Six Things We Learned While Spending a Year in a Trailer


If you are like me and watched the Tiny Houses documentary, you started a pinterest board immediately after and thought through all the things you had that you could live without.

In 2016, my husband and I accepted jobs in the christian camping field and as part of our contract housing would be provided. However, in order to accommodate us (being married and living together) the camp asked if we would be willing to live in a trailer. Being excited about our work opportunities, we gladly accepted.

Being newlyweds, we had a LOT of stuff. Our kitchen items alone– appliances, cups, bowls, plates, dish towels, silverware, more cups, pots and pans, did i mention cups, and so on could have filled an entire trailer on its own. We cut down the best we could, left things with my parents in WI and his parents in NE and brought the rest with us to CA. Yes, our belongings were strewn across three different states (which is so easy to keep track of if you want to know.)

After we dropped off our belongings in NE, we were able to fit everything we were taking with us to California inside, on top of and on the tailgate of our car (until our car broke down in Battle Mountain, NV and we had to get a U-haul and trailer to make it the rest of the way…. But that’s another story that you can read HERE.) We felt pretty good about the amount of things we felt would allow us to make it through a year of living in a trailer. In all honestly, we did pretty well with the amount of stuff we brought. But we did need to learn to be creative housing two full grown people in a trailer for one year. Here are some of the facts, tips and tricks that we picked up during our trailer adventures.

  1. You will learn to effectively shower in less than 3 minutes (or risk turning into a frozen human popsicle.) Trailer showers without a tankless water heater do not stay hot for very long. On the plus side, they don’t take long to heat up in between showers. However, you also cannot turn on any other sinks while someone is taking their rapid shower. Once we got a tankless water heater in our second trailer, the shower was still touchy and we had to run the faucet for the water to stay at a constant temperature but the hot water did last longer.
  2. Everything will be damp! We happened to live in northern California, in a temperate rainforest, and arrived during the rainy season. The first 4 months we were there felt like living under a water park mushroom dome continuously. The windows and walls of our trailer would be damp all the time. Our sheets felt like we were sleeping on and under wet naps. If we kept our cabinets closed for too long, our clothes would become wet. We bought some small dehumidifiers and placed them around the trailer. They were mildly effective but looking back we know we should have just bought the nice big ones.
  3. Washing dishes is literally the most undesirable job if you have let the pile rise for too long. We went into our trailer adventure saying “we will wash our dishes as soon as we are done with them.” Ha. Ha. Ha. Like we said before, without a tankless water heater, you have about three minutes to clean the mountain of dishes before the water goes cold. Fun fact, three minutes is not enough time to clean mount everest of dishes. We would have to wash a few dishes, set them to dry, go watch a netflix show and then return to wash a few more dishes. This process could take an hour if we racked up enough items.
  4. The dirty deed. That’s right everybody, we are going to talk about… POOP. (not where you thought I was going with that is it?) If you have never used one, let me explain the gloriousness that is the trailer toilet. The first time I went to use our toilet, it did not appear possible to me to flush the toilet (which nearly catapulted me into a nervous breakdown.) Upon further investigation (BABE….. How do I flush??), I discovered the gray handle on the side of the toilet that one would pull– much like the lever on a kids Fisher Price See & Say toy. There were actually two options, one to “rinse” and one to “flush.” Rinse would add water to the bowl and flush would…. Flush. Now, let’s get to the good stuff. After a certain amount of time and visits, solid material would start to build up underneath the sliding slot of the toilet and would allow for a backup to occur. The only way to remedy this issue is to literally PUSH THE POO DOWN WITH A STICK-LIKE OBJECT. Yes, according the to trailer specialist at our place of employment (who lived in the trailer next to us) this is not something to be concerned about and can be fixed simply by pushing down your own poo….. I will leave you with this…… Brandon has never been more appreciative to have a regular toilet.
  5. Be an adult. I have a tendency to want to walk away from a fight and/or hide. I learned that this is not really possible when you live in a place where the only door to hide behind is the bathroom. Going outside is out of the question when it is pouring rain and the only buildings close to you are another trailer or Green Acres, your neighbors small home. I had to learn to not run from disagreements but to also be vocal about when I had had enough and needed some time to myself before we could reconvene. Even though it was hard and fighting always stinks, we grew so much and learned to communicate so much better than when we lived in our two bedroom apartment right after we got married.   
  6. Lastly, my biggest suggestion is to make this place your own. Trailers feel temporary whether you are staying in one for a weekend vacation or a year. We rearranged our items often to find what worked best for us. We searched pinterest for any hacks we could find to make this “house” our home. We were fortunate enough to move trailers halfway through the year to another trailer that we felt worked better. This really helped us to feel more at home and more positive about our unique living situations. At the end of the day, we had a roof over our heads, pictures on our walls, and each other. And that’s all we really needed.

I am grateful for the time that we spend in our home on (two) wheels. Being newlyweds who had been married for six months before our trailer adventures, we had to learn how to resolve conflict while in a small space. We got to be creative together in seeing what works for us and our space. We spent a lot of time physically close to each other. And finally, when we have children and they complain that their room is too small to share with a sibling or they need more space for their toys, we can laugh and sign them up for a week of living in a trailer.

What do you think would be the hardest thing for you about living in a trailer? OR if you have lived in a trailer for any period of time, what are some things you learned?

4 thoughts on “Six Things We Learned While Spending a Year in a Trailer

  1. Oh boy, I can relate! My parents moved us 5 kids up north for a year – we lived in a little cabin with a generator that we used only 1-2 times a day. Washing dishes in cold water, having to take fast showers (we had warm water but didn’t have enough generator time), having to pee outside once in a while (can’t always flush with the electric off)…living that way certainly makes you feel extra blessed when you move back into a regular home. It’s the simple things we take for granted.


    1. Wow, Samantha! That would be an adventure for sure! It’s kind of fun to be able to have these experiences to share with other people, especially when they aren’t the “typical” life experiences. Glad you can relate to the interesting living situations of small spaces 🙂


  2. Hi, Brandon and Alyssa, I was chuckling the whole time that I was reading this blog. We had a unique living space our first year of marriage. It does help you appreciate the things that most people take for granted. Thank you for all that you did at Alliance Redwoods. You are greatly missed. May God continue to go before you as you trust Him for your future.


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