Family of 5: Quit Job, Sold Everything & Hit the Road

“Such a long time to be gone, and a short time to be there.” – Grateful Dead, Box of Rain

 

Thank you for joining us on “Rollin’ with the Flo” and following along with our journey!  We are the Flodeen Family – a tribe of 5 who decided to make a crazy shift in our life to travel in an RV full-time.  We knew we wanted to minimalize and simplify all the stuff in our life, and we also wanted to find a way to spend more quality time together and strengthen our family unit.  We had the financial resources to take life in our own hands, so over the course of 2 months, we decided that I (Zack) would quit my successful investment advisor job, we bought an RV, and then we sold everything that wouldn’t fit inside.  We have now decided to take a more intentional and purpose driven way of living our lives since life can be short, and the time you have with your kids is even shorter.

Flodeen Family at Skamania Lodge in Winter
Flodeen Family at Skamania Lodge in Winter

How did all this full time RV business get started anyway?

So how do you end up living in an RV and traveling around the country anyway?  We haven’t always had this plan.  Actually, it was once quite the opposite!  When we bought of first house after living in a small apartment, we saw it as a “starter home”.  It was an 1800 sq. ft. home with 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, and a 2 car garage.  We bought the home when it was just the two of us, and we always expected that we’d buy our much bigger “dream” home someday once we started our family.

The patio outside our small apartment
The patio outside our small apartment

So, what changed along the way?

We realized that the “American Dream” life wasn’t actually all it was cracked up to be.  We liked to travel and explore, but once we purchased a home, we had a lot less time and money for our adventures.  Larger spaces required more cleaning, and of course there is all the maintenance of home ownership.  In addition, you find yourself shopping a lot more to find furniture and décor to fill all the spaces in your big house.  Oh, and we can’t forget one of the BIGGEST benefits of owning your own home – you get to update it however you wish.  That means doing remodels which either is going to cost of a lot of your time if you are the DIY type or it will cost a lot of your money if you hire a contractor or pay someone to do it.

Kitchen cabinet refinishing at our house in AZ

With this typical suburban lifestyle, not only do you lose time and money, but you gain something in return. It’s just not what I was thinking we would gain.  It’s not a grand happiness.  No, it is far more sinister.  You gain STRESS.  Stress can be very tricky and discrete when it’s part of a daily routine.  Many times, we don’t even notice.  Michele and I were actually going to buy a bigger upgrade of a house at one point before we wised up.  How much more stress are we going to add to our lives when we really just wanted to start a family and experience the world.  What part of buying another house would have helped out with these ambitions?  We realized the answer was that no part of it would help.

We ended up starting our family in our “starter” home but had to move 6 months after Colette was born.  We decided to rent in our new location, and it was a great decision.  We didn’t have that inclination to remodel the house and buy items just to fit a certain space.  This meant we had both more time and more money.  We used our spare time to spend with our growing family and having more adventures.

Flodeen family of 3 picnic
Flodeen family of 3 enjoying a picnic in AZ

Starting to simplify:

We have never been people that just hold onto stuff because… CORRECTION: Michele has never been one to hold onto stuff just because.  I used to have some strong hording tendencies and would hold onto stuff because I might use it someday, but Michele slowly worked on helping me diminish that habit over time.  We did always have a rule though – with our two car garage, we have to be able to put two cars in it.  If we couldn’t, it was time to purge more stuff!

We started the process of getting rid of all that extra stuff we had been accumulating in anticipation of our move.  I had been looking for new work in many places outside of our home city at the time, and we knew we might have to move somewhere smaller (or with a much different layout).  We also knew that it is a pain moving, and the less stuff you have, the easier it is to move.  As a result, we started minimalizing before we made the move from Arizona to Washington.  It’s a good thing too, because we completely filled up the 26’ Budget moving truck, and the car we were towing, and the car Michele was driving in with Coco.  All that was after we started purging!

Our budget moving truck
Our budget moving truck used to move from AZ to WA

Once we were in Washington, we still had a notion that we would get a bigger house than what we were renting as our family grew bigger, but this notion really started to fade shortly after our move.  Maybe it was the tiny house movement that started to influence us.  Or maybe it was the fact that the kids never spent any time in their awesome rooms we setup except to sleep.  Maybe it was the notion that we still have so much stuff we have been carrying from place to place that we don’t really use that much (if at all).  Better yet, maybe it was all the toys everywhere that the kids started to accumulate.  Whatever it was, we started to realize that we needed to purge more from all of this extra clutter.

Over the next couple years, we started to really make sure we questioned any of our buying decisions in order to avoid accumulating more unnecessary stuff.  We would bounce the decision to buy something new off each other.  A devil’s advocate can be very helpful in trying to avoid temptation (as ironic as that sounds).  We also started slowly going through all our stuff and asking questions like, do we really need this?  Have we used this at all in the last year (or worse yet, the last couple years)?  Does this item bring joy into our life?  This was a slow process over time, but it worked out well for us.

WA state rental house
This is our rental house when we lived in WA state

Simplifying on the next level…  Going Tiny:

Michele started getting hooked on the tiny home movement, and she was trying to talk me into building one.  I admit that I was intrigued by the thought of it, but I was certainly not on board right away.  How were we really going to live in such a small space?  Would we end up killing each other?  Do people actually live in these full time?  My curiosity was pulled in enough to research the concept further.

Coco with her playhouse
Going tiny? Coco was ready with her tiny playhouse

As I did more research, I realized that it is not that easy to find a place to live in a tiny home trailer.  In most places in the country, they are not legal as a permanent primary dwelling on a piece of land, but you can live in one in an RV community.  The big problem with that concept is that most RV parks do not allow them.  My research seemed to be pointing to a dead end as to whether or not we could actually downsize into a tiny house.  All my research was pointing me to one realization though; I was getting hooked on the tiny house movement as well.  I was curious if we could make it work with our family and if it would result in a better family environment.

In doing research about tiny house living, I came across families that lived in RVs and traveled around the country.  The more I read, the more excited I became at the concept.  You can really have all the things you need in one small dwelling, and when you get tired of living in one spot, you can just move to another.  Ditching Suburbia, Tiny Shiny Home, and Crazy Family Adventure were some of my favorite sites with full time families which I started to follow.  It took Michele a little longer to get on board with RV living.  She liked the tiny house concept since they are built similar to a regular home and just simpler.

Tiny house with cute shutters
Tiny house with cute shutters – (photo Credit: Tomas Quinones – Flickr)

I saw a number of benefits to starting off in an RV and kept pushing the concept.  You can buy one already built for a reasonable price.  Many RVs have slide outs which open the space even more, so we don’t have to go right to super tiny (I was still leery).  RVs are made for long distance travel where most tiny houses are not.  We can easily find places to park stay anywhere in the country.  There were also some cons vs the tiny home:  Tiny homes are generally better quality builds than an RV.  They have the appearance of a quainter traditional home.  You can save money by building a tiny home from scratch which is harder to do with an RV since RVs use special custom parts.  Needless to say, I eventually got Michele to look more at RVs and she realized that they can actually be quite homey inside.

Jumping into RVing head first:

RV Road Ready
RV Ready to Hit the Road

In the start of 2017, we came to an epiphany.  We needed to work even harder to purge the extra stuff from our lives.  We were holding on to way too much stuff still that we didn’t use or need.  It mostly boiled down to the thought that we still might use it “someday”.  We got rid of that type of thinking and really started getting rid of more and more things.  This capitulated in April when we made the decision to go full time in the RV.  Then the full fledge minimalizing really hit high gear – I’ll leave the juicy details of that for another write up.  Let’s just say that we were insanely busy for a couple months.

We actually started looking at RVs in March of 2017.  At the end of March, we decided it was time for a change, and I put in my resignation at my job.  I knew that it was time to transition my career, but I was not quite sure what the next step was.  I figured that taking some time off would give me the opportunity to get out of the normal routine and consider other opportunities.  Since we were renting, we didn’t have to worry about selling a house, we just had to give our notice.  We gave a two month notice, so we had to be out by the end of May.  We set a goal of hitting the road before Memorial Day weekend (and we made it).

So with less than 2 months to launch, we had to purchase an RV, sell our cars and buy a truck (since we went with a 5th wheel trailer), sell or donate all our stuff that didn’t fit in the RV, and finally organize our new space to feel comfortable before hitting the road.   It was quite an amazing feat, but we made it happen.  Again, the details of that will be left for another post.

A new focus on simpler and intentional living:

We have now been living in our new home for about 8 months, and it has been an overall wonderful experience.  There have been bumps along the way, and sometimes we have wondered what in the heck we are doing, but the positives have certainly outweigh the negatives.

Flodeen Family visiting Niagara Falls
Flodeen Family visiting Niagara Falls

We really enjoy the smaller space, and to us, it doesn’t even seem small.  Well, sometimes it does when all the kids want to be in the bathroom at the same time, but overall, we really enjoy living smaller.  We are all able to get our own space if needed, and it really encourages you to get outside a lot more.  Exploring new playgrounds at local parks is one of the kids’ favorite things to do.  We are currently right next to the Gulf of Mexico and can walk over to enjoy the beach.  Even though it has been a colder than normal recently, we love having the opportunity to be so close to the water.  I never see us going towards bigger house living in the future, and I could even see downsizing even more for some of our journeys.  But who knows what the future will bring.  That is part of the excitement!

We still find ourselves looking to simplify; probably even more so now that we’re living smaller.  You really don’t want to be hauling a bunch of stuff around the country if you don’t need it.  That just creates more clutter and adds weight which in turn uses more fuel in transport.  You also find that your needs and goals shift as time goes on which in turn changes what stuff is important to keep.

With this simpler way of living, your mentality really starts to shift to one of intentional living.  We have been writing down our goals for a very long time, and then going back to revisit them, but our simpler living really has improved this process even more.  As we have settled more into this lifestyle, we have been asking more and more about what our objectives are in life.  What do we really want to accomplish?  What is most important to us and our family unit?  When you remove all the excess clutter out of your lives, you can really start to focus on living the way that you want to live: intentional living!

Double rainbow on hwy outside of Yellowstone NP
Double rainbow over the hwy outside of Yellowstone NP

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