With a burst of days off on the horizon our family decided to stay in a little cabin by the lake. Call it a mini vacay. We rented the smallest one they had, but as I watched my children run around excitedly, I realized it was huge to us. As far as square footage goes, it was smaller than the four bedroom home we used to live in, but it’s funny how quickly you forget what it’s like to have room to roam after living in an RV.
It’s not that it’s a bad thing! On the contrary, I know we made the right decision leaving The American Dream to pursue something outside of the box. Most days when I’m sitting on my little, turquoise sofa in my fifth wheel’s living room/dining room/kitchen, I smile contently and thank the Lord for what we have. Even though it hasn’t been long since we sold everything to travel the country in an RV, I’ve already learned a lot from the experience.
Here’s three things that came to mind today.
1. You learn to appreciate the little things. As we checked out the little, rental cabin today I heard my eldest daughter say to her sister, “I gotta pee. Hey, look at this toilet! Remember how easy they are to use?!”
I was at the double-door refrigerator that had shelves upon shelves of room for perishable groceries, and I was loading an ice cube tray I had just filled with water into the freezer. Oh, how I had missed ice! We had a freezer in our fifth wheel. It just happened to be the size of a large shoebox. I usually chose ground beef and chicken over the luxury of ice trays. And while my shopping trips now consisted of me thinking, no, I can’t get that. It won’t fit in the fridge,” at least it motivated me to regularly keep my refrigerator cleaned out.
Yet, even though I was jazzed about the ice and the fact I could fit a gallon of milk and a gallon of Milo’s iced tea in the fridge, I was really looking forward to the bath I was going to take later. Being a woman before who took a hot bath every day of her life, I had always said I’d get a fifth wheel with a tub. That is until I saw that most RV bath tubs were the size of an old wash tub, or one of those baby bath tubs. As such, we had decided on one with only a standup shower the size of an old phone booth, and this momma hadn’t had a bath in a long time.
It’s funny what you can get used to, how you can change, and how you can easily get along without the things you were once certain you absolutely needed. I didn’t regret not having a tub or a residential size refrigerator, but it was nice that living without those things had made me appreciate them when they did happen. It’s easy in first-world life to take for granted small luxuries, but it’s even better to appreciate every gift you have as such.
2. I didn’t need even half of what I once had. All the empty cabinets in the kitchen of the rental cabin brought to mind how packed my cabinets used to be. I had glass dishes, plastic dishes, fine china I never used in fifteen year’s time, and even Christmas dishes to use one month out of the year. I had trinkets galore, gadgets a plenty, and that’s just in the kitchen. The rest of the house followed suit. I had an overflowing closet of clothes, shoes, and handbags I hadn’t used or worn in years, and I was setting my children’s rooms up much the same way.
Having daughters I bought all the frilly dresses, more than they could possibly wear. They had so many toys that even they were overwhelmed with what to play with. No wonder cleaning their rooms was such a chore! They each had their own room that really was just a storage place for all their toys and clothes, and the upstairs of our old home was so seldom used except for those purposes that we didn’t even turn on the second central unit unless absolutely necessary.
I can remember that when I sold all of those things that filled an almost 3000 square foot home, I wondered what I would miss most. The huge casserole dishes I had in the event of church dinners and Thanksgiving feasts, or the blue jeans I had kept from 1992? Would it be the glass fish figurine I bought from a Shell gas station 21 years ago or the cloth bag folded up in the bottom of my closet that my TOMS came in? Would it be the Christmas tablecloth or the set of stacking Lighthouse boxes? Would it be the closet full of linens I never used or the foot massage tub in the back of the bathroom closet?
It turns out I didn’t miss any of it. A house full of things gone. Things I collected, worked for, and bought over twenty years. Gone. And I didn’t miss any of it. Turns out I didn’t use most of it. Turns out, I didn’t notice it was gone. Turns out, neither did the kids. They have never mentioned once any of the multitude of toys we sold or gave away. They just play heartily and joyfully with the special ones we kept. Sounds familiar.
I have never felt such a weight lifted as I did when we offloaded all the miscellaneous stuff we had compiled over the years. It was amazing, and yes, a little frightening to go from a household of possessions to a pickup truck kinda full of select boxes of items. Nothing felt better than when I put our reliable, red coffee maker out on the kitchen counter, along with my mom’s utensil caddy. I smiled happily to put my Lone Sailor statue from Navy Boot Camp on a shelf. I sat it beside a tiny, glass elephant my husband gave me when we first started dating. I once had a full collection of elephant figurines, but it was the only one I had kept. It was special.
Parting with our possessions had made us lighter of stuff and more appreciative of the special and few items we had kept. We had just enough clothes to wear for a couple of weeks, and laundry had never been easier. I’ve discovered most of the things we hold on to we don’t even need, and getting rid of the things you don’t use makes you appreciate more the things you have.
3. What really matters in life. I guess this one, though, is the jest of it. You know what made me smile the biggest when we checked into the cabin? It wasn’t the ice cubes, bath tubs, or even the great view from the balcony. It was the smile on my children’s faces. I’ve watched their bright, joyful smiles every step of this journey. I’ve watched them smile jubilantly when we showed them the room they would share in the fifth wheel, every time we pulled up to a new spot to park our tiny, rolling home, and each morning when they opened their eyes with anticipation of a new day.
You can work yourself to the bones day in and day out. You can pile up money in the bank and diamonds in your jewelry box. You can put a lot of hope in your checking account balance and place a bunch of happiness on the size of your house. Yet when we go into the ground we’ll all go in the same way. None of it will come with us. Not sure I want to waste time investing in the stuff that turns to dust. In this life it’s the people you love, the lives you inspire, and the memories you make. I reckon you can do that in just about any circumstance.
Years ago when my husband first started struggling to keep his business afloat I told him, “I would be happy if we lived in a cardboard box, as long as I was with you.”
Well, sometimes when I’m showering three little girls in a bathroom smaller than my previous walk-in closet, it feels like a cardboard box! But I can honestly say that not one day has gone by where the tight space makes me angry or I long for the life we once had. Maybe God changes hearts to be what they need to be for wherever He places you. Maybe that’s it. Or perhaps I had to have less to appreciate more. All I know is that selling our stuff and traveling around in an RV has been the best thing for us. It’s shown us what’s important in life (like, time together), and what’s not (the things we work hard to buy, that we don’t really need). I’m looking forward to the other things I will learn in this Fulltime Family, RV life. But I’ll be honest. I’m also looking forward to a hot bath tonight and a glass of ice tea, complete with ice cubes.