Many people, myself included, choose RV life for the freedom, adventure, and spontaneity it affords.
We chase the possibilities of the open road ahead and seek to be closer to the great outdoors so we can play in nature.
But after living in an RV for over 8 years now, I can honestly say that living tiny has given me so many gifts beyond the freedom I initially sought when making this major life decision.
Is living in a tiny home worth it?
First, what are tiny homes? To me, living in a tiny house means any small dwelling, mobile or not. Some would say anything under 500 square feet qualifies as “tiny”.
It could be an RV, a campervan, a school bus, a boat, a yurt, or even a treehouse. The people who choose these alternative dwellings seem to all be adventurers and nature lovers of some sort.
And while RV life has certainly delivered adventure and access to the outdoors, it surprisingly has also given me so much more.
If you’re thinking about living tiny, it may stir up some fears in you. But I hope this round-up of the top seven hidden benefits of tiny living in an RV will help illustrate some of the perks you may not have yet considered.
It’s the ultimate Marie Kondo for your life
While crammed spaces are often complained about as a “con” of living in an RV, I actually think what the small space forces you to do is the ultimate “pro” of living tiny.
It forces you to have only the things you need or love. There’s literally no room for non-essential clutter.
We empty each storage bay, cupboard, and cabinet in our RV at least once a quarter, and take anything we no longer need or use to goodwill.
It’s all about learning to let go instead of desperately hanging on to all the “stuff” you possibly can to give you some warped sense of peace or comfort.
Living in a tiny space can inspire an ongoing “tidying up” of your life. And once you’ve really learned to let go and have pared down your possessions, you’ll experience how little you need to be happy.
You become a conscious consumer
Once you’ve found happiness with having less, you become an ultra-conscious consumer. I find that I think more seriously about each purchase because I don’t want to be weighed down by stuff.
We also have a rule that if we want to bring something new into the RV, something else has to come out of the RV.
Over time, I’ve definitely adopted a mindset of experiences over things. Much like the famous RV YouTubers Less Junk < More Journey, we’d rather have experiences together as a family, than have “more junk.”
And the extra benefit of buying less stuff is that you’ll save lots of money. Who doesn’t love that?
I recognize that there are RVs on the market today that cost more than my first “real” house did.
So let me just acknowledge that there are many ways to do RV life and it is possible to do it very expensively, as Todd and Julie experienced with their fast-paced life on the road.
That being said, it is possible for RV life to be your ticket to financial freedom. It was for me!
If you choose an RV that you can pay cash for, you won’t have any monthly payments to worry about, and you won’t be paying interest to the bank every month.
PLEASE, BUY YOUR TINY HOME WISELY
This is certainly the fastest way to save money. But if you don’t have enough cash to buy an RV outright, you can still choose one that will be a small monthly payment.
If financial freedom is your goal, try to get that monthly payment as low as you can. My highest monthly payment on an RV has been $300/mo.
Compared to renting anywhere in the US, this is pennies. Plus, your payments go toward you owning the RV (which you can then later sell) rather than toward rent which you have nothing to show for at the end of the lease term.
Without changing jobs or my income, I sold my house, paid cash for my RV, and couldn’t believe how liquid I was. What a relief to not be controlled by a mortgage payment, utility bills, and house repairs every month.
I started spending my money on travel, adventures, and experiences with my partner, and still had more money for savings at the end of the day.
In fact, in our first year of tiny living, we took a helicopter ride, skied across Canada, and spent a summer in Europe, all things we previously could not have afforded.
Strengthen your relationship
Your relationship will be strengthened if you’re traveling or living tiny with a significant other.
My partner and I have more time together to do the things we love because of our RV lifestyle. Simply removing commute time gives you at least an hour back in your day to spend together, if you choose to.
This is the positive side of living small together.
On the difficult side, there’s nowhere to hide. You can feel each other’s emotions build in the small space.
When there’s even the slightest discontent, the conversation has to happen, now. You will learn to respect the other person and their needs because their happiness equals your happiness.
You have to be a team and you have to work together. The tiny space you’ve chosen to share will force collaboration and compromise. I think this is a great gift for any relationship.
You learn to live with uncertainty
“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty that you can comfortably live with.” This is a famous quote about cultivating happiness by Tony Robbins, as taught in his personal development coaching and seminars.
I love that RV life ensures that I will reliably encounter some uncertainty every single week.
Mobile living or full-time travel means that you never know where you’re going, and without GPS you’d get lost going to the grocery store.
Having a mobile home means that things break (all. the. time.). Plus, you’re always seeing and doing new things that constantly push you to grow and feed your curiosity.
Nothing else in my life has taught me how to live with uncertainty better than RVing. Is it comfortable? Not really, especially in the beginning, but it becomes more comfortable.
You become better at navigating uncertainty. It’s honestly like a muscle that you must develop.
I’m forever grateful that RV living has helped me strengthen this critical muscle, and therefore improve the quality of my life.
You develop self-reliance
In order to keep your mobile home rolling, you are constantly learning new skills. You’re a navigator, a repairman, and a travel planner all in one.
Being on the road sometimes means you’re without your normal support system: the mechanic you trust, your dad as a backup for repair issues, etc.
Rather than researching mechanics in the area where you’re currently located, and trying to get an appointment before you leave for the next destination, it’s often easier (and far less expensive) to handle things yourself.
Self-reliance actually becomes the better option, and you learn and grow as a human so much along the way.
You have a smaller footprint
Tiny homes have a tiny footprint. They use less water, power, and heat.
Tiny homes can be efficient by design, but they’re also just so much smaller than the average home that they use fewer resources.
I could write an entire article about the environmental benefits of tiny houses, but for today let’s take a look at just one aspect: no lawn.
OH, THE WATER WE USE!
With tiny living in an RV, you will not have a lawn to maintain, so right off the bat, you’ll be reducing your water use by 60 percent. Can you believe 60 percent of household water use in dry climates goes to watering the lawn?
In 2010, Los Angeles used enough water irrigating lawns to meet the water needs of nearly a half-million average households for one year.
What’s worse, lawnmowers account for 5 percent of the US’s air pollution. And it’s estimated that each year more than 17 million gallons of fuel are spilled while refueling lawn equipment (the Exxon Valdez oil spill was 10.8 million gallons, for comparison).
Now, some people give us a hard time for our fossil fuel consumption since we drive a motorhome. But we move slowly and like to stay places for 2-4 weeks at a time, and we generally stay in the western half of the US.
Overall, I know that our footprint is less than our life in a sticks-and-bricks home with two cars, two commutes, and a big lawn to maintain. And that feels good.
Final thoughts on the benefits of tiny homes
As with anything in life, there are tiny house advantages and disadvantages. Today, I’ve tried to focus on the hidden benefits of a tiny home, and how living small can improve your life in unexpected ways.
I learned everything I ever needed to know about how to have a happy life, from living in about 300 square feet.
As I think about living in a house again someday, I know I will take the principles around consumerism, finances, relationships, and conservation with me into whatever home I choose next. It’s a gift that will always be with me.
Wishing you profound happiness in your tiny living adventure. And remember, the journey is far more important than the destination, so enjoy each mile!
Kristen Sargent lives & works from her RV, primarily boondocking off-grid. She owns and operates a women-led travel company, Legit Trips. Kristen loves to explore new places and inspire others to do the same. If she’s not typing away on her laptop, she’s off on an adventure- hiking, biking, or SUP boarding. You can follow her RV adventures @PerpetualMoves and learn more about her travel company at LegitTrips.com.