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It’s BIG For a Car…But SMALL For a House! (9 Month Update)

January 26, 2013
Asher Noffsinger:  Philosopher & Summarizer

Asher Noffsinger: Philosopher & Summarizer

RV laurelh

Harvey the RV

On our 9 month anniversary of full time living in an RV, I’d like to revisit the comment which was made by a 4 year old and most perfectly summarizes our situation:  It’s Big for a Car, But Small for a House.  This was the analysis offered by Asher Noffsinger with a truly perplexed look on his face after taking his initial tour of our new dwelling.  If it’s true that brevity is the soul of wit, then this is about the most clever thing anyone has said about our odd situation.  I’ve thought about it so many times over the past 9 months, as I’ve tried myself to wrestle words around my experience in this blog.  I have this constant sense that people don’t really understand what we’re doing, or why we’re doing it, or how it works for us.  All of which is OK and even obvious, but as someone who has a drive to be understood, I’ve always poked around for ways to bring clarity to those around me as to what we’re up to.  Mostly with a sense that I have failed.  Just yesterday, for example, I was meeting with my bookkeeper and the RV thing came up.  She very graciously and sincerely paused and asked “Are you OK?”,  and while I was grateful for her concern, it reminded me that people don’t know what it’s like in our home.  It seems folks assume that we are claustrophobic, soggy, cold, hungry, frustrated, in need of a rescue and looking for an escape.  Believe it or not, nothing could be further from the truth.  To make that point, I’ll share a line of thinking that I got on today about goals, needs, desires, hopes…. and then VALUES.

Start by thinking of what your goals are for your living situation.  You want it to be safe.  Climate controlled to some extent.  And comfortable. You want to be able to share meaningful time with your family, and with guests.  You want to be able to make it your own, decorate it and fix it up kind of like you like.  You want to have places for preparing and consuming food.  Options for entertainment.  Maybe a comfortable place to read or work on a computer.  You want to be able to store the things you need access to, maybe do a work project or two, and to do some laundry when the time comes.

taco nite

Making Tacos

Now there may be other goals, needs, desires and hopes that you can think of.  But these represent some basic, common ones and perhaps cover the lion’s share of the type of things one could imagine.  Now add to that list some of your VALUES.  And here’s where it starts to get interesting.  I believe that many people get sucked into the stream that culture creates to obtain the basic goals, needs, desires, and hopes in such a way as to be at odds with their values.  We value spending time with our families, but we create entire rooms in large houses for everyone to do their own thing.  We value conversation but spend massive resources on entertainment options (TV, video games, iPods, etc.) that encourage being together without BEING together.  We value good stewardship of our finances but almost accidentally get caught in the game of keeping up with the Joneses, buying into the lies of commercialism, materialism, and consumerism.  We value simplicity but find ourselves the stewards of spaces so large that they take massive amounts of our time and resource to administrate (clean, paint, repair, update, furnish, etc.).

Eatin' Tacos!

Eatin’ Tacos!

So back to my list.  Safe?  We’ve never felt safer.  First of all, there’s nothing in our home anyone would want.  And if a deranged person tried to get in, we’d just drive away.  What about storms or inclement weather?  We park in whatever spot we think is safest, including a parking garage in a mall or some similar structure if it gets bad enough.  So safety is not a problem.  Climate controlled?  We have a killer propane heater, and great A/C options.  And when your house is less than 100 square feet, it doesn’t take much to heat and cool it!  Comfort?  We’ve never slept better than on our firm piece of foam, and have everything we need for basic comfort.  Meaningful time?  With nowhere to go we are forced into lots of meaningful and creative time together.  And we’ve even had guests over a couple times!  It may seem odd, but think about it.  What did you do last time someone came over for dinner?  You sat and ate, and then you probably sat and talked, right?  We got PLENTY of room for that!  Making it our own?  We’ve put in hardwood floors, tiled the entryway, taken out fixtures and put in others, and there’s always plenty to work on.

wood floors

Wood Floor Project

Entertainment?  We have our computers with internet access, a 20 inch HD TV which picks up all the basic networks, and a killer stereo system with surround sound throughout the whole house!  Place to read or work?  We have THREE distinct areas and often   utilize one while the kids play in the other for personal time, reading, or working.  Storage?  This one even caught US by surprise, but we have more storage than we need!  When you whittle down your possessions to the bare necessities, it just doesn’t take much to store them.  And – like many folks – we do have a bit of off-site storage for those other items that we don’t need regular access to.  Laundry?  Well consider this, in our old house we hauled dirty clothes from one room to another and could wash them one load at a time.  In our current house, we just park near the front door of a laundromat, haul our clothes from one room to another, and do all of our loads at once!  In between loads we’re in our house sleeping or working or playing or whatever.

corner off 2

Corner Office (from outside)

Now I’m not saying there are no down sides.  It is DEFINITELY small for a house.  But we DO have our basic goals, needs, desires and hopes taken care of quite nicely, in a way that helps us live our VALUES, and with a few really, really cool added benefits.  Things like this:  When we decide we’d like to rent a cabin in the woods for the weekend and have some solitude we just drive to the woods.  When we want to have a getaway to the beach, we just go park at the beach.  When we need some creative space to work on a project we drive to one of our favorite scenic spots like the top of Mount Tabor or overlooking the city from Washington Park and enjoy our corner office with a magnificent view.  When we want to stay late at a friend’s house we just park in their driveway, stay as late was we want, then carry the kids out to bed and all go to sleep.  When we went to a retreat in Corvallis recently everyone

corner office

Corner Office

else left the main hall and drove to their hotels (which they were paying to stay in).  We just walked across the parking lot to our home and stayed for free.  And just use your imagination as to what happens on date nights.

Recently we had overnight child care, so we went to a barista event, then out to eat, and ended the night in our little romantic “hotel”:  Parked at Overlook Park, overlooking the whole city, where we woke up the next day, made fresh coffee, had a little breakfast, and enjoyed the view.


Parking at Josh & Jen’s Place

So yeah, it’s small for a house.  But it’s big for a car.  And for us – for now – it’s JUST RIGHT!


  1. I enjoy your updates, Don, and can fully relate. When I was a girl, our family of 5 spent much of our time in a 24 ft travel trailer since my dad was an evangelist. We lived that way full-time for 2 years (I was 13-14) during which we traveled up the Cali coast, put the rig onto a ferry & rode to Alaska, stayed for the summer and then drove down thru Canada back to the States.

  2. Wes Bartel permalink

    This post was awesome!!!!! We are proud of you and Carissa and are so grateful for the life values you embrace!

  3. Scott flaherty permalink

    Stumbled upon your blog while researching RVs. Lived in Germany for several years and owned a VW van for several years. The Rialto appears to be an evolution of the VW camper which so friggin appealing! Your one year video was very informative. Best wishes to you and family as you live your dreams.

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