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.
Meet Derek and his backyard Tiny House RV located in the heart of New Orleans!
Derek's modified Cypress 18 was originally used for a living space close to work, but recently he purchased a big house in town and has parked his tiny abode in the backyard. His Tumbleweed is now used for recreation and occasional overnights.
For Derek, the build was a learning experience and a labor of love. "I would have a hard time parting with it (the tiny house)," he admits. Watch the below video tour where Derek openly shares the mistakes he made during construction and offers tips for future tiny house builders.
A highlight of Derek's tiny house RV is his transforming couch design. While the couch can act as a comfortable sitting area, it also transforms into a dinning area for four AND a full size bed!
Derek's couch and storage bench / sitting area
Derek's inspiration for this design came from the boating world. "And it was pretty simple to make," he explains. A hidden hinged piece of wood seamlessly latches the couch to the storage bench, creating a downstairs sleep space for two! The back rest of the storage bench in turn becomes the footboard of the bed. Cushions from the bench and couch are rearranged to create the mattress. Every item has two purposes!
Derek's transforming couch as a dinning area for four
A hidden hinged piece of wood connects with a lip to the storage bench for a bed
The cushions are used as a mattress for the bed.
As for the exterior, Derek chose to go with traditional cedar siding, red trim and a red metal roof. Other features include a mini-split air conditioner, aluminum clad windows and a loft skylight.
His galley kitchen acts as the centerpiece of the small space with an apartment sized refrigerator, hot plates (that tuck away), toaster over, large farmhouse sink and plenty of counter space!
Derek's tiny bathroom features a unique alternative to the fiberglass shower stall. He chose to construct his own shower walls from a metal roofing material, creating an industrial aesthetic. His bathroom also features a flush toilet and a pocket door.
Derek's shower stall is a standard size - 32" x 32"
For more information on Derek's customized Cypress, follow him on Instagram @noladerek
Ladder vs. Staircase. This is a huge topic in the Tiny House RV world. How will I access my loft? A staircase will take up room, but a ladder seems difficult and dangerous to climb. How can I decide? Don’t worry, I’m here to help! Let’s look at some photo examples and discuss the pros and cons of each.
Space Saving. A ladder will save you valuable floorspace.
Tuck it Away. Tuck your ladder behind a bookshelf or into a hidden slot. You could also use a rope ladder, which can be rolled up when not in use.
Versatility. Ladders can be used in any tiny home. Stairs are not possible is all tiny homes, especially those without dormers.
Lightweight. Ladders are usually very lightweight, unlike stairs.
Mobility. Simply move your ladder to access your front storage loft.
Can be used on a slope. You can build your ladder to function on a slight slope instead of straight up and down. This will make it easier to climb and more secure. Use flat footed rungs. Rounded rungs can be uncomfortable underfoot, avoid these.
Easy to climb. This is the biggest “pro” of stairs.
Can be used for storage. You can also hide utilities within a staircase, such as a water tank, water heater, etc.
Tumbleweed Cypress with storage staircase to the loft. Notice the loft has a cutout passage for staircase access.
There’s no way around it: stairs take up space. This is a big “con.” Of course, if you utilize the inside of your staircase as storage, this space could be functional.
Heavy. Adding stairs to your Tiny House RV means that you are undoubtedly adding weight. You might need to compensate for the poundage elsewhere.
Cannot be used in all Tiny House RVs. Stairs require a certain amount of headroom, at least for the top step. You will need to plan a-head for stairs (pun intended). Extend your dormers past the loft flooring, or create a cut out for staircase entrance to the loft.
Mobility. You cannot move your staircase. You will still need a ladder to access the front storage loft.
Spiral staircase in Francis Camosse's Tiny House RV. Photo credit: telegram.com.
A normal staircase would not be possible in this Tiny House RV unless a portion of the loft floor was cut out for entrance, or the staircase was placed in the center. A spiral staircase is a great way around this obstacle.
Is there another way? Of course! One of the most appealing ideologies behind Tiny House RV design is that you have the freedom to be creative. Use a rock climbing wall, a climbing rope or a pole vault to access your loft! Use alternating tread or a half staircase / half ladder. Use a slide or a fireman's pole to get down. Or how about an elevator??
So what are you leaning towards: LADDER or STAIRS? Comment below.
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.