“We has a laundromat in our house,” my nearly three-year-old, Ella, exclaimed. She pointed at our washer and dryer in awe.
“We sure do,” my husband said.
“Do we has a kitchen in this house?” Ella asked.
“Mmhmm,” I replied, pulling out my phone to videotape her.
We had just arrived home after living for seven months in an RV. To me, my husband and our six-year-old, RV life was a bit strange: small spaces, limited amenities, the world’s smallest fridge. But to Ella, it had become all she remembered, and her mind was blown when we unpacked our things and settled into a full sized home. I recorded as she ran from room to room, looking at all the things she had left behind and forgotten about.
“Look at all these toys!” she said.
Watching her was adorable, but it also made me realize that I didn’t want to give up everything she had gotten used to over 7 months of minimalist life in the RV. Those toys for example… she hadn’t missed them at all.
Here’s how I’m integrating what learned on the road, as we start to settle in at home.
I’m Creating Systems That Fit The Kids
When we first got the RV, it was a blank slate. I had no idea how to set up a camper, especially with kids, so I just did what worked for us. Anything that encouraged independence and made the day easier became integrated into our house-on-wheels.
That’s how we ended up with cups kept in a bottom cabinet, art supplies tucked under the kitchen bench, and clothes kept in boxes at the end of the kids’ bunks. None of these things were in their “proper” place, but they allowed the kids to do things on their own, which made everyone happy.
Now that we’re returning to a real house, I’m trying to keep that mindset. Rather than putting my daughter’s toothbrushes in the bathroom cupboard, where they’re out of reach, we’ve set up a basket for them under the sink, where the girls can easily get what they need independently. I’ve spent a few days watching the kids, particularly Ella, challenging myself to rethink our setups in order to make the house more accommodating for her.
I’m Paring Down
You’ve heard of spring cleaning, but in my house, we’re full on Marie Kondo-ing. We’ve never had much clutter, but there’s nothing like living for more than half the year in 300 square feet to make you realize how little you need.
Before I even unpacked the RV I threw away or donated all the clothing that had been left behind: if we didn’t need it for 7 months, we don’t need it now. It can be hard saying goodbye to cute clothes or an old favorite, but I’ve learned that my kids need 10 days of clothing, max. Any more than that is just making their drawers overflow.
After the kids’ drawers were purged I did the same in my room, and then the kitchen. A “junk drawer” full of various kitchen utensils might be a mainstay in American homes, but I’ve realized that with a spatula, a spoon and a ladle I’m good to go.
I’m Kicking the Kids Outside More
On the trip, there was no place for the kids to play indoors, other than in their bunks. Instead, they were outside constantly, from the time they woke up until they went to bed in the afternoons. At home, they quickly settled into playing in their rooms, or the playroom, or getting underfoot while I was trying to work in my office.
I’ve always been inclined to make the kids play outside, but the trip showed me how great they are at unstructured outdoor play. I don’t want them to lose that skill set, so I’m sending them outside as much as I can. We recently started the 1,000 Hours Outside challenge and I’m working on convincing the kids that even though we’re in a sticks and bricks house again, the yard can be the default play space.
Spending 7 months on the road was a huge learning experience, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the way that it changed the way I see my house. As we continue to settle in, I’m excited to see the ways that we can take the best part of the trip, and integrate them into our forever home.
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We’ll promise you one thing: it will be an adventure.