Learning More About Living the RV Lifestyle: Interview with Sarah
Today I am sharing an interview with Sarah about living the RV lifestyle. While I don’t post many interviews on this site, I enjoy learning about other things in life besides fashion. Maybe you remember the interview with Jill who helps with training for caregivers of people with dementia. Sure it’s not style related, but it could be beneficial and interesting to others.
Quote of the day: “The way someone else perceives what you do is a result of their own experiences (which you can’t control), their own preferences (which you can’t predict), and their own expectations (which you don’t set). If your choices don’t match their expectations that is their concern, not yours.” James Clear
We actually went to Sarah and Dave’s RV park to take the photos for the embroidery theme from earlier this week. In fact, you’ve met Sarah once before when we met up a year and a half ago here in Arizona. She and her husband met us at the Dwarf car museum in southern Arizona which I showcased on the blog.
While you may not envision yourself living the RV lifestyle, it is very common here in Arizona. Some people do it full time, while others snowbird here in the winter months. Either way, I thought it would make for an interesting read especially getting the information from a true RVer.
BTW, my mom and I used to vacation in her parent’s RV on some of our summer trips. That was my definition of “camping.”
Here are the questions I posed to Sarah and her answers! I’ll also explain a little about the photos and our thoughts.
1-Can you give us a little background of your life before RVing? Were you always a minimalist?
I’m a 57 year old retired private violin teacher from Chicago. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and taught private lessons from my home for 35 years. Funny enough, I was not a minimalist at all!! I had a 4 bedroom house that I lived in and taught in and that I loved to decorate. I filled it with beautiful things of my own as well as things I’d inherited from my mom, grandmother and great grandmother. Those precious family items were very, very difficult to get rid of but I had to remind myself that I was choosing freedom over cleaning, storing and maintaining “stuff”.
I also loved buying clothes! I had way more clothes than I could wear. However when I started downsizing, I eventually became fascinated with the idea of capsule wardrobes. I have never quite had the nerve to get that minimalist with my clothing (because I love clothes so much!) but the concept still fascinates me. I will say that anytime I do a big purge on all the clothing, shoes, purses and accessories that I don’t want anymore, I start to love all of the remaining things even more which is exactly what everyone says about capsule wardrobes! Even though I haven’t ever gotten my wardrobe down to capsule size, I’m guessing that I still have less clothing than most women. However I think you’d be surprised at how much I actually can fit into a small space in order to have all the things I DO want.
In my 30s and 40s I started to become overwhelmed with certain areas of my life. I was dealing with chronic health issues, depression and exhaustion, and realized that every time I walked into my house, I became almost paralyzed…I’d shut down and not be able to get anything done. I actually started to feel suffocated by all of my things. It was at that point that minimalism started to sound appealing. I started reading everything I possibly could about minimalism and made the decision to start downsizing. It’s how it started but I had no idea it would lead to where I am now. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist even today but we certainly own way less than the average American family!
2-What was the point when you said let’s do this?
About 3 years before my husband was going to retire, we made the decision that I would retire with him even though I was on the young side for retirement. We threw around several possible retirement scenarios but kept coming back to the idea of tiny home living. Dave and I were both were just DONE with big homes, too much stuff and schedules that were crammed full. We knew we needed a pared down, simple life. The tiny homes that are featured in those popular shows now are cute as anything but we knew that an RV would be a lot more practical than an actual tiny home. So that’s how the idea was born. We then took 2 years to research and pick out our RV.
To be clear, we have no home and no storage anywhere else. Many full time RV-ers hang on to their homes while they travel or, at the very least, they have multiple storage units holding all of their things. Others will store their things with their kids until they are done traveling. We opted to cut ourselves free from all of it and only bring what the RV could hold. It was part of our simple living plan. We didn’t want any “anchors” (stuff!) holding us to any state.
The Reality of Living the RV Lifestyle
3-Are there times you don’t love living like this? How long do you plan to do this?
I can’t say I’ve had any regrets about getting rid of our house or the standard American way of living…at least not so far. We’ve been doing this for about 2.5 years and I can still see doing a lot of years of this type of living before we settle into a small “real” house.
We have tentatively set a time frame of about 10 years before we decide for sure where we want to settle and how we want to settle. I doubt I’ll ever have a house much bigger than 500 sf or so though because I absolutely love living small!
There are very few regrets about choosing this lifestyle. We picked the rig we are in for many, many reasons and I still love it more than most rigs even though it’s mid-sized rather than large. There are only a couple things I might do differently knowing what I know now about RV living but the regrets aren’t deal breakers that make me want to change rigs or go back to house-living. It’s just like any type of living situation….you can move into your sticks-and-bricks house and once you’ve lived in it for a while, you realize there some things you might have done differently; things you wouldn’t have thought of before living in it.
Sara told me that there are times she wished they had a bigger area to “entertain” people in our RV even though she thought she was done with entertaining. The nice thing is that most days, they can use the outdoor space that they have. That’s the area we sat in to visit while we were there and pictured in the photo under the title.
I’m often asked if I regret giving up all of my material things especially since I had so many old family items. I truly don’t have any regrets about it. One thing that helped is I took lots and lots of great pictures of those things before I sold them or gave them away and I realize that having pictures of those things really IS enough for me. I can enjoy those items through pictures and have fond memories of using those things but I don’t have to take care of them, or clean them, or move them, or fix them. Once in a great while I wistfully think “oh, I’d love to have that Christmas plate/Grandma’s wine glasses/Mom’s pretty throw/fill in the blank” but it’s so fleeting and I remind myself that I enjoy the freedom more.
I asked Sarah about some of the costs for living an RV lifestyle. She explained how RV’s run the gamut in prices just like houses do. Sarah and Dave have a travel trailer that they pull with their truck.
4-Average cost to “park” at your place?
Renting a spot in an RV park or campground can be as cheap as $10 a night to a couple thousand a month depending on where you stay. Generally if you stay for a weekend or a week someplace you pay a flat fee which covers water, electric, sewer. Snowbirds who come for 3-6 months will generally have to pay monthly rent plus utilities.
We own our lot in our park. There is a low yearly fee which covers our taxes, sewer, water and maintenance of the park, the pool, and activity buildings like the clubhouse. We pay our own electric.
Another advantage to owning a lot is that we have a shed to store things in. That means I can have a few more Christmas decorations than I originally thought and David can have a few more tools, etc. It’s nice having that little bit of extra storage.
There is also something called boondocking or “dry camping” which is free camping. If you have a solar set up you can boondock comfortably! Thousands of people boondock on land all over the US. Some do it to save money and others do it because it puts them directly into nature where they can have the best views of the mountains, the desert, the ocean or wherever they want to be.
I’m not really a roughing it kind of gal so my style is to stay in a nice RV park that has all the comforts of living in a house with a few added amenities like a pool, clubhouse and activity center.
The photos below are the cactus garden at the RV park. The park also has a pool and center for entertainment.
Let’s Talk Clothes When Living the RV Lifestyle
5-Tell me about your closet and how you store things.
There are lots of things made specifically for RV living but those things are usually overpriced. You are better off going to places like the dollar store where they have the perfect sized plastic baskets and containers to fit RV cabinets, or Ikea where they specialize in small space living to get what you might need. More often than not we’ve found that repurposing something we already have works way better than buying an overpriced item that’s made to fit RVs.
Yes, I have a little portable washer. I can lift the washer myself! Here’s the kicker: I think it’s the best washer I’ve ever owned (truly! It’s fabulous!) but it can only handle small loads. So I just go to the laundry room here in the park when I have a lot to do or have to wash something big like blankets.
Closets: I feel really lucky because Dave has given me the majority of the clothing storage in our rig. There’s surprisingly a lot of storage in our small bedroom. But I also have over the door hooks on our bedroom door for additional hanging clothing (because the closet is not tall enough for dresses) and now, since we own our lot, I keep my seasonal shoes and David’s winter outerwear in boxes in the shed.
I only own 2 purses now, 1 lipstick, about 10 dresses and skirts, and a fraction of the jewelry that most women have. I have very little make up mostly because I’ve never been a big one for wearing it.
While I’ve been in an RV as a kid for vacation, I had never really analyzed them for living the RV lifestyle. What was very impressive is how every area is maximized for storage and living. This may not be the way everyone wants to live, but it is quite amazing how it can be set up wonderfully.
Sarah and Dave were lucky to have a place that is covered which helps dissipate the heat in our hot summers. Especially since they weren’t traveling last summer during the pandemic AND it was the hottest summer on record here in Phoenix.
If you have any questions for Sarah, feel free to ask away. It was such an enlightening visit.
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