Are You Ready to Go Mini?

How big is your home? Our last place was a split-level rental home with 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms. I wish I knew the exact square footage, but I’d estimate it at about 1500.

Now. Now, we’re full-timers. We live in a space around 250 square feet. Far less than that is actual free space that you can walk through. Again, how big did you say your home was? Are you ready to downsize? If so, this is for you.

Why Choose to Live in Such a Small Space?

Maybe you’re alone and considering a small studio apartment. Maybe you’re a married couple thinking of going to a smaller apartment or an RV. Maybe you have kids, but you’re considering a small home for your first purchase. Maybe you, like us, want a change, want freedom, want to get away from the “stuff” mentality, and want to save money.leela moving

  • Money. Living in a smaller space saves you money. Payments are low. Can be very, very low. Energy consumption is considerably lower than in a large house, which means you save on utilities. Overall, you spend less on your living space – meaning that you can spend or save more on/for things that matter more.
  • Time. I could put a ton of time into cleaning and maintaining a 1500+ sq ft home. I was once in a 5 bed, 2.5 bath house, and luckily we only used half of it because it would have taken all my free time to keep it clean! Now, though, there’s just only so much space for messes to collect. It can get overwhelmingly messy if you don’t keep up, but it takes a fraction of the time to clean.
  • Stuff. We are too into our stuff. Or is that just me? Sometimes it seems as if all of my money, time, and energy either goes into my current stuff or into getting more stuff. I guess I’m just never satisfied. One thing we noticed when taking the RV for a test run (before deciding to move in) was that we spent much less time indoors playing with our stuff. Small spaces force you to get OUT, which is healthy for you both mentally and physically, and they take away some of the opportunity to collect more stuff because there’s just no place to put it!
  • Freedom. This goes a bit hand-in-hand with all of the three aspects I mentioned above, but small-space living also gives you a bit of freedom. especially if your small space has wheels, but even if it’s stationary. For us, it means freedom to live a 10 minute walk from a beautiful Florida beach – something we could never do otherwise (not at this stage in our lives, at least).

Are you convinced? You can do it! It can be a challenge, but it will pay off in the end. (I keep telling myself this!) Set your mind, and be ready to learn and adapt as you grow into your new, smaller living space.

Six Things You Can Do to Prepare to Go Mini

  1. Budget!

    Write down all your expenses and really crunch the numbers in advance to see exactly where you stand both currently as well as where you will stand after the move. Knowledge is power. I’ll be posting more about budgeting soon, so keep an eye out!

  2. Check out storage units.

    If you have the money, you can get a self-storage unit to house extra sentimental stuff that won’t fit. We have some sentimental items in storage, including a dining room set from my husband’s father – which we will be able to use in our future home. Prices on these can range from around $30-100.

  3. Aggressive downsizing.

    Be ruthless when you downsize right from the start. I’d recommend using the opportunity to really purge. Don’t keep things you don’t need or use. Be very realistic when it comes to the amount of storage available in your new living space and start 3-6 months in advance, especially if you work full time.

  4. Learn to live with less and consider the sacrifices you might be willing to make.

    I got rid of my coffee-maker and my toaster. There is just no space for them in the RV! Are there any “essentials” you can do without? Time for some self-evaluation!

  5. Make some lists.

    I’d suggest making a 3-part list for things to get rid of, things to keep, and things you’re not sure about. If you’re not sure about something, watch yourself over several weeks and see how much you really need/use it. Ask yourself : is it replaceable? And is there room for it? Prioritize your “not sure” list so you can see which things are more/less important for you to be able to keep. That way, if you discover some extra room, you’ll know which things should move from “maybe” to “definitely” keepers.

  6. Save up!!

    There are always unexpected expenses during moves. If you’re able, it would be wise to skip eating out too much and skip those expensive date nights for a while to give yourself a little cushion. Spend more time outside. Find free or cheap things to do with your partner/kids. Save the money-spending for after you settle in to your new abode and and the hidden costs are behind you.

The RV Dream

Living in this RV has definitely been, as predicted, something both challenging and exciting. When it’s going well, it feels like a great adventure. When it’s not, it feels like an absolute nightmare. I know I haven’t gone into very much detail yet, so I figured it was about time.

The Long Story

It all started before we even moved in to the RV. Preparing for the move (into the RV and then across country) was hugely stressful. There was just so much to do. Too much to do, and I was strangely disorganized and unprepared (which is so unlike me). Things got left for the last  minute that shouldn’t have been, and I really think that’s what led into a lot of the more nightmarish moments of this adventure.

Back in early summer we took the RV on a long weekend trip for Die Con, and we discovered we were having some power issues. Strangely, we couldn’t start the generator with the RV off, as we used to be able to; we had to start the engine to start the generator. We strongly felt this was a battery issue, so we knew that before we moved we should take all three batteries to Walmart to be tested, knowing that if we had to buy replacements they’d be guaranteed through Walmart. Even though we detest Walmart.

crazy wireWell… the batteries were rusted in place and hooked up in a very confusing way. They looked partially jerry-rigged in some aspects, with strange plastic pieces holding them down and exposed wiring in one place. We took them to Walmart, and all three batteries failed the test (one right away said it had a bad cell – the other two failed part-way through the test where they charge and discharge repeatedly). We had to replace all three, and it was a huge expense ($300) on top of the tow bar ($150), base plate ($400), and other towing equipment we also had to buy at basically the same time. Again, planning! I was so unprepared.

When it came time to put the batteries back in the RV, Marty realized that it was even more complicated than initially thought. He had to get help from several men at our church to get the batteries hooked back up. Sparks flew, but it got done. We thought that was the end of that, but it didn’t work out that way.

As we were parked in our driveway before the move, we discovered most problems with the wiring and batteries, and we had to get help again and experiment to change which wire went to which battery. We figured out this black one controls the hydraulic stabilizers and needs to go on the chassis battery. That red one goes to the starter and needs to be on the chassis battery, too. This black one controls the lights and 12v systems inside the RV, so it goes on the house battery. Et cetera, et cetera. Finally, we got things in working order, and we drove all the way to Florida from Missouri without any real problems as far as power goes. Did discover an engine oil leak, and did have trouble with the towing aspect, but those are another can of worms that I won’t get into now.

Arrive in Florida, and within 2-3 days we are having power issues. Lights went dim, but we didn’t notice. Finally, the AC compressors wouldn’t turn on. Fans were blowing, but the air was not cool. I go back to the thermostat to check on it, turn on a light, and suddenly the fans turn off altogether and I notice the lights are extremely dim. It was the first nightmare moment since arriving in FL. We were stressed out to the max. We were outside with the flashlight looking at every possible connection we could think of, trying everything we could think of both inside and outside. No luck with anything. I will tell you this: tears were shed on my part, and it wasn’t the last time.

Eventually we discovered a temporary solution. We discovered that if we started the RV engine, suddenly the power would be restored. Run the engine for 5 mins: power lasts maybe an hour. Run the engine for an hour: power lasts all night (yay air conditioning to get us through the hot, humid nights)! During the daytime, we had no problem because our little solar panel kept the batteries topped off just enough. If it was rainy or otherwise dark, though, we’d lose power. The nightmare continued, and we couldn’t find a solution, so a few days later we got an RV tech out to try and help.

The tech said that our converter (converts 120v AC power supply from the shore to 12v DC power that goes into the batteries and back out to our 12v system inside) was bad and needed to be replaced ($200). Then he spent a long time looking at our battery setup and tracing wire origins and testing output with his voltometer ($400). In the end, he switched one wire from the chassis battery to the house battery, and he left with us his battery charger to leave on the batteries overnight and charge them up. He came back the next day to pick up his battery charger, and we asked nothing more of him because we had kept power overnight with no issues. We hoped our nightmare was over.

Next day, we were back to square one. I still don’t know if the converter was ever really bad, but I do know that we have a brand new one! We couldn’t afford to get any more help, so we were stuck for the next few weeks with our temporary solution of starting the engine every night for 45-60 mins and charging up the batteries enough to get through another night. Slowly, though, we were running out of gas, and the stress of the situation was still there and getting worse. As we started getting into early fall, the weather started to change. We were having more and more overcast/rainy days, and I was having to start the engine once or twice during the middle of the day in addition to the nightly charge.

Last week, we had a heavy, heavy day of rain, and we developed a leak in the roof that required immediate attention. I had to call off work; Marty had to call off school. We had a bit of money in the bank, though, so we could afford to go out and get the supplies to patch the roof. Since I knew I’d be going to Walmart anyway, we disconnected the batteries so I could take them to be tested again. Guess what? All three are bad again, and they were only 2 months old. Obviously, we killed them with all the charging/discharging. Walmart replaced all three batteries because they were under warranty.

I come home to connect the batteries, and I made an error by touching one wire to the positive side that should have gone to the negative side. So many wires. Sparks flew, and something flew off the battery, on fire, and landed on top of the battery. Just there. Flaming. Me, yelling for Marty to help me, but he’s inside. Fire and smoke. I blow out the flame. Still shaky, I try to connect the wires again, but they won’t go on to the battery. Turns out, the flaming piece that blew off was the metal piece that sticks up for you to connect things to the battery. I don’t know what it’s called. It had lost 2/3 of its length. It was pretty dim, so I couldn’t actually see the hole on the battery, but I figured there was something wrong when I was touching the top and my finger went inside the battery.

Turns out the flame had burned a hole right through and exposed the battery acid. And it was too late to go back to Walmart for another replacement.

Interestingly, we still have SOME power inside the RV without the batteries. Everything that runs on 120v AC power is fine. The outlets and microwave work, basically. The air conditioner runs on 120v, but the thermostat is 12v, so we can’t run that. The propane detector is 12v, and we can’t use the propane without the propane detector on, so that’s out, as are all the lights and the fridge (which is either 12v or propane). We consoled ourselves with Taco Bell and a bit to drink, and we slept fitfully through the night with our two fans on. The next morning, Marty got the battery swapped out at Walmart (again).dim lights

That was last week on Thursday. We then made it through 4 days with no power issues, as the fully-charged batteries were able to handle the load. But obviously we have something slowly draining the batteries more than they’re being charged by the converter, because last night (Sunday) we lost power again, and it was big time power loss. We didn’t even have enough power to run a single light or the propane detector. Déjà vu. Can we just be done with this nightmare? We didn’t even have enough gasoline to run the engine for our temporary fix.

Nevertheless…

On the bright side, we bought a strong battery charger today which will be our new temporary fix until we can afford a long-term solution. Ideally, we will need to put the RV in the shop, so we need to save up some money for service and for a hotel room for the animals and ourselves while the RV is being worked on. Additionally, I have to mention that we are so grateful for the opportunity and adventure. I don’t take it for granted that we are pretty much living the dream here by the beach! Just wanted to share some of our struggles in a little more depth for you all. I promise my other post(s) this week will be more positive.

Not Quite Wordless Friday

I’ve been behind on writing my blog posts, but this week has me even more behind than I was! We had a bit of an “adventure” this week with a leaky roof, a small fire, and some exposed battery acid. It’s a long story. Hopefully things will remain smooth from here on out!

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A “Hopeless” Wish? Or A Confident Expectation?

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (KJV)

Faith, hope, and love.

Really?

More like faith, love, and wishful thinking.

Love is the “greatest,” the most obvious, and possibly the hardest. We understand that love is generous, patient, kind, and forgiving. We know that “love covers a multitude of sin,” and we know that we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Faith is complex, but we understand it to some degree. We know it’s the “evidence of things unseen.” We know it can move mountains – or it should be able to, at least. We know that we are “saved by grace through faith,” so even if it’s not the greatest of the three, it’s still pretty great.

But what of hope?

Do we think enough about hope? Do we think of hope at all?

We hope things go well, hope God will answer our prayers, et cetera, but, really, is it any more to us than wishful thinking?

The word hope appears in the KJV 133 times, and it goes up from there when looking at other translations. ESV mentions hope 164 times, NIV 180, and the Amplified Bible has 195 occurrences of the word hope. For comparison, KJV mentions faith 336 times and love/charity 466 times. (These numbers come from keyword searches on BibleGateway.com.)

In what (or in whom) do we hope? And what is hope?

Is Christianity defined by sinlessness, grace, love, and faith more than it is defined by hope? I found a neat article on Bible.org that says the modern idea of hope is “to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire.” Wishful thinking. But, more than that, it actually sounds kind of hope-less, doesn’t it? No assurance of getting your desire? If this is hope, why would it be much of a big deal at all?

The article goes on to explain, however, that in scripture the word indicates certainty and trust. It is a confident expectation. “In the Bible, hope is never a static or passive thing…It is dynamic, active, directive, and life-sustaining.” It’s not an unrealistic wish. It’s not a desire with no assurance. It is not an escape from reality. Hope is based in reality, on God’s promises, and it’s a huge part of the Christian life.

Psalm 71:5 (Amplified Bible)

For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my trust from my youth and the source of my confidence.

In the general, non-Christian population, hope (confident expectation) is usually placed in oneself. People expect themselves to succeed, to pull through. In spite of all odds and all difficulties, they will, in the end, expect to see themselves thrive. ((Not everyone. Some people are depressed and utterly hopeless. Some have had their confidence shattered, but it’s true for the majority.)

What’s sad to me is that, as far as I can see, Christians tend to be the same way! We believe in ourselves above all else, and when it comes to God  and His promises we have these wishy-washy, timid desires. Our hope is more like “positive thinking,” and it contains no real power or reward.

Hope should be a more prominent theme in Christianity. Why else does God tell us so many amazing things about it? Our hope should be in Christ and in His promises. Then we will find hope giving us joy and peace. Then we will find hope sustaining us. Then we will find compassion and and grace and abundant life.

We have to change our thinking and renew our minds and re-focus. Place your “confident expectation” where it should be. Not on you. On the One who provides.

Lamentation 3:21-26 (Amplified Bible)

But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.

The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him. The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word].

It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.

Romans 5:2-6 (Amplified Bible)

Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for (in behalf of) the ungodly.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (Amplified Bible)

[Most] blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, and whose hope and confidence the Lord is. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (Amplified Bible)

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].

Amplified Bible (AMP)

Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

August in the RV

At the first sign of raindrops on the roof, Tumbles dashes for the protection of the couch, hiding underneath until he falls asleep, not to be seen again for hours. Leela is sleeping, as well, sprawled on the floor in front of the couch. She would be closer to me and my desk if the rabbit’s carrier was not in the way.

Rain by *suika *

Photo: Rain by *suika *

Marty is away at school, learning to be a chef. I won’t have seen him at all yet, since he leaves before I wake up, usually. So it’s just me and the pets and the rain pounding on the roof and the wind that tries to grab our home by the awning and throw us around. I keep hoping that if we ever get a storm violent enough to succeed, I will at least have enough advance warning to put up the awning.

It will have been sunny all day until just a few minutes before those first rain drops. It’s Florida, so we get rain most days, but we also get plenty of sun in between. In fact, the rain will usually stop within the hour. Not so, this time. Just as I think it’s letting up, it starts to pour even harder, as if it intends to go all day. I have to turn on a light in the kitchen to make my mid-morning coffee. As I return to my desk with the steaming cup, I realize that I will probably have to run the main engine this afternoon.

A few hours into the rain, and Marty is finishing up school for the day. He won’t come straight home, though, because he’s working hard to find a job. I’m okay with that. I’m busy working through lunch. What I’m not okay with is the heat and moisture gathering inside the RV, and it doesn’t take me long to catch on to the fact that the AC fan is blowing warm air. We’ve lost power again.

Until we can get our power issues fixed, we’ve stumbled upon a temporary solution: running the engine. I pause my time-clock for work and take a few minutes to start the motor and stretch. Ten seconds later, the lights flicker and brighten. I walk back to the thermostat, turn it off and back on, and now cold air is blowing. It might be time for more coffee.