Deciding to Make a Trailer My Home

Guest Post by Rebecca Knabe

March 2010 was a bad month for me. My husband was unemployed. It had been exactly 20 years since my beloved mother’s death. My house had been broken into. They stole my money and my car. And to top it all off, my husband and I abruptly and unexpectedly separated. I was physically, emotionally, and economically spent. Yes, that month was a stinker!

I was working full time, but still could not afford to stay where I was living. I have a big dog, Cassi, and the thought of moving into an apartment with her made me want to stick my head in the sand. What was I going to do?

Outside of trailer

My good friends, James and Tanille had recently downsized into a small trailer that they had beautifully renovated from the ground up. Tanille’s parents had done the same thing a year or two before them. I loved both their homes, and knew that this was my answer.

The timing was perfect – a 1958 pink (yes, pink!) single-wide trailer was for sale in their little trailer park for $5,000. It was hideous! Dark brown paneling, stained and ripped flooring, chipped tub and sinks, cracked countertops, disastrous lighting…. It was perfect!

dog outside of trailer

I had two weeks to make this 450 square foot aluminum tube livable. My wonderful friends helped me around the clock – sorting, organizing and selling my things, painting every interior surface of the trailer, replacing all the flooring, and moving me in.

trailer kitchen

For a while Cassi and I lived in denial. She howled all day while I was at work, and I avoided giving anyone my address. When asked where I live, I would say, “Reno.” Prompted further, I would say, “Downtownish.”

trailer bathroom

For the next several months Cassi and I, and the pink trailer began to heal. I hung new lighting and installed new fixtures. I grieved and mourned my old life. Countertops and sinks were replaced. I remembered that I liked to live with just my pup and if we wanted to lie around and eat popsicles all day, no one cared. I organized and decorated and added finishing touches.

trailer bed

Cassi and I took up running, and ran till our feet hurt. I learned to live simply, and embrace a small space. I mended my heart through the therapy of friendship. I built a fence and planted some flowers. I made the decision to look to the future with hope and joy.

trailer bedroom

It’s not always easy living in a trailer, and in a trailer park. There is a stigma attached that only a certain type of person ends up there. And I have neighbors to prove that is true. But I also have neighbors who really care about their home, and make it beautiful. And a sense of humor helps. Now, when asked where I live, I say, “A pink trailer in the ghetto.” People awkwardly chuckle in response, but the moment I bring them inside my home it’s always the same reaction – “Wow! I can’t believe this is a trailer!” I love my trailer. It’s exactly how I envisioned it. I would not have been able to afford the changes I have made if it was a larger space. The size of my home forces me to live a simple life, unencumbered by too many unnecessary things. My life isn’t perfect. The pink trailer and I are still on the mend, but Cassi and I are very happy.

Rebecca Knabe
www.trailerchicgirls.com

trailer living room with Rebecca

trailer kitchen close up

277 Comments Deciding to Make a Trailer My Home

  1. Dee Lane Mock

    Thanks so much for sharing your story and the photos of your beautiful home! It’s outstanding! May you enjoy many, many happy years there. Oh, and you have nothing to be ashamed of! It’s YOURS!

    Reply
  2. saulina

    I’ve lived in large homes, and now 650sq ft senior living, and wouldn’t trade it for a larger space. And, like you, when we realize we are because of what we had/have gone through, we grow; grow also in a way that what others think; or think of us is none of our business. Good job, girl!

    Reply
    1. Beth

      Third!! You are quite an inspiration. And you are not only healing, you are growing! Congratulations for working through the sadness and getting to the other side. You sound like a wonderful and loving person….not to mention strong and resourceful!!!

      I especially love the new address, “a pink trailer in the ghetto”….ENJOY!

      Reply
  3. Beverly

    I had no idea that a trailer could look so modern and welcoming. It is stylish, very livable, and it’s all yours. Congratulations for turning a bad situation into a great life!!

    Reply
  4. Yojimbo

    “Wow! I can’t believe this is a trailer!” Excellent design, excellent execution.

    Quick question: How was the work divided up? Who did what?

    Reply
  5. Shelley

    I am a huge fan of retro trailers and adore the job you did on this little beauty. You should be very proud of yourself and your positive comeback from tough times. Your story made me smile!

    Reply
  6. Toni Urben

    Kudo’s to you for making a move, having wonderful friends, obviously great taste, keeping
    your dog with you and moving on with your life. My third husband and I downsized all our
    NY properties and for the last years of his employment we lived in a 40 yr. old single wide
    on a lovely piece of property. We did the same as you in our remodeling and were quite
    content. We now live in SC and have a small cabin on a cove. We have done the same type
    of remodeling to that. Congrat’s, enjoy, mend and love again.

    Reply
  7. Judith

    It’s not where you live; it’s HOW you live. You look and sound happy. No one can take your joy from you! We cannot always control what happens to us, or around us, but we can control our reaction to it. Enjoy your new space, both in your home and in your head. Wishing you the best of luck.

    Reply
  8. Amanda

    I love your little home-it is so well decorated, and very homey. I too went thru a divorce that upended my life, and like you live with 2 very large dogs who kept me from being too depressed, so I relate to your uplifting story. I was disabled when he left, and since I could no longer work in veterinary medicine,started a small jewelry company that is flourishing. I live in a tiny house, on practically no money, that I painted bright banana yellow, and love my life now. Thank you for your inspirational story, and keep us posted.

    Reply
  9. Penny

    Wow! You traded up, girl, and your priorities are right on. You kept the best, including the dog, and you left behind the things that do not bring you joy. Bravo!!

    Reply
  10. D.Burris

    Love what you did. I’ve often thought of moving from Southern California, but have no idea where to go. I don’t want another house, and no apartment. I’ve looked at Park Models, but nothing jumped out at me.
    I think you’ve got a real winner here. Cozy and just plain cute as hell! I live is small house, less than 1000 sq. ft. and I would never want to go bigger.
    A trailer is great if you live where it won’t blow apart, have some decent neighbors, and the lot rent isn’t out of site.
    Congrats…..you have a “one of a kind” home.

    Reply
  11. Glenda White

    I absolutely love your pink trailer! It reminds me of Barbara O’Neal’s book The All You Can Dream Buffet. These women at different stages in life buy trailers, fix them up, and mend their souls.

    I hope your soul continues to mend with Cassi by your side.

    http://www.barbaraoneal.com/

    Reply
  12. Shawn

    I love you article and your pink trailer too. I too have
    Downsized from a 3000 foot house to my 500 ft one hundred
    Year old “cottage” which my daughter refers to as a
    “Shack”. I am always surprised by how much I enjoy
    Living in this little house and do not miss my former
    Home in Hawaii at all. I think downsizing may be very
    Therapeutic for your mental, spiritual and even physical
    Health. It has great benefits for creativity and is
    Good for our lovely planet as well. Thanks for sharing
    Your experience and photos of your home

    Reply
  13. JanB

    Absolutely inspirational, Thank You. I can relate to your change of circumstance and admire your pluck. I have always loved trailers and want to live in one. My family thinks I am NUTSO. your home is lovely and YOU DID IT!

    Reply
  14. Kate

    Having started my life, and later my marriage in single wide trailers I have a special place in my heart for them. Where I live, the stigma is strong, for the most part, and people do live up to the steriotype in spades, but there are a couple of communities that are quite lovely and welcoming. My beloved grandmother downsized to a single wide in a park and her home is the most pleasant place. When motherhood overwhelms me I tease that I am going to stay in her front bedroom from a few days and drink chocolate milk and watch daytime TV with her.

    Some people want to flip houses, I think it would be fun to flip trailers…if the loan process and depreciation weren’t there.

    Reply
  15. Johnny DelRey

    I call my 10X50 my little tin box. Mine needs re-doing. I’ve been in it 14 years and never missed a lot rent payment. Good luck.

    Reply
  16. Br. Curt Beardsley

    I’m looking into purchasing a 10 X 40 foot mobile home. Not sure what year it is, but it is from the 70’s. I’m looking forward to putting in a new floor, new windows, a new roof and insulated panels on the walls to cover with board and batten paneling. I will, then finally have my less than 400 sq. ft. home! Thanks for inspiration from what you have done! Your home is beautiful and you should be proud of your home.

    Reply
    1. Carla

      Hello Br. Curt,

      What you are doing sounds like a good plan. Just be sure to check your old wiring as it may be aluminum from the 70’s too. Lots of caution and advice out there about the dangers of that, and whether to replace it. Just so you don’t install lots of new light fixtures and end up
      needing to remove them and reinstall in to order to correct the wiring!

      Also, Rebecca’s place looks so open and airy because it’s painted allover in very light colors.
      And not a lot of clutter.

      One thing I like about the older trailers is that whatever out-gassing the building materials used in them needed to do is all over with. So it does not reek of chemical odors.
      Visited some brand-new mobiles that had chemical odors beyond unpleasant.
      Seemed unlivable and unhealthy until the out-gassing happens in ?? months or years.

      So glad Rebecca’s evolving in her life to concentrate on what’s most important to her
      and I wish that for you too (and all of us!).

      Reply
  17. Annette

    Thank you for your article. I’ve thought the same about trailer parks but you have made a good transition and it looks great. Hope your dog has made it to and the anxiety (howling) has passed. Loved your description of the change.

    Reply
  18. Wendy

    You did an amazing job- it looks more like a high-end spa than a trailer.

    I’d rather have a good dog than a bad husband, any day. So I think you came out ahead on that one.

    Just one question- did you replace the cabinets in the kitchen? Or just paint them? The whole trailer is so airy and light and beautiful. A friend of mine went through a similar experience (divorce) and lived for a couple of years in a single wide in the woods. She gutted it, painted it white, made slipcovers for an old couch from canvas drop cloths, and ended up with a trailer that was the usual metal box on the outside, but a truly lovely, “Zen” place on the inside.

    As far as trailer parks go- I think more and more people are getting over the old “trailer trash” prejudice. There are two very nice Mobile Home parks where I live, and I have been in one in Newport Beach (CA) that was amazing. Of course the best thing would be to have a friend with property who would let you park on it.

    Plus- I have found that some of the people I thought were the roughest around the edges can actually turn out to be incredibly nice, helpful, and actually protective.

    Good luck to you and your nice dog! And congratulations on making yourself a wonderful home.

    Reply
  19. Lu Ann

    I live in a mobile home as well in Las Vegas. It ain’t fancy, but it’s mine. After redecorating it it’s now my “castle”!

    Reply
  20. sally

    We often get hung up on thinking we have to have the new and shinny and spend a lot of time working and sweating to get it. I love this story because it proves that less can some times be more than we ever would have dreamed it to be. There are things we can not control in life but this proves that we don’t have to spend our days feeling sorry for ourselves we can make the most of what we have and find a happy life. Way to go girl. Your home is lovely and you have not a thing to be ashamed of. God Bless and thank you for sharing with the rest of us.

    Reply
  21. Eric

    Your home is lovely, as are you and Cassi. I would submit that only the location of that trailer creates a stigma, and if in time you have resources, you could move to your own land, all three of you, and shed the stigma while retaining your beautiful home and all the work you put into it. May you be blessed with healing and happiness for many years to come.

    Reply
  22. Marcia Weber

    Beautiful job!!! It still amazes me how we come through life’s hardships with renewed strength and vitality. Your trailer is lovely. Who wouldn’t want to live in it? Continued success.

    Reply
  23. Cindy

    Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story. I divorced my husband of 25 years about five years ago and have significantly changed my life since that time. I have undergone the process of down-sizing, just as a natural part of changing my life in other areas, and I love it. I am getting ready to build a tiny home, which will be just under 400 sq. ft. I hope that mine turns out half as lovely as yours. Bravo to you for your courage and ingenuity!

    Reply
  24. DeCarlisle

    Hey, Love the blog travels, what kind of trailer did you get. Its looks like a professional remodel. Very nice! My wife and I are now empty nesters and are riding the fence trying to decide our next path. More home or more road:-)

    Reply
  25. Joy

    Bang up job you did! Many of us have found ourselves in similar situations. You just gotta make lemonade out of those lemons! And you did!

    Reply
  26. Bob Ratcliff

    Positively charming! People get SO caught up in what they think they’re supposed to have or live in. I could spend the rest of my life in your new lovely home and never turn back. You’ve proven you can not only remodel an old trailer, but more importantly you can REBUILD your life. Now that’s what I call rolling down the right road in life:)

    Reply
  27. Teddi

    Our family of 4 lived in an 8′ wide single trailer with 2 bedrooms (bunk beds for us girls) and one bathroom; the only issue our mother had was with our comic books. So she put ‘em in a box under our bed and life returned to “normal.”

    Reply
  28. Shell

    Oh, how I love your story! I keep thinking “someday…someday…”. My dream is a simple little place with a garden, chickens, and living simple as possible. Sometimes I get discouraged, but stories like yours really help give me hope. Such an inspiration! Thank you for sharing. : )

    Namaste

    Reply

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