Friday, January 17, 2014

My 27 Feet: Six Month Update (And Finally... Pictures!)

Today marks six months since I moved into my trailer full-time. Six months! Where did the time go? :) In some ways (all the good ways!) it feels like much less time; it definitely feels comfortable, feels like home. In other ways, it feels like a lot more time has passed - it sometimes feels, for instance, that it's been "winter in the trailer" f-o-r-e-v-e-r and that it was eons ago that I had those blissful days when I never had to worry about pipes freezing or water running or keeping the interior heated to a liveable temperature (and sometimes it feels like it will never be that way again). But I've now made it through the most extreme weather I'm likely to ever face in my current climate - the dog days of August and the record-setting lows of the polar vortex - so I also feel like I have a bit more perspective than I did four months ago.

So here it is, my six month update/advice repository/virtual tour. Yes, I said virtual tour, because I just realized while tagging posts that I never posted true "after remodel" pictures. I'm so sorry, y'all. But today is the day!

First, the six month update:

Cold. By far the biggest challenge/learning experience in the past two months has been dealing with the cold: figuring out how to effectively heat the interior, how to keep the water flowing, dealing with long periods of below-freezing temps, etc. I covered this in passing in various posts, but here are the Cliff Notes:
  • After a couple weeks of coldish weather, when I realized I was going through propane to run the heating system like crazy, I did some research, discovered that at best I was losing about 30% efficiency due to the ducts, and switched to using an electric space heater as my primary heat source, with the propane heat turned on but set low, so that it would only kick on if the temperature dropped severely. While I did end up running the heating system almost constantly during the polar vortex (when temps didn't come above 25F for a couple of days at a time), for the rest of the time, the space heater keeps the place liveable and runs much less often than the propane system does. It also provides much more steady heat, where the propane system tended to fluctuate - it would heat the trailer very warm, very fast, but then let it drop pretty low before kicking in. Also: my heater is a small one, and says it can heat 100-300 feet (and it does... just barely), but next year I'm looking to upgrade to a medium/large model (I've got my eye on this one).
  • I didn't get around to installing heat tape and insulation on the water hose until Thanksgiving this year, and I waited too long, and it was a huge stressful fiasco. I basically followed the example of Julie over at The New Lighter Life, and the actual install part was easy, but because I misremembered how long my water hose was, and then misjudged the distance between the porch and the trailer, and then (because I had been counting on these measurements to budget out money for the supplies) I ran out of money in the middle. There were a lot of tears shed, and a couple of mornings waking up with no water, and some self-berating, and if you were to ask me what the hardest/darkest moment of the past six months has been, I will easily point to that week. But eventually I got it all done, and it worked great.. until the temperatures dipped into the single digits during the polar vortex, and I needed to add a couple of work lights at the faucet and connector, which completely solved the problem.
  • Also around Thanksgiving, I gave up trying to treat the trailer like a house and bought warmer clothes. And I'm not the only one - it seems like a lot of fellow full-timers had that "aha!" moment where they realized that you can spend lots of money trying to keep it toasty, or you can put on a cozy sweater and slippers and still be comfortable. Changing your mindset is an amazing thing.
  • I got an electric blanket for Christmas, and I love it, and it makes me nervous. I have a love/hate relationship with it; on the one hand, I lovelovelove crawling into a warm toasty bed without waiting for it to warm up (or smothering in blankets!), but on the other hand I liked knowing that if someone happened in the middle of the night - the breaker tripped, or the propane ran out, etc - I would be woken up pretty fast by the cold. I compromise by keeping the electric blanket turned low, so that it does take the chill off but can't compensate for huge temperature drops.
  • One thing I didn't do: I never did install skirting on the trailer, mostly because when I was winterizing I couldn't afford it, and I worried like crazy that I'd regret this decision, but now that the worst is behind us I'm actually kind of glad. Next winter I might try it, but I'm extremely nervous about critters taking up residence under me, and since all my pipes/etc are insulated and survived the cold just fine, I'm less worried.
Stuff. If I could sum up my feelings on this topic in six words, "Only what I need and love." Seriously, that's it. Before moving into the trailer, I would read all these articles about preparing for full-timing and every single one said the same thing: only take what you really need or truly love. And I guess I'm a little materialistic, because I would panic and instead go think about how to cram more stuff in my smaller space. Six months later, my whole attitude has changed.
  • I need less stuff. (You probably do, too, but you also probably have more space to store it, so you don't notice as much.) And to that end, I've been whittling away at my "stuff" collection for awhile, and hope to continue that trend in this new year. I'm still keeping a tight hold on all things sentimental, mementos, etc, but everything else has to prove its worth or go.
  • To that end, I'm trying to make small swaps as I go. For instance, I realized recently that I've never used any of the five cooking utensils I bought at the dollar store when I moved. Apparently a giant spoon, ladle, slotted spoon, spatula, and wide spatula aren't really as necessary as I thought they were. But the orange silicon "spoonula" I bought on clearance for $4 a few weeks later? I could easily use two more - I'm constantly washing it or wishing I had another. The huge cheese grater with three grating options I bought I'm hoping to replace with a much smaller grater that has one. Swapping out stuff that almost never gets used for stuff that I use on a daily basis.
  • Ugh, I hate to even mention this one, because I'm not good at this at all, but... I am trying very hard to get everything/keep everything clean and organized. Because honestly, 27 feet feels a whole lot smaller when cluttered. :( No fun, but true.

And finally, one last thing I just have to mention... I (think) I have mastered baking in my oven! Fulltimers know this is no mean feat. I think it means I've arrived. ;) My top three tricks are:
  • Preheat, preheat, preheat. I'll generally turn my oven on about 10 minutes early and it's made a huge difference in how well it works.
  • Prebake or divide if possible. This is an odd one, but let me explain: if you're baking anything with layers (pizza is my favorite, but also anything with a crust such as pie, or anything thick like a cake) pop the crust in for a few minutes before adding toppings. If you're baking something like a cake, two thinner layers will bake a whole lot better than one thick layer.
  • Reduce the temp. I've generally found that reducing the heat by five or ten degrees is the trick to even cooking.
So, that's my update and advice bit! Now... wanna see inside? ;)

Just to recap... this is a Jayco Jayflight 27ft Bunkhouse model without any slides or popouts. This translates out to about 190 square feet, so while much smaller than most houses, it's pretty big by "tiny house" standards. :)

I've tried to "match" photos as much as possible so you can see the before/after effect. I'm still working on different aspects (slipcovers, curtains, etc) so this is by no means a "finished" tour, but just an "as it is now." :) Come on in!

Before (taken the day the trailer was delivered)

After - I installed a small patio (hoping to make it a lil bigger this summer!), some d├ęcor (obviously haven't taken down the Christmas holly and bow lol) and got it all hooked up to water, electricity, and sewer.

After - the boot tray is from Ollies (a steal at $4!) and is one of the reasons why I miss summer. In the summer, I just drop my flip-flops into a mesh storage panel on the back of the dinette booth as I come in. But in the winter my boots and shoes are too bulky and heavy to fit, and it's a pain getting them up and down into the closet.
Before - my kitchenette

After - cabinets were painted with darker gray, while the walls got a pale-gray coat. I also ripped out all the sconces. Someday (probably this summer, when I have a little more money) I'm going to tile my backsplash. I adore black and white kitchen towels and those in the picture are my latest find.

After - more paint, and the upholstery got new slipcovers. There's storage under each dinette bench; one I use to store seasonal items, and the other is my crafting, sewing, and crochet storage. (Since I make money off of what I make, and I keep my profit margin high by buying on sale and storing for later, I don't feel bad about giving up this much room.) Pots and pans get stored under the oven, silverware, towels, and "handies" in the three little drawers, and cooking tools under the fridge.

I recently rearranged everything to fit better, and I'm really loving the new arrangements. Here's my "cookbook nook" (mostly cooking magazines, lol) and Ziploc/trash bag storage. The owl was a gift from Crisy. :)

My pantry! And believe it or not, this is cleaned out and organized. :) I think I finally have a good idea of space, and I'm going to start picking up wire/ mesh baskets, boxes, etc to further organize everything.

My knife set was a gift from my grandparents (as is 99% of everything in my kitchen) and all my bakeware was donated or gifted from my mom. :) In keeping with my "Only what I need and love" motto, I have 2 nonstick cookie sheets, a pizza pan, an 8X8 baking pan, and a gorgeous orange-scalloped "fancy" pan my BFF gave me as a housewarming gift. :)


My cabinets over the sink house plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, my crockpot, and everything else cooking-related that doesn't have a home. :)

I would really love to rip out the futon and replace it with more counterspace and maybe a small bench, but I don't have any place to store the futon and I'm too chicken to get rid of it. Mostly it becomes my catch-all for junk. :/

My dinette; one of the projects on my to-do list is to make new slipcovers and some pillows.
Before - this was the "master bedroom"

 After - now my living room. Sometimes if feels like I fall asleep on the couch more often than I fall asleep in my bed lol! The box on the left is my "charging station" for my computer, tablet, and phone. Under the couch and side tables is all open storage. On the left (accessible through the exterior side door) I store all my paint, brushes, painters tape, etc; on the right (accessible through the opposite exterior door) I store gift-wrap and all hardware, parts, tools, etc associated with the RV. And in the center (accessible from the interior by lifting up the center panel on the couch) I store bedding and my crochet box.

The girls. I rotate between putting their cage across from the couch and under the window; if it's across from the couch they scamper up the sides and try to sneak into the kitchen, and if I stick them under the window it partially obstructs the walkway. Can't win. :)

I look forward to someday getting a flatscreen TV with a build-in DVD player that I could mount on the wall (and eliminate the TV stand).
Before - double bunks

After - my sleeping compartment on the bottom, and the top bunk was converted into a closet.

My cozy sleeping space! I was afraid it would feel claustrophobic, but instead I discovered I love it! (I need to make a new curtain for the window, though - hate the beige!)
My closet is giving me fits this winter. Winter clothes are bulkier and it feels like it all never fits. I'm working on a plan for a makeover involving a wall-mounted shoe rack and smaller, but deeper bins for clothes (or possible some build-in drawers!) but right now... yeah.

That's pretty much my place!
If you have any questions or anything you'd be interested in knowing about my fulltiming experience, please feel free to leave me a comment or drop me an email. :)

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