Tell Me If You’ve Used This

Happy Monday!!

It’s a new week with new opportunities and new challenges. Hope it’s a great week for you.

So, we’re working on changing some things in our camper to make it even better for us. More on that in a couple of weeks.

Today, I’m asking for your help. Have any of you used this product? If so, I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments. If we end up purchasing it, we would use it for a freezer only.

If you have experience with a similar product but different brand, I’d love to know what you think?

Winter Storm February 2021

You know the Boy Scout motto?

Well, we were not great Boy Scouts.

We were most definitely not prepared.

We moved from our campsite near Knoxville, Tennessee to a campground in southern Middle Tennessee on February 12. We knew a winter storm barreled toward the south central part of the country, but after checking multiple weather apps it looked like it was going to perhaps just skim the edge of where we scheduled to camp for three weeks.

We were wrong.

Very, very wrong.

We arrived the afternoon of February 12. We headed into the nearest town on Saturday morning February 13 to buy groceries. We got up Sunday morning planning to go get propane, but the roads were covered with black ice. We tried to get out of the campground, but slid all over the place.

We turned around and came back to the camper.

According to the weather apps we use we were going to get up to 0.2″ of ice followed by up to 8″ of snow over the next several days. Temps that just a few days before were predicted to fall into the high teens were now predicted into the single digits.

Great.

The storm hit.

The temps fell.

Our water froze.

But we have much for which to give thanks.

On Tuesday, February 16 people came around to make sure everyone had propane. We were able to get both our tanks filled. With temps in the single digits at night we were burning through propane even though we set our heat at 55 degrees for a couple of days and did not use our stove except for coffee.

Even though our water froze in our camper, the spigot outside did not. We were able to tote water from outside to run through our Berkey water purification system to drink. We could also use the toted water to flush our toilet.

Until the black tank got full.

And frozen.

Thankfully we have a Thetford Porta Potti. That came in super handy. In fact, we like it so much we may remove our RV toilet and use the Porta Potti until we can get a composting toilet installed later this year.

We did not lose electricity. That in itself is amazing! We were able to run our small space heater on low to augment the propane furnace.

Finally, on Sunday, February 21 we were able to get out. We drove to Lawrenceburg for groceries and propane. I can’t describe how great it felt to get out and drive somewhere.

We learned a couple of lessons during that week. Probably more than a couple, but I’ll get to those in another post. I’m only going to mention a couple here.

First, God’s provision is no joke. Were we comfortable? No, not always. Were we concerned about our frozen water? Of course. But we had enough heat, enough water, enough food, solid electricity. We had everything we needed. There were many who lost power, ran out of propane, food throughout the country.

Second, neither of us is a fan of cold weather camping. I knew this about myself already. But that frozen week brought home just how much I dislike temps below 40 degrees. I’m all about chasing mild weather. And, that’s our plan going forward.

I made some other personal observations, but that will also be another post.

We’re just beyond grateful to be on the other side of the winter storm of February 2021.

Real RV Life

I’ll be the first to admit there is nothing now, never has been, and likely never will be anything about my life that is Pinterest ready. LOL

Y’all, real full time RV life is messy, dirty, cluttered, and often organization in progress at all times. Yes, it’s amazing and I’m so grateful we’re living it. But don’t believe the staged photos. Nope, don’t do it!

Also understand that most campers are not designed with full time RV life in mind. Most are designed for a week or two vacation a couple of times a year. Or a hunting weekend. Or a tailgate weekend. You get what I’m saying.

So we’ve discovered the sofas in our camper are some of the most uncomfortable furniture we’ve ever encountered. Of course, you can’t know that in the 30 minutes you spend walking through campers at the dealership.

Today we’re removing the jackknife sofa in the slide out of our camper. We had hoped to put a small table and a couple of chairs in that space, but the slide out in our small camper is over the wheel well. This means the slide out does not go all the way to the floor of the camper. Therefore we won’t be able to use the space for a table. That’s okay. We can still use the space for our little plastic dorm room cabinets and Daniel’s ukuleles and Jade’s bed. Much better use of the space than this horrible sofa.

The offensive sofa.

Praying very hard this works as planned. All I know is that I cannot spend one more day trying to work sitting on this thing.

Five Things We’ve Learned in our First Five Months of Full Time RV Life

This list makes it sound like we don’t love our camper and RV life. That’s not the case. We love our camper and our truck. It’s true we’ll love RV life more when it’s safe to travel again. But we are so grateful to be living our dream. 

However, it is true that you don’t know what you don’t know. Even after two years of research and lots of soul searching what we thought at the outset would work great for us turns out to maybe not be the best choices.

With that, here are five things we’ve learning from our first five months of full time RV life that we want to do differently.

  1. Our space is just a bit too small. Yes, we could get rid of more stuff. But honestly at some point minimalism transitions to austere which is not us. Our travel trailer is 24’4”. After living in her for five months, we agree that we would like to transition to a Class C motorhome in the neighborhood of 30’. It’s not that we want more stuff. We don’t. Truly. The clutter of having to stack things, leave things out on the counter that I would love to put away, having to shuffle things every time I get something out of the cabinet gets frustrating. 
  2. A dedicated bedroom with a door is a must. We chose a Murphy bed layout because we thought it made sense to not waste space on a room that is only used to sleep. We talked about having to go to bed and get up in the morning at the same time with the Murphy bed layout. We talked about the possible weirdness of our bed being in our living room. But after living in the space for five months we realize a dedicated bedroom is not a waste of space. Daniel sometimes likes to stay up later than I do. Right now he can’t really because our bed folds out into the living space. I must have some quiet time in the morning. I like to get up a little earlier than he does. With our current situation, that doesn’t work well at all. If this were a two week vacation, it would be fine. But living with our entire everything in one big room is not the best choice for us.
  3. Our next RV will be a motorhome. Not a huge one. We want a Class C around 30ish feet. We want to tow a small car. Don’t get me wrong. We love and are beyond grateful for our travel trailer and truck. Sometimes (most of the time) a small car is much more efficient than a big super duty truck once you’re at the campground and just driving around or going to the grocery. In a motorhome the dogs would be more comfortable on moving days instead of being cramped up in the backseat of the truck. 
  4. We need a dinette/desk/table. We need somewhere to work and to eat. We currently have nice folding trays to eat and to use as computer stations. It works. It’s not great. Our current set up is not even close to ergonomic. In all honesty, I’m not sure you could have a truly ergonomic workstation in a small RV. However, it can be much better than what we’re doing now. 
  5. Cleaning a smaller space is not necessarily easier. Yes, we have two medium-large dogs. Yes, they both shed. I really thought it would be easier to sweep and dust on the daily. Nope. It’s not. It does take less time, but there are all kinds of cracks and nooks and little tiny spaces hair can get into. And there’s no place for the dogs to go while I try to sweep up. I’m not sure how to make this better. We do need some type of very small vacuuming system. Although, I’m not sure where we would store it. 

Even with these five things we’d like to change, we wouldn’t change the choice to take a chance on full time RV life. We still think it’s the best way to live for us. I’m sure in five months I’ll have five more things I’ve learned. Every day brings something new, for sure. 

Settling in to RV Life

Now that we’re a month into our full time RV life. We are starting to settle in to living in a very small travel trailer. We’re learning to deal with not having separate rooms, except for the bathroom, and not having a bed available all the time since we have a Murphy bed. Adjusting to constantly having a little bit of clutter is taking me a little more time. I would love to have a tiny bit more storage space, but we don’t. So we deal with it. I think we will cull more things as time goes and we realize what we don’t truly need.

The Instant Pot may become a casualty to space. I’ve used it on two occasions here at the campground. I don’t know that I will use it when we start boondocking. We’ll see. I’m honestly not sure that using it twice warrants keeping it even at the campground where electricity is not an issue. I love my Instant Pot, but when you live in less than 200 square feet it’s not really practical to keep unnecessary items you only use 2-3 times per month.

We’re still trying to find a rhythm to our days. We’ve started staying up later, until around 11 pm, and sleeping until we wake up, typically around 7:30 am. This morning I did set my alarm and got up at 6:30. I just wanted a little bit more morning.

Trying to navigate being self-employed and learning to freelance are sticking points as well. Maybe not really sticking points, but pain points, let’s say. We’re both working on things. Wheels turn slowly, however

I did set up our Patreon page. I hope that grows organically. It’s not super formal, just a place people who want to support us can. In return there are a few photos and bits of information available in the Patreon posts that I’m not sharing anywhere else.

One thing that we do need to find a solution for is our black holding tank. The black tank is where the toilet empties. We want a better solution than a traditional RV toilet and black tank. We bought a Thetford Porta-Potti, but have not installed it yet. Honestly, I’m holding out a bit because I kind of think I want a composting toilet. I’ve done so much research, but feel like I need to do more. It’s an important decision.

Over all, we are loving RV life and are excited about the future while enjoying each moment.

Murphy Bed Mod

As is typical for any RV, there are a couple of things we’ve had minor issues with. One was the Murphy bed. For whatever reason, Forest River chose to use one sort of ineffective latch to hold the bed up.

Top is the original latch. Bottom latch is the one I installed.

The top latch in this picture is the original one. It sometimes latches. Sometimes it doesn’t. Eventually, it doesn’t hold and the bed slams into the back of the loveseat. Not cool.

So we went to Lowe’s and bought new latches that I installed in about ten minutes. I put one on each side. We plan to get a couple more just to take some of the pressure of holding up the bed. It’s a bit heavy since we added a 3″ gel foam and a puffy topper.

Here you can see the Murphy bed in place behind the love seat.

The first two weeks we had to leave the bed down all the time. It wasn’t that big a deal, but we lose a lot of space with the bed down. I wanted to be able to use the love seat and have the two feet of extra floor space during the day.

Problem solved for about $10 and 10 minutes of time.

Living RV Life

August 7, 2020 we launched our RV life! We are excited, grateful, overwhelmed, exhausted, all the emotions all at once.

The overriding emotion, however, is a sense of humble gratitude that we have the opportunity to live our dream.

Getting Ready

Downsizing our entire lives is coming down to the wire. In some ways right now may be more overwhelming than when we first started a year and a half ago. But we’re getting there.

We decided to go with Bix Wireless for our internet solution. We received our modem yesterday. Set up took less than five minutes. They had already programmed the device and inserted the SIM card before they shipped it. The only tiny glitch was I didn’t know the network name so that took a couple of minutes to figure out. The thing I like about Bix is there’s no contract. So if we get out on the road and this solution doesn’t work as well as we need it to, we can cancel our service. Another thing that’s cool is they are based in Jamestown, Tennessee so we are supporting Tennessee business. Yay!!

We also received our Thetford Porta Potti from Amazon. We decided to go with this for our RV bathroom and remove the typical RV toilet. We will be able to utilize the black tank as overflow for our gray tank enabling us to stay out longer once we start bookdocking next year. Also, Daniel won’t have to deal with the black tank, just the cassette from the Porta Potti. Still probably not fun, but not quite as yucky. Hopefully.

We still have a lot to do. But RV life is getting so close and we probably couldn’t be more excited.

Internet for Nomads

Y’all…seriously. It should not be this much of a challenge to find a solution for internet while RVing full time. So much info out there.

We joined the Mobile Internet Resource Center to help research this and get advice. Such a great website run by helpful and super knowledgeable people. But, holy cow, it’s overwhelming! I’m not a network or connectivity expert, but I can hold my own for most everyday applications.

At this point I may have to take up drinking. A lot.

Just kidding.

Back to the research. At this point we’re strongly leaning toward Bix Wireless. But who knows where we’ll ultimately end up.

Downsizing: Five Tips

After spending the last year downsizing in our preparation for full time RV life I’ve learned 5 tips that can make the process easier. These tips will work whether you are downsizing your entire life, as we are, or decluttering an overstuffed room

There are also many helpful blog articles and YouTube videos out there if you want to dig deeper into downsizing and purging belongings.

Number One: Start Small

When we first started talking about getting rid of most of our stuff and hitting the road in an RV I looked around the living room and panicked. Overwhelm doesn’t even start to cover the emotion. But what’s that saying? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

That’s how you start downsizing as well. Start with one drawer. Just one. Don’t look beyond that drawer. Once you complete that drawer stop for the day. Celebrate that success. Then choose the next drawer. After a couple of drawers then tackle a whole cabinet. Move from there to a closet, then a room. Maybe tackle a season. For example, can you go through all your fall décor? Do you really need three fall wreaths? Four Christmas trees?

Number Two: Start With Non-Sentimental Items

When you start downsizing don’t start with your grandmother’s china. Just don’t. Start with something very benign. When we started with our first drawer it was the kitchen junk drawer. Easy-peasy. It took me over a month to tackle anything remotely sentimental. Understand that purging those sentimental things will exhaust you. Not just emotionally. A couple of hours of going through sentimental things is enough to wring you out physically as well. Be gentle with yourself. You’ll be grateful if you don’t start with those things. And don’t save them all for last either. Intersperse those tough decisions in between some pretty easy ones.

Number Three: No Maybes

When you start downsizing you’ll want three piles or bins. Only three. Sell. Donate. Trash. Notice there is no Maybe or Later pile. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Maybe becomes Keep. Then everything goes into Maybe. Don’t fall into that trap. In downsizing there is no maybe.

Number Four: You Aren’t Going to get Rich

You might sell some of your stuff. Understand you are not going to recoup your money. You are not going to finance your lifestyle. You are not going to get rich. You just aren’t. That necklace you paid $50 for might bring you a dollar. Maybe. And don’t think you’re going to have a garage sale and get rid of everything. You won’t recover your time. After selling a few things we decided to either donate or trash stuff. Honestly, the quickest way we found to get rid of stuff is to set it out on the curb with a sign saying “Free.” Goodwill is your friend. Just donate stuff. You’ll provide a job for someone and feel a lot better about yourself. If you are really determined to sell your stuff, try resale apps or Facebook Marketplace.

Number Five: Get It Out of the House ASAP

Once you have stuff boxed up get it out of the house ASAP. Those boxes sitting around start talking to you, whispering that they really aren’t junk, you really want to keep them. You don’t. Just let it all go. Get those boxes out of the house. Rip it like a Band Aid.

Bonus tip: set a due date for the downsizing/declutter to be completed. Schedule the tasks.

What tips would you add to this list? Have you ever downsized your entire home or life? How did it go? How long did it take you?