Six years ago, we lived in a camper.
When we moved from Wisconsin to Florida six years ago we moved into a 26 foot camper with our two daughters (ages 2&3) for several months while we looked for where we wanted to settle down. Five years later we did the same move in reverse, this time staying in a 29 foot camper for two months while house hunting. After both of those extended stays I never dreamed that I would find myself choosing to live in a camper with kids again – certainly not so soon. But here we are, the four of us tucked into a 24 foot camper for the duration of the summer. And I’m thrilled, because being here means that dreams are literally becoming true right before our eyes.
Finding our “dream” home.
You see, last summer we searched and searched for a home we could afford in a very specific location and school district. Of the few homes available in our price range, all had major structural issues that couldn’t be easily fixed or ignored. We were losing hope. After looking at our last possible option, we came upon a For Sale by Owner sign for a small (obviously) fixer-upper in a location I adored.
It was rough. Ugly, even.
But it was in the right location, and just a quarter mile off of a main road, but still 100% in the country. The setting felt like something out of Little House on the Prairie. We found out that the house, formerly converted from a town hall, had originally been a one room schoolhouse. With the setting and location and the history, I fell in love. Hard.
Even though the timing was short, we were able to move in.
By some not-so-small miracle, we were able to buy it and move in just weeks before school started. Shortly after, we were given the opportunity to buy a huge pole building on land that attached to our property. It took the rest of our savings – money we had planned on using to make repairs to the house – but we knew that in the long run we would never regret buying that additional property.
In the short term, though, it meant that the four of us and our cat would be living in an ugly, poorly insulated, 850 square foot space for (what turned out to be) a brutal Wisconsin winter.
We were able to make some initial renovations.
We did end up doing some fairly major demolition right away, removing the crooked, awkwardly placed side building that we called “the wart.” This housed the water heater and pressure tank and was nasty and ugly inside and out. Removing it was a major process as we had to have a well-driller come out and move the line from the well, under the extremely thick/deep/solid foundation and into the house. It was a big deal, but totally worth it in the long run!
After all of these renovations we ended up putting in over $5,000 in spray foam insulation, just to make the house liveable over the winter. We were so very glad we did, too. It was an extremely cold winter, with constant wind and multiple days of below-zero temps.
But we had also spent every last penny (and then some!) of the money we had set aside to fix the house. All winter long we’d look at the house around us and try to figure out how we would do the work that we needed to do, especially while living there. So many early mornings I would sit and stare at the space and pray for a miracle for us to be able to finish the renovations we envisioned.
We needed a miracle.
And then one day that miracle happened. The bank for one of our vehicle loans called and offered us a home equity line of credit – something we didn’t think was even possible due to the current condition of the home. The amount we were able to get was just what we needed to finish the majority of the main renovations we had planned for our home. It took almost a month to work out the details – but we used that time to finalize plans and brainstorm how we would be able to do such major work while living in the house
One night, we were sitting by the fire making plans and the thought popped into my head – “What if we could live in a camper on our property this summer and get the house done in one fell swoop.”
Living in a camper was the perfect solution!
It was the perfect answer, really. We could easily hook into water, sewer and electric at the house. There was infrastructure already in place for us to have a full size shower, washer/dryer, toilet and refrigerator in one almost-finished room of the house – we knew from experience that those amenities would make living in a camper (again!) much more doable.
Being out of the house would allow us to work much more efficiently on the huge renovation projects we had planned. (More on that soon!) We’d be able to get a demo dumpster which would save us from having to make a million runs to the dump (saving us time and money!) We’d be able to get building supplies delivered and quickly frame up rooms and put in a second floor. Other than having to live in a camper (something we knew we could do) there was no downside here.
We decided to just do it!
So, the first week of July we bought a 24 foot camper and moved it onto our property. We spent our first night there July 10th, and have completely moved out of the house – selling furniture that won’t work with the new floor plan, and moving everything else into storage.
Living in a camper isn’t easy, but it will be worth it.
It might not be my most favorite path – living in such a small space with kids is HARD – and this is the smallest camper we’ve lived in yet. But it’s the means to an end and an answer to prayer. Being able to work efficiently and not have to live in construction, while being able to finish our house this summer makes the whole experience worth it! THAT is why we’re living in a camper this summer.
Jamie Siebens is a freelance writer and owner of Always-an-Adventure.com, a blog focused on living intentionally and finding beauty in the everyday adventures of life. When she’s not behind a computer screen, you can find her with her husband and two daughters enjoying their current adventure – turning a former 1890’s one room schoolhouse and town hall into their cozy family home.