One of the many reasons we chose to build a Tiny House and travel with our kids while they were young is as simple as one word….Time.
Not everyone has it. Not everyone can afford to get some. It can be evasive. It can be a thief. It could make you choose between what you want to do and what you need to do. It costs money sometimes. It just always seems like there is never enough some days.
It can be spent a million different ways though. It is all our choice. It really is.
We made sacrifices like all people do. It wasn’t special, or unique, or different. Just different circumstances. Still all our choice. We were done with being told how to spend our time. We were done always being around each other but never spending real, quality time with each other. Being there in body, but not really there…you know? Feeling bad every day like we could have done more.
Finally wanting a solution, because this can not be what life is….i don’t want to be “grown up” like I was told I had to be. I didn’t want to stop exploring, acting like a kid with my kids, learning new things as I teach them something for school (I learn with them!), learning new things as they teach me….i didn’t want to find another corporate job just to see my kids a couple of hours in a day and spend my life in a car like the majority.
So what was the solution? We got the good paying jobs, Crab was retired at 22 years old, we had a couple of houses, nice cars, some land, new tv’s, big expensive appliances, karate classes, soccer games, cheer practice, busy…busy…busy. Spending our time living this version of “the American dream”. We did it. We made it. Now what? It just was not satisfying anymore. We keot.buying and consuming to fill this void that just never seemed to be “IT”.
We problem solved for months. Thankful for the experiences we have had, good and bad…and appreciative of the lessons we learned, we finally decided that we were happiest together and how to make that happen. So around 4 am one morning we were just up talking about how to solve this…and idea of #chittybangskoolie was born. We did not really understand it then…but the more we researched and watched the more excited we got. And we never looked back….
NOW we have gotten to watch our kids learn and grow, from helping with the bus to running their own little businesses, making friends with kids from other states and countries, learning what it means to live and do what you love. How to really Spend their Time.
If that’s all we taught them with this chapter of our life, traveling, then that is good enough for me.
We are a family of 4 (and an English Mastiff) who have decided to radically transform our lifestyle. Through our life experiences, we are discovering that living with less brings even bigger rewards. We are working towards “Our American Dream” in an unconventional way.
My husband and I have been married for 12 years. We are High school sweethearts since the end of 11th grade, and found each other when we needed each other the most. We were just drawn to each other 🙂 My hub (boyfriend at the time) said, “I am going to join the Army.” I said, “I will follow you anywhere”. And so I did 🙂 Our Adult life experiences began with our first Army duty station, which required a move to “The Last Frontier” in Fort Wainwright, Alaska from South Mississippi.
Then my husband (an Airborne Infantryman) was deployed to combat in Mosul and Baghdad, Iraq for 17 months. The 172nd Stryker Brigade was legendary that tour. I learned a lot about myself during that time in Alaska with a newborn baby. As did my husband. That was a time we grew up separately, and then had to learn to be a team again. We were totally different people, but with the same passion to be together as the first time we met. Our energy was endless.
After he returned home, we were whisked away to Fort Hood, Texas where he received an unexpected medical retirement. After this, we began to think about what we wanted our new life to look like. We decided to move to a quiet, rural farming town in Central Texas where we could begin to live more self-reliant.
We began raising chickens and rabbits in the first few months of living in our newly built home. We loved every learning experience it brought! But then, Life dealt a new obstacle for us to overcome, which would change our way of thinking forever. Two days after Thanksgiving in 2011, 9 months after moving into our home, our chimney caught fire causing a 100% Total Loss. “An Act of God”, the insurance concluded. This left us with absolutely nothing but the clothes on our backs and each other. Humbled by a husband who was always gone while he served in the Army, we realized that having each other was honestly enough to get through something like this.
Of course, we did what any family would do. We kept our heads high, and started over. We were determined to get back to “normal”. We moved into a smaller apartment in the nearby city, rented some furniture, and rebuilt the home of our dreams. During the time in our apartment, we were definitely closer than we ever have been. We were vulnerable and tested. All we wanted to do was move back to the country and continue our homestead lifestyle, we thought. After we moved back July 2012, it did not matter how much stuff I bought to fill my house, we had this emptiness that I cannot explain.
We continued learning and starting different projects to discover new ways to become better homesteaders. We continued to raise chickens, and added ducks and turkeys to the mix. We added solar panels, and learned how we could create a smaller carbon footprint for our place on Earth. We gardened in soil, hydroponically, and even aquaponically with Tilapia and Catfish! It was amazing. Everything we have worked for, researched, and learned through trial and error was finally coming together! We could really see ourselves doing this forever, but on more land. However, something was still missing.
We were humbled again in life by losing everything. During Crab’s stint in the Army we always had what we needed with some of what we wanted, but most of the time we were without each other. During his civilian job and my corporate job, we had the money to have more than enough, but again, it was without each other. We really and truly learned the difference between what we “need” and what we “want”. We realized what really needed and what is actually important, each other.
One day in 2013, we learned about Tiny House Living. We learned there were many families downsizing and living tiny. As soon as we watched “Tiny: The Story of Living Small”, it clicked. The stuff we had was not who we were. We decided that having a mortgage and all of this stuff is definitely not “The American Dream” we thought we wanted. “Our American Dream” is something completely radical and yet so simple. The idea of living with less is exactly what the fire and our other experiences have prepared us for. So, we began purging, selling, donating everything we did not “need”. That empty void we had felt for the last 3 years was finally being filled. It seemed the more stuff I got rid of, the happier we were. It was life changing, again!
In the last 13 years we really have not had a permanent place called “home”. We always assumed (like most people) it had to be in a house, in one place, where you can “set up roots” and raise a family. Then we decided “home” was something different to us. As long as we were together, “home” can be anywhere. So, we decided to sell our beautiful home that taught us so much and move into our converted Skoolie, Chitty Bang. With the bus, we could travel the U.S. until we find a new place to call home and start our new homestead!
We made a plan to sell our home and our rental property to become debt free and be able to buy a bus and convert it. We asked, the Universe gave. After about 5 months, our rental home sold and we found a bus in Arizona. We had enough money to get the bus and bring it back to Texas. Then after a few more months, our home sold for the amount we needed to make our debt free American Dream come true! We got rid of even MORE CRAP, and moved. With the help of some great friends, we left Central Texas with our Gutted-Frankenstein looking bus and the rest of our crap. In a storage room sits most of the crap I wanted to bring to the next homestead. Honestly, it is mostly outdoor furniture, farm supplies, and tools…lol. We moved in with a great friend who has the space for us to work on the bus, and that is where we are at presenty, in West Texas 🙂 Stay tuned…
You can follow our blog on Chitty Bang’s Progress
or Read our Editing our Life Series on the more detailed and philosophical series of the who, what, where, when and why
and all of the other projects we have worked on while living on our small homestead.
We finally did it! We finally sold our home for what we needed and were able to become debt free and pursue our renovation of Chitty Bang. We hustled. We got rid of even more crap, and began the next step of our lives. We packed what was rest of our stuff, loaded up the u-haul, and with the help from some amazing friends (Thanks Amber, Brent, Barbara, Mike, and, Anne & Drew:)) were out of our home and on our way to West Texas to finish the bus!
Thanks to another fantastic friend, Jim, we have a place to stay while we work on Chitty Bang at his house. Now, we are focusing on that:) So far, living without a majority of our stuff has not been that bad 🙂 We have clothes, our necessities, the girls have a few toys (About a large shoebox full and their electronics), and our tools. And what we order for the bus of course. It feels like it did after the fire, but more at home and with the knowledge of this all being my choice…instead of a choice made for me. Since we have left over 3 months ago and began working on Chitty Bang, I have not regretted our decision once. We have been surrounded by some pretty awesome people that each know a lot about something specific that we want to learn more about. We also have a place to stay where we all feel so welcome. Although it will be just another small moment in our lives, we have already learned more about ourselves and each other 🙂
When we originally came up with the idea to live minimally, we loved the idea of building our own tiny house. It is definitely an up and coming idea, and people will choose to live tiny for so many reasons; environmental, downsize their debt, live with less “crap”, and many others. Everyone has his or her reasons, but ultimately it encompasses that overall freedom every human being on the planet yearns for. The freedom we long for is to be debt free. We are not like some people who have thousands of dollars in credit card debt, or filed bankruptcy, or live beyond our means in a “normal” American society. We have always lived within our means, and kept our credit score in excellent condition. We never made decisions that would effect our family negatively, and thought we were doing the right thing. We paid off our vehicles, made every note on the homes we had purchased since we were 21 years old, paid every bill, and this year we are 30 years old. “Living the American Dream” with our mortgage and never ending cycle of interest rates. When we started talking about how much money we would save every month by getting rid of our mortgages, it boggled my mind. But where do you live if you want to raise a family and save money? What about, if you want to travel around the US? What if you don’t really know where you want to “put your roots” like your mom and dad or grandma and grandpa always talked about?
Crab and I have been married since we were 18 years old in 2003, and had gotten used to the Army life of moving every 3 years or so, and always knew we did not want to go back to our hometown. How do you make the decision to just settle down somewhere if you haven’t seen all the possibilities? We each have lived in California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, and Texas. We have traveled to many other places, but would we want to MOVE there? We felt there were so many options now compared to when our parents were our age. The world is so accessible and it is only getting more so as time passes. Ultimately our question was, How do we make sure we are happy with where we decide to put roots?
A tiny home seemed completely logical for us…and totally exciting. However, it was going to cost us between $30-$40,000 after doing some research and we don’t have that stashed away anywhere. Also, since we wanted our tiny home on wheels, the codes for traveling with a tiny house and heights and all kind of scared me. Many people have done it, check out “Tiny: The Story of Living Small” on Netflix, because it is totally awesome and is what inspired us to start living small. Buying an RV just wasn’t going to happen either because we heard of how expensive they are, how crappy the insulation is, if something breaks a dealer has to fix it (and we are total DIYers!), and that they do break eventually. So, we came up with some options and tabled the discussion for later until we got rid of more crap we were selling. We knew we couldn’t really do anything until our home sold, as then we would have the money to do something with. The plan was to move to my parent’s lakehouse temporarily, maybe even “Squat” at friends houses while visiting different areas, and go from there.
Then, something amazing happened. Ok, it wasn’t really amazing. It was a simple late night conversation we had about how to travel around the US with our dog and kids, and everyone comfortable, but also be a project we can DIY and it be affordable. The solution was so simple, but unbelievable. I thought, how weird is this? What will people say? Then I thought, Wait a second. I really don’t give a ****. HA! Not caring what others think has to be one of the greatest mental freedoms I have ever felt. We have always been “weird” and rubbed against society norms. We played the “Keep Up With the Jones’” game and it is exhausting and financially straining. Who really needs all those clothes, shoes, toys, and other crap we buy to entertain us. Why can’t LIFE be entertaining enough? Why can’t Time with your family be entertaining enough? When did buying crap and getting into debt become fun? Hence, our homestead was born. Self reliant living. Our newest idea was definitely the next non-normal thing, and the most realistic one for us. It was our next step to the freedom we have been talking about for a couple of years, and to get us to a place where we can finally build up a bigger and better homestead much sooner than we thought was ever possible!!!
A SKOOLIE. AKA CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG
That is right. A school bus converted into an RV. What??!!! Yes this is totally real and yes, they are totally cool. Some people are completely not into it. They say, “How can you be with your family that long in that small of a space?” “What about your space?” “How will you guys build that? It sounds hard.” Then the other negative nancy’s we told, and well, we don’t talk to people like that anymore. And anyway, The answer to those questions really lie in each person. If you asked me those questions 3 years ago, I would have told you that I could not imagine us all cramped up in a small space together because we had not tried it. After I lost my job, the four of us were together all the time. Saving money, stay-cations, lots and lots of family time. Whether we wanted it or not, lol. Now, we love being around each other. We started homeschool October 2014, so we are used to our kids being home. They help out tremendously with house work, are respectful, do what they are told, they do not wait for us to entertain them because they know they will have to clean something if the words “I’m bored” exits their mouth, and we have all learned to respect each other’s privacy/private times, which is a must in a tiny house/skoolie. Also, after all of the failed attempts and successful ones of building Aquaponics systems, grow beds, chicken coops, poultry tractors, dog houses, repairing lawn mowers, and a plethora of other things, we have the confidence to jump in and just do it. YouTube is amazing, because you can find how to do anything on there as well as the internet itself. I really don’t know why there are so many schools anymore. You can literally learn anything you want to on the internet. And did I mention the cost to do one is literally half of what it would cost us to do a Tiny House? I believe the major factor in the cost is that the “frame” is already there, and it is steel! Did I also mention that we could live in it while driving? And it is big enough for all of us and our 130lb English Mastiff? 🙂 And please remember folks, we do not want to just sit around in our awesome skoolie all day. This tiny house is meant to take us all over the United States! National Parks and Monuments are begging to be seen, life learning will be happening, and adventures are within our grasp! We plan on using our tiny home as a way to make the world our front porch (gosh I love that old country song!) Momma is happy 🙂
So a dream was born. Buy a school bus (lots of research on types and engines and lengths), renovate it to an RV, sell our home in the process, travel, maybe even learn to sail, figure out where we want to set roots, and live in the bus until we finish building our new home/homestead. We have sold off everything we needed to, and will sell the rest of the furniture when the house sells….but if I can’t get the price I want, into storage it will go with the rest of our crap. Hey, I can’t get rid of everything. We need all of our equipment and stuff for the new homestead, and a place to store out of season clothes and such. But it is definitely not a house payment. 🙂
Now, Let the dream of Operation Chitty Chitty Bang Bang commence…….
What I did not realize during these crazy times of loss and growth, was that I was asking for the wrong things. I didn’t need to ask, “Why am I not happy?” I needed to ask myself, “What will make me happy?” I think at some point in everyone’s life..even multiple times, we have to stop and think about what we really want. Things change. Goals Change. Hobbies Change. Wants Change. Life just happens sometimes. I thought because I was “Living the American Dream”, good paying corporate job, great family, paid off cars, and great house I would be happy. I was. To an extent. There was always that stress of losing my job, feeling like I was not spending enough time with our kids or Crab, and just being a slave to the dollar for someone else’s dream?? That is their dream. Why am I killing myself for them? I was miserable..and did not even know it. I honestly needed a push out of the door of my job because I would have stayed until it came crashing down..probably:)
After I lost my job, I had a lot of time to think. To practice. To do everything I wanted to do that I always thought about doing when I was stuck in my cubicle at work. I took an online class with Algae Labs and learned to grow my own spirulina as a replacement super food. We learned to garden in soil and aquaponics. We learned we were not good at raising rabbits where we lived in Texas. We learned how to incubate chickens, one turkey, and how to raise them well. We learned to process the meat, can it, freeze it, and even get chicken broth to can out of all of the bones too. I learned to make soy candles, and even started a small business, Escapes Candles, LLC. I attended my first trade show that Christmas of 2013 too, and many more the next year. I learned to dry spices, how to store food, how to homeschool in Texas, and so many more things I can’t wrap my mind around it!!
Crab and I learned to work better together on our projects. All we ever wanted to do was be together..but we had to learn how to do that again:). Between his Infantry job in the Army the first 5 years of our marriage of being gone all of the time on deployments, Training Exercises, schools, etc, and his one year working off shore as a Cement Supervisor, and then my job where I never felt like I had any time to do anything before or after work…it had been a while since we were together 24/7. It was tough. We grew during this time as a couple in ways I never knew. Our girls watched us, and absorbed the change. They learned from us and even grew closer to each other, and us.
By April 2014 (this year), we watched a documentary and TED talks videos that changed my life forever. And I watched these videos like 20 times each. “Tiny: A Story of Living Small” on Netflix, was the first one. Learning to live with less. Everyone seemed so free. They were doing what I wanted to do. Whatever the hell they wanted to do!
They owned their homes, most worked part time, and for themselves, and were financially and material free. I watched Ted Talks by The Minimalists and other people who inspired me to do what they did. Start selling and getting rid of the crap you don’t need. We were all in. We finally found a path that we were both totally excited about. Like I had not been this excited about something in a long time. Like since I had our youngest daughter, excited. “Like” am I in High school again? lol. I sometimes type how I talk..sorry:)
After all of the bull crap we had to deal with during our rebuild process with our mortgage company, we hated banks. I hated that I owed them money. I hated their greed and cold heartedness. I hated the vacation and sick days I had to claim WHILE AT WORK just so I could sit on hold for 3 hours while I waited to talk to someone so we could have our money from them that the insurance company already released. So, without getting all pissed off writing this, it was just hell. Maybe first world problems…but still HELL.
I love my house. Don’t get me wrong. But I miss our smaller homes we had lived in. I miss the land I grew up on with my horses in Mississippi. I miss not having so much crap tying me down. Maybe I sound like a hippy now:) But Crab and I are in a a very unique and blessed situation. I always looked at the fire as a negative obstacle, which I felt we handled a lot better than most. Now, I think of it as a blessing in disguise.
Our New Goal: Edit Our Life
We want to live with less so we can have more time and experiences with our kids and each other. We want more land. We want to be north again. Maybe we won’t head back to Alaska just yet, but Colorado will do. 100% on renewable energy, 100% our land, 100% our home that we build ourselves or contract out different work that we are not comfortable completing ourselves. 100% working for ourselves, for our family, and a business of multiple things. Synergy. We were so successful with selling fertile and non fertile eggs, chicks, chickens, turkeys, teaching a workshop on processing poultry,and much more. No, we didn’t make a fortune, but we made enough cash to cover feed costs finally! We can do this for a living and love it, when we get rid of our debts and own our stuff.
All of that= Happiness. 🙂 To some it = Craziness 🙂 But we have never been people to flow with normal anyway.
How do we start this crazy journey? By selling crap.
This past summer Crab and I sold and gave away about 50% of what was in our home. Thanks to ebay and consignment shops, we received money for things we didn’t use. Like our 300+DVD collection, Old Toys. Old clothes. Furniture that does not fit the lifestyle we want to move towards. Dishes and gadgets I had not used. It took us 2 months, and slowly but surely our list of items came down to nearly nothing. The fire incident forced an edit of about 10 years worth of crap for us, so we did not even have much in our attic.
It felt like we were being guided into this new chapter. I say that not because we lost everything, but because every time I sold something or got rid of something, I felt about 5 pounds of stress be lifted from my shoulders. Even something as small as a dvd. Poof, stress gone. Stress I did not even know that I had. It really felt “Freeing”. I finally understood what all of the people in the Tiny movie were talking about. What The Minimalists were talking about. I became obsessed.
Once our list of crap was gone, next on the list was our houses. Our rental home, (our very first home) was about to be vacated, and it must go. Still working on it, but I think it will be kind of stale until February. That month keeps sticking in my head for some reason, so we will go with that one 🙂 We also listed our current home. May the best one win. LOL. I packed most of our stuff and shoved it in the attic so we are show ready 24/7!! I am ready to keep our money. I am also tired of cleaning this house! Not that I am dirty I just get tired of polishing stone floors, scrubbing crown molding, and all of the other 2500sqft responsibilities. I feel like I have wasted so much time of my life cleaning this house. LOL. It is even worse since it has to be show ready all the time..but having less CRAP helps a lot!So they will have to go! I keep imagining us selling one, and then both, and how ultimately great I will feel. Sending positive thoughts into the Universe!! The offers have came and went, but we know when it feels right, it will be the right time.
So, What Will Make Me Happy? Spending 40+ hours a week at a job? Not being with my family? Driving through traffic every morning and afternoon? Missing my girls grow up? Not being there for my veteran when he needs me? On my death bed, will I say…OH I wish I would have made more money at my job?
Being my own boss. Watching my girls grow and learn. Being here for everyone. Being outside. Gardening. Having my chickens. Turkeys. Ducks. Watching my chicks hatch and experiencing new life with my family. On my death bed, will I say…I am so happy I had all of those memories and experiences with my family.
“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”
Here is a list of the videos anyone who is considering living a self reliant life with less crap and more time should start with.