Four years is a relatively long time. It’s enough time to graduate from college, or give birth to two separate elephants (although I would only recommend this if you were an actual elephant). It is also the length of time I’ve lived in the pink trailer. And that is the longest I have lived in any home, other than the one in which I grew up.
There have been ups and downs in my little portable palace, but overall, it’s been a good time. And it has been a great life lesson. Here is what I’ve learned:
Less is more. Living in a tiny space forces you to keep only essentials. This means I have fewer clothes, shoes, keepsakes, mementos, and furniture. But it also means that the things I do have, I love! It is very satisfying to love all the things you see in your home. And when you fall out of love with a certain item, or curtain, or whatever it may be, then you can replace it with a new love.
Don’t always feel like you deserve better. I’m not taking about sociological or psychological behavior – of course nobody deserves to be abused or anything like that. What I’m talking about is the way advertisers love to tell you, “You deserve the best!” “You’re worth it!” “Get the ____________ that you deserve.” These slogans are out there, not to remind you that as a human you should hold your head up high and realize you are special, but to sell you crap you don’t need. To make you believe your life will be better if you have newer things, a faster car, a bigger house. But all these things often just lead to a larger debt. So if piles of bills is your thing, then by all means, you deserve to go and max out your credit cards. But if a happy life is your thing, realize that the size or grandiosity of your home is no reflection of what is in your heart.
Contentment is key. I have an uncle who is an atheist, and we were at lunch together a few years ago when the host prayed before the meal. One of the things he prayed for was to be content with what he had. Although he is non-religious, my uncle was very impressed with that thought, and decided to remind himself of that idea regularly. To be content. The desire to keep up materially and economically with those around you will literally drive you crazy. Learn to accept what you have, as well as your situation. Reuse your things, fix stuff that breaks, and feel the beauty that comes with feeling satisfied with what you have.
Keep your eye simple. This means don’t complicate your life with acquisitions. Yes, sometimes it would be really fun to own a boat and a quad and a dirt bike and a snowmobile and a…. But all those things need maintenance and time, and honestly, how much would I use them? It’s the same with a home – a guest bedroom would be great, and an extra room for a ping pong table, and a space for a big dining room table for large formal dinner parties, and a separate living room and family room which would be great for entertaining…. But, honestly, would the number of times a year I would have an out-of-town guest or a formal dinner party really be worth all the extra money I would have to pay for a place big enough to support those moments? For some people it would be worth it, but not for me.
Swallowing your pride isn’t as bad as you’d think. My neighbor, Natasha, and I were roommates long ago – back in the 20th century – and we often laugh about how our 20something selves would be horrified that our 30-40something selves are living in a trailer park. We were too proud. And we were too worried about what others may think. Now? We realize that choosing to live the way we do has nothing to do with being “trailer trash,” but how we want to spend our time and money. And it has a lot to do with our own creativity. It’s much easier (and takes way less time, money, and effort) to renovate and re-renovate a trailer than it would a stick-built home.
Success in life has nothing to do with stuff. I work at an estate planning law firm, and regularly meet with clients who have more stuff than they can list or remember. They are busy trying to decide who will get the stuff they’ve forgotten they have when they die. Sometimes they like to micro-manage their assets from the grave. Often they have a larger retirement account than they do a measure of happiness. And that is sad. Focus on your quality of life, rather than your quantity of stuff, and when you die those around you will be so sorry to see you go, rather than kinda excited at the prospect of inheriting your junk.
So that’s some of the stuff I’ve learned. A lot of it I knew, but putting it in action is much more monumental. And most of those points are generally related. Basically, be happy with what you have, don’t long for what you don’t. Live small.
Puffins are happy just hanging out. I should be too.