Deciding to Make a Trailer My Home

by Kent Griswold on July 24th, 2012. 230 Comments
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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

230 Responses to “Deciding to Make a Trailer My Home”

  1. Ida Brinkschroeder says:

    Hello, You ought to be really proud of all your effort it took to transform your little trailer. I absolutely love it and think it looks fantastic. Congratulations on creating your wonderful space after such hardship.

  2. Charie says:

    I just love your camper. I have one I downsides in and just love it. I have been looking for ideas on how to update it and your photos are perfect. I have a long way to go to get it updated but it’s just me and my pets and I love living in my camper.

    Thanks for the great remodeling ideas.

    God Bless
    Ms. Charie

  3. Ginger says:

    Dear Rebecca,
    Good for you! I went through a similar situation a few years ago. I thought I wasn’t going to make it.
    then I found a little mobile home in a beautiful park in the mountains. I talked the owner into accepting a down payment and letting me pay it off.
    I just make my last payment and I am fixing it up just the way I want it. I feel a great sense of accomplishment and I am sure you do as well. I have two dogs and we are all so happy here.
    God Bless!
    Ginger

  4. Shell says:

    Wow, you did an amazing job! I love it!

  5. Donna McFarland says:

    Way to GO girl!! You’ve made a completely unique and individual statement in a beautiful way…your own home sweet home!! Home, is not defined by bricks & mortar…as you’ve clearly shown…it’s about the individual(s) who reside there…you & Cassie in this case…fantastic souls, both! Keep on inspiring as you do…you’re an amazingly resiliant and resourceful lady!

  6. Richard says:

    You go girl. I lived in a very nice trailer for a few years when I first moved to Florida and I loved it. I understand the stigma of living in a trailer. But it is different in Florida, its a lifestyle. I got married and moved into my wife’s home. We are upside down in the mortgage and I feel trapped. I was much happier in my trailer. Unfortunately, my wife won’t consider it and needs the foundation attached to the ground.

  7. Carolyn Nelson says:

    Great renovation, ? the bathroom! Yes you can live large in a small space. Thanks for sharing :)

  8. Alena says:

    What a gorgeous home!

  9. Jackiemearound says:

    Trailers are considered worthless by banks and snobs. The rest of us call them home.

    We recycled an old doublewide, also with dark paneling, cabinetry, and shag carpeting. We had it moved to our seven acres and aimed the picture windows north at the sweeping mountain view. A pale sandy yellow faux finish paint job covered the paneling and transformed the dark “man cave” interior into a bright day lit space. Cabinets were painted a pale teal or richer version of the yellow/tan.

    It appears your budget was a bit more generous than ours, as we ran out of cash before finishing the floors. I ended up painting the floors, and covering the inconsistent surfaces with rugs. While not the Ritz, it is airy and liveable–sort of ‘shabby chic’.

    My only problem with the trailer house is the “orange juice can” feeling in high winds. One big storm and it’s all over but the shouting.

    And while the disdain of the people with the big stick houses is hard to take, I feel sorry for them because they have views of their next door neighbors’ ugly too-big houses on tiny city lots. I prefer my small house on the big acreage where we can have huge gardens, outbuildings, and privacy.

  10. Marcia B says:

    Beautiful reno job and great work on the healing aspect. Be proud of yourself every day that you took charge of your life and made it better!

  11. Mary says:

    I had to shed (pun intended) a few tears when I read your story. Mine is similar, except the break-up was with my employer of twenty-six years. And I sold my lakefront condo to move into my clam shack, which I had bought for vacations. It is located in the trailer section of an upscale tourist town.

    My cabin is not in a rental park. The area was platted for clam diggers to park their trailers and originally no residence was allowed. But then a city was formed and the mistakes they made resulted in the unusual circumstance that now residence is okay, even in a travel trailer(!) on these private properties. And my cabin is protected by a non-conforming structure law.

    It has been a challenge to get used to the people who come to live in this neighborhood, and the business climate is marginal due to the snobby nature of the retired big-house dwellers who dominate the voting. They would prefer that everyone else simply go away.

    But my pup and I can walk to everything, inluding the beach, and my little estate holds all my toys (though it is a puzzle), and it is all mine. And I love the tourist atmosphere! The Harley event is here this weekend and the music and motor noise is invigorating!

    Thanks for your story. I sooooo identify with each step of your progress.

  12. Lisa says:

    It is a wonderful thing to see three lives have a new beginning!

  13. Hi Rebecca,
    Wow, Lady! You did an amazing job! I’ve found myself in a similar situation. Starting over at 57. Never planned for my future, thought it was already planned. lol
    Your reno has me dreaming of doing the same. Thank you for your inspiration and willingness to share.
    Do you mind sharing info? What is the size of your trailer. What is a realistic reno budget? You are my inspiration. I plan to hit the parks next and do drive throughs, looking for “For Sale” signs.
    Again, thanks a mil and may God Bless all you set your hands to in your new journey.
    JA

    • Sorry, Jerrell, I replied to the wrong spot. But this is what I was saying….

      Thank you!! My trailer is 10×50, which in actuality means about 450 square feet of living space. I paid $5,000 for my trailer, but could have found one cheaper – I have a few friends who have found some major fixer-uppers for free. But I was on a very tight time-frame. And I put about $5,000 in renovations into the trailer and yard over the following year.
      I hope everything goes well for your new, fresh start!

      • Thank you for sharing all you wrote. It’s exciting to know it is attainable. My family thinks I’m crazy, but looking for a vintage trailer to redo feels right. It feels like home and I haven’t even found it yet. lol
        Who knows, maybe I’ll purchase some land outside Houston and start a Vintage Trailer park?
        I know it will take a while for our hearts to heal, but truly…. the whole world is our oyster!
        My best to you!

    • janice says:

      I have been amazed at this…at 58 I have been going thru a divorce for the last 2 1/2 yrs from a very abusive marriage of 40 yrs. I just picked up & left Christmas eve 2009 with a change of clothes, a few of my rescue dogs & $20 in my wallet, leaving my husband living in our 5 bedroom home we have lived in for the last 33 yrs. I was never “allowed” to work outside the home, so I find myself with very little income, even though I have court ordered alimony which he rarely pays, a serious heart condition which is as my cardioligist told me, will eventually have a valve replaced on the left side of my heart. So far in 2012 he has not even payed what equals to 1 month (works out to about $150 a month). I have been living between my Mom’s & 2 of my 4 grown children who live states away. I am telling you all this to let you know how dire my circumstances have been for the last few years. A few yrs ago after deciding a tiny house would be perfect for me but coming face to face with the fact that even though my body use to tackle anything my mind wanted to do…my body is no longer capable of doing all the things I use to do. The more looking & reading I did, I eventually ran across people who had renovated different vintage campers & mobile homes, etc & made them their homes. I decided I wanted to find a larger Spartan that was made to be hooked up to electricity & sewer, not the ones that were towed around. I have been searching constantly…every time I found one that I felt like I could scrape $$ together for, it would be too far away or in terrible shape…if it was in decent shape, I could never come up with the money. Today that long search ended…I just this afternoon paid for a 1957 Spartan Executive Manor with money I scraped together by selling every piece of jewelry I owned except a ring & necklace my deceased Dad gave me growing up. I have $40 to my name right now but after the long search I have the title to my future home, which for the first time in my life at 58 will be something I own (my husband never let my name be on anything we had). I found it on Craigslist for $2000 but I have seen them a lot cheaper, just not near me. I looked not only there but lots of other sites that sell vintage trailers/mobile homes, local papers, facebook pages that list vintage trailers & Ebay…how I found mine is by using “searchtempest” which lets you search all of Craigslist. Sometimes even on the free section of craigslist.

      I’ve fallen a long way from living in a huge home, having 4 children all go to private school, driving nice cars, being members at the country club…the price I had to pay for living that kind of life was emotional, mental, physical & sexual abuse, a life of being completely controlled…a price I could no longer afford to or was willing to pay. I finally had the strength to stay gone this time when I left…it only took me 40 years. I am miserable most of the time but still have a lot of hope that somehow things will work out. Now to figure out how how to afford to renovate & somewhere to put her that I can live with.

      Reading about Rebecca’s experience & all the comments makes you realize all though you feel alone in your life story…there are many out there with a story similar to your own. Too bad we do not live close to each other to form a nice “trailer park”…one that defies in every way the stereotype of trailer park. Rebecca your home is beautiful & you can tell by the pictures it is a pure labor of love. Thanks so much for the inspiration ;)

      • Helen says:

        Janice, I just read your story and want to congratulate you on your new beginning. May your next 40 year bring you only joy and happiness. You’re an inspiration to many I’m sure. Much luck in all you do…

  14. Alberta says:

    love the glass sink in the bathroom. Classy, way beyond …

  15. dew says:

    Excellent.

  16. Thank you!! My trailer is 10×50, which in actuality means about 450 square feet of living space. I paid $5,000 for my trailer, but could have found one cheaper – I have a few friends who have found some major fixer-uppers for free. But I was on a very tight time-frame. And I put about $5,000 in renovations into the trailer and yard over the following year.
    I hope everything goes well for your new, fresh start! :)

  17. Beatrice Jade says:

    This story made me tear up for two reasons. First, life can be so obnoxiously unfair and unpredictable and it’s a beautiful event when someone powers thru it. Second, it’s wonderful to hear about folks realizing the simple life, the simple pleasures, and debunking stigmas that go along with it. There is so much more to life when we have less. Thank you for sharing, truly inspirational.

  18. Tanya says:

    I love it. You did an amazing job!! Love the 50′s pink. You should be very proud of yourself.

  19. Madhuri says:

    Rebecca,

    Beautiful story and home! Thanks for sharing with us!

    Blessings,
    Madhu

  20. Jim says:

    I love what you have do with your place. I would be very proud of it too.

  21. Fiona says:

    This is truly inspirational. The only trailer I managed to find in the UK was on a park where animals were not permitted. No thanks!
    Great job on this: hope you have happy times there, good luck with the hydrangea on the porch, I love those plants.

  22. Lisa says:

    I don’t know you Ms. Rebecca Knabe, but i’m very proud of you… you are proof that as the saying goes, “You can’t keep a good woman down!”

    Many blessings to you girlfriend!

  23. Stephanie says:

    Our stories are so similar, and I recently moved back to the city I call home. I bought a “trailer” in a mobile home park on a FABULOUS river path. It’s so convenient to everything, I’m back into riding my bike and walking everywhere! I don’t feel comfortable telling everyone that I live in a “trailer park”, but I’ve felt a wonderful sense of community here. Quality of life is what I’m after and I LOVE my single-wide! Congratulations for taking that big step…you’re definitely on the mend!

  24. Keith says:

    Love the trailer and the story. Never knew that style of decor was possible. Very nice! I’m still kicking myself for passing on a 1957 Spartan Executive, in excellent shape, for $2500!

  25. Dustie says:

    Oh my, this is wonderful. The way it shows love and comfort. I also lived in a 10 by 55 years ago, and now wish I had it back. I will have to do some looking for a trailer myself, and see what I can find. As I am also 58 soon to be 59, and health keeps me from doing what I want, but when I set my mind to it, I get small things done, and then repent the next day in pain, but oh to live like you do and so lovely, yes I can say I will live in a trailer again. Great going girl!

  26. Bob D says:

    Hi,

    I love what you did with your home. It looks so neat and inviting. And you have decorated it beautifully. I would love to have a home just like it about five blocks from the beach in West Florida.

    I am inspired by your courage and fortitude. I wish you the very best going forward.

  27. nancy says:

    Nothing new to me about tiny homes. When I came home from the hospital, my crib was in a 2-story Stewart trailer. It was a 8′wide x 40 foot unit. For its time, it was HUGE. My brothers’ bunks were over each of the downstairs rear wheels; my parents bedroom was at the top of the stairs. My crib was in a short loft half-way up the stairs. It even had a built-in china corner cabinet and a front-loading washing machine. Yes, that’s right, a family of 5 in an 8 x 40. It can be done. Mobile homes shortly after WWII were towed by the homeowners with pick-up trucks or large cars, much like we do travel trailers today.

  28. Alexa says:

    How wonderful Rebecca! I am healing from a divorce and working towards a four year plan to build a beautiful small house about the size of yours and have the financial freedom to save more and travel. It’s just my dog and I and I can relate to your story. It’s stories like yours that keep me motivated. I was trying to read it to my dad and got choked up and he had to finish. I’m so happy for you. You’re little piece of heaven is beautiful.

  29. Winrose says:

    Love it, all the best.

  30. Amy Leigh says:

    I love your story. I have a very similiar story. Congrats on your healing. Congrats on mine too! If I knew of a pink trailer, I would move too!

  31. Just wondering if you’ve heard of this website, a pretty complete index of older mobile homes? you might even find yours. See:

    http://www.allmanufacturedhomes.com/html/vintage_mobile_homes.htm

    • alice h says:

      Excellent resource! Love the 1954 Ventoura with loft!

      • Alice, I actually know where a 1954 Ventoura is located. Just about a mile from me. Went inside once and could not believe the creative use of space and different levels. The “upstairs” bedrooms are small, just enough room for the bed. Really cool.

  32. Jack Stub says:

    I love this post, the story and the power of humanity to heal through simplifying. Uplifting!

    Great story, and what an absolutely great looking home. Not just a house, but a home.

    Keep on healing, keep on growing. Peace.

  33. jim says:

    Good for you! Simpler can be better. Unfetered os better.

  34. Your attitude is as beautiful as your home. Good for you!

  35. bill says:

    Good for you…Best Regards

  36. Tim says:

    way to go. I am currently looking at getting a vintage spartan trailer and doing the same thing. Way to go as I am sure you have heard over and over again

  37. john says:

    Economic necessity is what detractors see as the only reason to ‘end up’ in a trailer…so let’s flip that for a moment…
    It’s reducing your housing costs by 2/3 or more…giving you loads of discretionary income or cutting your required work hours giving you a lot more freedom.
    It makes you ‘green’ in that you no longer have need for the massive utilities required to run a 2500 sq. ft. home.
    You no longer have a 30 year indenture/mortgage with a bank…those corrupt, greedy money lenders who took bail out money from the federal government…making you a rebel against corporate greed and mismanagement.

    In all you come across as a totally cool, green, hip chic who has loads more spendable money, and freedom from a corrupted system, and you’re part of the hottest trend in America in the Tiny House movement…wow…
    Start saving money and in no time at all you’ll become the most independent and secure person at your high school reunion.

    There’s a new kind of cool in this country…and they don’t drive foreign luxury cars, or live in big homes…we don’t have mortgages…we are independent of the economy…We are the ‘Tiny Revolution’!

  38. I am so glad I ran across your post. I need to move into an old fifth wheel I own. It is a mess and I really did not have much hopes to be able to ever make it nice enough to not be depressing. But you have totally encouraged me by what you’ve accomplished. I am not real sure where to start (ceiling, floor, cabinets???). But I at least have hope that it will look nice and liveable when I’m done. thank you again.

  39. D'Silva says:

    Survival of the fittest, I must say! I loove your success story. Your trailer is absolutely beautiful! Inspired!!! I’m in the process of getting a small trailer myself to have the flexibility to go where there is work. It’s been a challenge finding work at times at my hometown, so having a small trailer will give me the opportunity to work anywhere.

  40. patti murphy says:

    Your home is beautiful, you have done a wonderful job. You should be very proud of it. Best of luck to you sweetie, you deserve to be the happiest you can be. We have sold our house and contents and will be travelling fulltime in our motorhome and when we quit we will find a piece of land and live in our motorhome. It really is all we need.

  41. Darlene says:

    Well you have made my day and night and I just can’t thank you enough for showing us and telling us how you made this trailer into your beautiful home. My husband and I never dreamed we would be living in our 20 year old motor home in what is called our “Golden Years”. I have to say it hasn’t been easy my husband’s health is not great and it can be depressing thinking we are in this situation after working all these years. After reading your story and looking at your trailer it has made me realize that some ideas I have had to do things around her differently could really make this a home. A motor home has a lot of loss space in front but by removing the passenger seat and using some low privacy bi folds plus some other ideas I have this could turn what is an old motor home into a very pretty little house for us and for one of us when the other has passed on. We do not drive it and its worth less in value than what we owe so why not make it ours in all aspects. I can not thank you enough it has given me a chance to look at our place in a whole different way.

  42. Wendy B says:

    The best part – no mortgage! You are FREE to do whatever you want to do & I hope you pursue every.single.minute of it! Congrats!

  43. Joanna says:

    Awesome- love the camper and love how you have done it over!

  44. Mary says:

    You are an inspiration and i thank you! I appreciate your willingness to share your life with us! As overcomers We are so fortunate to have been able to walk away and to own our trailer homes (many thanks to JOHN for pointing this out in his response) i realize now that if i change my perspectivei can be perfectly content!! Thank you and God bless!!!!!????

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