Life with TOW-Wanda: Navigating Grief, One Campfire at a Time

rv lifeToday I’m excited to share a guest post with you by Ginny McKinney. Ginny completed the Tiny Transition + Downsizing E-Course a few months ago (which is now open for registration for the session beginning on March 1st!) and I’ve asked her to share her story because it is downright brave, inspiring and fearless. Ginny has turned a sad situation into a brave adventure.

If you want to join the 8-week downsizing bootcamp and join a lifetime group of friends and comrades on a similar journey towards simple living (either in a tiny house, camper, cabin, or even downsizing in place) – you should join us for the March 1st session of Tiny Transition + Downsizing. You’ll get 8 weeks of practical lessons and challenges, guided step by step help, lifetime access to the private class forum, accountability, support and motivation from me and your classmates, and the tools you need to simplify your home and life.

I’ll let Ginny take it from here:

The morning dawned with the typical bluebird skies of Colorado. Mr. Virgo and I had been knee deep in negotiations as to how we were going to spend our looming retirement years. We finally settled on getting a travel trailer and to start practicing early. Why wait for retirement to have some fun, right? We had a leisurely breakfast then headed out to go trailer shopping. It was a lovely drive. We discussed the merits of different size campers and floor plans. We definitely wanted something big enough to take the kids and grandkids with us. We held hands and planned. It was a perfect day.

Until… We were standing in the fourth trailer, trying to decide which one we liked best, when my sweetheart suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was 62. In a moment, the life I knew, the life we had planned, was just…gone. The next few days…ok, the next YEAR, was a blur. I went to stay with my kids for a few weeks. It was spring break and my older daughter said, “Mom, we’re all yours today. What do you want to do?” There was only one thing TO do. We went out and bought a travel trailer!
I instinctively knew I needed to put something joyful in front of me or I wasn’t sure I was going to get through this. I remembered seeing a story somewhere about a group of women who were trailer enthusiasts so I started searching. Sisters on the Fly is an outdoor adventure group that encourages women to bring out the girl in them and go play. They were exactly who I needed to drag me through the darkest of days.
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 About two months after Mr. Virgo died, I took off for a three month trip on my own, exploring every corner of Colorado and points in between. I camped nestled between big rigs. I ventured far out in the boonies where no one could hear my anguished cries as I yelled at God for taking my man. I met my new Sisters along the way and my healing, albeit slow, began one campfire at a time.

I was warned against making major decisions in the first year of widowhood. For quite some time, I had been feeling like a slave to the big box that was my now cavernous home. I had a mortgage that wasn’t going to be paid off till age 89. I yearned to be free of the responsibilities of lawn care and home maintenance. I was feeling the weight of my genetic tendency to hoard junk that no one in their right mind was ever going to want or appreciate. My children had long ago told me they were just going to bring in a dumpster (or two!) when I’m gone so why wait? I consulted with my realtor. I had a home staging company come in and give me some advice and I set my sights on purging 40 years of STUFF!

It was not easy. As a matter of fact, it was physically and emotionally painful. My younger daughter came to town and helped me one day. It took ten hours to clean one closet! I was reduced to tears on many occasions but there was only one way to eat this elephant and that was one bite at a time. Every box of stuff donated, sold, given away made me lose another 100 pounds!

I found I was tripping over what I wanted to keep so I rented a storage space. A word of warning here. Make sure you rent at a reputable, secure site…preferably with cement walls between storage units. I tried to save a buck and ended up getting about $9000 worth of items stolen, all replaceable except Mr. Virgo’s golf clubs. So sad.

Once the house was staged and on the market, the waiting game began. I moved into my little 16′ camper, partly to keep from having to clean the house constantly, and partly because I wanted to try my hand at living in a tiny home. I had been following the tiny house movement for quite some time. I was definitely interested in the lifestyle, but I wanted the flexibility to move frequently. I loved it, but the configuration of my space wasn’t really conducive to full time living. I started looking for a bigger, well built, travel trailer to buy once the house was sold.

I knew I needed to downsize in earnest. “Be ruthless!” became my mantra. I whittled away till I got a three bedroom house down to 25 boxes of stuff that I just HAD to keep. I paid to have it moved to my grandparent’s farm where I was going to care for an elderly aunt. As fate would have it, that didn’t work out for either of us so I bowed out gracefully.But, now what to do with the 25 boxes of stuff I “couldn’t” part with? I have been the caretaker of the family archives since my mom died eleven years ago. My first job was to scan 10,000+ photos and documents onto an external hard drive. And back it up on a second external hard drive for safe keeping. It took six weeks and was quite the trip down memory lane. It was emotionally draining and there were a ton of potholes on that road. Once I got the photos all scanned, I packed up the originals and shipped them off to the families of the subjects. Brilliant. They’re happy…I’m happy! Win-win.

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Once I sold my house, I traded in my Ford Expedition for an F-150 pickup and traded up for a 29′ Starcraft Launch Ultra Lite with a slide out dining area. It feels like the Taj Mahal after being crammed in my first camper. It does have a few disadvantages. I can’t pull into small, intimate campgrounds as easily. I’m a little less inclined to just hookup and go like I did with the little trailer but I’m hoping that gets better with time. Backing up is certainly interesting. I’m 42′ from nose to tail…there’s a learning curve. And, you had better be prepared for sticker shock at the gas pump! When I moved to West Virginia in October, I averaged 8 miles per gallon cross country and gas was over $4 per gallon in some places.
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 It’s winter now and bitter cold so I can’t really go through the rest of the boxes just yet. I’m spending my time organizing my little house on wheels in preparation for the next phase of this journey. I cannot stand the prefab, plastic look of the brown interior that all RV’s seem to have so I am changing the decor to something that suits me. Even though it’s 4 degrees outside, I am snug as a bug in my tiny little home. And best of all? I’m free. It’s paid for. I will carry only what is useful and loved. I can live wherever I want. And that is the most empowering thing I have ever done for myself.

Mr. Virgo would be so proud! <3

You can follow Ginny as she travels with TOW-Wanda…her home on wheels. www.facebook.com/marshmallowranch

Ginny is a former student in the Tiny Transition + Downsizing E-Course. If you need a step by step plan to get your life downsized and get out from under your “stuff” – you can join the next session of Tiny Transition + Downsizing right here.  Class starts March 1st!

The practical weekly lessons and private student-only forum allow you to make progress at your own pace within a group of like-minded friends on the same journey. I’ve been told that the group is a catalyst for lifelong change. That’s because we not only go through how to eliminate all sorts of crap from your life and space, but because we fundamentally change your relationship with “stuff”. It has the cascading effect of positively influencing every area of your life. You can learn more about Tiny Transition and Downsizing and register here.
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The Foxhole a Cob and Timber Tiny Home

Winter Foxhole

Guest Post by Collin Vickers

Modern day pioneers, Mae Ferber and Benjamin Brownlow, have set out to rediscover the lost arts of Old West homesteading in the information age, with a touch of high technology and fervent passion for ecological sustainability.

Their adventures in eco-living take place in the Foxhole, a living roof structure made mostly of natural materials on the outskirts of Dancing Rabbit Eco-village in the rolling hills of northeast Missouri. They have built it almost entirely without the use of fossil fuels, relying on their own hands and the help of a few friends and summer interns, with the exception of the foundation, which was excavated by machinery.

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The house rests on a gravel bed foundation and the north wall, along with a spacious root cellar, has been dug into the crest of a ridge that merges with the soil heaped onto their roof, which has been planted with local flora that blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. Continue reading

Ronnie’s Tiny House Truck

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Tiny House Truck! “ONE OF A KIND” A Tiny House that’s drive-able! 1999 International Diesel 4700 with 55K miles New Tires/A1 Mechanical Condition! OFF GRID CAPABILITY!!!

18′ X 8.5′ interior living space with 3′ covered rear entry porch, 16 inch front storage deck. Kitchen equipped with 3 burner propane cooktop, refrigerator/freezer, stainless steel sink, and oak cabinets. Hardwood floors, queen size bed, cassette toilet, tub/shower, air conditioning, exhaust fans, water heater, inverter, holding tanks, multi functional fresh water system with a whole house filter system fully self contained in an insulated locker (100 watt light bulb kept it from freezing in -10 degrees). Lots of storage! R21 Insulation! All systems in place, more places to build shelves and do cosmetic trim.

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The main house body is built with 2 inch thick foam cored steel panels, other siding and roof material can be added for cosmetic appearance if you want. As always things can be changed or added. The Tiny House is built with new materials, recycled materials and reclaimed materials. I am a perfectionist, I design and redesign as I build to insure that I have achieved the best possible product that I can. This Tiny House Truck is built with maintenance and service in mind for the future.

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The Tiny House can be taken off the truck frame and put on a foundation, on a trailer, on a floating barge, etc. The house body alone is approximately 5,000 pounds (no holding tanks, storage lockers, or house battery bank as they are mounted to the truck frame). They can also be removed. The truck is not loaded, it does not even sit on the over load springs. This rig was built to haul a load, tow a load, and go the distance.

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I can dry camp for five days using refrigeration, lights, and fans, without charging batteries. They can be charged with the truck engine, Honda 2000 watt generator, or electric on board smart charger. Solar panels and or wind generator can be added to make it “TOTALLY OFF GRID .” The truck is titled as a motor home and does not require a CDL to drive it. The truck has 55,000 miles on it and 7 new tires, air brakes, air ride captain chairs, AC, heat, 6 speed manual, T44E 7.3 turbo diesel engine serviced and ready to go anywhere the road leads and carry whatever you want with you.

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This truck travels safely at 62 MPH on cruise control, up and down most any hill you encounter on the interstate. I have been in 110 MPH hurricane winds on the East coast with no problems.

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I am 60 year old retired (as of this year) Facility Engineer. I have been to 6 trade schools, built every thing from sidewalks to Nuclear Power Plants, along with boats, cars and motor cycles. I am off the road & don’t need my big rig any more ( I am building my next Tiny House Truck on a 1973 F 350 Ford.) If I do not sell it as whole I will put the Tiny House on a trailer frame & sell them separately. I am asking $30,000, much less Than I have in it.

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I call my rig the Hillbilly Hauler. Too many features to mention! For more detailed info, more pictures or questions please call 865-436-7408 or e-mail TNronnie (at) gmail.com

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Tiny Floating Homes: Dos Libras

Tiny Floating Homes: Dos Libras

Last week I shared a personal story about one of my Favorite Things I brought with me when moving onto a sailboat last year. Inspiration for that post came from my friend and fellow cruiser, Tammy.

Now I’d like to give you a little perspective and introduce you to Tammy’s own tiny floating home. Tammy and her husband Bruce live and cruise on a 45′ sailboat, Dos Libras, with their two cats. Tammy has put together a great article and photo tour of what a typical liveaboard sailboat looks like and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you!

*The following post and photos are being republished with permission from Tammy Swart, originally published on her blog, Things We Did Today. The original post can be found here: <HERE>. 

Cool before it was COOL?

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Never let it be said that I was any kind of trendsetter… I had bangs when nobody wore them… now that I’ve let my hair grow to all one length… the “Cool People” are wearing BANGS!!!

After spending decades aspiring to a bigger house full of more (useless) things… we’ve thrown it all away and moved onto our 45 ft floating home.  It has now come to my attention that there is a new movement afoot… the Tiny House Movement.  HA!  We’re finally on the leading edge of something!!!  We were doing something cool… before it was cool!

Tossing years of collected stuff out and walking away induced a healthy dose of stress.  But once the deed was done, it became less difficult. I will admit that we have not gone “cold turkey”.  We do have a pretty big boat… and we still own a townhouse where some of our things are stored.  But the amazing thing is that I really have to think hard to remember what those things are!!!  (Mom, that doesn’t mean you can start selling things off!)

Moving from almost 2,000 sq. ft. onto this small (comparatively speaking) boat, was accomplished in stages.  We moved onboard two years ago with our favorite things and household items we thought we would need, and then continued bringing things from the house as we needed them for a while. That eventually dwindled to nothing, and then we began to actually take things OFF the boat in the never ending fight against Clutter.

Clutter is a problem in a small space.  If a thing had no designated place, it must either find one or GO!  Every few weeks, usually spurred by a search for something, we identify things that we forgot we had.  Toss!  Now if only we could make good on our vow to never experience Winter again… we could offload about half of the clothes and blankets we carry around and we’d be set!

Fortunately for us, we have a lovely garage v-berth that we use to store things used less frequently where they can be out of sight and out of the way until we need them.  Unfortunately… those things must be shuffled to temporary homes whenever we have guests aboard.

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The garage V-Berth

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Port side v-berth

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Starboard side v-berth

Off the charts on the Clutter Scale!  Don’t get me wrong… we LOVE having guests!  But if you come to visit us, prepare yourself to live as if you’re spending the weekend in the bottom of a teenager’s closet.

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V-Berth as a Guest Room

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V-Berth stuff shuffled to the Aft Cabin

Why would we want to leave all of our STUFF and do this?  Well, the reasons are different for everyone considering downsizing… but for us, it means that we no longer have to divide our time between caring for a home, and cars (and a job) and doing what makes us happy… SAILING!  We can spend our time doing the things that we enjoy doing.  We can travel together and see parts of our country (and the world) that so few people ever see.  Every day can be different from the last… and all the while, we’re snug as bugs in our cozy little home.

Now I’ll get to the fun part, the part where you get to see how we live.  But before I do, I have to say that we are so very lucky to have found this boat.  Lots of Cruisers are living happily with so much less than we have.  And… there are also those who have far more luxurious floating homes…  We have found the perfect niche somewhere in-between… Even “Tiny Houses” can be as individual as the people who live in them.

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Making pancakes in my little Galley

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Galley

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Our “kitchen table” Starboard side saloon

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Our forward head (bathroom)

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Port side settee main saloon and nav station

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My vanity in our aft cabin

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Port side aft cabin showing our drawers and hanging locker

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Our bedroom

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In suite head (bathroom)

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The aft head with designated shower and bathtub

That’s IT!  That’s all there is to it.  Everything you’ve seen shows all of our available living space down below.  We do spend lots of time in the nice center cockpit with full enclosure to keep out the elements.  Our boat has a lot of hidden storage space below the floors and inside the built in furniture.  Living in a home this tiny, the builders have taken maximum advantage of every possible inch of useable space. Are there things we miss about living in a house?  Well sure… Bruce misses having a real garage to store his tools.  I miss having a full size bathtub and our cozy reclining leather chairs that we used to watch TV in upstairs… but the tradeoff is that we now get to lounge on the deck and watch nature and the world go by.

** You can read more about Tammy’s Tiny Floating Home on her blog, Things We Did Today. For more details and specs on Dos Libras, click <HERE>.

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

 

Yellow School Bus Home

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by oPhelia and Julien

Our story begins with 2 city-dwellers and their little dog who love being in nature We spend most of our time off playing in the great outdoors: rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing etc. Two years ago, we made the leap and rented a cabin in the forest nestled in the mountains. After a year, we decided that we wanted something of our own. Unfortunately, we were not able to find land that we loved and that didn’t require us to sign over the rest of our active lives to a mortgage (we live in one of the most expensive real estate areas in North America). That’s when we got creative and this school bus home came to be.

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We live in our school bus all year-round. It is currently parked on a bio-dynamic farm with cows, chickens, horses and plenty of forest along a river. After just one year of being in it, we have paid it off and the rent for the land is a quarter of the rent of living in the city. Our plan is to one day find land that we love and to drive our bus home there. At that point, we can continue to live in the bus as is… or expand it (adding an extension and/or a second floor)… or build an actual house and turn the bus into a B&B… or use the bus as a guesthouse… or even sell it… The possibilities are endless!

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School bus living reflects our values. We believe in living simply (i.e. not having too much ‘stuff’ and having a smaller footprint on the earth). We value our time and prefer to spend it doing the things that we love rather than spending countless hours at work to pay off a huge mortgage. We found a way to minimize our expenses without compromising having a beautiful home. We built it into the wood cabin that we dreamed of – the interior is lined with wood, from the floor to walls to ceiling. It is a super cozy space with all the modern luxuries: a gas stove (and oven), fridge, washer/dryer, shower/toilet, on-demand hot water, electric heaters.

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When we look out of our (many) windows, we see only trees and mountains. We are a short walk to the river and the lake, and a bike ride away from the Pacific Ocean. We have access to fresh eggs and milk from happy animals and a plethora of organic veggies from our farmer/gardener neighbours. If we drive one hour in one direction, we arrive in Vancouver – and have all that a big city has to offer. Half an hour in the other direction brings us to Whistler – a world famous ski resort and mountain town (2010 Winter Olympics). When we are not outside, we can be found on a yoga mat, at the library, talking about the meaning of life, or drinking wine. Our bus home allows us to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world in an affordable way that does not require us to compromise our values and way of life. Not to mention that it is just cool to live in a big yellow school bus! :)

We have documented the journey of school bus conversion (from bus seats to cozy cabin living) in our blog: teenytinyliving.blogspot.com

Our bus is also published in the book: Tiny Homes on the Move
http://www.amazon.ca/Tiny-Homes-Move-Wheels-Water/dp/0936070625

oPhelia (Julien & Pico)

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