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Living Really, Really Small

June 23, 2011

I think I might have a concussion. Ok, not really (probably not), but since we moved into the camper a month ago I’ve managed to hit my head (or hand) at least once a day. Either I’m going to have to start wearing a helmet, drop out of grad school, or just start being more careful.

Today, basically at this moment, is the last day Mr. B and I will foreseeably be townies. We initially planned to move out to the property within a week, but you all know about our massive utilities delay. Then we were house sitting for friends, then it was too muddy, then it was someone’s birthday, and then it was just inconvenient. Our utilities are in though (including a camper hookup), the weather is hot and sunny, and no one we know is celebrating anything. Once Mr. B gets home tonight we’ll be off. After writing my post this week on planning smaller houses, I thought that it might be in-theme to discuss living in a very small space.

The Camper

1) How big is “really small”? Our camper is about 19′ x 8′, so really small is 152 square feet. If you compressed your entire house into one of your bedrooms, you would have our camper. You would probably have more storage space though. While we have yet to meet people our age who have lived in a small space while building a house, a surprising number of older folks have shared their stories about living in vans, teepees, or campers (with way more people) while building their homes. It makes you think about what used to be common and now is strange, at least in Montana.

2) What is it like living in a tiny camper? Like living in a boat (I think), only people think you are crazy, cheap, or white trash instead of an intrepid sea explorer. If I had to sum it all up, I would say that it has been better than I expected so far, but it won’t ever really feel like home because you know that there are people out there with couches, normal sized sinks, and room for all of their stuff. I realize that there are a lot of people out there who don’t have those things and would be thrilled to have the camper, but living outside of someone else’s house has made me acutely aware of all the ways the camper doesn’t really measure up to the real thing. More motivation to build the house. There have only been a few times so far when the clutter and small space and people trying to do things in the same spot made me really freak out.

3) How is all that together time? People usually ask that with a hint of “that must be so horrible” in their voices. I admit that before moving in I thought that being so close together would be weird. In reality, you don’t end up any closer together physically than normal, but you have no private space. Only one person can be standing up in the kitchen/dining room/bedroom area at a time. Add the dog and it gets crazy.

Kitchen/Dining Room/Bedroom

3) What is it like having pets? Besides Tempe, we also have two cats (Veronica and Elwood). I was really concerned about the three of them when we initially had this idea, and I was even worried we’d have to take Tempe back to the animal shelter. Mr. B installed an animal door in the camper though, and the cats just spend most of their time sleeping or outside. Tempe knows that her bed is under the table, and since she has been spending her time in a yard playing with another dog, she has been very mellow when we are inside.

4) What is the biggest limitation to the camper? Not enough space for my clothes. Seriously though (and that is a problem for me), the camper seems like it was designed to challenge me specifically. I use a lot of dishes when I’m cooking, and the camper sink just isn’t that big or easy to do dishes in. There isn’t much easily accessible storage space, so I end up taking the cushions off the seats (there is under seat storage) about five times a day, which gets old really fast. I am not tidy, especially with clothes. I usually maintain a “sort of clean” pile, especially in the summer when I wear basically the same clothes every day. My friend Alice once stuck a postcard in that pile and I didn’t find it for a week. There is no good place for my pile in the camper. There is also no good place for things that you use a lot to be out. My laptop takes up 1/3 of the table.

5) What is the best thing about living in the camper? It isn’t a tent or teepee, and it has a bathroom. It also has a lot of windows and seems to cool down faster than a house at night. It is really easy to clean. It also has a gas stove, which I have been wanting for the last eight years. It might take 40 minutes to boil water on the tiny burner, but it is still gas. The camper is a means to an end more than anything, so the best thing about it is that we can buy the property and build the house. Mr. B and I also eat at the table every night, which has to count for something.

*** I’d like to send a HUGE thanks out to Mr. N and Miss K, who have been so wonderful. Not only have they let us stay in front of their house and mooch their electricity and water, but they have been nothing but gracious in letting us use their bathroom, kitchen, living room and yard whenever we want. They have let us complain about this whole process and always been there to celebrate the great stuff as it happens. We’ll miss living outside your house, and we’ll miss living just three blocks away from you guys. I know Tempe will miss living with Mr. Rambo, First Blood.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2011 3:17 am

    I think living in a camper is way too cool and cute! Just relish the experience with having to adjust and making all the fun inside your little home 🙂 Hope you can get into your new place once you get bored. But for now, I think your camper experience is amazing 🙂

  2. July 31, 2013 5:54 am

    certainly like your web-site however you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts.
    Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very troublesome to tell the truth on the
    other hand I’ll certainly come back again.

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