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Small Houses, Tiny Apartments, RV Living: The Benefits of Raising Kids in Small Spaces

February 22, 2015

You can’t raise a family of six in a small city apartment.  Each child needs his/her own bedroom. Parents shouldn’t have kids if they can’t afford a big apartment or house.  You can’t raise a child in a condo. It’s impossible to live full-time in an RV with children. Suburbs exist for raising kids. Kids need their own backyard so they can run and play. You can’t possibly squeeze three pint-sized preschoolers into one hotel bed.  If you can afford a big house, that’s what you should have–or want–for your kids. Living in small spaces is cruel to children.

There’s probably only one place in the world I can imagine these words being spoken to parents, by family and strangers:  The United States of America.  That’s the only place I’ve heard these words spoken (or have read them), with the exception of a hotel in Spain.  The only place where I’ve been judged for not wanting more space.

I’m lucky, by most standards.  I have a choice of where to live.  I have ‘plenty’ of space to raise my children, by my standards (though some think my 2000+ square foot house is small). I’ve raised my babies or spent ample amount of time raising them in a large farmhouse, a condo, a three-level house, a tiny city apartment, a suburban ‘MacMansion,’ and various apartments and hotels dotting the map.

Other families aren’t so lucky.  They don’t have a choice.  Some US families must jam several children into a shared bedroom, and mom and dad (or just mom or dad) take the couch.  Some kids grow up sleeping in the living room that they also share with mom, dad and maybe grandma or other extended family members–and maybe the family cat.

Only in the US do people get twitchy thinking about whether small family living is cruel.  In our hyper-liability, safety, and self-focused culture, people get revved up over occupancy standards and noise, and hung up on their own notions of how much space other people need, unfortunately sometimes to the point where parents worry about neighbors or landlords calling social services or getting evicted.

Just take a guess at how many European or Asian apartments would not live up to US space standards?  Hmmm….I’m guessing a good chunk of apartments in Paris wouldn’t meet US occupancy codes for space vs. family numbers or US social standards.  Probably not the one my kids and I lived in for a month.  I’m guessing tiny apartments in Tokyo that large families have creatively designed to accommodate multiple children wouldn’t meet US codes or social standards either.  I’m guessing the custom designed 667 Sq. foot tiny houses in Sweden wouldn’t fly compared to US city standards.  And, nope, not those small huts where families of 12 live together in third world countries, either.

Small Space Living and Simple Living is a Growing Choice 

Families have lived in small spaces throughout history and around the globe.  Think caves. Huts. Laura Ingalls (House in the Big Woods). Tents. City apartments. Country cabins. Mobile homes.  RVs. Tiny houses on wheels.

But small space living and simple living is a growing choice among families.  For many, it’s a lifestyle.  For others, it’s purely economics.  Still for others, it’s a decision to reject the mainstream view of how families must live and a way to purposefully live their own authentic, self-defined lives.

The Benefits of Tiny, Small Space Living

1.  Smaller Space Means Less Stuff.  Less stuff means more room to appreciate the important stuff–the ‘stuff’ that really matters.  Family time.  Each other. Learning. Creativity.  Experiences.  When you live in a small space, you don’t have room for excessive materialism.  There’s just not space to keep buying and storing stuff.

2.  Simple Living Can Make You Healthier.  Studies suggest that materialism can be linked to poor health. People who live more simply often live healthier.  Don’t think it’s true?  Dare yourself to do a purge of your closet, drawers, or whole house.  Dare yourself to get rid of (or donate) 10 things.  25 things. 100 things. There is something psychologically (even physically–like breathing easier) freeing and restorative to getting rid of clutter.  Less stuff can help you chill out.  Actually, relax.  Small living also means you get outside more often, which means more exercise.

3.  Relationships Rock.  My kids are the very best of friends.  Sure, it could be because we homeschool or the way I/we parent, but I think sharing space has a lot to do with it.  Sure, going from lots of space to less could be challenging initially if you are downsizing, but small space living requires better communication skills and patience–lots of togetherness! The world needs more of that, right?  Could there possibly be a better way to really know your kids and/or significant other?  As a parent, a small space means you know your family WELL.

4.  Simple Living Can Help Your Budget.  Simple living can stretch out your budget and allow you to save.  Many families are turning to Full-time RV living as a way to not only homeschool their kids on the go, but to also ditch their sticks and bricks houses (and all the expenses that go with owning a house).  Others are rejecting the idea that they must move to a big house in the suburbs and keeping their pre-children apartment and raising their kids in the city–note what appears to be an uptick of families in previously ‘child-less’ areas or buildings of Manhattan.  Small living is a great way to finance travel and bigger life dreams.      

5.  Living Small Can be Eco-Conscious Living.  Want to save the planet or leave it better for the 7th Generation?  Yep, tiny living might be the way to go.  Talk about reducing your carbon footprint.  Smaller heating bills.  Less stuff.  Smaller packaging.  More conscious spending.  It’s all good.

6.  Small Living with Kids Means You Know Where to Find the Best Playgrounds and Hotspots.  Parents who live in small spaces might just be the leading experts in the neighborhood on the best playgrounds–because they get out often to let their kids roam and play.  They may also know the best coffee shops or restaurants with play areas, kids spaces or menus.  They may also know all the best meet-ups and kid spots in town, and how to find great babysitters (small spaces mean date nights become even more important).

7.  Small Living Means Uber Creativity.  If there’s one way to encourage or foster creativity in children, small space living is the key.  Whether figuring out how to organize space with IKEA storage containers or building a bunkhouse in a Class A RV, small living means kids grow up with a front row seat to creativity.

Chelsea-Home-Twin-Triple-Bunk-Bed

Creative Triple Bunk Solution found on Wayfair.com

 

You can raise a family in a small space.  Successfully.  Happily.  Safely.  Peacefully.  Without losing your mind.  Just ignore the crazy talk.    

Blog Financing Travel RV'ing 50 States USA

How Do You Afford Roadschool Travel Adventures?

February 5, 2015
Many homeschooling families are already stretching the limits of their family budgets just for ordinary living expenses.  Forget budgeting for family travel–that often seems impossible, especially when one parent decides to stay home or opt outs of full-time employment to homeschool.

afford roadschooling

A couple of years ago, on another blog, I wrote that statement in a post about how to finance roadschool adventures.

Since then, I’ve spent even more time planning roadschooling, worldschooling, and wanderschooling (or whatever word you prefer for mobile/travel focused schooling) homeschool adventures, and obsessing about finances.  In two short years, I’ve also discovered that LOTS, and I mean LOTS of families (many more than I originally realized) have found or are finding clever ways to finance flexible, homeschool travel adventures.  These families include those listed on Families on the Road (FOTR) and full-time, on-the-go RV families such as those who are members of Fulltime Families.

The simple truth that many of these families have realized is that you don’t have to have a trust fund, be independently wealthy, win the lottery, or stumble upon a jackpot of luck to finance a flexible, homeschool/travel adventure or lifestyle.  Certainly, it helps to have a sweet travel nest egg and a portable lifestyle already in place, such as a spouse who is self-employed, teleworks, or who can commute home for the weekends to join you and the family in cool locations on the road, but that’s a dreamy situation for many families who hope to one day get on the road.  Some families have actually discovered that roadschooling, whether via fulltime RVing or renting apartments in various states or countries is significantly cheaper than living an ordinary lifestyle in a sticks and bricks house.

How to Afford the Roadschool Homeschool ‘Dream’

The stories of those who have made traveling the country, continent, or world while homeschooling their children possible share at least one thing in common:  they didn’t wait to make what they wanted most happen!  Whether married, single moms, single dads, or married ‘single’ solo parents who travel sans spouse, those who wanted the roadschool adventure/lifestyle stopped waiting around, figured out what they wanted most, started planning, and made their roadschooling travel lifestyle a reality.

Here’s How…

1.  Figure Out What YOU Want.  What is your dream for your family?  How do you envision your children’s education?  What do you want them to remember most about their childhood?  What kind of lifestyle do you want?  Are you looking to escape your life, make it over, or do you simply long to follow that inner seed of wanderlust?  Does your spouse or partner share your vision?

2.   Define Your Dream.  Ask yourself the hard (or perhaps they aren’t so difficult) questions.  Where do you want to go with your family?  Do you want to take your family on a six month long RV trip across Canada or the United States–or perhaps a full-time, open-ended RV adventure?  Do you want to hike the Colorado Trail?  Do you want to spend time in every European country?  Do you want to walk or ride a bike across the United States? Do you want to visit all the continents?  You have to define and map out your dream.  A clear idea of what you want and where you’re headed will help you prioritize your finances and ultimately get you to where you want to go.

3. Redefine Lucky:  Roadschooling Is A Decision, Not A Stroke Of Luck.  Just as you made a decision to homeschool your child or children (or made any other important decision for your child or family if you are not already homeschooling), view your dream for a roadschooling adventure as a decision.  Though many will suggest or make comments, if and when you share your travel dreams or plans, that you are lucky to be able to roadschool or travel or to even entertain the possibility, keep in mind that it’s not the “lucky ducks” who get to take their families on roadschool or flexible travel adventures.  Smart, savvy families who make thoughtful choices and decisions about their family’s educational and lifestyle objectives can roadschool their kids and travel.

So, stop hoping that you can travel someday, or wishing on the first star you see each night…decide today to make your roadschooling/travel dream happen!Travel

4.  Map It Out.  Research, research, research!  If you already have Internet access, you don’t have to spend a dime to research how to implement your dream.  Write down your plan.   Figure out how much money you need.  Figure out what you will need to do to get there.  If you have to sell the house in order to buy an RV that will allow you to travel for the next two years around the country, sell the house! Map out everything you can.  Estimate how much everything will cost–whether it’s airline tickets, Thousand Trail campground membership, rent for a villa in Spain, fuel costs for the boat trip.  Keep a notebook, journal or file on your computer to store your research and notes, and/or to track your financial strategy.  Arm yourself with knowledge so you can make well reasoned, smart decisions about your travel dreams and finances that will get you out the door.

If a flexible job will make your dream happen faster, approach your employer about flexible work options or start applying for new jobs that will allow you to adopt a portable lifestyle.  Flexjobs offers listings of telework possibilites that might allow you to work on the go.  If you’re thinking about RV living, look into workamping, or campground work opportunities that allow you to work for money or in exchange for free rent or propane.

Bonus:  the more planning you do, the more committed you may become to your dream…and the more committed you find yourself, means the more likely your dream will happen!

5.  Establish A Roadschool-Homeschool Travel Savings Account.  This is your travel lifestyle account.  It’s off limits for anything else.  It’s untouchable until it’s time to book flights, make reservations, buy the travel trailer, book the campground or hotel, rent the apartment in Italy, etc.  You’ll put in every penny you find and every extra cent you can manage into this account until you reach your travel financial goal.  Tip:  for those who find themselves consistently coming up short on change, come up with a clever way to build the fund.  Keep reading for ideas.

6. Cut Expenses.  Ditch Non-Necessities.  G-G-G-Gone!   This is the part people freak out about.  But, but, but…I can’t live without Starbucks!   Wait! I need cable TV and that cell phone family plan with all the bells and whistles!

Snip, snip time, dreamers!  It’s time to set you apart as a doer–no longer a dreamer.  Cut out whatever you can from your budget, big or small.  Do you really need that package for unlimited text messaging?  Can you downgrade your phone plan?  Can you wait an hour before checking out from the online store or go for a walk around the block before making that brick-and-mortar store purchase…just to clear your head and think briefly about whether you really need what you’re about to buy?  Can you commit to buying NOTHING (besides food) for a week?  What about two weeks?  A month?  Can you hold off on buying a new vehicle for a bit longer?  Can you sell your second car?  Do you even need a car?  Can you skip that weekend away from home and save the cash toward your grand travel plan, and instead enjoy a staycation at home?

7.  Coupon ‘Till You Can Clip No More.  Couponing is chic.  It’s practically a sport these days.  You can save tons of money by couponing and filling your pantry with deals (on stuff you’ll use…no unnecessary hoarding!) AHEAD of time, before you run out of or need to buy a particular item.  An hour or two of couponing a week, using online coupon and deal sites, can easily slash 30-60% off your weekly grocery bill.  That’s a lot of savings!  Oh, in case you’re thinking that coupons are only good for use on junk food, think again.  You can get your hands on healthy, green coupons, too.

8.  Reject Consumerism.  Strive for Simplicity.  If you really think about it, what’s the point of keeping up with the Jones’?  Overspending = unnecessary stuff = debt = stress = delayed dreams = lack of true meaning = unhappiness.  Doesn’t sound all that cool, don’t you think. Do you really need another pair of shoes?  The next time you’re in the mall, think about this…most of the products displayed for sale will end up in a landfill in a matter of years, if not sooner.  Your travel memories and moments with your family will last forever.

9.  Adopt That Heathier Lifestyle.  While you’re on the pursuing your travel dreams kick, you may as well toss in a healthier lifestyle in the mix.  After all, you want to be healthy and alive and kicking when it’s time to embark on your carefully crafted travel plan.  A healthier lifestyle can also save you money.  You don’t need fancy health club memberships to get healthy.  Quite simply, a pair of running shoes or sturdy walking shoes alone can lead you toward losing weight, eating better (and eating less), preparing better meals from less processed ingredients (e.g., fresh vegetables that you could grow from a garden), and right into potential money savings.  Of course, adopting a healthier lifestyle may also mean ditching expensive habits that can free up more cash for your travel/lifestyle budget.  Bonus:  You’ll also look smokin’ hot in your fit body when you travel around the globe!

10.  Find Creative Ways To Make More Money.  There are many ways to make extra cash from home and on a limited schedule.  Do you have piles of outgrown children’s clothes?  Send clothes to ThredUP (you get a bag with a return paid mailer and you fill the bag with clothes and send it back to the company) or drop clothes off at a used clothing store like Once Upon a Child and get same-day cash for your clothes.  Send women’s clothes to Twice.  Sell your goods on eBay.  Sell your crafts on Etsy.  Sell your services on Fiverr.  Have a yard sale.  Start a part-time business.  Start a blog.  Help a neighbor run errands or with yard work.  Collect bottles and return them for cash. Maybe that means taking a walk before dinner every night with the kids (good for everyone’s health and wellness) and collecting every bottle you see on the road and putting the change from bottle redemption into savings.  The possibilities are endless.

11.  Stay Focused.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Stay focused on your dream.  Don’t give up.  Plaster reminders around your house.  Tape a photo of a dream travel destination to your car visor, so it helps you resist the urge to overspend when you’re out and about.  Believe that you can reach your roadschool travel adventure.  You’ll get there!

Are you a roadschooling, worldschooling, wanderschooling family?  How did you make your travel/lifestyle/educational dream happen?