can watch the birds & squirrels play.  Unlike most cats, she is a “pack” animal and loves her pack of people.  She used to follow us around from room to room in the house so she could lay down near us.  Now, she can just pick a spot and her people are always nearby.

 

We have so much more family time!  This happens naturally because we are all in the same space instead of off in separate rooms doing our own things.  We play more games, cook more meals together, chat more about all the little things and just enjoy being together.  We aren’t fools – we know time is limited before our daughter will be off on her own doing grown up things, so we are cherishing every bit of time we can.  It’s also great for our marriage.  I fall more in love with my husband every day, and it’s nice to be able to be together in the same space doing our own things instead of being in opposite sides of a house.

 

Oh, the people you’ll meet! One of our favorite parts of this lifestyle is meeting new people!  Living in a house it always seems people come home, go in through their garage, close the door and never come out.  At a campground, people are always out taking walks, cooking on the grill, or sitting by a fire.  New people are coming and going all of the time – some just passing through and others staying a while.  We’ve met so many interesting people with some incredible life stories.  Getting to know people at potluck dinners, game nights, Bible studies, or just stopping to chat while on a walk is a great part of the experience. We’ve made some great friends over the past year, and many I think will be friends for life now.

 

We don’t miss the STUFF.  We haven’t missed all the stuff we purged before moving into our tiny space.  Not at all.  Ok, I take that back – there was one thing.  Hangers.  We accidentally got rid of too many hangers and had to go buy more because we hang most of our shirts to dry.  That’s it.  We do still have a storage unit for now to hold some off-season items, Rob’s tools, our memory boxes, and a few extra craft items for me or toys for Emily that get traded out from time to time.  Once we upgrade to a 5th wheel, we will get rid of the storage unit because we’ll have more storage built in.   But all the boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff that we sold/donated/gave away/trashed??  We haven’t looked back.  I haven’t even missed all the coffee mugs or craft supplies I let go.  Emily hasn’t wanted 90% of the toys she thought she would.  It’s been so freeing.

 

Any bad parts?  Honestly, the only downside is that we can’t travel as much as we want due to Rob’s job.  Retirement will come one day though, and we’ll do more then.  At the same time, we really enjoy staying put and being a part of this community here at the campground and in the local city.  

 

Lessons we’ve learned:

* Propane tanks are way cheaper to refill at Tractor Supply than to trade out the tanks elsewhere. 

* Space heaters are really nice in the winter and make a huge difference in comfort.

* Dehumidifiers are a MUST! We started out with a couple tiny ones, but ended up with a 30 pint model.  It might be in the way from time to time, but it is worth it for the amount of moisture it pulls out of the air!  You don’t want mold growing because it’s too humid.

* Emptying the gray/black tanks are really not a big deal at all.

* Pinecones landing on the roof of a camper during a hurricane can sound like bricks falling from the sky. 

* The night sky always looks better from a campground.

* Campfires never get old.

* Doing laundry at the campground laundry room is not only not a big deal, but I also like it.  Unlike in the house, now I wash, dry AND put away all our laundry in ONE day!

* My husband was right – we didn’t need to bring the ice cream scoop because a spoon really will do the job.  I did however, reclaim my lemon squeezer from storage. 

* You don’t need a dishwasher when you have a 12 year old.  I’m now understanding how my parents went so long with a broken dishwasher when I was in high school.

* Folding step stools are extremely helpful when you are only 5’3”!

 

Where do we go from here?  Will we ever live in a house again?  Not if we can help it.  Of course, we don’t know what the future hold or where the Army will send us.  It’s possible we could go somewhere that living in our camper isn’t feasible, but for now we have no plans of leaving the camping lifestyle. 

Hurricane Matthew in an RV

This past September we moved from Maryland to Georgia due to Army orders.  We took a fun 2 week family vacation on the way here, and then settled (so we thought) in a little town called Townsend near the coast of Georgia.  It was a cute little town, but evidently it was not meant to be our home. 

 

Before the storm

Just a couple weeks after moving here, Hurricane Matthew headed this way.  I know there are a lot of people that are quite familiar with hurricanes, but we’d never been this close to one before.  In Texas, we had tornados.  In Maryland, we went through a record-setting blizzard.  In North Carolina, we lived far enough inland that all we ever had was lots of rain during a hurricane.  But this time, we were only about 10 miles from the coast of Georgia.  Right where the hurricane was headed.

As it got closer, I just kept feeling like we should move further inland. After all, we live in a camper.  It’s portable.  Why stick around if we can move out of the danger zone? I truly believe that the Holy Spirit was urging me with this.  I love how God communicates with us when we are trying to listen to him.  I had this feeling in my gut that was so strong I had no doubts about it.  So, I started looking for campgrounds further west. We couldn’t go too far because I knew the Army would still want Rob to show up for work, but I found a place that was much further inland and looked like a good location.  I called to make reservations for a couple days later, and it was God’s perfect timing that I did so when I did. 

The next day, mandatory evacuations started for places on the coast, and campgrounds started to fill up as people either moved their RV homes, or left their “sticks & bricks” home in their RVs.  We were 1 mile away from the mandatory evacuation line, but then a couple days later even our area became mandatory.  By then, all the campgrounds were FULL.  I was so thankful I listened to the urging when I did.

It turns out, it was a GREAT move for us.  I can only give God the glory for using the storm to bring us here.  We arrived at Beaver Run RV Park on Wednesday, October 5.  We had a couple days to get settled before the storm was to arrive.  The community at the park came together for a potluck dinner, and prayers about the upcoming storm.  What I didn’t realize when we made the reservation was that the park is owned by a Christian family.  I loved that we all came together to meet our neighbors and pray together before the storm hit. 

 

During the storm

That Friday, October 7, Matthew was scheduled to arrive.  We had done all we could do to prepare.  Our fresh water tank was FULL.  Our propane tanks were FULL.  We had plenty of food on hand, and coffee of course!  Rob was off work that day, so we sat around playing games and watching the weather channel all day. 

Rob and I made a pot of coffee and planned to stay up all night watching it just in case we needed to make a run for it. Our area was forecasted to get tropical storm winds and some flooding. We prepared ourselves and our stuff in case we needed to make a quick run for the truck to get out of dodge. If that had happened, we’d have left the camper behind. Thankfully we never had to leave here. Saturday morning at 1:00 AM, we lost power, and we had to listen to pine cones and some smaller branches falling on our camper all night, but all in all, it wasn’t too bad. Once we lost power, we decided to lay down and sleep if we could. Emily had already been asleep for a long time and was peacefully unaware.  Thankfully, the weather wasn’t too hot, so we opened some windows for some fresh air.

All night long, I prayed.  Not as much for us to be protected, but that I wouldn’t be fearful.  God controls the storms, and I knew that no matter what, he was with us. A verse that really stuck out to me during this time was:

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Psalm 34:4-8

 

After the storm

Saturday, we surveyed the damage, and we were all ok. Rob’s truck got a small dent from a branch falling on it, but it’s so old it doesn’t matter. Only 1 camper here got damaged, and NO ONE got hurt. I felt so much better once I saw that even a pop-up camper was still standing the next day.  God is good, all the time! 

We spent that next day helping to clean up around the campground – picking up branches, moving tree parts, etc. We had clean water, plenty of food and gas to cook with, so we were totally fine even though we had no power for 43 hours. Can’t complain – we weren’t hurt and didn’t have to suffer. The temps even cooled down at night so it got cold with the windows down. Glad it wasn’t crazy hot for all those without power.  A great thing about the camper is that the stove & oven run on gas and the fridge can be electric or gas.  So even without power, we could use our fridge, keep the food cold, and cook like normal. 

IMG_20161008_104712114

Eating breakfast outside after the storm

IMG_20161008_131052910

Getting creative making coffee.  No power, and no french press so we boiled water on the gas stove and poured it though the coffee maker.

After the storm passed, we decided not to return to our previous campground.  We discussed it as a family and even gave Emily the final choice.  We’ve moved her around so much that we wanted her to have a say in this.  We’d already started looking for churches and activities in the first place, so it would mean starting all over. It would mean Rob had to commute an additional 10 minutes to work (we were now on the opposite side of post, and a little further away), but he was willing to do it.

She wanted to stay. We all agreed that it felt like we were HOME.  The co-owners (who own the place with her parents) have a couple kids that are homeschooled. Emily was having a blast playing with them. The camp has a cool playground here and it’s just a super friendly environment. They do regular potlucks and other events and it feels like a community.  Many of the people here are regulars, so they really are like a family.  The grounds are absolutely beautiful with lots of trees and a very woodsy feel to the sites.  The individual sites are huge so we have lots of room, and there is a pond for swimming. 

 

IMG_20161007_104921036_HDR

IMG_20161011_082312

IMG_20161117_150731

Our new home at Beaver Run RV Park – I think we’re going to love it here!

Our PCS Vacation from MD to GA

I’ve already told you how this recent PCS was the easiest one ever, but now I want to share some of the fun we had along the way.  We had some incredible family time enjoying God’s creation in many different ways. 

Our First Stop was Luray, VA

We chose Luray because we wanted to see the caverns the area is famous for, and we were not disappointed!  Absolutely beautiful. We stayed at Outlanders River Camp, right on the Shenandoah River.  What a breathtaking view we had!  Sunrises & sunsets were magnificent from this spot.  I’m not sure I’d want to be there much in the middle of summer with no trees for shade, but I guess with the river nearby you could just spend all day in the water and it wouldn’t be an issue!

 

The view from our campsite

IMG_20160906_145410898

IMG_20160906_145420090

IMG_20160906_145434158

 

Our camper at sunset

IMG_20160908_071133195_HDR~2

 

A panoramic view

IMG_20160909_074622830

 

While we were there, we spent some time hiking on the Appalachian Trail.  We plan to through-hike the entire trail one day after Rob retires, so we just really enjoy any chance we get to set foot on any part of it.  We also spent a few hours driving and exploring the views along Skyline Drive – a 105-mile road that runs the entire length of the National Park Service’s Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, generally along the ridge of the mountains.  I highly recommend visiting this area!  By the way, we drove on Skyline Drive in just our truck….not pulling our camper. 

 

Along Skyline Drive

IMG_20160906_170519598

IMG_20160906_171521071_TOP

IMG_20160906_171921908

 

IMG_20160906_172940629

IMG_20160906_175756276_HDR

IMG_20160908_130858722

And of course, a visit to the Shenandoah River is not complete unless you play in it – so we did!

IMG_20160908_172820277_HDR

IMG_20160908_180209690

 

Our second stop was in Fancy Gap, VA for just a quick overnight stop before heading to our third stop in Chapel Hill, NC.  We stayed at Spring Hill RV Park and we chose this campground because it was close to our destination – Carolina Tiger Rescue.  Our daughter’s favorite animal is a tiger and she loves all cats, so we couldn’t resist stopping to see some big wild cats up close.  We were all very glad we stopped here.  We went on a tour and saw lions, tigers, ocelots, servals, and many more.  This is a great organization that really cares about its animals.  They rescue and take care of animals that have been mistreated or surrendered by owners that finally realized they had no business trying to keep one of these wild animals as a pet.

 

Our campsite at Spring Hill RV Park

IMG_20160912_074419995

 

Carolina Tiger Rescue

PhotoGrid_1473875678649

 

 

Our fourth stop landed us in Charleston, SC.  We had a great campsite at James Island County Park.  We didn’t get to stay long, but there is a LOT to do in this area.  We were there long enough for a fun Water Taxi boat tour, and to eat at the Early Bird Diner.  The diner was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri and it definitely lived up to the hype!  We at there for dinner one night and liked it so much we went back the next day.  For a family that rarely eats out, that’s saying something!  I recommend it as a “must do” if you are ever in Charleston.

 

The Water Taxi ride – very relaxing!

IMG_20160913_111547823

IMG_20160913_113343578_TOP

 

The Early Bird Diner

PhotoGrid_1473791091229

 

 

Our last stop (or so we thought) brought us to Townsend, GA where we settled in at Lake Harmony RV Park.  This is a nice little campground in a super small town set on a beautiful spring fed lake that is good for swimming.  I recommend it if you are passing through or if you want to be settled in a small town away from it all.

It was a really great vacation in the middle of our Best PCS Ever, and I’m so thankful for all the amazing family time we had together.

 

We thought we were going to stay there in Townsend, but a couple weeks later – The Hurricane Happened.  Go read that post to see where we ended up.

Best PCS Ever: Living in our RV from MD to GA

We recently completed our first Army PCS since moving full-time into our RV 6 months ago!  PCS stands for Permanent Change of Station, but it’s never permanent.  In fact, we were at our last duty station in Maryland for just 9 months before the Army decided to move my husband’s unit away from that post, resulting in his orders assigning us to Fort Stewart, Georgia.  This was our 3rd PCS as a family and by far, this one was the easiest!!  We are definitely loving our decision to simplify.   Leaving MD wasn’t easy on the heart because of all the wonderful friends we had made there, but the move itself was quite painless.

 

Prepping to Move

Since we’d been living in our RV for almost 6 months, everything we needed for daily life was already in our RV, one of our trucks, or in our storage unit (off-season clothes, extra tools, books and things we aren’t yet ready to part with).  About a week before the move, the Army movers loaded up all the boxes and belongings we had in storage into their big truck and drove them to GA for us.  The Army gives us up to 90 days of free storage, so they held on to all our items until we arrived in GA and secured a storage unit in the area.  Once we arrived in GA and got settled, we just called them to give them the address of our new storage unit, scheduled a day to meet them there, and sat back while they unloaded all of our belongings for us. 

A few days before the big move, Hubby drove his truck down to GA and caught a flight back home so that we could all travel together in one vehicle on moving day.  We were planning to take a couple weeks of vacation and do some sight seeing on our way to GA, and wanted to travel together in one vehicle.  

Oh, and we did NOT do a DITY (Do it Yourself) move, or even a partial one.  Some people say when they move with an RV, they unload it, get it weighed, reload it, and weigh it again.  The Army will technically pay you for whatever they would have moved, if they had done it all.  They won’t pay to move your RV, but they would have paid to move all the stuff inside it.  Therefore, if you get the weight of your belongings inside the RV, they will pay you whatever it would have cost them to move those things.  Honestly, with the little amount of weight we have inside our camper, it wasn’t worth the hassle to pull it all out and get the weight of it.  We just let the Army move what we had in storage, while we moved the RV and the belongings inside and we called it a day.   The Army already pays us a Per Diem to help with food, lodging and gas along the way so that was good enough for us.

 

Getting the Kitty Cat Ready

 

IMG_20161223_175241655

We also had to prepare our kitty, Angel, for the move, especially since we were going to be on the road for 2 whole weeks.  A couple weeks prior to the move, we started taking her for practice rides in the truck.  Just short little ones around the campground or down the street and back.  We used to travel with her in a crate, but the crate stresses her out so much (it’s bad!), that we decided to try something new.  We simply carried her out to the truck and gently placed her in the backseat with her favorite girl – our daughter.  We had a harness and leash on her just in case she tried to make a run for it, but she never did.  She’s not really the type to bolt anywhere (she is 11 years old, after all), and she has never acted like a “crazy cat” so we weren’t too concerned about her running all over the truck or getting in our way.  She’s typically very mellow and laid back.  Unless, you try to put her in a crate and then she makes sounds worse than nails on a chalkboard.

She did GREAT with the rides, so that’s how we handled the big trip – just lose in the backseat with no crate.  We put her litter box in the back floorboard, just in case she needed it.  We never traveled for more than 4-5 hours in a day so we didn’t feed/water her during travel time.  When we put her inside the truck, I always placed her into her litter box because sometimes she pees when she’s nervous and I wanted to make sure it went where it should.  After the 2nd day, I don’t even think she was doing that anymore.  Most days, she just calmly walked around a little, looked out the windows and mostly curled up right next to her girl, or on top of the book she was trying to read.  She’d meow at us every so often to tell us she really disliked moving, but then she’d calm down again.  We also gave her regular dosages of Rescue Remedy for Pets (all natural) to help her anxiety.  At the end of each travel day, we’d put her back inside her home (the RV) again and she’d curl up in a favorite spot and take a nap. 

 

Moving Day & Beyond

When the big day arrived, all we did was hitch up the camper to the truck and pull out of the campground.  Here we go!  We spent a couple weeks on the road, exploring and having some amazing family time.  It was so nice to spend each night in our own home, in our own beds without having to live out of suitcases or in and out of hotels.  We didn’t have to worry about finding pet-friendly places to stay, because we took our home with us, which also caused way less stress on our sweet kitty since she got to go back to the same place each time rather than a new place every few days.  We kept our fridge and freezer stocked with food, so we were able to cook real meals each day rather than eating out, which saved a ton of money.  Eating out can be fun on occasion, but it’s so expensive and we much prefer our own home cooking most of the time.  Except for that one diner in South Carolina – it was so good, we ate there TWICE! (More on that and our vacation here)

One of our favorite parts was bringing our own bathroom with us!! It was so handy because anytime we needed a potty break on the road, we could just exit and pull over to use our own bathroom.  We didn’t have to find nice, clean gas stations or wait for a certain exit.  Just pull over and go! 

Every few days, we woke up in a new place, ready to explore and have some fun.  We toured caverns, explored a big cat rescue, played in a river, and did some hiking.  We played hard, and slept well – each day we woke up together as a family after a good night of rest in our own beds. 

Definitely the Best PCS Ever!

RV Mod–Dinette Drawer Storage

DinetteDrawers

We are now 2 weeks into full-time RV living, and we absolutely love it! Waking up to the view of the water, the birds chirping, & the ducks waddling is fantastic! Living the simple life with less stuff surrounding us is so relaxing. So far we haven’t even felt crowded – in fact, we are really enjoying our smaller space and the closeness it brings. We are also getting our own alone time when we need it. Emily loves to hang out in her bunk reading with the curtain closed.  After Rob gets home from work in the afternoon, we get lots of time to sit and chat while she’s outside playing with friends. It’s like we are getting date time! Then we all come together for dinner and family time – board games, a Bible study or a movie.  Once Emily goes to bed, Rob and I get time in our bunk at night where we read or watch a show on Netflix together with headphones so as not to disturb Emily.

Now all we need is for Rob to retire so we can be together and travel all the time! Still have a while to wait on that, though.

I want to share some of the changes that we’ve made to our RV to make it fit us better. I already shared how we made our fridge magnetic, so today I’ll share another one of my very favorite changes that was made possible thanks to my handy Hubby!

Our camper came with a booth style dinette and under each seat is some available storage. The downside was that in order to access the storage, you had to lift up the seat cushion and lift up a piece of wood – which means if someone was sitting at the table, they had to move first.

IMG_20160110_132100409_HDR

(Don’t mind the mattress hanging over the cushion….we also replaced that “bunk” style mattress with a super comfy memory foam one!)

 

My clever and very handsome Hubby had a solution to this storage problem – DRAWERS!

He cut out the hole for the drawers

PhotoGrid_1458349712866~2

 

Then he installed the drawer tracks (purchased from Home Depot) and also secured them with some extra pieces of wood for stability and proper sizing. Our drawers only go about half of the length of the dinette because the water heater is on one side and the water pump is on the other. If your pump and heater are elsewhere, you could make these drawers even longer.

IMG_20160319_134753450

 

He built the drawers from scratch

IMG_20160321_110301989

 

He even built the drawer fronts, routed the edges, and stained them to make them match our other cabinet doors.  The angle of this picture makes it look like the drawer fronts are 2 different colors, but they are the same!

IMG_20160321_110236930

 

I absolutely LOVE these drawers!!!  Not only are they beautiful – they are so handy!  At first, I thought I was going to put our homeschool supplies or some kitchen appliances in them but those plans changed.  I ended up putting our homeschool supplies in the “pantry” because the size of the shelf just worked better for our binders.  The appliances all fit under the kitchen sink & stove, so that opened up these drawers for our pantry storage!  I have all our canned goods in one and our bread/tortillas/chips in the other.  It’s perfect!!  I can grab things from the drawers even if someone is sitting at the table, and Emily loves being able to reach down and grab her snacks while she’s doing schoolwork at the table.

IMG_20160412_142512145   IMG_20160412_143357634

Live simply, love abundantly!

RV living–1 week down!

PhotoGrid_1459426386859 PhotoGrid_1459518637581

We’ve now been living the RV lifestyle for one full week, and things are going great! We are staying at a local RV campground located right on a bay and I am loving waking up to a view of the water. We had no trouble getting set up & hooked up on our campsite, and there is plenty of room to park both of our vehicles. We have a concrete area right outside our door and a picnic table that I look forward to using as the temperatures warm up.

One of the things I was a little concerned about was how we would sleep with Hubby getting up for work each day. He gets up at 4:45 each morning and that is just way too early for Emily and I to be up. It turns out, I had no reason for concern. Even though the bathroom and front door are right near Emily’s bunk, she hasn’t woken up once with him getting up, getting dressed, shaving, getting his coffee & lunch, and getting out the door. I only wake up to his alarm, but then I go right back to sleep just like I did before. Even once I get up, Emily is still sound asleep in her “cave” (her bunk area). She absolutely loves it in there. She’s always loved spaces where she can get in and hideaway, so she loves getting in her space and closing the curtain to have some privacy.

The first 2 days, the coffee maker woke me up with all its sputtering and noise making, but after that I have slept right through it. Guess military life has taught us to adapt pretty easily after all! In fact, I am sleeping much better now than I was in the house. I’m sure the main reason is the mattress that we upgraded to in the RV – it is memory foam and super comfy! We ordered it on Amazon and got it delivered in 2 days with free shipping (love Amazon Prime!) I also think the peaceful camping atmosphere helps a lot. I absolutely love getting out in nature and life just feels calmer and less stressful here.

We’ve done a little more organizing and rearranging a little since we moved in.  I’ve got a great cabinet that I’m using for our homeschool curriculum, and we have plenty of room for our food.  Emily has a great shelf by her bed for her stuffed animals, books, art supplies & clock.  I’m sure there will be more organizing to come as we figure out what works best in this space, but so far we’re happy with our choices.

So far, I’d say our pre-move purge was a huge success! Our only real “oops” so far was getting rid of all our clothes hangers! We got rid of a huge box of them when we moved out of the house because we have all our clothes stored in cabinets and boxes here in the camper so we didn’t need them – or so we thought. Then laundry day came and we remembered we hang most of our clothes to dry and we hadn’t kept hangers to do that! Oops!! So we had to buy a set of hangers. Thankfully that was an inexpensive purchase. We ended up choosing some extra thin hangers that take up less space so it ended up being a win!

I’ll post more pictures soon and share some of the other modifications we’ve made to make this place a home, but for now I’ll leave you with a picture of our daughter’s favorite daily activity – feeding the local ducks! 

IMG_20160406_092552937_HDR

The camp store here sells bags of duck food for 50 cents and she loves getting to go spend her money on food for her new friends!  They love her already and come running when they see her. These ducks are going to get spoiled quickly.

Loving the abundant life!

Launch Day & Our Final Purge!

 

IMG_20160330_171010

Today is “Launch Day” – a term in the RV community that refers to the day you start living full time in your RV. Today is the day we will be moving our RV out of our driveway and into the local RV campground where we will be living. We’re only going about 10 miles away, but it’s the beginning of a huge change in our lifestyle. We leased a storage unit for the things we weren’t ready to part with or things we would absolutely need if for some reason this doesn’t work out and we end up back in an apartment or house. For everything else – we have purged, donated, sold, given away and even trashed so much stuff. It’s a little sad how much stuff we had to go through – not sad because of what we were getting rid of, but rather because there was so much stuff that we’ve been holding on to – and moving from place to place – that we don’t even use, want or enjoy.

I have to say when it comes to getting rid of things, the military community is the way to go! There is a Facebook page for the local military wives here and several times I was able to just post a picture of something we were getting rid of, and within minutes I would have another wife contacting me to arrange a time to come get it. People love getting stuff for free!! We’ve been so very blessed and have been on the receiving end of free stuff so many times, so we were happy to pay it forward. And it couldn’t be easier than posting a picture and then having someone show up to haul away whatever we were getting rid of.

The little stuff that wasn’t worth the time to post online, things that didn’t make it in our multiple runs to charity, or things we decided against keeping at the last minute ended up out at the curb for Bulk Pick Up Day.  Living on post, one of the great benefits is that every single week a large truck comes around and picks up all the bulk items that you are getting rid of. Furniture, household items, etc – things that don’t go in the regular trash or recycling. It’s wonderful! Just set it out by the curb and the next day it’s hauled off for you!

We set a bunch of stuff out late last night and even before we went to bed, people were going through it finding goodies. First thing this morning, there were ladies out there digging through boxes and pulling out all sorts of odds and ends before the bulk truck showed up. It’s like a free yard sale!! I do love a good yard sale, so I can appreciate the excitement. It was also fun to see some of the things going to a new home. I hope they enjoy it all!

After the Pile O’ Stuff had been picked up, I looked out and instantly felt relief. Like a huge weight had just been lifted from my shoulders. I no longer want to feel owned by my stuff. We say we own our stuff, but really it ends up owning us. The more we have, the more we have to clean, to organize, to find a place for. It’s a never ending cycle that takes up so much time. Time we could be spending traveling, exploring, creating family memories, or being creative. It’s very freeing to let it go!

We’ve moved several times and it’s always a lot of work, but never as much as this. Before, there were always boxes of things we kept “just in case” or things that got stuck in a drawer or closet just because there was room. It didn’t matter if we had 15 coats and jackets for 3 people even though we lived in Texas – we’d just move them from one closet in one house to another closet in the new house. Moving into the RV has forced us to really look at every single thing we own and examine whether or not it is necessary or truly gives us joy. There is only so much room to put things, so we have to make sure we bring the right things.

Hubby and I have had several conversations about various items as we’ve been trying to decide what to take. We got really tickled at ourselves when we were going through one of our kitchen drawers. He would hold up a utensil and I would say “yes” or “no” to keeping it, or we’d talk about what we used it for.

It went something like this:

Ice cream scoop? Of course, we love ice cream!

Cookie dough scoop? I use that every time I make cookies or muffins

Small spatula? I use that to get the last bit of the mayo out of the jar

Wait! Couldn’t we just use a SPOON for all of those things?  How ever will we survive without a cookie dough or ice cream scoop??  Just kidding!  Of course, let’s do it!

We do not need a ton of gadgets and utensils that only serve one purpose when we can have a multi-purpose spoon that takes up less space! 

This past week during homeschool, we talked about refugees and people in other countries. We looked at pictures of “tent cities” where families (often multiple families) so often live. We talked about how fortunate we are to have shelter, clean running water, and an abundance of food. As we were planning this adventure, there might have been moments that we wondered if we could really be happy going from our 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house into less than 300 square foot with 1 bath, but the reality is – so many people around the world would love to live like we are about to live. It’s all about perspective.

That perspective is something that I hope remains in the front of our minds for the next couple of years as we choose to live life more simply. I hope that every time we feel a surge of discontentment…as we get impatient having to wait for the bathroom…as we feel annoyed at the lack of counter space – I hope those moments will be reminders to PRAY. I want those moments to be reminders to thank God for all that we have been given, and to pray for all those people around the world who are living with so much less.

I pray that we will truly find that having an abundant life has nothing to do with how much stuff we have. Instead, I hope we will experience that abundance through LIVING our life – enjoying family time, meeting new friends, serving others, seeing God’s creation and exploring this amazing world and all it has to offer.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

~ Matthew 6:19-21

Here we go!

18 Days till Launch Day & Our 1st Mod!

IMG_20160223_170844587

We are just 18 days away from the beginning of our Full Time RV living!  I am definitely ready to get started.  Right now we have lots of boxes around our house as we organize what we are taking with us and what is going into storage.  We’re still purging quite a bit too, so we have piles everywhere.  Piles to be donated and other piles that will go out with the trash on trash day.  I really dislike clutter, so having all these piles and boxes just make me all the more eager to get moved into the RV. I’m longing for the simplicity of it all – less to clean, less to put away, just less stuff.  More quality time, more adventure, more focusing on what is truly important.

 

Anyway – I wanted to share the first major modification (mod) we made to the RV.   We took our boring brown fridge and made it magnetic & colorful!

One thing we’ve noticed about RV designers – they must love the color brown.  Everything is brown.  Even when you buy a rig brand new and get to choose the fabrics you want, they all seem to just be different patterns of brown. 

 

BEFORE – this is the way it came

IMG_20160219_152846008

 

Boring, right?  We thought so.  Our first order of business is getting some color into this new home of ours to liven it up a bit!  I’m making curtains for our bunk area and for our daughter’s area, and we’ll be bringing in some floor mats and putting décor on the walls as we go, but this fridge mod was an easy one to tackle first.   Besides, it serves 2 purposes – to add color and to make the fridge magnetic.

 

How we did it

After measuring the faces of our fridge/freezer, we went to Home Depot and bought a sheet of galvanized steel and some spray paint.

IMG_20160219_153128007

 

Hubby then cut the steel into 2 pieces – one for the fridge and one for the freezer.  He lightly sanded each piece so the paint would adhere better and then gave each piece a couple coats of Rustoleum spray paint that was made for painting metal.  We figured if we were going to add color, we might as well make it count, so we went for BRIGHT colors – lime green and turquoise!

At first, we weren’t too sure how we could get the door apart since there were no visible screws to be found and we sure didn’t want to break our new fridge.  After a little investigative work, we realized that the plastic strip opposite the hinges pulled off and went back on easily.  You can see what I mean in the pictures I took as I took apart the freezer.

PhotoGrid_1455916816551

 

It turns out we didn’t even need to take out the original front pieces because the new metal ones slide in right in front of them.  But in case you are wondering what your fridge looks like underneath those wood pieces, here you go.

IMG_20160219_153004807

 

We put the wood pieces back in, then slid the new metal front pieces into place right in front of the original ones, and popped the plastic edging strip back on.  Now we have a fun place to display the magnets we collect on our adventures!

fridge

 

Until next time, that’s all folks!

Preparing for full time RV life

We are now about 6 weeks away from moving into our RV full time!

How does someone prepare to move from a 1600 square foot house (with a garage) into an approximately 250 square foot RV? For starters, we have been purging like crazy around our house! We are selling, donating, & consolidating a LOT of stuff, and then storing the rest.

IMG_20160218_130038001

It’s truly amazing (and not really in a good way) how much stuff we tend to collect and how little of it we actually use or love. So this is a perfect time for us to “pass it on” and bless someone else!  The 3 of us had a closet full of clothes, but we all tend to wear our favorites over and over. We pulled out all the items that we will likely never wear again and ended up with 4 trash bags full of clothes and shoes to give away.

Next, we tackled the kitchen! I am a lover of coffee and have been collecting coffee cups for years – usually from places we go on vacation or other fun places. I keep telling myself it’s good to have lots of cups for when we have company, but honestly, I couldn’t fit that many people in my house anyway. Hubby and I both tend to go back and forth between a couple of our favorite coffee mugs and the rest just sit in the cabinet taking up space. So out they went!! We kept our favorites – some with a special meaning to us and my Fiesta cups because I love the fun colors and they go with my small collection of Fiesta plates (that will also get stored for a little while) that have been gifts from my Mom. We purged a lot of randomness & gadgets from our kitchen that were taking up space but not getting used, and were able to give many, many things away to other military families. It’s actually fun to get to bless someone else like that, and WAY better than spending all day holding a yard sale just to make $20.

We made a big difference by consolidating our CDs and DVDs by putting all the discs into a large capacity zippered CD holder and throwing away all the cases. Those plastic cases take up a lot of room!! I filled up an entire plastic tote with just the cases, but all the CDs/DVDs fit into a case that will easily fit in a closet or on a shelf.

We also purged our “memory boxes”.  15 years of marriage and 11 years of having a child means LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of cards – birthday cards, anniversary cards, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.  Rob and I came to an agreement that we were both ok getting rid of 90% of them without getting offended.  We know we love each other, and the chances of us going back to re-read most of them isn’t likely.  So we each picked a small stack of the really special ones – a few notes from family members, extra special notes we wrote to each other, or a few super sweet homemade cards from our daughter – and we let the rest go.  No guilt!

I have big plans to work the same magic on our photos. What prints we have in boxes have already been purged, but oh the many photos I have on my computer!! Yes, they are all backed up (I’ve learned that lesson the hard way!). The problem is, we aren’t enjoying them as much as we should because they are all digital. So my plan is to get some photo books printed of our favorites, highlights from each year, etc. In the process, many need to be deleted. The problem with digital photos is it’s too easy to take 10 shots of the same thing trying to get the best photo, but then the extra 9 never get deleted. That will be a project to tackle after the move.

We do have a small list of items that we have sold or will be selling before we move. Things that will give us a little pocket money to get some needed items for the RV. But mostly, we decided to give stuff away. We’ve always been extra blessed when we needed things and in the spirit of being thankful, we wanted to do the same for others.

 

After all the donating, consolidating and selling – we will be putting the rest our stuff in storage.

What are we storing?

* Sentimental things that we know for sure we want to keep – A tote of memory items for each of us

* Things that we will need if/when we move back into a house or into a bigger RV and that would be hard/expensive to replace

* Things that won’t it in the RV but that we will want access to. For example, we’ll store our off-season clothes in the storage unit and swap them out as the seasons change. We’ll also keep a box or 2 of holiday/seasonal items and decorations and see what we actually use this first year. I’m sure those will get purged again as we see what we end up using in our new home. We’ll also store some of our daughter’s toys & books that she’s not bringing so that she can rotate them if she wants. For the most part, her main books will come from our weekly trips to the library anyway since she reads so much, but we are storing a few boxes worth of her favorites or ones she wants to keep for her kids one day.

What other preparations are going on?

We’ve made reservations at the RV park where we will be living. We’re actually really excited about this place. Hubby will be closer to work, and we’ll be closer to our favorite library and grocery store. It’s the little things, sometimes! It’s got a beautiful water view, lots of ducks for Emily to feed, and a little store where she can have fun spending her money on snacks. She’s even asked if she can earn bags of duck food for doing well in school!

We’re also preparing the RV for us to live in it full time by making a few modifications. I’ll go into more detail in another post, but so far we’ve painted part of Emily’s area, replaced the master mattress, knocked out some false walls to increase storage, and we’re giving our fridge colorful, magnetic front panels! I’ll also be making curtains to replace the brown ones for Emily’s bunk area and for ours to brighten up the place.

Next, I need to work on purging my sewing supplies and deciding what I’m taking with me. I’ll be taking my sewing/embroidery machine with me so I can continue to do my crafty projects, but with limited space, I’ll have to be very organized and try to only have supplies on hand for the projects I’m currently working on!

We’re making progress! Stay tuned!

We are going to be full time campers!

Yep, we bought an RV and are planning to move into it full time soon!  We’re going to be full time RVers and get to go camping every day!  Our family has always enjoyed camping together.  Rob and I used to camp 1-2 times a month before Emily was born, and after she came along we introduced her to the great outdoors.  If you know anything about Emily, you know she is truly a nature girl!  When we first took her camping, she was still a baby so we took the Pack-N-Play and set it up inside our tent for her to sleep in.   As she grew, she eventually graduated to her own air mattress – first a toddler size and then a twin size.  Through it all, she has always loved being outside in God’s creation.  She loves the dirt, water, mud, birds, creatures, hiking, sticks, rocks – all of it!

The only downside to camping in a tent is the weather.  For a while in the summer, it just got unbearably hot and too uncomfortable to sleep well.  Then there are also the lightening storms.  You do not want to be in a tent with metal poles in a lightening storm.  In the winter, the opposite problem creeps up and it was sometimes way too cold for the camping gear we owned.  We’d go camping as often as we could, but sometimes the weather would force us to cancel some trips.  For many years we’ve looked forward to getting an RV with heat & A/C so we could go camping year-round.  We finally did it! 

We ended up getting a Jayco x213 model.  It has a rear slide for the master bed at one end and bunk beds at the opposite end.  When the slide is out, it really opens up the space and gives us plenty of room.  It’s really a great layout for our little family!  We will use the top bunk area for storage, while Emily gets her own bottom bunk.  She can even fold up her bed and have a good size play area.  She and Hubby are in the process of painting her space now to make it more her style.

IMG_20160109_160151586

IMG_20160109_145213681_HDR

We have a dinette area and a comfy sofa for hanging out

IMG_20160110_132052225_HDR

IMG_20160114_191650383

 

We did replace the master mattress with a better memory foam one – it is OH SO COMFY!  The space for the mattress is for a King, but we bought a Queen size for our replacement since that’s what we are used to at home anyway, and this gives us room to add more storage.  I love the windows by our bed, too!

IMG_20160131_150216168IMG_20160115_150305151

Emily has a twin size bunk bed with a big shelf for her belongings.  She even has her own door to the outside! We’ll be hanging up some more storage for her and she’ll also keep some boxes of toys & books under her bed.  She’s being silly in this picture and it makes it look like she’s crowded up there, but she really has plenty of room – her bed is the same size as the one in our house that she sleeps on.

IMG_20160115_150336800

When she wants more space inside she can fold up the bed and spread out her toys or crafts.  She’ll even have a folding chair and we’ll have a folding table she can use under there too.  We will be lining the floor with foam mats to make it more comfy and colorful under there.  Right now, she and her Daddy are in the process of painting the underside fun Hello Kitty colors!  I’ll show more pictures when everything is done.

IMG_20160131_162815515_HDR

IMG_20160204_194042715

So why live in it full time? 

Well, why not?  People do this all the time.  There are especially many homeschooling families that travel around living in an RV.  Many with WAY more kids than we have.  I’ve even read about a family with 12 kids living in an RV!  Wow!  Of course, their RV is much bigger than ours, but then again we only have one child.

We did some thinking and realized that we can live in the camper full time at a local RV campground and actually save a lot of money monthly compared to rent or living on post!  We have an old student loan debt that we are determined to get rid of and this will make it happen really soon!  We know it will be an adventure and we’ll have some challenges, but we are used to taking on crazy challenges in this family so we are looking forward to it.  We love family time and getting outside together so that will be easy.  We’ll also be able to just load up our home on the weekends and go visit places that we want to see while we are living in this area.  We have a big list of places we want to visit while we live in the Maryland/DC area!  The next time we move with the Army (which might be later this year), it will be so easy!

We’re planning to sell/donate a lot of stuff that we don’t really need.  Turns out, there’s a lot of stuff we don’t need around here.  Then, we’ll put the rest of it in storage for later.  Hubby will be giving up his woodworking for a while, but he’s spending his extra time on school anyway so he says he’s ok with it.  I’ll have to simplify my sewing hobby a bit, but I am taking it with me and will be like the many ladies out there that sew while living in an RV full time!  Emily will have homeschool and her favorite things – Beanie Babies, arts & crafts, and reading.  Right now she’s really into making things with polymer clay so she’ll be able to do that easily in the RV.

And a BONUS – it will shorten Rob’s commute to work, and we’ll be closer to our favorite grocery store and library! Yay!

 

Will it be hard?

Honestly, we think it will be way more fun than it will be challenging.  We are all really looking forward to living simply for a while and cutting back on the “stuff”.  Rob and I have a goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail together once he retires, so we figure if we can spend 6 months in the woods with only a backpack full for each of us, surely this will be a piece of cake!

Privacy will be the biggest challenge because our bedrooms have curtains and not doors, but we are all committed to making it work and we’ll get creative.  Our plan is to work hard to save money and once we knock the debt out, we will upgrade to a 5th wheel model with more room and a separate bedroom (with a door!) for Emily.

 

I hope you’ll follow along on our latest adventure with us.  I’ll give a more complete tour of the RV once we have it all set up and ready to go.  We look forward to seeing how God grows and uses our family through this. 

Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

The word “abundant” means plentiful, generous, ample, even rich and lavish.  Christ wants us to have an abundant life, but that doesn’t mean more stuff.  That means finding the real JOY in life – in Jesus Christ and in each other.  It’s going to be a great journey!