I've been traveling around in my tiny house RV for six months now. I'm very comfortable inside the small space, but that doesn't mean there weren't a few challenges along the way. Once or twice I’ve cried out in frustration, “it’s too small!” Other times I’ve been thankful for having less space to clean and maintain, and for the freedom it has provided.
Below are FIVE unexpected lessons my tiny house RV has taught me in the past six months:
1). I CARE MORE ABOUT CONSUMPTION
I know how much water I use on a daily basis- approximately 15 gallons when I take navy showers. I know how often I need to dump the urine container on my composting toilet - every 3 days. I know how much propane I use per month - about 15 pounds. I have to physically empty my grey water tank, fill my fresh water tank, refill my propane tanks, dump my toilet, etc.
I take navy showers and use the Nature's Head to conserve water and propane.
Measuring my consumption in physical labor has made me more conscious of my waste. There’s a HUGE difference between seeing decimals and graphs on your monthly bill and having to physically refill your tanks. I use less. I waste less. I save more money.
2). I THINK BEFORE I PURCHASE
I have nightmares about clutter. In a tiny traveling house, clutter can mean the difference between owning three mugs or four. I don’t shop often, but when I do I have to know: 1). What purpose will the new item serve? 2). Can it replace something else and/or increase the functionality of my daily life? 3). Where will it be stored? If I can’t answer those three questions, I DON'T NEED IT!
I try to keep my kitchen counters empty. Everything tucks away and has a place.
3). I APPRECIATE THE IMPERFECTIONS
As I travel around, I've had the opportunity to tour many other tiny house RVs. Sometimes I swoon over a great space saving idea or an innovative layout. I call it "tiny-envy." I have to remind myself that my partner and I had zero construction experience before building our tiny abode. It's not perfect, but my house is still pretty darn cool. And it's mine! When we were building I was so meticulous about everything. If something wasn't perfect, I wanted to redo it. Now those imperfections that once made me cringe, don’t bother me at all. In fact, I kind of like them! Each nick, scratch and hole was a lesson and a memory.
4). "IF YOU BUILD IT, YOU WILL FILL IT"
This is sound advice from my friend and fellow tiny house RVer - Art Cormier. Guillaume and I recently modified our staircase to have a few extra storage compartments. And now they're full! Uh oh…the clutter monster is knocking at our door! We’re going to have to think twice before adding any new shelving or storage spaces in the future. If there's no place to put new stuff, I don't need it! (See lesson #2).
My kitchen cabinet. I own three mugs, two cups, two wine glasses and a bunch of spices. It's full!
5). I'M LESS NEEDY
Perhaps my partner would argue, but I'm going to make an assumption that I'm less needy now than I've ever been before. I have less, but I want and need less as well. When I think about all the stuff I used to own and purchase, I feel overwhelmed. This small space has challenged me to unburden myself. I like the new care-free me!
Just for fun, here are a few more ways my life has changed from traveling in a tiny house RV:
I clean less. I shop less. I cook more. I consume less. I primp less. I dress better. I eat better. I sleep more. I read more. I watch TV less. I drive less. I play with my dog more. I hike more. I go to the gym less. I travel WAY more.
Get ready for a really unique tiny house RV story!
A lot has happened to Annie Coburn since taking the August 2014 Tumbleweed workshop in Dallas. She admits that she was unsure of her future plans when she first decided to attend the workshop, but one comment from another attendee changed her mind (and her life) completely. "A lady said: 'I know this person who travels around in her tiny house and sells .....' I don't even remember what she was selling, but that statement put all the pieces together for me," Annie told us.
Interior: "Tiny House Teas"
Annie has always loved to travel. In 2010 she created a travel website for seniors. So the idea of creating a business that could function out of the tiny house RV, while wayfaring around the United States, tied all of her passions together in one beautiful package. It wasn't long before Annie received her Tumbleweed trailer and started building her traveling Cypress 20 Equator without dormers.
"When I saw the picture of the Cypress, I wanted to give it a hug," Annie recalls. "It's so cute!"
But what does Annie intend to sell out of her traveling tiny home? TEA, of course! In the late 1990's, she lived in China and remains in contact with her friends there. "They know tea and tea producers," Annie comments. "So I have access to premium teas." In September she flew to China to strike up a partnership and, just like that, "Tiny House Teas" was born.
Annie's tiny house RV is now close to completion, and she'll soon hit the road with her traveling tea business. Her first destination will be the Florida Keys. "The tiny house gives us options," Annie explains. "We can stay as long as we wish. When we feel the need for a change, just hook-up, fill-up and GO."
Whether you are planning to be on the road everyday or you are choosing to stay parked in your favorite corner of the world for a bit, it’s likely that you have chosen a tiny house for the freedom it will provide. The adventure looks different for everyone, but it undoubtedly means a journey with less “stuff”.
So how do you approach the overwhelming task of choosing what to take with you?How will you fit everything into only a couple hundred square feet?The key is to focus on the fun ahead then choose what to pack for the adventure.
You’re already being creative and living intentionally by choosing a tiny house.You’re focusing on all that you’ll gain, not what you’ll give up. So approach the task of evaluating your “stuff” with this same positive mindset.
Think versatility and comfort for clothes, compact and dual purpose for your kitchen items. Think creatively and resourcefully with everything!
2). Remember your vision
Be selective and intentional, keeping in mind the amount of white space, storage and keepsakes you’d like with you on the journey.
3). Think with an abundance mindset
Trust that anything you need will be available when you need it.The “I might need this” reasoning will not support your freedom.You don’t need any extra baggage!
4). Remain optimistic…
Think about the opportunities ahead and the new community of people you’ll meet.By choosing to take only what you know you’ll need now, you’re making space for exciting new experiences.
5) Go with your gut
Remember when you experienced that gut feeling knowing that a tiny house RV was perfect for you?Use that same gut feeling to make smart decisions about your stuff.
6). Give it a rest
Tired minds don’t make good decisions.Working in small chunks of time can be better than putting in long days, so plan accordingly.
The open road. Photo credit: Lisa Luken
By approaching the task this way, you’ll be well prepared for the exciting adventure ahead, having intentionally chosen to bring along only what you truly need, use and love.
You’ll be ready to enjoy your tiny house and the big life it provides…with just the right items for the adventure.
Lisa Luken is a Simple Living Mentor, helping people find joy and freedom through simplifying. She and her family recently sold their “more than enough” home in Illinois, let go of nearly three quarters of their possessions and moved to the coast of Maine. For more inspiration on simplifying and to learn how Lisa supports others on their journey, visit her website SimpleJoyLiving.com.
My Tumbleweed Cypress has rolled all the way from Los Angeles to Nova Scotia to the Florida Keys, where I’m currently writing this blog post. In the four months and 8,000 miles I’ve traveled with a tiny home, I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. Below is a short list I’ve compiled in hopes that it will be helpful to future tiny house travelers.
*Note: A few of the below are also applicable to RVing. That’s intentional. I’ve learned a lot from RVers and many of the same rules are relevant.
5 Tips for Tiny House Travel
1). You can weigh your tiny home at any truck scale. The best way is to weigh the tiny house with your truck attached, then park, detach, weigh your truck alone and subtract that weight from the total. It’s important to know your weight and to have a tow vehicle that can handle the load. It is especially important to be aware of your tongue weight, which can be found by purchasing a tongue scale. Many tiny homes have a heavy tongue weight because of the loft. You can counter balance your tongue weight by placing some of your heavier items in the back of the trailer (like water tanks or solar batteries). You can also use a weight distribution system, like I do.
2). Call campgrounds ahead of time. I call ahead and tell the campground that I have a 24 foot travel trailer that requires 30 amp electrical, water and (if I know my 15 gallon water tank will not be sufficient) a sewage drain for grey water. If they ask for the brand of the travel trailer, I tell them it’s a “Tumbleweed tiny house, you know… like on Tiny House Nation?” And that usually rings a bell. No campground has EVER turned me down. In fact, click here for a list of campgrounds that I’ve stayed at.
3). Attach bubble levels to your tiny house. I have one on the back center of my house (for left/right leveling) and one on the side (for front/back leveling). I use Anderson levelers for left/right leveling and I LOVE them. With these levelers, I can raise one side of my house up to four inches simply by driving onto them! If I need more than that, I pull one side of my tiny house up onto planks of wood, and then use the levelers. For front/back leveling, I use the tongue jack. Never use the scissor jacks for leveling; They are for stability only.
Tiny House GJ's Anderson Levelers
4). Get an RV GPS. I use a Rand McNally RV GPS to navigate around low clearances, weight restrictions, propane restrictions, etc. It’s excellent and it is worth its weight in gold for my peace of mind.
5). Secure Loose Items. Add a lip to your shelves and hook & eyes to your drawers. Using a bungie cord works as well, but if every shelf and drawer requires a bungie, you’ll die of tedium. The less “lock and loading” the better. It takes me about 20 minutes to secure everything inside my house and another 20 minutes to pack up the outside. I’ve got it down to a science, but I’m also always improving.
Any travelers out there want to share some of your own tips? Comment below!
Now that we've been on the road for a few weeks, Guillaume and I wanted to share our stories and travel tips. We will be scooting along the highway for the next year. So stay tuned!
Our official trip began September 2nd with our departure from Shelbyville, Illinois. If you're confused it might be because we built half of our house in Los Angeles, but at the beginning of the summer we decided to move the build to the midwest (where my family graciously let us take over their driveway). Read about our move from California to Illinois here.
The construction of our house had taken over our lives for the past year, and yet, we were still scrambling to finish right up until the final gargantuan moment of our tiny exodus. It was 6pm before we slowly rolled away from my family's quiet farm town and began an 800 mile journey to our first destination: the Tumbleweed Philadelphia workshop, where our house would make its debut. Check out the below video tour of our home taken by Philadelphia workshop presenter Deek!
I had never been to the east coast before, so I was very excited that the first section of our trip would take us to somewhere exotic - a place where locals don't even blink an eye as they shuffle past 300 year old buildings, coffee is served strong and meant for drinking on the go, and lobster rolls are considered a common lunch.
Philadelphia really surprised me. I spent days just walking the streets, reading plaques and snapping photos. I'm not used to living in a place that has history, and I allowed myself to feel proud and at home. The words: "I could live here," occasionally crossed my mind.
Our Parking Spot in Philadelphia - across from the workshop
That being said, I was full of contempt for the city as we pulled our (what seemed like) enormous house through its narrow streets. Parking was impossible, which I expected. Our trailer jack clawed at the ground more than once, and every time it felt like the house was collapsing.
Tiny House GJ Parking Illegally in Philly
Watch out wire - Here we come!!
Tips for Towing a Tiny House in North Eastern USA:
1). KNOW YOUR HEIGHT. REALLY KNOW IT. There are many low overpasses along the east coast. Our house is 13'4" and we had a few close calls. One in particular in New York City, where an overpass boasted a low clearance of 12'6"! We slowed down, frantically discussed our options and then realized that our house would fit. The sign was a lie, or a terribly un-funny joke. Either way my heart skipped a beat at the thought of reversing in NYC traffic. I cringe at the idea of a convertible tiny home. A wonderful purchase for us was an RV GPS. It alerts us of any low overpasses, weight restrictions, horizontal clearances, propane restrictions, etc. If you are going to travel often with your tiny home, buy one!
2). Watch for potholes, steep inclines / declines. Our trailer jack and chains will usually take the hit first, but I wouldn't recommend it. Take it slow and be alert.
3). If you are still in the pre-build stage, consider placing your door on the passenger side. When parking on the side of the street, exiting the tiny house on the driver's side (or the side of traffic) can be dangerous. This tip really applies to travel anywhere, but especially relevant in an east coast city where streets can be very narrow and traffic heavy.
4). KNOW YOUR WEIGHT. Tie down everything inside, and distribute your weight evenly. You can weigh your house at any trucker scale (LOVES or similar). Ours is a bit heavy - 9,800 lbs. This means we have to be very careful about our tongue weight. Semi-tedious work, but we often shift our belongings to the back of the house for travel to alleviate our heavy tongue. We are looking for a bigger truck to compensate for this. Currently we have a 3/4 ton diesel Ford F-250, but would like a 1 ton dually. If anyone has any advice for us about this, please feel free to comment!
5). In New York City, watch for gawking pedestrians and flying hotdogs.
Tiny House in Central Park
Yes, after leaving Philly we drove the house through New York City. No, we aren't insane.. well, maybe a little. A short-lived cruise through central park ended with us being kicked out; we had permission but ended up causing trouble when we couldn't navigate properly. Our tiny home crawled away with its tail between our legs to a campsite in Croton-On-Harmon, about an hour outside of the city.
Our Campsite in New York - Croton Point Park
Before leaving New York City we snapped a few photos of the tiny house amongst the skyscrapers. It was September 11th, and the significance of the anniversary was not lost on us. We tried to visit the memorial, but it was closed for family members only - a respectable request.
As the new One World Trade Center proudly served as our canopy, we remembered.
Currently we are on our way to Montreal. My next update will be about crossing the border and staying overnight in campgrounds, truck strops or similar. Wish us luck!
For more photos of our journey, follow us on INSTAGRAM.
Jenna Spesard is currently living and traveling around North America in a self-built Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop host. They are photographing and writing about their adventure that began in September 2014. Occasionally they will be hosting an open house. More on their tiny house and giant journey here.