Lessons learned from five days of tiny living

Five days of tiny living might just have changed our perspective about our home, our stuff and our day-to-day lives.

Having recently spent four nights in a caravan, I can say that the whole tiny living idea is definitely something I want to pursue in the future. Perhaps not the exact style of caravan we stayed in, but something similar.

I learned a lot over the few days that we were there; not just about tiny living, but also about our family.

Less really is more. The caravan we stayed in was set up as an autism-friendly caravan. There was sensory equipment everywhere, which was both a blessing and a curse. The kids thought it was fabulous, but I felt it made the place claustrophobic. There was just so much of it, it took over the space. Everywhere you looked, there was either soft play equipment, multicoloured lights or fidget toys. I would have preferred a smaller selection of better quality items, which would have been a lot better than a mountain of cheap sensory toys (especially given that the batteries had run out on over half of them).

We get on better as a family without all our crap and without our own spaces to hide in. At home, we have room to avoid each other if we want to. Funnily enough, this isn’t so much of an issue in a 13×35 foot caravan! True, the kids both had their own rooms, but they spent the majority of their time in the open plan kitchen/dining/living space with Jonny and me. Despite my general dislike of feeling like I’m boxed in, it was a lot of fun watching them play and for the most part, it didn’t feel crowded at all. Not having all our own junk surrounding us like we do at home was remarkably freeing. Yes, our home is a whole lot bigger than the caravan, but with the amount of stuff we have, it often feels much more confined than that small metal box.

I think we become blind to the amount of shit we own, and to the state of our home as it gets messy through the business of family life and the laziness of those living in it. When we arrived at the caravan, the people that had been in there previously hadn’t cleaned it very well, and it wasn’t all that pleasant walking into a place covered in other peoples mess. But it did give me an understanding of how people must feel when they walk into our home – it’s a pigsty, as I quickly realised when we got back (we may have failed to put in much effort to clean up before we left, which is not a mistake that I’ll be making again.) Talk about eye-opening!

My kids behave a whole lot better when they have limited screen time. Seeing as we were on holiday, we decided to try and limit the amount of television we watched. Well, I say we, but it was my decision – in fact, I’d have been a lot happier if there hadn’t been a tv in there at all, although I’m pretty sure that neither Jonny or either of the boys would ever have spoken to me again if that had been the case! Maybe next time…
As it turns out, my suspicion that spending too much time glued to the tv turns my kids into complete assholes is well founded; they behaved beautifully throughout our time away, and I plan on implementing a similar limit on screen time for us as a family soon. That isn’t to say we avoided television altogether – the boys watched cartoons in the mornings before we went out, and we sat and watched a movie as a family in the evenings before going to bed, but on the whole we watched way less than we would have if we’d spent the week at home.

Rather than spending our time away stuck indoors, we made an effort to get out and explore the local area. We were staying in Fleetwood, so trips to the beach featured heavily. Jonny managed a few hours of sea fishing while the boys and I walked along the beach dodging the incoming tide, picking up and examining interesting rocks and shells, and building sandcastles. To top it off, we found the most amazing inclusive playground that kept them both occupied for over an hour while I sat and enjoyed the sunshine. I took my 12-year-old swimming twice while we were there too, which was a fab way to spend some quality one-on-one time with him while building his confidence in the water. The first time, he was extremely nervous about going into the parts where he couldn’t reach the bottom, but with a little understanding and some gentle persuasion, I soon had him swimming back and forth across the deep end with me at his side. Boy, was I a proud mamma!

We also managed a trip to Blackpool Zoo, which was awesome. If you’ve read my About page, you’ll know that we’re all animal mad, so this trip was a no-brainer. We met up with my mum (who lives about an hour away from Blackpool) and it was lovely to see the boys interacting with Granny so well despite not having seen her in almost 18 months. We spent a good few hours pottering around the place, and Jonny played peek-a-boo with an otter. As you do. Our 3-year-old loved the dinosaur exhibit, so much so that we ended up going around it twice. We were a little disappointed to find that the part of the zoo, with all the reptiles, was closed for refurbishment, but it didn’t stop us having a fantastic day.