Fulltiming at Home

I wanted to start mentally and physically preparing for my cross-country trip and for full time living (a.k.a., “full-timing”) in a space that’s under 200 square feet. Instead of waiting for the day my vintage Airstream would be ready to hit the road, I figured I could use my apartment’s existing space and start scaling down my domestic life in the meantime.

I got the idea to recreate the Airstream’s layout in my apartment from feedback I got a few years ago at Yestermorrow Design / Build School, when I presented a class project on Airstream design. Before doing any renovations, the faculty advisors had suggested using tape to mark out the floor plan in my work space (perhaps in a gutted trailer), and cardboard cutouts to make furniture templates that would give me an experience of the space at full scale. Since then, I’ve purchased my Airstream (which is relatively intact) and spent an afternoon taking measurements of the interior. I paid particular attention to the closets and storage compartments to have a better sense of what I can carry with me.

'69 Airstream in AutoCAD

In my free time, I started learning more about people who are living simply in order to lessen environmental impact or achieve other personal goals, and it influenced my thinking. The books Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Salomon, Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas, Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, and the documentary Maidentrip were particular favorites.

Like most people, I tend to spread my belongings out and acquire more “stuff” in relation to how much room I have. With this experiment, I wanted to see if creating some new spatial constraints that approximated living full time in an Airstream would help me to be more honest and disciplined about what’s essential in my life. So, on New Year’s Day this year, I moved some furniture and a few personal essentials around and came up with this layout:

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.44.05 PM
’69 Airstream Tradewind Dinette area (left), and my home version (right)
Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.44.09 PM
’69 Airstream Tradewind Kitchen & Bedroom, with Bathroom in the far distance (left), and my Kitchen at home with a small Bathroom beyond the wall (right)
This area serves as my Dining Room, Bedroom & Office

It didn’t take very long to move things into place. When I stood back to look at my handiwork, I felt both excited and more comfortable to be starting the New Year in a configuration that closely resembled my dream. And sorting through my remaining belongings to put them into storage (which had lately seemed a rather endless task) in a single stroke became essentially, “everything that’s not in the bedroom, kitchen or bathroom.”

The drawing below (created with AutoCAD software) illustrates the full layout of my apartment and the difference in how much space I’m using now (down by about two-thirds), then compares it with the square footage of my ’69 Trade Wind:

APT before vs. after vs. Airstream

Here are some thoughts from the first few weeks of full-timing in my “edited” living space:

  • Initial claustrophobic feelings were soon followed by calm and increased focus
  • I can easily use far less energy to live at home
  • There’s an increased tendency to “clean as I go” because clutter from one or two projects or domestic tasks easily takes over a small space
  • If I were in a trailer, dishes would need to be washed, other objects / papers put away in case I drive that night or next day
  • There are things that I’ll want to do that I’ll need to go outside or find another places for (i.e., exercise, laundry, &c.)
  • What will I do about recycling on the road?
  • I suspect I’ll want to “See More, Do More, Live More” (an Airstream tagline) outdoors to balance the compact elegance of my domestic life in a travel trailer

I still have many questions and a lot to learn about full-timing on the road, but my favorite thing about living this way so far is that it feels like I’m camping out at home every night! Over the next couple of months (and as the trailer renovation continues), I’ll clear out the remaining rooms in my apartment and will gradually increase the amount of time I spend in the remaining space I’ve allotted myself. Of course, things like the dishwasher and large refrigerator I have in my apartment won’t be in the Airstream, so over the next couple of months I’ll wash dishes by hand more and will have to practice using less space in the fridge at home. I’ll also set aside space in my living room to simulate the space I’ll have in the bed of my pickup truck.

Ultimately, I agree with the philosophy that, “luck favors the prepared.” But I also know that, no matter how I may try to simulate and troubleshoot, the future holds adventures that I would be foolish to try and to plan for. For now, it’s about de-materializing for its own sake, learning and having fun… I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. I think what you’re doing is a great adventure. What a good idea to check out how it feels to occupy a smaller space. When we spent time (altho not as much as actually living) on our island in very small cabins, we adapted quite easily to a tiny kitchen, no electricity, small propane fridge, using much less water because we had to carry it – propane too. It’s a humbling exercise. Best of luck and keep the blogs coming as you travel. We can come along vicariously.

    1. It’s strange how fun & relatively painless it is to live more humbly… unusual for a reality check in that way. I’m glad to have you two vicariously keeping me company, and I’ll keep sharing pics & posts so you can come along 🙂 Welcome aboard!

  2. I am certainly in awe of your planning and organizational skills, and it seems as though your transition to inhabiting a small space will be very successful.

    I continue sorting through items in my own home so I can scale down, but the high bar you have set is impossible for me. Still doing my best to copy pieces of your skill set.

    1. De-materializing is an ongoing practice and a paradigm shift that takes time, especially for “collector” types (like myself!) who love books, art, or keep a lot of momentoes. One trick I use is to think of my collections the way a museum might, and curate (or edit) what I have down to the best, most useful, or most elegant expressions. Another trick I’ve heard about from Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” is to hold each item as you’re considering whether to keep or discard it, and make the decision based on how much joy you feel with it in your hand. Also, rather than thinking about using less space as a “lack,” I’m finding that discarding things and using less space makes me feel more humble, connected, clear and appreciative, so it does have associated benefits that come with time. Good luck!

  3. This is inspiring! Makes me want to clean out any excess in my place, even as minimalistic as I already am. Oh, and also inspires me to want to take a cross-country trip! Great job with all this.

    1. Follow your instincts! I’d love to hear how it goes… and maybe you’ll join me for part of the trip? Either way, I’ll be sharing pics from my travels here, so folks can come along that way too : )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>