How to make a house feel enormous

It was June 1993.  In 1992 we’d bought 3 acres of land out in the country, and now we were hoping to build a home and move there.  We dreamed of chickens and a big garden, maybe even milk goats.  But first we’d need to sell our little house in town.  Our real estate agent counseled us to list the house for $59,000, a breath-taking sum considering we’d bought it for half that.  But we took his advice and figured if it languished too long, we could always drop the price.

The house sold in 5 days.  Full price.

Suddenly, abruptly, we were looking at rentals.  We discovered that to find a place that would accept 3 kids, 3 cats, and a dog, we’d need to rent a house, not an apartment, to the tune of $500 or more a month. And lots of places wanted at least a 6 month lease.  We were hoping our house would be done sooner than that, and weren’t willing to sign a lease.

It was time for some creative thinking.  We began noodling around the idea of living in a travel trailer on our property while the house was being built.  Yeah, it’d be less convenient than a house.  We’d have to drill a well immediately since we didn’t yet have water on the property. We’d have to bring our clothes to the laundromat.  There were various other details, such as where we’d store most of our possessions for the next few months.

Oh, and our kids were 5, 3, and 1 at the time.   I wasn’t sure how day to day living would actually feel in a travel trailer with three little ones. But we could save a fair bit of money.  And how hard could it really be?  Lots of folks live in trailers full time.  Besides  it’d be much easier to keep an eye on the building project being close by.  We were contracting the job ourselves, and as rank amateurs, we figured that better communication with sub-contractors was no small consideration.

When we priced used travel trailers, we quickly realized we were on the right track. TWO beat-up but perfectly functional trailers, bought on payments, would cost a grand total of $110 a month.  The first trailer was tiny, only 15 feet long, just big enough to be a bedroom complete with its own bathroom.  The second trailer was 28 feet long, also contained a bathroom, and would serve as our main living space.  We took the leap.

It was hard to walk out the door of our comfy little house for the last time, knowing that we were headed off to go ‘camping’ for the next 3-6 months.  But we drilled a well, set the trailers up close to each other all cozy-like, and fenced off a little courtyard area so the kids had a safe place to play outside.  John tarped off a shady place for our picnic table and our refrigerator right next to the trailer.  Oh, and he bought me a swamp cooler.  Camping doesn’t mean you have to go without air conditioning, after all.  We jokingly called it our own private Okie-town.

I’m certain our neighbors were wondering what kind of people. Even we wondered a bit at times, especially in the morning when we’d hear the morning chatter of the kids though the baby monitor, and have to walk outside so we could go into their trailer and get them up for the day. But soon the outline of our new home became apparent on the nearby hill.  And the taller it grew, the more it seemed obvious that our hare-brained plan really was working.

Three months later, just when night temperatures were the morning run to the kids’ trailer downright chilly, it was time to move into our new house.  I doubt that any family was gladder or readier to be moving than we. I’m not sure if I’d live that particular adventure again.  But it worked for our family at that point in our lives.

And it had an added benefit.  The house was 1600 square foot on the main level, plus some unfinished attic space that we wouldn’t complete for years.  Good sized, but not huge.  But when it came time to actually move in, that house  felt like an utter and absolute palace. I remember standing in the living room and spinning in circles.

Space, glorious space!

(Oh, and those old travel trailers?  A couple months later, after paying only a few months of payments, we sold them to some neighbors who used them while building their own home.)

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And because I am feeling random tonight, here’s another way to make a house feel huge. (I love this book!):  It’s too noisy!

{ 6 Comments }

  1. That sounds so familiar. 2 1/2 Years ago we moved into a 30-year old trailer in our backyard, to start remodeling our 1863 little farm house. We didn’t have any children yet, but I did leave the trailer pregnant ;). What can I say, it was a cold winter.
    We lived in the trailer for 13 months and then our house was liveable. Not done yet, but we had a working kitchen, bathroom and bedroom so that was enough.
    So I totally recognize the feeling! We went from 1 trailer to 1400 sq. ft floor level, so it did feel huge. No more cleaning the whole house in one hour!

  2. I so can relate to that story. Unfortunately, our house was too small and we wanted to list it, but had to move out first. Two cribs in the dining room just doesn’t show well. So we moved to an existing mobile home on my grandparents property and ultimately to OUR mobile home across the driveway from a turn of the century farm house that we would be remodeling. We lived in there for 2 years while we gutted it,jacked it up for a new foundation, and did a lot of the work ourselves. In the middle of year 2(February), the old water line under the trailer broke and we had to run a garden hose across the driveway and wrap it with heat tape. Moving into a house never felt so good! (Ultimately, we sold the trailer for what we had paid for it…it was like living rent free for two years. hahaha)

  3. I guess sometimes we just don’t realize how blessed we are until we have to go without. Thank you for the reminder.

  4. We(mostly husband) lived in a campground for 2yrs while trying to sell our house.(he took a job 11 hours away.) We are so thankful that we didnt lower the price. The housing market fell apart and husband was offered a job at home. We learned alot those two years. Thank you for bringing back the memories.

  5. A good story. I think most of the people can pretty much relate to it with some of their life experience, too. Hats off to you, anyway! Living like that (okay, not the worst possibility ever, but still) with three small kids is something truly admirable, I think. Maybe their low age was the biggest advantage, though.

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