Living Deliberately

One of the best things about living in a small space and living on the road is that it helps us to live deliberately. We can no longer float through the day without thinking…everything we do requires us to act with the future in mind.

Water Consumption
There are no long, luxurious showers here. We have a 6 gallon hot water heater, so showers are now “in and out”. There is a quick shut-off valve on the shower head, so you can pause the water to shave, lather, etc. Very handy. When it comes to baths…we fill it up just enough for Bella to get clean and have some fun. After she is done, I will often use her same bathwater and rinse off. Even with these “limitations”…showers and baths in the RV are a wonderful treat. I’m kind of a shower snob…I love good water pressure and HOT showers, and the RV has both. There is also a sunlight in the top, so it’s nice and cheery. Even Matt, who is 6’5″ can kind of shower in it. :) He’s a good sport.

When you know exactly how much water you have in your tank (40 gallons full), it’s much easier to conserve it. It’s not like living in a house where leaving the water running while you’re brushing your teeth has no immediate consequence. I’m always amazed when I go to the bathroom in a “normal” toilet. Sometimes after I flush, I just stare at it as it fills up with all of that water…mind boggling. :) When you flush the RV toilet, it’s just “swoosh!” and it’s gone. So little water. I like it.

We are more aware of what we are putting in the dirty laundry…especially if we’re going to be washing it in the WonderClean. We wear clothing over and over until it truly needs to be washed, as opposed to just taking it off at the end of the day and washing it regardless (3- year- old girls LOVE to change clothes 5 times a day, so this is sometimes a challenge! As I am writing this, she just brought out 3 dresses to get ready for her “party”). We’ve only been producing one load a week…which is WAY less than when we had laundry facilities whenever we wanted them.

I’ve had many people ask me to talk about what we have in our wardrobe now that we have limited space. It’s funny how your perspective changes over time. It seems like we still have A LOT of clothes, but when I compare it to what we used to have when living in our house or even compare it to someone else’s closet…it’s pretty minimal. Matt and I share a small closet and Bella has her own. I keep more than just the bare minimums…especially in the summer when you’re sweating all day, more changes of clothes are nice. We do have some of our winter coats/clothes stored under our bed. Clothes don’t have to take up a lot of space…especially if you store them correctly. We hang everything…and I hang 2-3 skirts on one hanger and 2 pairs of pants on one hanger…a big space saver. We have our shoes in a hanging shoe organizer. Shoes are space killers. So we don’t have many. The key is to pick shoes that are versatile and comfy so you can wear them on any occasion. We LOVE our Chacos!

When you don’t have a regular “payday”…you MUST live deliberately! We don’t have a nest egg stashed away for this trip…we are working (see 2nd question of FAQ) and saving as we go. Our goal is to have 2 months of living expenses in our account at all times, but even that is sometimes hard. An important concept that I’ve learned is the power of DELAY. When there is something that I want…even something as small as a fancy coffee…I ask myself if that is REALLY what I want to spend our money on…and do I have to splurge on that treat right NOW? The answer is usually no. Especially when it comes to coffee…I would much rather wait until it’s a really special occasion (out with friends, on a date, etc) so that I can enjoy it thoroughly and not have it become an everyday thing. We went through a big Dave Ramsey kick and learned how to budget and live with cash…it definitely taught us how to spend deliberately.

Energy Use
After moving into the RV, I learned very quickly how much I love electricity :) I would often forget that we weren’t plugged in and then be baffled as to why my computer wasn’t charging. It’s so easy to take it for granted when have a seemingly endless supply of it in a house/apt. It’s much easier to keep track of exactly what you are using and when. We use it for our computers, the stereo/DVD player, electric tea kettle, and the air conditioner (when the heat index is 105 degrees as it is now…we sure LOVE the AC!). Most of the lights run off of solar/battery…I do have a few lamps that are electric. The small fridge runs on electric or gas, and was brand new when we bought it (so it’s efficient). We haven’t had to boondock (no hookups) very much yet…but I suspect we will as soon as soon as we start the tour. We are looking into getting an inverter and more batteries for our current solar power setup. We do have a generator, but it runs on gas and it’s pretty loud, so we don’t like to use it. We would love to get a diesel generator someday…and then convert it to run on veggie oil.

Keeping House
It’s essential that we are deliberate about housekeeping in such a small space. When I am cooking, I need to continue putting things away as I go to make room for other things. I go through at least 2 times a day and “tidy” things up. I start in the front and work to the back…grabbing everything that is out of place and putting it back in it’s place. That’s key. Everything MUST have a place. It makes cleaning up so easy. If I find something that doesn’t have a place, I either make a place for it, or it goes out the door. I also make the bed every single day…because it’s in plain sight of the rest of the RV. If the bed is unmade, it makes everything look sloppy. When things look sloppy, I get crabby. Crabby mama in a small RV…not good. :)

Family Unity
Speaking of being crabby… when you’re in a small space, it’s so important that you like the people you’re living with and that they are not crabby! Every morning, we have the chance to deliberately CHOOSE what our attitude will be that day. I am blessed with a wonderful husband who is fun-loving, caring, kind, and always in a good mood. It certainly helps set the tone for the entire family! It would be easy to lose patience in such a small space…but we LOVE being together and we are used to being with each other 24/7. I feel so lucky to be able to spend so much time together.


  1. I can’t live in an R.V. but I think that living with the idea as if I were (in an R.V) is a great way to live more consciously of the resources I use on a day to day basis. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how you do this for real. Also, I’m so excited to see Leavenworth, WA is on your tour list, it’s very close to me, and it’s a beautiful place!

    Comment by Dawn — August 11, 2007 @ 8:15 pm

  2. Great post. For the past 8 years we have lived in 80×14 singlewide mobile home. While it was brand new when we purchased it and has been great for us…and most importantly enabled me to stay home with the kiddos I am looking forward to our move. It’s funny because everyone assumes we are looking for something larger, when in actuality we’re really not. We don’t want another mobile/manufactured home as we would like to build equity as well as have options. However, we want to stay within our budget and honestly we don’t need all kinds of extra rooms that we’re not going to use. It’s so funny how we are in such a mentality that bigger and more are better. Thanks for pointing out that life is all about deliberate choices in all areas from finances to attitude. Anyway… it’s way past my bedtime…

    Comment by Jess H. — August 11, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  3. Hi again, Sara.

    The title of this post reminded me of one of my favorite quotes (I assume you’re also quoting Thoreau). Here’s what I memorized years ago:

    Thoreau wrote, “…I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, …and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

    Ephesians 5:15 (Paraphrase-source unknown)
    Be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. We all get a little sloppy in how we live for God. Let’s be more careful and pay closer attention to our Christian walk.

    Ephesians 5:15-17 (Amplified Bible)
    Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.


    Comment by Andrew — August 11, 2007 @ 11:10 pm

  4. I am interested to know how you fit Bella’s toys. How did you decide what to take? How does she keep busy in the R.V?

    I am in the middle of a clean out right now! (Inspired by your tour…I mean if you can live in an R.V. I can a least get the clutter out of 1100 sq. foot house, right?) It is amazing how much we have accumulated that we don’t use or need to use! And how freeing it is to let go! And so much more to do! (But small steps, right?) I think it is hard to be purposeful with a lot. The taking care of the stuff/acquiring stuff gets so consuming you don’t have time to plan ahead, and then I just seem to end up with more stuff because I didn’t plan to use what I had.

    Anyway, I am interested in the toy question because I am trying to pare down the number of toy our 20 mo. old daughter has. Everyone seems to think I am being too harsh. What do you use as the criteria?

    Hope your travels are going well! Looking forward to seeing you in CA.

    Comment by Laura Herrmann — August 11, 2007 @ 11:29 pm

  5. My husband and I have been living and traveling for the past four years in a veggie fueled bus,
    that we converted into a house/rv. Before that we lived in a yurt for three years and before that we lived in a tipi for five, so I can definitely relate to all of the above. In fact, I have never rented or owned an apt in my life. I have come to truly love the art of living in small spaces and simple living in general. When we were in the tipi we had no running water or electric and it was wonderful ! Hauling water, using our wind up radio for entertainment and making bees wax candles for light , I loved every minute of it !

    The bus is quite a “step up” for us, but still all the lessons that you so wonderfully detailed above are so true . Living in this way really requires one to be in such a direct and concious relationship to their enviroment and their effect on it. Having to monitor water useage , solar electric, finances..essentially living within your means becomes essential to ones survival and this approach becomes an extension of ones aditude towards life in general…

    Blessings on your journey and thank you for living as an example for others.

    Love n Light ~ Pixie

    Comment by Pixie — August 12, 2007 @ 12:01 am

  6. Lovely Post!

    I’m also hooked on Chacos, plus they’re made very close to home. The company greatly values sustainability, and you can even have your old Chacos resoled if they become worn or recycled if you want to get a new pair.

    Comment by Jenny — August 12, 2007 @ 6:41 am

  7. I just got back from three weeks in an RV with five other people (doing field work in Northern Canada) and we encountered a lot of the above issues. It was a definite challenge and I totally love the way you’re making the best of the “limitations”.

    Comment by Emily — August 12, 2007 @ 8:38 am

  8. Well said! :)

    Comment by Isle Dance — August 12, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  9. I am looking around my double wide mobile home that is our ‘new home’ and realizing it’s time to declutter more stuff out of our lives. Books, dishes, and crafts, not clothes, seem to be the culprits.
    A questioin: when you are visitng other people and plug into their electricity and water, how do you handle paying for your share?
    A comment: On Thoreau– it’s easier to be deliberate when your mom is doing your laundry, which is what Thoreau’s mom did for him while he lived on Walden Pond.

    Comment by willow — August 12, 2007 @ 12:26 pm

  10. Thanks for your post. I find it all very interesting. I have lived simply before in some ways. I grew up in a rural area where we used a dug well for water. In the summer when water was scarce we had to share bath water and so doing so became a way of life. My Mother always hung her clothes out to dry. She didn’t have a dryer until the 80′s. I have canned vegetables and fruits. J and I have lived without an income and once 3 months without electricity. I have cooked in a fire place. Recently we talked about what we’d do if the world of computer run conveinences were over. I think we’d be fine, having been raised in “the good ole’ days”.
    I look forward to reading more about your tour.
    Mama Bear

    Comment by Mama Bear — August 12, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

  11. wow. I am truely amazed at your passion for everything you do and beyond blessed and lucky to have you as family. You make me stop and think about everything I do, and although I don’t think I ould ever be as dedicated and AWESOME, I have the ideal to model after! On another note, a little off subject but important none the less, I saw a bumper sticker today that said “If you don’t like breastfeeding in public, feel free to put a blanket over your head.” I love it!

    Comment by Trish & Liam — August 12, 2007 @ 8:07 pm

  12. I enjoyed reading more about your daily life in the RV. I am also a big fan of Chacos–and Dave Ramsey.

    Comment by carrie — August 13, 2007 @ 7:43 am

  13. Hey Sara, everything you described about RV life is spot on. Jim and I have set a new record for boondocking this week near Augusta, WI; we’ve just done 5 days without hookups; 55 gal. freshwater tank, 35 blackwater, two 35 gal greywater. We still haven’t maxed out. In fact, just this morning as I was taking a shower (what a luxury in the woods!), I was thinking about how much less water we use now that we know that the source is finite. It really gets you to think.

    Gotta say that if you had an inverter, you’d definitely see what a huge difference it makes. Check out our specs page. We only have to run our uperquiet / supersmall generator about 20 minutes every other day or so, depending on how much work we did. It’s amazing. Wish it was a diesel one, but the diesel ones are not only huge, but expensive.

    Your veggie oil searches are so successful, I am anxious to see how we can apply it to our own situation. Finding biodiesel is probably more of a challenge than grease!

    Comment by Rene — August 13, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

  14. Laura…All of her toys fit into a small 3 drawer storage unit that fits inside her closet. Bella has never had tons of toys. I strive to only have imaginative, wooden, or natural type toys (although she does have some that aren’t!). This keeps it pretty limited because those types of things are often expensive! She primarily plays with her dolls, blocks, and other small things. She has several purses that she could play with for hours by loading and unloading them with random things (not always toys). I’m going to be bringing along a mini-version of her wooden kitchen that has 2 burners so she can “cook” on the road. She has a basket of wooden food that she loves to cut up.

    Pixie: Thanks for stopping by! I have loved following your journey.

    Jenny: Chacos…I just had mine resoled 2 summers ago. I’ve had them for about 5 years now. Next year I might get new webbing. I LOVE that they have that option…at only a third of the price of new ones.

    Willow: So far we have only stayed at our family’s homes and campgrounds, so we have not given it much thought. When we are traveling, we aren’t planning on staying at our host’s homes more than a couple of nights. I can’t imagine our RV would use any more power/water than if we were staying in their home as a guest for the weekend. It would actually use LESS when you do the comparison of a traditional shower or toilet, etc. and also traditional lights/power needs.

    Rene: Yes…veggie oil is MUCH easier to find than biodiesel. There are 7 billion gallons of waste veggie oil produced yearly…and only 3.5 billion is being used. That’s a lot of grease for the taking! It does take a bit more planning when you’re fueling on the road…you can’t just pull into a gas station and fill ‘er up :) But not paying for gas is worth it!

    Comment by livelightly — August 13, 2007 @ 3:52 pm

  15. It has been great to read your posts abour reducing consumption and to consider how I can apply those things in my home.

    One question…how do you limit the items brought into your home via other people without offending them? I want to reduce our stuff in general, but I also want to love and honor people. I would love to read any input you have on this topic.

    I might add, we have already addressed this with some people and they have reduced the amount of stuff they give us, but it is hard to balance allowing people to be who they are (such as when certain people are just “gift giving people”) and managing the a less-stuff-oriented home, like we desire to. My parents have started giving us a season pass (like for a zoo or aquarium…) for Christmas and that has been great. But I would love to hear any other tips or ideas you or others may have.

    Comment by Heather — August 16, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  16. Heather…
    I just wrote about your question on my other blog…check out the post on “Stuff” at

    To summarize, I will always graciously accept a gift from a friend/family member…they put thought into it and many times I LOVE the gift! Unless they are ASKING me if it’s something I will use, then I am honest with them and decline (these usually aren’t gifts, just things people thought I might need). It’s a little easier now because I can remind them that I live in an RV :) Not room for much.

    I would just be vocal about your desire to downsize…and also about your desire to receive CONSUMABLES. Tell them to buy you things that go away. Like food. Tea. Soap. Or thing that are very functional and that you need anyway. Cloth grocery bags. Klean Kanteen bottles. Or anything else you have your eye on :)

    Comment by livelightly — August 25, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

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