I sat in the recliner covered in spit up, nursing our two week old daughter while our son (who has multiple behavioral diagnosis) ran laps in the living room. I had cleaned up the same messes no less than twice that morning. I had been up four times in the night either nursing the baby or changing sheets for the four year old who just had night terrors. The mound of dishes threatened to create an avalanche with his T-Rex stomping in the kitchen.
That was the scene that was the backdrop to my epiphany.
I tearfully watched a marathon of episodes of Tiny House Hunters over a mountain range of unfolded clean clothes on our ottoman, thinking about how blissfully happy these people seemed while my son threw toys around the house and I did my best to keep our newborn daughter from waking up. While some tiny dwellers were hipster singles or ultra cool couples who probably used Uber and put Sriracha on everything, there were a few loely families going tiny. They were selling off their large four bedroom homes and trading their super sized mortgages for tiny life on the road. But how? How could we possibly afford to do that? Were they trust fund babies or those dads with black rimmed glasses who work at Google and sit and count their money in nap pods while they drink smoothies made of kale?
How could a spit-up covered mom on maternity leave from her thankless teaching career with a husband who had been working years at a dead end job just to make ends meet ever make this dream reality?
Naturally, I thought there had to be a way so I started secretly researching tiny living. It took a week of undercover CSI snooping before I revealed my plans to my husband. Most people who know us might describe us as unique or “hippie-ish”, but would he really go for living in 300 square feet or less with TWO kids? And, if you don’t know my kids, they are “those kids”. The ones screaming beside you in the checkout line or ruining your one night out at dinner without your own children. Yep. They are ours.
I gathered my research both on tiny houses and on the benefits of simplified living for kids with behavioral disorders and I pitched the idea to him. His response? “Let’s do it right now! Don’t you remember that I was going to live on a dilapidated houseboat and pull my truck on a barge behind it before I met you?!” (Sorry I ruined your killer plans. I thought and smiled.)
It took us a year to study, research, and purge our “stuff”. When all was said and done, we went through four major purges where we sold or gave away our things. We donated tons of bags of clothes, household items, toys, etc. And you know what? It was AWESOME! It’s like losing weight, only instead of people being secretly jealous of you, you were making other people happy by giving them things they wanted or needed. It was creating so much happiness and so much more room for us to move toward tiny living.
Fast forward thirteen months to the summer from hell. Spence had been dealing with some difficult situations at the job he had been working for over five years. It was making things incredibly challenging for our little family. This was a pivotal moment. We have made some very bizarre decisions in our eleven years together; many that no one else understood but we knew were right for us. This was it. No regrets.
We made phone calls, had our friends and family over, and let everyone know we were moving to Ohio and going tiny for a year. Spence quitting his job, us buying a camper, finding a family to host us on their land, and me accepting a job to make it all possible literally lined up in the course of one week. And in the week since we listed our four bedroom house and it was under contract within two days.
So, here we are, a year after I sat soaked in baby vomit and my own tears watching other people fulfill their big dreams of going tiny and now we are three months into our own journey. We are learning so much about RV living, about our new city, new adventures, and about what this will look like for our family. Everything that we packed is squeezed into all the nooks and crannies of our 36 foot fifth wheel camper and we are parked on the sweetest little farm close to hiking, climbing, and biking. We are near great churches, wonderful neighborhoods, delicious food, and stellar homeschool groups to encourage us as we brave our first year roadschooling our gifted, behaviorally challenged, crazy awesome little man.
We don’t know much but we do know that we won’t be the same after this year–and that is awesome.
We know we want to lead by example. We don’t want our kids to grow up afraid to take risks or unwilling to trust that God is faithful. We want our kids to run outside, get dirty, meet friends on the playground, serve others, dig for crawdads in creeks, and learn about rocks from climbing and exploring them…not just watching PowerPoints in a row of sterile desks surrounded by prison colored cement walls and the looming threat of standardized testing.
Being married is hard. Raising kids is hard. Parenting children with special needs is really hard. And, if I had to guess, most of us all think at one time or another that we are messing everything up. You’re not. I’m not. We make choices. We do the best we can. We teach our kids things along the way and hope they don’t end up with a lifetime of therapy bills because of it. Spence and I hope and pray that this choice is truly what will be best for our little family in our tiny corner of the world. And so far, it is the best decision we’ve ever made.
Brynn Burger lives tiny, loves big, and laughs always. Writing with honest hilarity and violent vulnerability about parenting, adulting, downsizing, living tiny, and raising an extreme child is her attempt to escape the painful isolation that comes from a life of hiding to instead connect with people who are raw and real. Check her out at www.themamaontherocks.com.