8 Unexpected Lessons I Learned from Living Alone in a Trailer
It's one thing to find inspiration for designing a room, an office space, or a yard – but what about a life? When the downsizing and purging movement swept the world not too long ago, a lot of people found themselves letting go of personal possessions that no longer sparked joy. Little did I know, I would have the opportunity to Marie Kondo my own life. The lessons that birthed from this experience have come to be more powerful than I ever expected.
Lesson 1: We don't always need what we think we want
It all started when I moved from a three-bedroom two-bath apartment near the beach to my 29-foot Jayco travel trailer that sleeps nine. Overnight, the decision to keep or throw out an item was based on one question: Do I need this item in my life? If it served no foundational purpose, it was donated or sold. The idea of wanting a tangible object grew silly in the face of desiring peace, freedom, and a way of life that avoided giving Amazon all of my money.
This naturally led to me spending less and saving more, making conscious choices about spending habits, and financially contributing to places I hadn’t before.
Lesson 2: A holistic ritual may be more productive than a rigid routine
The tough thing about really small spaces is that they feel small. Abiding by a daily ritual that speaks to the five senses expands this space and allows a rhythm to take place.
My rituals include the sound of an electric kettle boiling signaling morning coffee, a countertop diffuser pouring fresh, clean vapor into the air, and stretching my legs with a daily walk. I tried keeping a rigid routine (wake up at 7, work for four hours, take lunch at 11, etc) but it turns out that a more holistic approach better served my ability to be productive.
Lesson 3: Pets and plants can heighten a sense of purpose
It’s so easy to slip into a hypnotic state of scrolling or playing just one more episode, especially when there's no one else sharing your space to hold you accountable. I’ve found that having living, breathing things to take care of gets me off my butt. This looks like a collection of seven house plants perched on various surfaces of the trailer and a Russian Tortoise named Rosie. They won’t thrive if you aren’t thriving and having a greater sense of being responsible for the life of something gives you some skin in the game.
Lesson 4: It's okay to be alone
Say it louder for the extroverts. This one was hard for me to believe at first. If I found myself alone, I would do things out of boredom or a desire to fill my space and time, which turned out to be more harmful than healing. Alone time means time to connect with yourself. Time to make a nutritious mea, call your mom, or just dream about what you want your next year of life to look like. Yes, we need people (it's just part of our human makeup) but alone time can also be super beneficial for helping you go inward and dig deeper sans distractions.
Lesson 5: Responsibility is part of growing up.
As I transitioned from a house full of roommates to abiding in a space by myself, the reality of responsibility really kicked in. No one else was going to help me out with my dishes, refill my propane tanks, or clean my shower. These things wouldn’t happen if I wasn’t making them happen. It may sound obvious, but I believe that every person should take the opportunity to live alone if it’s presented to them purely to experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from taking care of your own space.
Lesson 6: It's on you to make your house (or trailer) a home
What sort of space do you want to find yourself experiencing life in? How do you want your guests to feel when they come over? I loved getting to the bottom of all of these questions. Creating rules for your home gives a sense of ownership to you and your guests no matter what sort of space you’re living in. I ask all my guests to take their shoes off at the door and have ample cozy blankets draped on various furniture so people feel welcome and at home.
Lesson 7: Put things away when you're done with them
In the words of Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc, “Put that thing back where it came from, or so help me…” If you don't, you're just going to have to do it later. And your space will get cluttered. And you’ll hate it.
If you think this lesson is pointless, check out this speech by U.S. Navy Admiral, William McRaven about how making your bed propels you into changing the world.
Lesson 8: Set boundaries
You get to decide who walks through the front door of your life. You decide who gets a front-row seat to your accomplishments, your life lessons, and your wisdom. Make your boundaries and abide in them, knowing they are for your own good just as much as for the good of those acquainted with you.