The last couple of years have been all about simplifying life. So, why would I seemingly make things difficult by choosing to live in an RV with chronic illness? How does life in an RV, when you are chronically ill, equate to a more simple life? How does any life in an RV make things more simple?
These are all questions I’ve asked myself these last few months even as I’ve planned this transition. I really didn’t know what to expect. I was scared of what the reality of this choice might mean. Would I even be able to manage it?
Being able to travel the country in an RV has been my dream for years. I always thought it was something I might be able to do when I retire, but not before. Then it hit me, why do I have to wait? I don’t have a job I have to show up for. I don’t have to be anywhere in particular. All I need is an internet connection, and those are plentiful. I can do this now.
Not only can I do this now, but I want to do this now. Living with chronic illness, you never know what life will throw your way. The idea of waiting to live a dream just doesn’t make sense if you can live it now. I may not be physically able to live this dream later, but I am able to do so now.
So, let’s make it happen.
My original plan was to do this solo. I’d considered a Class C or a Class A RV (where your vehicle and “house” are all in one) as that felt the safest and easiest for me to handle on my own. As I began dating my boyfriend I shared this dream with him and he got excited as it was something he wanted to do as well. We began planning to do this together and that opened up a lot of possibilities.
Last week, we drove from North Alabama to South Florida to pick up a 2015 5th Wheel. My guy already had a truck that we used to pull it home, stopping at several places along the way. We took our time and planned the trip in a way that we felt wouldn’t be too stressful.
We did well. We planned each leg of our journey so that it would not be more than four to six hours. Google Maps usually said four, but stops usually made it closer to six (except for that one leg where I magically only had to stop and pee once).
Life in an RV with chronic illness
Life on the road in an RV definitely has some challenges. It is a process every time we move to a different location. Over the course of the first week with the RV we stayed in four RV parks/campgrounds. Sometimes we only stopped for a single night, but usually we stayed two or more. We made a vacation out of the return trip, stopping for a few days at the beach.
Our last stop was at an RV park just a few minutes from our current home, where we stayed for two nights. The one full day we were there, I spent resting. I needed it. I was done.
The next morning I was able to get up and do my portion of the breakdown, including cleaning the “house” and readying the inside for departure. Cleaning isn’t much of a chore when you are only dealing with 400 square feet. I can clean that whole house in the time it takes me to clean the kitchen in a regular house.
I know there will be struggle days. There will be days where my guy will have to pick up the slack and help out a bit inside. Or, where I don’t get the house cleaned as well as I’d like. There will be days when I don’t really get to enjoy our location because I’m just not feeling up to it. But, that’s OK. What’s important is that I’m living.
As we returned to the house, I realized just how much a smaller space and less stuff affects me for the good. Looking around at all the square footage in the house, all I see are things. Things that need to be cleaned. Things we need to get rid of. Things that are there just to fill space.
I think back to just how good it felt when I was readying my house to sell and getting rid of things. The ability to look around and see so few things. I actually appreciated that house the most in those last few weeks and months when it was almost empty.
Living in an RV will be a constant learning process. We learned so much in the last week already. I do have a few tips from this last week that I believe could have helped me in a larger house, and might help you as well.
Get a lightweight cordless vacuum
I’ve never enjoyed cleaning floors. I’ve never enjoyed cleaning period. But, I do like to keep things nice. So, starting with something that was already nice makes me want to keep it that way. So, one of the first purchases I made for the RV was a vacuum.
I’ve never been so excited about a vacuum as I was to buy a lightweight Dyson stick vacuum for the RV. It’s cordless. It comes with a charging base that keeps it charged when not in use. And, it has great suction. So great that I was able to confirm that the previous owners of my RV had at least one pet.
This thing is so light and so easy to use. I can vacuum the whole RV in about 10 minutes (carpets and tile). Being so easy to use, means that I actually use it just about every day and it doesn’t bother me.
Have only what you need
We didn’t have a lot of room on our trip down to Florida. We didn’t want anything in the back of the truck since we’d be spending a couple of nights at hotels. So, we “made do” a lot. In doing so, we realized just how little we really need.
There’s no need to have a half dozen plates or glasses. One for each of us enough. Same with pots and pans. A cast iron skillet and a pot to boil in/ cook soup, etc.
All those extra things just pile up and fill space. Too often we think things will make us happy when really they bring us down. I spent so many years trying to fill a void by buying stuff. Stuff, I didn’t need.
Fewer things around you, mean fewer things to clean. Less clutter means less stress.
Wash as you go
I normally hate washing dishes. I’ve gotten spoiled to having a dishwasher and even then I hate having to load and unload it. However, after a few weeks in the camper I’m finding hand-washing dishes isn’t so bad. At least it’s not as long as you keep up with it.
This goes hand in hand with having only what you need. When you only have a few dishes (we have just two plates, two bowls, a few cups, and a 2 of each type of silverware), you have to wash after each meal. But, that’s so easy when it’s just a couple of items. It takes just a minute to go ahead and wash it and then it’s sitting there in the drying rack, clean and ready to use the next time you need them.
Keep what matters
Living a minimalist life isn’t about getting rid of everything. It’s about having what you need, and what matters most. There are things we may not need but that matter. At that top of that list should be people. There are other things as well.
We’re still figuring out exactly where Ollie’s necessities will go. But, we know he’s a necessity. Thankfully, I’ve shifted to digital books or I know I’d be struggling to find ways to fit them in as well.
Two shows on Netflix have been great inspirations on helping me rethink this idea of minimalism and living in a small space. Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is all about keeping what brings you joy. While Tiny House Nation is all about focusing on the important things in life and finding ways to keep them close even in a tiny space. Both are worth watching if you want to think about how reducing your stuff could help you reduce your stress.
Stress is a major factor with chronic illness. Any way that we can reduce stress is good for us. That may mean getting rid of stuff… it can also mean removing people from our lives. The key is that we do have control over stress, we just have to choose to move away from it as much as we can.
By the way, I’ve started a new blog about my RV journey. If you’d like to follow that side of my life you can do so at RVwith.US.