Ever since the pandemic struck, more and more people are finding ways to have a better work/life balance. A recent trend has been to radically change the way they have been living, by downsizing and moving into a recreational vehicle, camper or tiny home modified truck or van.
Whether you were living in a large city, sprawling suburb or even rural America on a farm or ranch, the pandemic gave many an opportunity to change their lives and having lived for a bit like this, they have decided to continue. According to the RV Industry Association, there are about a million Americans living full time in recreational vehicles.
Boxes of pasta and jars of sauce line the shelves of the television wall unit in Danielle Londrigan’s recreational vehicle.
There’s a TV in the unit, something Danielle Londrigan, her husband, Sean, and their six children haven’t been accustomed to watching during their soon-to-be former life on a 25-acre horse farm in Petersburg, Illinois. So, instead of media components, bottles of condiments are among the items stored there in the “pantry.”
It’s part of the flexibility Danielle Londrigan said, that’s important for downsizing to full-time RV living.
“We’re still learning as we go, but personally, I don’t find downsizing to be the huge challenge,” Danielle said.
Danielle Londrigan and her family – husband, Sean, and children, Mikayla, 14; Aiden, 13; Nathan, 12; Ruth, 10 and Kyla, 2, (Sean Jr., 16, is at college) — are moving from a 2,158 square foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home into a 140-square foot RV. The move will be for at least one year while they build a house on the 50-acre property they recently purchased in southern Illinois near Shawnee National Forest.
Apparently, scores of Americans are aspiring to full-time RV living and as a result are having to decide how to go about downsizing – deciding what’s important to keep, how to earn money, how to get mail and how to educate children when travelling becomes a lifestyle.
A 2020-2021 report by Condor Ferries reported that “approximately 1 million Americans live in recreational vehicles full-time.” Recreational vehicles, or what’s typically called “RVs,” are motor vehicles or trailers that have living spaces.
“The RV is really a means to an end, and that, I find, makes it easier,” Danielle Londrigan said about downsizing.
Keep, organize what’s meaningful
Downsizing into an RV requires determining what comforts of home to take along, Danielle Londrigan said.
“You have to decide and narrow down what’s the most important,” Danielle said. “For example, we’re taking all of our favorite blankets, just because those are what you cuddle up in when you’re cold or whatever, ill — little things, just little touches of ‘home.’ ”
The Londrigans’ two-year-old daughter, Kyla, struggled with sleeping in the RV until her mattress and comforter were put on the floor in the kids’ bunkroom.
“Suddenly, naptime was no problem. That was hers, so the familiarity really eased the transition for her,” Danielle Londrigan said.
With several family members sharing a small space in the RV, organization is also important.
“With the larger family, I’m finding color-coding is key, so I actually went and bought new sets of cups that are all colored, so at a glance we know who belongs to what,” said Danielle Londrigan, who added that the family’s monogrammed towels are also going. “And again, they’re all in one spot, so it’s easy to see who belongs to which one – and who leaves it on the floor.”
Leave room for business
The Londrigans have owned and lived on Red Gate Farm, a sustainable permaculture farm run by horse power. The farm was “fairly self-sufficient,” with the Londrigans able to provide 75 to 80% of their own food.
Livestock included goats, hogs, chickens, turkeys, horses for power, guardian dogs and guinea fowl. Most of the livestock has been sold.
“We are now down to just two goats and two of their babies, and that will supply our milk, and we’re going to be down to just a handful of chickens,” Danielle Londrigan said. “We’re hoping to take a few guineas with us because ticks are really bad down there and that happens to be a big food of the guineas.”
In addition to the farm work, the Londrigans have a sister business where they train mustangs for the Bureau of Land Management. As Trainer Incentive Program (TIP) trainers, they gentle mustangs and place them for adoption. They plan to revive that business while they build their new home in southern Illinois.
Side gigs and seasonal or temporary jobs can bring in income for full-time RVers, according to “25 Things to Know (2021) Before Living Full-Time in an RV.” Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, working remotely has become a reality for many people and something full-time RVers can do.
Get an education, mail
The Londrigans, who have a history of homeschooling their children, plan to enroll their children in the school system at their new home (Sean Jr. is already away at college).
The Londrigans will take just enough games to keep the children occupied on rainy days.
“The idea is to not be in the camper as much as possible,” Danielle Londrigan said.
While the Londrigans will have a permanent address to which their mail can be sent, those living the full-time RV life who travel have mail options, such as signing up for a mail-forwarding service for paper mail.
“You may choose to forward your mail to a parent, in-law, sibling, child, or close friend,” the report “25 Things to Know (2021) Before Living Full-time in an RV” said, adding that full-time RVers can select paperless statements and emails for on-going business.
Moving into an RV isn’t the same as camping in an RV, Sean Londrigan said on Red Gate Farm’s YouTube channel “A Different Way.”
“Realize, when you’re camping, there’s like an end in sight – like a week or three days or something like that,” Sean Londrigan said on YouTube. “You can just throw everything into a trash can. Well, we’re not doing that. We’re actually preparing to live in it, so not a bunch of paper plates and stuff like that. Very small, confined space.”
People can track the progress of Danielle Londrigan and her family on their YouTube channel “A Different Way.”