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Live Small to Live Big

When I tell someone that we live in a camper, I get one of two responses: “Wow, that’s awesome!” or “I could never.” Neither response surprises me; after all, we did choose the path less traveled, and that can be shocking to some. The first response brings with it images of adventure and novelty, while the second response is accompanied by thoughts of dirt and cramped spaces.

Words have meaning, which is why, when one thinks of a camper, a certain lifestyle comes to mind. The word health has that same effect. You might think of nutrition and exercise as health, or sleep and hydration. However, does sunshine come to mind right away? What about relationships? And what about the environment you live in?

In our 17 years together, my husband and I have lived in many different environments—small apartments with views of the Rocky Mountains and big apartments high over a foreign city. We’ve lived in ranch-style homes and homes with stairs. We have lived in (and survived) the heat of a Texan summer, swam through the humidity blanketing the southern United States, breathed in the salty breeze off the ocean in Hawaii, and felt the bite of winter in South Korea. Each experience has afforded us the opportunity to know what we love and don’t love about the environment we live in, and where our family will ultimately thrive.

When I think of environment, however, I’m not talking about weather, though that itself affects our health. When I say environment, I’m speaking of the homes we live in and the spaces we inhabit. What does your environment do for you? Does it promote creativity, vibrancy, joy, health, life? Does it feel dark and dusty, stifling? Take a moment to take in the place you’re sitting right now—does this seem like a place you could thrive?

Years of different environments led us to downsizing 90% of our belongings and moving from a sturdy five bedroom home to a 400 square foot fifth wheel. Not just the two of us—we brought the three kids and a cat along as well! This wasn’t a novel idea; we had discussed doing this in the future, living in an RV and traveling the country. It was a dream bred in sleepy conversations by the campfire. Could we do that? Should we?

But before we could take a breath, we had purchased a fifth wheel and a truck to pull it, sold our minivan, sold our home, emptied the rooms one, two, a dozen times, and found our family parked at a campground deep in the forest by a lake states away from where we had begun.

As the dust settled, we could finally breathe and then we realized, we were at last content.

What does your environment do for you? Does it promote creativity, vibrancy, joy, health, life? Does it feel dark and dusty, stifling? Take a moment to take in the place you’re sitting right now—does this seem like a place you could thrive?

Of course, there have been challenges. Living in a tiny home with three homeschooled kids will do that! We’ve had to figure out mail delivery, we need to dust more often, and there are usually toys on the floor and scraps of paper on our only dining area. One time, we had to repair one of our two toilets—what a mess! And don’t get me started on the lack of counter space.

However, this new experience of living smaller has meant we are living slower and with intention. My environment is no longer a large home where we would all be in separate rooms, lost to each other. This new space has taught us valuable life lessons. I don’t lament the loss of our dishwasher but instead enjoy the slowing down of hand washing dishes. Instead of being upset over carrying our laundry to a separate facility, we use the opportunity to teach the kids (and ourselves) to use less clothing and not waste water. When it’s messy inside, the whole family cleans. When it’s raining, the whole family watches a movie. When we feel cramped in our space, we go outside. We have laughter and joy.

Our kids spend much of their day soaking in the sunshine and playing in the forest that surrounds us. My favorite activity on the weekends is swinging in a hammock slung between two trees with a good book and some iced tea. I love the sound of a rainstorm on the thin roof of our home on wheels.

This tiny space has brought a fresh perspective on what we need in life. We need some shelter; we need food and a bit of space to prepare it. Most of all, we need sunshine and family time. The peace and freedom of living small in this new environment has brought joy unimaginable to our lives, something we had reached for and struggled to hold on to when living in a home stuffed like a museum of items we never used.

Let me encourage you today to take stock in your environment. I’m not suggesting you sell it all and move into a tiny home like we did! However, there are ways you can reevaluate how you live and make changes to promote the type of environment in which you will thrive and be healthy.

Take some time today to foster a slower pace and increased wellness in your space.