While the idea of tiny homes has always intrigued me, there’s just something about having a firm foundation under my feet (and 2,400 sq feet of living space) that I’ve always found extremely comforting.
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, tiny living became an unexpected reality for our family of 5 this year. It wasn’t my first choice and I was completely overwhelmed with the thought of it — but we dove in headfirst anyway.
Once I fully embraced the tiny life, I found lots of blessings in the little moments & chose to focus on the positives of this simplistic lifestyle.
How We Got Here
With the insane housing market and landlords evicting tenants to sell their properties for profit, many Americans found themselves facing homelessness this year — shockingly we were right there with them.
For those of you that have been following our story, we sold our house in November of 2020 to follow a dream.
Moving 22 hours away from the only home we had ever known.
We settled on a simple rental near our ideal location and decided NOT to unpack.
Buying a new house was always the plan and we really didn’t expect to be renting longer than a couple of months.
5 months passed.
The housing market wasn’t getting any better — in fact, it was getting worse!
We got a notice to vacate, and there were no rentals available in our area.
Tiny living in our camper quickly became our only option.
While this isn’t what I would call my favorite experience in life, it was definitely a humbling one. Living in less than 100 sq ft with 4 other people and 3 furry family members was not an easy task — but somehow we made it work.
Sudden Camper Living with Kids
One of my biggest fears of sudden tiny living was insecurity.
I feared my young daughter would feel homelessness at its core.
She already had to say goodbye to the only home she had ever known when we sold back in November and then she formed an unexpected attachment to our temporary rental.
While I was determined to make tiny living work for our entire family, I was even more determined to make it feel like home for her.
I started with new bedding and a fun wall hanging for her bunk. Not only did these things excite her about the upcoming change, but they also made the space she would be sleeping in feel somewhat like home.
Then, I started sorting toys.
Absolute must-haves went into a bin for the camper, while lesser-used items got tucked away into storage.
Simple Tips for Camper Living with Kids
If you are considering tiny camper living (out of necessity or choice) these simple tips I picked up along the way might be just what you need for getting started!
Use Storage Tubs for Toys
Use whatever storage space you have to store away extra toys for rotating purposes! I kept a bin for each child under the bunk area in our small camper.
This simply kept the everyday clutter down, while allowing my kiddos to swap out favorites a few times each week.
Utilize Wall Space for Everyday Items
Cut the clutter and keep surfaces cleared by utilizing your wall space!
Place everyday items in wall baskets including current books being read, favorite must-have toys, and a few items that can be rotated out.
My daughter is a stuffed animal collector, so this was a great way for her to always have a few at arms reach!
Keep Routine as Normal as Possible
Finding that balance between flexibility and routine is essential when tiny living.
Plus, it gives children a sense of much-needed stability!
I simply let my kids get acclimated that first week in the camper, play a ton, and spend most of their time exploring and getting to know the area we would be staying at.
This also allowed me to figure out a new sense of normal.
Once we had settled into our new temporary home, I slowly started adding routine back in.
This is an essential process — especially if this was an unexpected change for your family, like it was for ours.
Encourage the Experience
When we lived in a traditional home, my kids became familiar with everything around them. They got to know the area we lived in and the neighbors we were surrounded by, which is part of what made it feel like home.
Shortly after we moved into our camper my kids began exploring, meeting neighbors (and their dogs), and becoming familiar with their new surroundings.
Even though we have long left our first campground, my kids continue to say it feels a little like home. They made friends, hiked, biked, and made such great memories there!
If camper living is your reality, encourage your kiddos to get outside and familiarize themselves with their new neighborhood!
My kids are super social — unlike me, the massive introvert.
So connecting with people just comes naturally to them. The people they meet could be lifelong friends, so I always encourage them in these endeavors.
My kids have met some really cool grown-ups and awesome kids by getting to know those around them. Just make sure you set boundaries with your kids so they don’t overstay their welcome or put themselves in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
One of our favorite ways to stay connected with friends we meet along the way is by using the Messenger Kids app!
Stock up on Outdoor Essentials
When you’re dealing with minimal living quarters, outdoor play is a necessity!
Chalk, bubbles, and scooters will become your child’s best friend!
Chalk & bubbles are super budget-friendly and scooters take up little to no space, making them the perfect bring-along toy when you live in a home on wheels!
Sudden Camper Living With Pets
Tiny camper living isn’t only an adjustment for the people experiencing it, this major life change can be a huge challenge for animals as well!
We have a young beagle that loves car rides, camping, and outdoor adventuring. So for her, this seemed like a fun adventure! She gets excited every time we take the camper out, so this didn’t appear to be a horrible transition for her at first.
With that said, we were living in the camper this time — so it actually was very different.
On typical camping trips, we don’t stay in the camper much as we are taking it out to explore and disconnect.
However, living in a camper is a totally different story.
I’m pretty sure our beagle was expecting a single weekend of hiking in the woods and exploring for hours on end.
Living at a campground is NOT that.
She had to live the leash life for the first time ever and since tiny living includes working and school — we couldn’t just go explore all the time.
We quickly learned this caused boredom and misbehavior in our adventurous pup.
On the other hand, we also had an 11-year-old Pug that prefers not to be alone or leave the couch (like ever) and a mischievous cat. So, we already knew this was going to be a difficult transition.
If you are considering full-time camper living with your pets, check out a few of the ways we made it work for us!
Simple Tips for Camper Living With Pets
Extra playtime and long walks are essential for rambunctious, adventurous pups! While staying indoors and getting acclimated to new surroundings tend to be better suited for anxious, old dogs.
We got to experience both sides of this spectrum.
My pug had a difficult time adjusting to our new living situation because if we were out of sight (outside) she wanted to be with us, but she also wanted to be inside a majority of the time.
Our only solution to her anxiousness was to get her comfortable inside, then walk outside for a couple of minutes. Then, we would slowly stay outside longer and longer. It wasn’t perfect and it didn’t always work, but eventually were able to leave her in the camper to rest for longer periods of time.
Our cat actually adjusted really well to our new lifestyle — he totally loved camper life and had absolutely no complaints!
Sudden Camper Living While Working
THIS was a huge struggle.
Our first campground had absolutely no cell phone coverage and the internet was spotty at best.
Not only do I have to have decent wifi for running this blog and other projects I work on throughout a typical week, but my husband most definitely needed it for his remote IT job!
Our first stay was a month-long and we spent most of that time struggling.
I remember completing a simple project that should have taken hours — but instead took days.
I almost missed a huge deadline and it was super stressful!
We found ourselves driving into town multiple times a week to work off free WIFI at local establishments – it was not a pretty picture.
If you are considering full-time camper living while working remotely, check out what we learned in our first month of struggling to make it work!
Simple Tips for Camper Living While Working Remotely
- Call ahead to find out how well the WIFI really works – this will save you some major headaches!
- Don’t just rely on cell phone coverage maps – they are simply not reliable enough.
- If possible, drive out to the area before your initial stay to test the quality of cell service.
- Use a WIFI extender or cell phone signal booster such as a Winegard for a stronger signal.
- Look into alternative internet services — such as Nomad, Instyconnect, and mobile hot spots.
WIFI issues weren’t the only challenge we faced while working from home in our tiny camper.
Sometimes tiny living means you don’t have the space for everything you need — such as a permanent workstation.
If you find yourself in that situation, keeping your work items in a bin or bag that can easily be tucked away each night is key!
This little tip seriously saved my sanity.
My husband kept all of his work things in a backpack and I kept all of mine in a tote.
We put our work items away each evening so that my son could use the dining area as his bed, then we simply brought them back out the following morning. It was an extra step and it definitely wasn’t a perfect routine, but it worked for us.
Tiny Kitchen Tips for Tiny Camper Living
Full-time camper living doesn’t have to mean hot dogs for dinner every night. Believe it or not, you can totally cook some awesome meals and eat very green while tiny living.
I leaned on my instant pot multiple times a week because it was easy and I could cook a variety of meals in it. I made everything from stuffed peppers to soup — it was a total game-changer!
Other things that made our tiny camper kitchen function to its fullest…
Prior to camper living, I was already a little obsessed with reusables, so needless to say, some of those items transferred over to our newfound tiny living situation.
Zip Tops quickly became my solution for fresh snacks that needed to be stored in our tiny fridge. I simply washed & cut all fruit immediately. Not only did that save a little space, but these awesome little containers can stand up and squish — making them a great option for smaller fridges.
Mason jars were ideal for storing liquids (such as milk) in smaller containers because our tiny camper fridge was way too small to hold a half-gallon of milk. Splitting it up into multiple mason jars just made sense.
I also color-coded our liquids by using Jar Jackets which simply made it easier to tell our regular milk and plant-based milk apart.
Ello storage containers were perfect for storing leftovers or prepared foods such as cut-up cheeses and meats. I had originally bought these for our camper when were taking it out for weekend trips so I already knew they were the perfect fit for our fridge.
Again with the wall storage tip — I can’t stress this one enough.
Plus, command hooks — these things became life savors in our tiny living space!
They were the perfect solution for our drying mat & kitchen towels.
Other Helpful Camper Living Tips
If super tiny camper living taught me anything, it was to adapt.
I love order and camper living doesn’t offer much of that right from the get-go. I had to find my flow and learn how to do normal everyday things, in an itty-bitty living space.
From washing dishes in small batches to using our cars for extra storage space, over time, I got it (somewhat) down.
A Glimpse of Tiny Camper Living
While full-time camper living wasn’t my dream life, it was an important transitional stage for our family. Living in this tiny little home for 6 weeks opened our eyes to what mattered and what didn’t.
THIS was the beginning of our life as we now know it — a full-time RV family.
**Disclaimer: No, our camper was not always this clean. However, I did clean it like this every single day. I could get it clean pretty darn fast, but it got dirty even faster – haha!
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