Seven Months: What I’ve Learned about Living in a Small Space

Yep, we’ve been in the Airstream for seven months now.  We’ve been stuck in one campground for two of those, and for the rest we’ve traveled up and down the Midwest.

I’ve learned so much about how to enjoy daily life outside, how to help hitch the trailer more efficiently, how to dump tanks, all kinds of outside stuff. But it’s the inside living that’s surprised me.

Decorating?  Nah.

All that decorating I worked on the first month to make the new Airstream seem less sterile turns out to just add to the clutter of everyday life. 

We have so many things we use every day sitting around, like dog treat bags, binoculars, drying dishes, hats, fridge magnets holding up campground maps, bottles of hand sanitizer, on and on and on. 

Of course I stow as much as I can in cabinets and in camouflaged baskets, but some stuff ends up living out in the open no matter what. And that takes up my visual attention enough that anything I’ve added clutters my view. 

I don’t know how singular I am about this: clutter makes me anxious. When a pile of stuff sitting on a table catches my eye, my brain takes a sec to register each item and think, “That’s supposed to be somewhere else,” and my brain really would rather be thinking fewer things.

To me, a stark view is calming. So even though I like looking at other people’s quirkily decorated RVs, I would rather live like a monk.

So, the adhesive dogwood branches and blooms on the walls in the bathroom: visual clutter. The geometric falling ivy I put on the shower door: visual clutter. 

Everything I put on the walls (framed photos, Tracy’s masks, the stained glass tree my mom gave me) I have to take down when we move, then put up again.  So they just live in bins now under the bed. 

Throw pillows = things you have to move to make room on the couch for two people and a dog. 

Rugs = impossible to keep clean.  And even though we miss them on cold mornings, I’ve got them all folded under the kitchen table with Banjo’s bed on top.  And they’re getting musty under there because the trailer accumulates a lot of condensation in the mornings.

Decision yet to be made on these.

Clothes, Ha!

Street clothes = taking up space for hiking and lounging clothes.  

I packed to visit breweries, walk through little towns, go to music festivals. Cotton skirts, favorite summer dresses.  Nope.

I’m living in the woods, people.

Shoes.  Why did I pack those, again?  I wear crocs around the campsite, my minimum shoes for hiking, and rainboots.  I could probably make do with just the crocs.

I remember agonizing over whether to pack or give away my sister’s beautiful light-brown leather boots.  They’re stored way in the back of the tiny closet beside my bed, and I haven’t brought them out once. 

Purgatory Clothes

What do you do with clothes that you’ve already worn but aren’t dirty enough to wash?  Do you put them back in your closet?  I used to leave mine in a pile in the corner in my bedroom: my purgatory pile.  Too clean for the hamper; too dirty for the chest of drawers.

But here I have a lot of purgatory clothes because I do laundry about every two weeks. Tracy by-passes this problem by wearing the same shirt and shorts every day until that’s dirty, then putting them in the hamper bag we keep in the shower, and moving on to the next set. I just can’t bring myself to do that consistently, but ask me again in another seven months. 

So I actually had to buy a separate, tiny hamper for the corner of the bedroom here where I could stash my purgatory clothes (away from the seriously dirty ones in the hamper bag), since a pile just won’t survive all the careful stepping around things and the packing and unpacking during moves. One more thing!

Kitchen Stuff

I packed a million knives.  One will do. (Tracy told me this and I didn’t believe him.)

We bought plastic dishes so they’d be easy to stow and not break on travel days.  They are not microwave-safe, but we thought, “When will be be hooked up to power and using the microwave?” Turns out that’s often.  

So I bought a few microwave-safe dishes, plus we have a few special ceramic ones from home. Now I have this random assortment of dishes that, again, add to the visual clutter around here.  

Anyone know of a kind that resists breaking, is microwave-safe, and looks better than toddler-ware? For some reason right now I would trade my soul for a matching set of dishes.

Hanging Baskets, Bins of Batteries, the Instant Pot

Man, my list of interior items I’m surprised about is actually really long here, so I’ll stop before this becomes a treatise on stuff. I’ll wrap it up by saying that when we first bought the Airstream and it looked like this:

I spent my time trying to emulate decorated ones like this:

I would have been better off waiting to see what it’s like to live inside with all that stuff for a while. I’ve simply thrown out throw pillows and plants.

But, we had the pandemic on our heels, so we’re able to wait. Live and learn.

You guys stay safe, and give ‘em hell.

2 thoughts to “Seven Months: What I’ve Learned about Living in a Small Space”

  1. I have learned to live with “an acceptable amount” of clutter. I prefer a world that leans more toward “a place for everything and yada, yada”. If I look at C’s desk for more than 10 seconds I can feel the tension in my neck and I have to literally control myself from putting things at least in piles. I like these posts about…???…figuring out the world a day at a time??? Do you feel like this lifestyle puts you more in the present moment?

    1. C’s desk is a mess … isn’t it funny how people who tend toward order also tend to live with people who thrive in chaos? And I dunno about living in the moment now more than at other times because I stink at it. It’s true I now don’t know what day it is and half the time don’t know what state I’m in (US state), but I also find myself counting down the hours until I can pour a beer or go on to the next campsite.