Living in your RV (or travel trailer as in our case) is different from using it for vacations. In the case of the latter you willingly forgo access to most of your possessions. You pack light. For instance you don’t take your library on holiday (unless you are a lucky owner of a kindle).  But when you live in your travel trailer with 4 school-aged children and inconsistent access to the internet, you have a bookshelf with a couple dozen books on it.  Likewise, you have more toys, more clothing, more pots and pans, more pairs of shoes; well, more of everything.  It’s hard to pack light for living!  This plethora of possessions (even pared down) hinders the mobility of your ‘mobile home’ as we discovered during our required 72-hour pullout from the park this past weekend.

One of the first ‘home improvement’ projects I undertook after we moved into our trailer was to, with a great deal of difficulty (crowbar required), remove the small cabinet bolted to the back of the dinette.  It had to go- it had three shelves, measuring approximately 8×8 inches.  Cute – but pathetically inadequate for our needs.  I replaced it with a folding bookshelf, 3 shelves, each 3 feet wide and 12 inches deep.  Perfect- each child was then given a fabric box (you’ve seen them at Target) in which to store their possessions.  When placed on the shelves, there remained room at the end for some books and the binder that stores our DVDs.  The top shelf holds the art box, more books and whatever miscellaneous stuff has been piled there at the moment.   This is a very efficient use of what would be walkway space behind the dinette.  Very efficient for day to day use and a disaster when the trailer hit the road. 

Knowing that we had to pull out I boxed a lot of stuff from inside the trailer, and pulled all the plastic tubs stored under the trailer, and took it all to the storage unit.  Since the storage unit is stuffed that required a couple days of sorting through and letting go of more possessions- mostly books, toys and clothing.  We used to have a library of over 1,000 children’s books!  Mind you we pared that down considerably during our yard sales last summer.  But I kept a lot too- both kids’ books and my books and those boxes probably make up the largest category of ‘stuff’ in the unit.   But now, as it looks more and more likely that we will not be moving back into a fixed (and larger) dwelling anytime soon, I’ve decided to part with more –there’s nothing worse for books than to be stored and someone really should be reading them.  So several boxes went to the kids’ classrooms, some were put on eBay, others hauled off to the thrift store.  As much as I was tempted to perch on a box in the gloomy storage unit and reread old favorites I persevered and cleared out enough space for the incoming boxes.  

Breakables were put away, the little TV and computer monitor unplugged and stashed on the bed surrounded by pillows, pots and pans that don’t fit into our cupboard (and which usually live on the stovetop) were tucked into the microwave, cords and hoses disconnected, the half-slide (that provides us with an additional foot or so of walkway space) retracted.  The dogs were in the car, the cat we thought would prefer to ride in the trailer.  We were ready to go.  Our friends hooked up the trailer to their super heavy duty truck and our little house wobbled off down the road.  I had a few hours before I could pick up the kids from school so I didn’t get to follow along behind – just as well as apparently our emergency access window started flapping wildly in the highway wind causing our friends considerable concern about whether our cat might try to make a mad dash for freedom.  By the time I learned about this the cat had been ascertained to be safe and sound (albeit somewhat annoyed). 

The little pot of lucky bamboo, wedged in the one kitchen bin, had tipped sideways, the cat’s water dish had spilled, and in addition, the bookshelf had toppled over, spilling the contents of all the kids cubbies (the books had been removed and boxed up but, having run out of room in the storage unit, I’d convinced myself that the shelf would stand and the cubbies would be fine).  Otherwise all was well. Especially as we didn’t have to live in the trailer for the 3 days we spent with friends (although the cat did, resulting in even more outraged cat behavior).  We could leave the TV on the bed, cushioned by pillows, the bag of hoses in the bathtub and the pots in the microwave oven. 

Even with the limited upset it is nevertheless clear to me that any idea of both living in the trailer and journeying around the country in it would require additional sacrifice.  Or a bigger trailer with more storage.  We can’t really travel in this trailer.

We are back in the park now, back to living in a space that seems even smaller after spending a weekend in an expansive house.  We aren’t unpacking much just yet because we only have our slot for 3 nights, then we will have to find someone to help us to move half a block to another slot.  The one we are in now is reserved for a bigger rig starting the 4th.  Once we move again we will settle back in, bring things back from storage, unload the things that are stuffed into the van, start spreading out again, and adding to our possessions, until we do this all over again in August!  If you want lessons on how to de-clutter your life we recommend moving into a 26-foot travel trailer!