Tuesday, September 1, 2009

We're Not Camping, This Is Home - Part 1

Living full-time in an RV isn't just an extended version of weekend or vacation camping -- it's a completely different approach.

All we have is what we have

On a weekend camping trip, you might leave behind personal luxuries in favor of simplicity. The laptop, the kids' video games, your DVD collection are left at home in favor of family card games and horseshoes. You might even forgo daily essentials because you're "roughing it." The full suite of girlie makeup and hair products, the toaster and coffee maker are replaced with the natural look and campfire cooking appropriate to the setting.

Full-timing means we bring everything with us, or more accurately, all we have is what we have. There are a few luxuries others might appreciate that we don't bother with, and the rest we bring with us everywhere. We don't have dress clothes or fancy shoes. We have coffee and pint mugs, but not wine glasses. We did trade up to the silver cutlery, partly to get it out of storage and keep it in the family, and partly because it was more practical for small spaces than the chunky plastic-handled stuff we'd been using for years.

While we can't let sentiment completely undermine utility, we do have some useless things that we're just attached to. Such as every wooden sword, stuffed animal, and random action figure that was deemed indispensable. And a ceramic hand mold from a latex glove factory. A small wooden bowl, turned by a beloved relative. A pretty fishing creel inherited from another. A few cherished pottery vessels. Stuff that makes us feel "at home".

As we define the necessities and practical luxuries, the inevitable question for each is "how much" or "how many?". We don't have laundry machines, nor do we have room for a month's worth of clothes for five people in various warmth ratings. So we have a budget set aside for coin laundries, and our wardrobes are sparse. We wear things more than once, and we'll have to wear almost everything if the temperature drops to freezing.

Consumables like dry and canned food, tissues and toothpaste are tough ones for me. I've always been one to have a spare laid by of anything that won't spoil. And Joe tends to buy multiples of anything that's on sale, so we sometimes end up with a year's supply of something we rarely use. We've curbed those tendencies some, but we have a few places to stash an extra can of beans, a jar of peanut butter, or a few rolls of toilet paper.

We had to get rid of most of our books, although we made room for the pop-up books (lightweight and entertaining), several dear cookbooks, and some high-quality reference books. We kept most of our boardgames, cardgames, and dice, and enough art and office supplies to keep our hands busy and our papers in order. We kept our small collection of music and movies, some of them tinyized -- the CDs were transferred into iTunes; DVDs are with us, but consolidated into zippered cases. We have a small TV and a DVR, though we don't often tune in to broadcast or cable signals.

As I take inventory mentally, it seems that we still have way more stuff than we need. Time will tell, and ballast will be jettisoned.

So, it's as you might expect. We aren't as lean as campers, nor as indulgent as homemakers. We're somewhere in between. Tomorrow I'll tell you how our campground living differs from what we've seen of experienced casual campers.


  1. Did you guys keep anything at all in storage at a relative's or something?

  2. Joe put a few things at his mom's farm. His tractor and van will be useful when we're staying there a couple of weeks out of the year. Some furniture for his sister (just moving back to the US) to pick through. And a couple of boxes of cruft that will probably be pitched in a year, when he realizes we didn't need it after all.

  3. Yes, as the sister just moving back to the States, I have to say that the timing was quite providential ... your stuff looks and feels great in our basement! Thanks!! (and hi Gina :))