From My WindowIssue Date: October 4, 2018
Tiny Trailer Life
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
This week marks the 17th week my husband, our two big dogs and our four cats have been living in the camping trailer while our new home is built. The trailer is 16+ years old and about 200 square feet; but since the tiny kitchen, bathroom, dinette and beds occupy a lot of the floor space the trailer lives "smaller" than 200 unobstructed square feet. My guess is the floor space is something less than 100 feet. The average U.S. bathroom is 40 square feet, so that gives you an idea of our living space and that's if the two big dogs aren't lying in the middle of that floor like usual.
Obviously this is way better than nothing, or a tent, or a garage. We have all the real necessities of life and creature comforts besides. And we know that within a few weeks we will be able to move into our new home, giving us tolerance and patience.
It has utterly shocked me how easily both we and our pets adapted to this crowded living situation. The dogs have been camping, so the environment is not totally strange to them, but it's a whole new ballgame for the cats. Nonetheless, they've done well and our near-feral cat has actually become more social in a trailer lifestyle.
I am proud of the fact that despite these close quarters my spouse and I have done well. He retired just prior to our move into the trailer, so besides our tiny quarters we also adjusted to him being home full-time. I think a full winter in this little space might be a test, but we are both so happy to be back in Wisconsin our complaints are few.
But there are a couple of things I really miss, and these things surprised me.
The camper has a marginally-comfortable dinette and a small jackknife sofa. So there is upholstered seating, but I really miss my rocking chair. It has the best back support and the rocking is a comfort I am looking forward to.
The itty-bitty kitchen limits me. I ended up buying a crockpot but I also miss being able to use my wok. The oven doesn't work very well which restricts my ability to make a favorite dinner side dish " baked potatoes. I always make leaf-shaped colored cutout cookies in September, and this is the first year I will have missed since my kids were toddlers. And I am itching to make cabbage rolls but that's too big a mess to tackle in 18 inches of counter space.
Our only other challenge is that in such confined space, if one of us gets up, we all get up. I am a very early riser, so once I get up no matter how quiet I try to be all the pets rouse and the commotion makes it impossible for Mike to sleep. Once in a while it is him who wakes early; I must get up then because the pets insist on being fed and the dogs are anxious to be walked. No one but a dead person could sleep thorough that clamor.
These are all small things, and life always has small things.
But the main thing I have learned while calling the Tin Hilton home, is that "home" is a designation of my heart and my mind; and has nothing to do with the structure I inhabit. Homes can be small and cluttered; disordered and run down; a tiny studio apartment, or a sailboat. Home can be a massive mansion, a penthouse, or a camping trailer.
Home is that place that you find what you most need, whether it is a chaos of children coming and going; or a sanctuary of peace and quiet. It is where you have the people and things you love; or that space for you alone where you feel safe and free.
Home is where you live if it is the community where you were born or the foreign land you reside in for work. Home can be owned, rented, leased or borrowed.
I feel great sadness for those who are homeless. It must truly be one of the most unsettling, depressing ways to live. Not having a space of your own to retreat to is one of the most frightening things I can imagine; and my heart also goes out to the earth's millions of refugees, driven out of their homes by acts of nature or acts of man.
Our little tin structure is truly my home right now, and has been for months. And it is a perfectly satisfactory place for us. I am grateful for its shelter, and know I am truly blessed.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
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