Friday, November 30, 2012

Out with the Old, in with the New!

     After the repairs were completed on our "old" RV, we decided to continue our search for a new RV that would give us a little more space for the kids. For the past year and a half the kids had been sharing a "bunk room" that was very small. It had a lot of storage space for their clothes and toys but no space to play in. It served our purpose while we were in our "trial" phase of this lifestyle but we knew that if we wanted to continue to live in a RV, we needed to upgrade.
      We have learned so much over the past year about what is important to have and what is not and we knew what we needed, the problem was finding the one that had it all. We quickly learned that we wouldn't find one that had everything we wanted so it was a matter of finding the one that had the most important features. So after several months of searching online, going to local RV stores and the RV show, we finally found "the one."
      As my father always says, "everything in life is a hassle" and trying to buy the new RV was definitely a hassle. At first the RV store wouldn't give us enough for our trade so we walked away. We spent another month looking for something different but couldn't find one that we thought would work as well so when we decided to try again for that one we learned that someone else had put a deposit down to purchase it.  I was very disappointed but found another one like it online in Georgia.  Trying to get it from Georgia to our state proved to be an even bigger hassle and it didn't work out. In the meantime, the first RV store called us back to say that the RV was still available in our state and the person who was going to buy it had backed out. This was great news because I loved the colors and patterns in this RV and it was only 2 hours away from home. Everything from that point on worked out without a hassle and we were very happy to be getting the one we really wanted. 
     Our new RV has much more space with separate rooms for the kids, an extra bathroom, a king size bed, and plenty of storage. We even have a staircase that goes up to my son's loft and a trap door with a ladder that leads down into my daughter's room. The kids love it, the dogs love it, and we love it. RVs have come a long way over the years and we feel right at home in our new home on wheels!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The downside to the simple life

In the previous post you learned about our blowout and the damage it caused to our home on wheels but that was just the beginning of a long, drawn out headache. The rv parts were suppose to arrive in 8 to 10 days but unfortunately it was more like 40 days! As we figured out ways to live in our rv with no kitchen sink and no propane to cook with, the stress level continued to climb as we waited and waited for that phone call.  Finally, all of the parts came in except the fenders, which had to be custom made to match, but we didn't want to wait any longer so we spent the whole weekend moving out of our rv and into a friends rv so we could get started on the repairs.  The dogs went to the vet to be boarded and we went from a 2 bedroom 5th wheel to a one bedroom motor home. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than a hotel and it was free.  The repairs took 5 days (which felt like forever), and then we had to move everything back in! In the meantime the dogs had a horrible experience at the vet and we couldn't wait to get them back home too.  So what started out as a weekend get away with the family turned into a month and a half of stress, inconvenience, and expense.  This is definitely the downside to the simple life!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The pros and cons

In my previous posts I have talked about all of the good things that come from this "simple" lifestyle.  The simplicity of it is the number one "pro" in my opinion, not to mention the ability to take your home with you when you travel.  However, there are some "cons" to this lifestyle as well. Prior to August 11, 2012 the only "con" I had experienced was related to storm season.  Living in Oklahoma is not always a good thing during storm season whether in a house or a RV, but especially in a RV in the middle of the night.  My family and I spent many a night down at the lodge of our park during stormy weather, wondering if our RV would sustain any damage or if it would still be sitting there when the storms were over.  That got old very quickly with 2 kids and 2 dogs that were frightened by the possibility of tornadoes, however,  if you have enough notice, you can always hook up and move the whole house out of the danger zone, but this is inconvenient especially at night.  A weather radio is a must have while living in a RV. 
The newest "con" we recently experienced was on our way out of town with our "home" in tow.  We were headed to a much needed weekend of  R & R when we had a blowout!  We had heard of so many other people who have experienced blowouts while traveling but my husband was very cautious with our tires.  He was diligent about checking the air pressure, tread, and lug nuts before we left on any trip and this one was no different.  We had only been on the road about an hour when we heard a loud explosion and immediately my husband knew what had happened.  He safely made his way to the shoulder of the highway to inspect the damage but could see parts of the RV flying off through the mirror.  We both got out of the truck and were devastated by the amount of damage that had been done.  The tire was shredded, the fender was gone, the kitchen plumbing was ripped out, the propane lines were bent in half, a foot long section of the floor was missing, the tin was twisted and caused damage to the adjacent tire, the heater box was dented, 2 kitchen drawers were broken and there was saw dust, wood pieces, metal, and tire chunks in every kitchen drawer and all over my floor.  This was no easy fix!  We spent over an hour on the side of the highway with cars and semi-trucks zipping by, trying to cut the tin away in order to put the spare tire on.  Thankfully, my parents weren't far behind us and my father was able to help.  While the men worked on the tire, I spent that time on the phone trying to find out where to go for repairs.  That was the end of our trip and the beginning of a huge headache!
Once the spare tire was on, we headed back into town to the nearest RV shop for an estimate.  By this time the kids were hungry and the dogs were hot sitting there waiting for someone to work us in.  Finally, they looked at the damage and sent us home with an estimated guess of around $8,000 in damages.  Now what?  We can't use our kitchen sink or cook on the stove, we can't pull out 2 drawers, and we have a huge hole in the floor under the cabinets.  We filed a claim with our insurance company immediately and it took 3 days for an adjuster to come take a look.  The RV shop has to order parts which will take 8 to 10 days to arrive and cost us $2,000 out of pocket to place the order.  The RV shop took 4 days to send us the estimate and they anticipate the RV to be in the shop for a week for repair.  This will displace us from our home with 2 kids and 2 dogs for a week while trying to go to work, homeschool, and function as normally as possible.  I'm not thrilled with the idea of a hotel, eating out, and boarding the dogs but this may be what it boils down to. 

At this point we have received the insurance money for repair but the parts have not arrived yet so we are playing the waiting game for now.  Stressing about next few weeks of chaos and hoping it never happens again!  We realize it could have been worse and we are lucky that none of us were hurt or that it didn't cause an accident on the highway but it sure caused a hassle and costs us inconvenience, time, and money.  I'm just thankful we weren't on our way to a bigger vacation destination.  I will update the blog as the headache continues.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Work Camping

I wanted to share with you all a little about what we do here at the RV park.  Work campers have a variety of "job" possibilities all over the U.S. in RV parks and if you are a "full timer" you can apply for those jobs in the State you plan to stay at for a few months.  These jobs can include reservations, golf cart escort, maintenance, grounds keeper, pool maintenance, activities coordinator etc...  Here at our park we do a little of everything.  Our original job was to work at the front desk doing reservations, checking people in, working the cash register etc.. but it has evolved in the last year to much more.  We still work at the desk doing all of those things and more, but I am now the CPO (certified pool operator) of the park and the activities coordinator. The park is changing every year and things are being added which require more jobs to be done.  Last year the owner added the pool and hot tub, and a pizzeria.  This year, so far, he has added the mini golf, basketball court, eleptical bicycles for rent, 2 fenced dog areas, and has asked me to start planning events.  In the near future, he plans to redesign the store to make it more like a gift shop, build 2 more laundry rooms with bathrooms that will double as storm shelters, and possibly add more RV sites.  Since we live at the park, we are able to work in exchange for rent and utilities. We are only required to work 16 hours a week to pay for our site and utilities but we work more than that in the summer and less in the winter.  We are also able to go on trips anytime we wish and we get to enjoy doing things here at the park for free.  There are a lot of advantages to work camping and it has been fun for our family.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Still Learning

Even though we have lived in the RV for over a year now, we are still learning things.  Last summer we had to learn how to keep it cool inside the RV when it was 110 degrees outside for most of the summer.  The answer to that issue was to cover all the windows with foil insulation, use vent pillows in all the vents, run both air conditioners and 2 fans, and don't go in and out a lot.  Even though that made it dark inside and I couldn't see out the windows, it kept it a cool 72 degrees inside.  A small price to pay for comfort! 
We also learned that doing dishes by hand every 5 minutes was for the birds.  With a family of 4 and very few dishes, we were washing all the time.  We decided to try paper plates instead.  Even though this is not as cost effective, it gives us more time to enjoy life.  Remember our goal is to simplify!
This year I have been trying to figure out how to keep my bread from getting hard on the bottom and moist on the top.  No matter where I put the bread...even in the ruins.  So my newest attempt at keeping it fresh is to keep it on the counter top.  As you know, counter top space is very limited in a RV so I invested in a few small wire shelves that allow for things to go on top and underneath the shelf.  Hopefully that will be the solution to my problem.
The next thing I need to learn is how to put the awning out to give us shade from the sun and how to put it up again when the wind picks up.  So far, if my husband is not home to do it, I  have someone else do it for me.  This is a bit inconvenient since in Oklahoma the wind can pick up at any given moment.  
One of the most important things I've learned over the past year (and am still working on) is how to slow down.  My husband always says I don't know how to sit still and do nothing.  I admit I've never been good at that because I feel like I always need to be busy doing something. However, in the last year I've started getting up early to go outside and drink coffee on the porch.  This is my time to sit and do nothing except listen to the birds sing, pray, and read.  I enjoy the mornings so much more now that we are living in the RV because I don't have a million responsibilities to think about like I did living in the house.  This really is a good life!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How to live in a RV

So over the past year we've had the same questions asked by people over and over.  The first question is always "why do you live in a RV" and hopefully I answered that question in the first post.  The second question is always how? How does a family of 4 (and 2 dogs) live in less than 350 square feet? The answer with less! When we moved into the RV I had to decide what was really important to have and what we could do without.  We eliminated so much stuff that it made me realize how wasteful we had been in the past.  We didn't really need all the dishes, silverware, towels, sheets, clothes, shoes, toys, deocorations, etc... that we had in our house.  Once we got rid of all that "stuff" it was  like a burden had been lifted.  In a sense it was like we were free.  We were so bogged down by it all and we don't miss it.

This past year we learned how to make good use of the space we do have by using organizers and furniture that has storage built in.  For example, we have  benches that open for storage and double as foot stools or extra seating.  We got rid of the table and chairs and bought a sectional that seats more people and can be rearranged for sleeping on.  We use folding trays to eat on that can be put away when not in use. We bought a small deep freezer for our food that doubles as an end table.  We use shoe organizers that hang on the door for the kids shoes and a jewelry organizer that hangs on the outside of the shower for hair accessories, nail clippers and polish, scissors, etc... The kids each have their own small hanging organizer on the wall next to their beds for books, i-pods, toys etc..  We use a shower curtain rod on the extra bottom bunk for hanging jackets and coats. We also use that bunk for the dogs bed and storing homeschool books.  Under the bottom bunk is a built in toy box for toys and games.  The kids both have their own closet and drawer space that is built in under my daughters bed which is one of the main reasons we chose this particular RV.  My father built sliding drawers for our deep pantry so I could get to the food in the back.  We use towel hooks in the bathroom and each person has their own hook and towel.  I only keep one extra towel per person because we do laundry twice a week.  In the cabinets we use the little wire shelves that allow you to stack things like dishes.  In our bedroom we each have 3 shallow drawers in the built in dresser and a closet with a wire shelf on top for folded pants and shorts.
No matter how many storage tricks we discover, it is so important to choose the right RV for your needs.  My husband and I love to look at RV's and compare ours to others  but most of them are not designed for full time living and we haven't seen anything that compares to ours in storage space.  We feel extremely blessed that we found the one we did. The only thing we would change would be to add a slide out in the kids room, but they are really only in there to sleep. 
RV's were orignally designed for camping in and were mainly used by older generations but times are changing and younger families are not only taking vacations in RV's but are going full time.  We have several families in our park that are full timers and we meet people everyday that are either considering it or are intrigued by the idea of it. If you have ever considered simplifying your life and love camping with your family, you should try this lifestyle. You won't regret it!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Simple Life

It's been just over a year now that our family started on an adventure of a lifetime.  May 19, 2011 we moved out of our home of 12 years and into our RV to enjoy a simpler way of life.  We were tired of the "rat race" and knew that we loved to travel and go camping as a family. We were tired of looking at our RV and wishing we could be in it.  We were tired of always working and very rarely getting to play. We were already a homeschool family so it didn't matter where we chose to live.
I had been struggling for years over wanting to be more of a "stay at home" mom but it was hard to give up a good paying, stable job as a nurse so I started praying about it.  My husband had wanted to move into the RV for a few years but I wasn't ready to let my house full of "stuff" go.  I was worried about so many silly things like: what if I don't like living in the RV, what if the kids don't like sharing a room, what if something happens to one of us, what if...  I spent so much time worrying about the "what if's" that it took me a while to see the answer to what I had been praying about.  The day it hit me, I was at church listening to our minister talk about materialism and worldly things that we can't take with us in the end. He made the comment, "it's all going to burn some day."  That was it for me...I knew at that point that I was ready to let it all go. 
We had already been talking with my parents about the RV lifestyle because they have been "full timers" for years and kept telling us how wonderful it was to not be tied down to a house and all the responsibility that goes with it.  So we sat down and discussed all of our options. At first we attempted to buy some land and we planned to live in the RV on the land until we could convert a metal workshop into a much smaller home, but that didn't work out because the land sold before we could sell our house. So the next option was to move to a local RV park and try this lifestyle.  I went to the park and talked to the owner about our plans, told him about our family, and asked if he needed workers. He was excited about our adventure and was willing to let us work for our rent. That was the answer we needed to make this plan work! So my prayers continued to help us find the perfect person to rent our home and God answered quickly. The second person who came to look at it was the perfect fit.  She had almost given up on finding a home to rent and had been in tears over it. When we met and talked, we both knew that we had found what we were both looking for. It was an anwer to our prayers. 
 The next 2 weeks were intense as we packed what was necessary to store, moved what we needed into the RV, donated probably 80% or more of what we owned,  took several loads of things to the dump, and did job training at the park.  There was no time for a garage sale and at that point I didn't even care. We were ready to start our adventure!
So many blessing have come out of this journey and God has been so good to us through it all. So let me tell you what this journey has done for us as a family: We have learned to live with less, we have learned to live in a  much smaller space with one bathroom instead of two, I have learned to shop and cook differently, our children have learned to share a room and willingly got rid of "stuff" to do so, we get to work at the park as a family including our kids who have learned so much, we spend more time together as a family, our kids play outside more and meet kids from all over the world, we get to travel more and take the whole house with us, I got to quit my job at a local hospital, we have met so many neat people, we have made some great friendships including 2 new homeschool families who live here next to us and are doing the same thing, we have worked on paying off some bills and hope to be debt free sooner than we could have before, but most importantly we have learned that "stuff" is not important!
 While we are still here on this earth what really matters it putting God first, and spending quality time with our family.  Life is too short to spend all of our time working to pay for the "stuff" we already have and the "stuff" we want to buy, and life is too short to spend our extra time to maintain all of that "stuff".  Instead of spending hours a week cleaning a house, doing yard work, doing laundry, washing and putting up dishes, etc... We spend 30 minutes a week cleaning the RV, do no yard work, wash 4 loads of laundry at once, and have very few dishes that we hand wash and put away. This allows for much more time to sit on the porch and drink coffee, listen to the birds sing, watch the kids play, soak up the sunshine, visit with friends, meet new people, see interesting RV's, talk about our next travel plans, and spend quality time with our kids.  I have enjoyed this journey so much more than I could have imagined and I wouldn't trade it for anything. This truely is the life!