Side mirror of recreational vehicle

“It’s the house that vrooms!” The kids were really excited to see the RV for the first time and it was a first time for us parents, too. We were apprehensive of living in an RV for a couple of weeks as we travelled across Ontario, but we wanted to try it. And since I am actively evaluating tiny home options for the future, this was also a trial run for our family’s ability to co-exist in a 10ft by 25ft space. 

Trying it definitely opened my eyes to a few things! Driving the RV around with three kids – a teenager, a preschooler, and a baby – was an experience of its own. But living in the space also taught me some tiny home lessons for the future. And the lessons were all positive! 

RV size: 250 sqft

Kids ages: 14, 4, 1

Sleeping arrangements: Me and baby in “master bedroom”, hubby and preschooler in loft, teenager sprawled out on the fold-out couch.

Trip length: 11 days

Percentage of positive experiences in the space: 85%

Lessons learned

  1. Everyone had enough space. Our biggest worry was that we would be in each other’s bubble and constantly bumping into other people’s body parts. Claustrophobia would set in and we would have a mental health crisis of some kind. This didn’t happen. At all. I think the key was that there were enough nooks for everyone to tuck into if they felt like being alone and also enough space for everyone to sit if we wanted to be together. I think that will be my starting point when researching tiny home floor plans that would work for our family – one space where everyone can be together and enough separate spaces for all occupants to be able to get alone time. 
  2. The little privacy curtains mattered. Speaking of alone time, the spaces in the RV were divided by navy blue privacy curtains, which aren’t exactly my ideal of interior decoration, but they worked wonders to give us the illusion of separation when we needed it.
  3. We all felt closer to each other. In a family that includes several introverts, I’ve done my share of reading on introvert needs. And something that once really resonated with me is that “introverted people, especially children, enjoy being alone, but with people in the next room”. The tiny home size of dwelling turned out to be very supportive of our needs as a family. Everyone was close all the time. And when we retired to our corners for reading and recharging, we were still close to the rest of the family’s goings on. 
  4. The master bedroom doubled as a playroom. Actually, everything doubled as something. I expect this is pretty common in a tiny home. When you hear about other people’s mansions, the things that usually stand out are the “single-use” spaces such as “the gift wrapping room”. A room just for gift wrapping? In tiny spaces, the opposite is true – no space was a single-use area in our RV. The table was for eating, playing, working, drawing, and doing dishes. The beds were for sleeping, reading, and playing with blocks. And with limited closet space in an RV, one of the kids’ bags of clothes travelled between all of these areas. 
  5. If something didn’t have its own place, it ended up in the middle of the floor. Which brings me to… organizing the stuff. Granted, the RV was not as chaotic as I thought it would be. But, we only had enough things to last us 11 days. Not all year… So, some mental notes for the future – everything must have its own place, preferably behind a closed cupboard door. If it doesn’t, it will end up in the middle of the floor and we will be stepping over it. I guess the same thing applies in a larger home, but it’s not as obvious. There are more surfaces in a larger home that can get crowded with straggler stuff. In a tiny home, every surface is spoken for, so there were moments of walking around with an object in my hand, completely at a loss of where to put it down. 
  6. Cleaning is really easy. That said, tidying up and cleaning was very easy. Pleasant, actually. I feel like we already made more of an effort to put things away as soon as we used them because, like I said, every surface was spoken for. And when we didn’t, it was super quick to put items in their designated places. Then, a quick sponge over the counter and table, a 2-minute sweep with the broom, and it’s done! With three kids and a regular-sized home, you can get to your daily step count goal just picking up toys. Here, there are only about 7 steps you can make before you hit the opposite wall.
  7. Having less stuff was ok and we spent more time outside. So, big note to self, we were on a short vacation and this was nothing like paring down our entire life permanently. However, there were some positive indicators that we may be able to pare down and still be ok. Or at least start down that road. For example, at home, I have about 20 cups. In the RV, we had 5. There was one wooden spatula instead of six. Why do I have six wooden spatulas? Instead of spending time inside the RV, we spent much more time outside, only going in when we needed to change, grab something, or sleep. This pattern helped me experience the kind of thing that tiny home owners talk about – instead of investing all your money, time, and energy into accumulating stuff in a big house, they invest in living large outside their house. The tiny home is a perfect little place to come back to at the end of the day, but it is not limiting, because the world outside is limitless. And imagine having the time and money to experience it!
  8. Living in a vehicle feels like… living in a vehicle. One final thought – an RV is NOT the same as a tiny home and I definitely did not feel them to be interchangeable. While all of my positive experiences related to living in a small space with the family, I am certain that I would not trade in my tiny home dreams for a recreational vehicle of any kind. Everything in an RV is made of plastic and always smells like the inside of a car. It’s hot during the day and cold at night. It feels cheap to the touch (even though RVs are far, far from cheap). I think there’s a reason why we humans are attracted to natural materials such as wood, stone, and clay. Even though technology has long since given us cheaper and lighter alternatives, those alternatives just don’t feel like home.

The conclusion? With our first RV vacation completed, the tiny home dream stands undefeated, and even feels a bit closer and more realistic! 

island on lake

Photo by Juan Davila on Unsplash


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