The transition to living tiny

Some of you may know we didn’t completely cut the umbilical cord. We still own a house in Atlanta. We’ve been wanting to run away from Atlanta for years now. We are tired of the traffic and tired of the grind. We both love the serenity of the coast. We love the Carolinas and have a grand plan to build a small, solar powered container home… ourselves. And when I say ourselves, I’m including my talented builder of a dad. 🙂 Our eventual plan for Mavis will to be a backyard guest house / airbnb rental. And of course we’ll still take her on the road for adventures. But we want a small, paid-for (slightly larger) home base to always come back to. Enter the container home. We have no interest in a 30 year mortgage and accumulating lots and lots of stuff. We’d rather spend our money on things like trips, experiences and maybe a boat and an airplane in there somewhere.

We thought a good place to start with living tiny would be to buy an Airstream, renovate it and travel the coast until we found a place we want to settle. Then sell our house, buy land and live in the Airstream while the container home is built. I bought our current home a year before we were married. It’s a modest, 1400 square foot adorable little townhome. We’ve lived here for almost 8 years and not once have I had the desire to buy something bigger. Neither of us have. Actually, we look at many parts of our house and think it’s a waste of space. The dining room is never used. The foyer, giant landing at the top of the stairs, a spare bedroom, a spare bathroom, two spare closets, etc, etc. Never used. In fact, they mostly just accumulate junk. There are countless pieces of furniture, artwork and knickknacks I bought just to fill spaces. Some of it I love, most of it I don’t. We pay almost $2500 a year in HOA fees for amenities we never even use. It’s just excess everywhere you look with traditional home ownership. Then I look at the Airstream. Everything has a place, everything has a purpose. There’s no excess, no clutter. Everything we need to live comfortably is there. And best part? It’s all paid for. A free and clear home that we worked hard to build. We don’t pay an HOA, we don’t pay a ridiculous monthly mortgage for it. When did our ideas of a home become so out of control and over the top? Why does it need to cost so much? Why do we need marble countertops and overpriced fancy furniture no one even likes to sit on?

Our first stop with our Airstream is a three month stay in Southport, North Carolina. It’s a quiet, beautiful town tucked away at the opening of the Cape Fear River. When we first visited last year, we were blown away at the sights in this town. The main street in the downtown looks as if it empties out into the water. There are passing cargo ships, fishing boats and barges to watch at all hours of the day. It’s truly a different way of living compared with the hustle and bustle of a city like Atlanta. A change we more than welcomed. Our first day in Mavis was a bit of a shock. We spent much of the day bumping into each other, hitting our heads on everything in sight and stepping on our dog. We didn’t have a moment of “what have we done?!” but it was a frustrating start to say the least. However, we got in the groove of things pretty quickly. We learned how to pass one another without knocking the other down. Our dog, Riley, learned his favorite spots to take naps and how to dodge our lumbering bodies walking down the length of the trailer. We stopped hitting our heads. We started to really fall in love with what we are doing. Less stuff, less clutter, less to worry about. We didn’t have to constantly keep up with cleaning as there just wasn’t that many things to be out of place. It really made our minds feel at ease. Were there things we missed? Of course. I missed my giant garden sized tub with unlimited hot water. I missed my closet and everything in it. We also missed having enough room to get away from each other when we wanted time to ourselves. And Jason missed our garage. We quickly got into a rhythm – we sort of learned where each would be at any given time. We learned how to give each other space when the other needed it. And then we learned we actually had more quality time for each other. Instead of planting ourselves in front of the TV out of boredom or cleaning a 1400 square foot house, we’d go exploring. We’ve spent more time outside of the house than ever since we were finally living in a place we wanted to live. We’d rather spend our hours beachcombing, riding bikes, paddling, kayaking, jogging along the riverfront. We learned that living in a place that is more suited to your personality means you spend less time sitting in that overpriced house. Our Airstream is our pit stop. Our place to eat and sleep.

After 17 days of living in Mavis we gathered up a list of things we forgot at our house. We decided to take a quick weekend trip back to our house. When we set foot back into our house, we didn’t have the feeling we thought we’d have. We thought we’d have this rushing wonderful feeling of being back at home with all of this space and all of our things. But actually, we didn’t feel that way at all. Right away my eye went to our bookshelves full of our knickknacks. I just kept scanning the house and thinking about all of the things we don’t need to be happy. In fact, they just add anxiety; not a bit of happiness. We even found ourselves referring to Mavis as “home.” That was telling. The best part about being back in our regular house was, you guessed it: my bathtub. That first bit of time living in Mavis made me realize what was important in a house. I want a decent sized kitchen, a decent sized closet and a bathroom big enough for a garden tub. All good lessons to learn on what’s important and what’s not. I can’t wait to see what a solid three months of Airstream living brings.

Sheena is a free-spirited adventurer who designed and renovated a 1975 Airstream in 2016 and travels the US with her husband and mohawk-sportin’ poodle. She’s a business owner, self-taught carpenter, blogger, yogi, professional photographer and a lover of the outdoors and healthy living.

2 Comment

  1. Reading a few of your posts while sipping my coffee. We owned a very similar home for 5 years before getting our Airstream & have thought about the same thing – finding the next spot or spots and building a prefab, or tiny house or container house on it. I think the only problem is there are so many spots we’re in love with now, and there’s so much more to explore! Excited to see where you guys head next.

    1. Thanks for reading! And exactly! Too many places to explore before settling down in a permanent house on permanent land! 😉

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