Honey, you shrunk my kitchen!

The kitchen doesn’t have to be large in order to still work efficiently and create lasting memories for your family.

The kitchen has always been my favorite room in the house. It isn’t just the place where food is stored, it is a place of memories. A place where lessons are learned, magic is created, and imagination comes to life. I have been cooking for as long as I could remember. I have never been the best when it comes to baking pies and breads; maybe that is why my waistline still likes me. However, when it comes to the savory dishes, the eclectic salads, the tantalizing side dishes… well those I am pretty good at. I love making food memories. I love the process and the delight when a creation takes place. The reward of hard work. That is why the scariest part of moving into an RV was the size of my kitchen.

In order to come to terms with the shrunken version of my favorite room, I moved in phases. The first phase was getting rid of all the nice things that have limited function, but can be replaced. Basically, anything made by Pampered Chef. I love Pampered Chef and still have a couple things, but I know how to use knives with great efficiency and I have found that over the years, it is easier to grab a knife to dice up vegetables, rather than finding that one tool specifically made for that one specific vegetable, putting it together, using it for 5 minutes and then having to disassemble it and clean it. Second phase was knowing what I needed as far as pots and pans. Having a good pan is more value than having ten. I reduced my pots and pans to six total. (You don’t want to know what I did have). I also grabbed my Ninja, my crockpot, and my electric skillet just in case I needed extra help. Finally, I had to limit the amount of mixing bowls, as well as serving dishes, tableware, wine glasses (glass breaks on the road. I now have beautiful stainless steel ones!), and anything that was “excess”.

Little did I know that was the easy part. Imagine if you will, having two children (age 4 and 7) who LOVE to help you in the kitchen. Reduce the space to a small countertop, six square feet of walking space and having everything to include the stove, oven, sink, and fridge in that same area. It gets a bit tight. You have to get a little bit creative; use other tables in the RV. You learn that since you have to do dishes by hand, one of the sink’s sections is for clean dishes and one for dirty ones. You learn to prep even hours before you are going to start cooking. Prepping is what saves your sanity.

Then there is the food. In a “normal” home, you have a huge fridge. You have a huge pantry. you have the ability to house anything and everything your heart desires. You don’t have to worry about what you put in your grocery cart as you wander the vast aisles of Whole Foods. You have the room. Now…. in an RV. Things are different. But it isn’t bad like you may think. The fridge I have is SMALL. I think it my fridge may actually be envious of college dorm refrigerators sometimes. Cupboard space is limited. We have no room for junk food. We have no room for things we don’t need. We don’t have room to waste.

The average family in America wastes over 25 pounds of food a month. We don’t have the luxury to have that food just sitting in our fridge, growing new colonies of mold. We see everything in our fridge and it all gets used. Our fridge looks like the picture perfect image of the Ketogenic Diet. It is simple, yet elegant. Meat. Cheese. Milk, Veggies. Fruits. The masterpieces you can make when you have clean, fresh food. I am still able to make those inspiring dishes. In fact, I am actually forced to make them, because now, I don’t have the room for any frozen dinners, pre-packaged food, preservatives or fillers. Just real food. I also have to be creative while doing it. No more spreading out over an entire room, using 20 dishes to create one meal. I have become more intimate with my cooking; and I love it! I also love the amount of money I save as a result! We now spend about $100 a week on food for our family of four!

The best part: my children love it too. They still get to help. They will help me prep and they are more aware of what we get when we are grocery shopping. We don’t do snack foods. I don’t go and buy the 5lb container of fish crackers anymore for snacks. Instead, they ask me if they can have a cucumber with lemon squeezed on it. They know there aren’t any gummy snacks in the cupboards so they don’t ask. Instead, they ask for grapes. It makes me realize that even though my kitchen shrunk, the memories made in the kitchen didn’t. Now, I am giving my children the knowledge, the skills, and the nutrition to set them up for success later in life so one day, they can create their own food memories.

The First Week

I have always been a very passionate and ambitious person. I set my goals high and want only the best. However, what is the actual definition of “the best”? Is it is the biggest house, fastest car, nicest watch? It is an office with a view or your name on the building? To be honest, no matter how much money I had, I never felt any better than how I felt when I was struggling to pay the rent as a teenager living on my own. I have had many great jobs. I have served my country in more than a few ways and I love the mission associated in making this world a better place. But no matter what money I have made or what job title I have held, I still have not felt as though I was living the BEST life. My husband and kids are great but I am nowhere near the best wife or mother. I have always excelled in things, but never found that true passion.

What I have found is that the more and more stuff that I bought, the more stressed out I became. The more shoes and clothes I have to choose from, the harder it was for me to decide what to wear to work. When you accumulate so many things, they begin to own you instead. You work hard to enjoy your time off, but end up spending all your time off maintaining the things that you have.

SO WHY NOT JUST LET IT ALL GO?

That’s what we did. We sold or gave away pretty much everything. It was overwhelming at times. It hurt at first, but then I felt relieved not to have all of that extra stuff burdening me. The same stuff that I thought I had to have in order to live the best life. In less than two months, we moved from a 3 bedroom house with a  3 car garage (that we didn’t even park in due to too much stuff) to an RV. Two adults. Two kids. One dog. Just an RV.

It’s been one week. How does it feel? Honestly: amazing. Life is simple. It is easy. The kids go outside more because there is not enough room for them to spread out. We don’t buy as much food because our fridge is smaller. We don’t waste any food because I don’t think we can if we tried. We are closer as a family. The kids even put their shoes away! I guess when you don’t have much room for things, you can’t really make a mess.

Do I miss my stuff: no. I really don’t. I am learning that the best life isn’t one filled with things. It is filled with memories. With adventures. With moments that mean something. I don’t need to go to the store to buy everything I need. I already have it right here with me. So far, week one is a complete success. I know in the next month, I will be making a list of the things that you need to prepare for when downsizing to this extreme. Right now I think the biggest adjustment is just learning how to relax a little bit more. Maybe being ambitious isn’t the greatest thing in life. Maybe life is.

The Prelude

The Prelude to our story. The rest is yet to be written. Our adventures are just beginning!

Every story has a prelude. Most of the time, it is in the writer’s head and not in the book itself. It’s the history of the characters. The life they led before the story started and the events that led to the main story. Now, this is just one story of our lives. It is the beginning of THIS adventure we are getting ready to go on. We have been fortunate to have had many great adventures and stories leading up to this point. So instead of just starting out this “book” of our lives on chapter one, I feel as though a prelude in in order to establish the setting of this story.

Daniel and I both were in the Air Force. Daniel was a special tactics guy and I worked in physical therapy. While stationed in Italy, we met each other, got married (in Maine) and had a beautiful baby boy, Alexander. We then moved to Florida where we increased our family by adding a wonderful little girl Evelyn and ultimately a energetic and loyal dog, Maggie.

In 2015, we decided to move out west. Dan was currently in Afghanistan and I got a job in Boise, Idaho working for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Dan was getting ready to separate from the military after 10 years, so Idaho would be the location of our fresh start and new life. I moved the kids, the dog and myself out here and he happily followed a few months later, starting our journey out West.

We love Idaho. It may just about be the best place I have ever lived. There are mountains, rivers, lakes, deserts, beautiful sunrises, speechless sunsets, and some of the nicest people I have ever met (I call them suspiciously nice because I have never met people so genuine). That is why Idaho is still our home. We don’t exactly have a 5 year plan. We are still working on the one-year plan or even a three-month plan to be honest, but what we do know is that Idaho will be our home station throughout this adventure.

Alright, so that brings us to the good part: our Gray(t) Adventure! How did we decide this? Why are we doing it? Where are we going? Well, I suppose there are many factors that brought us to this decision. For starters, Alexander has been struggling with the traditional school system. While I don’t think the system had let him down, I do believe his brain learns differently than what they offer. So instead of taking an active boy and putting him on medication for ADHD, we are taking the boy out of school and giving his brain an active learning pathway to grow and become passionate about learning. This decision was also largely based on the fact that medical concerns have forced me to give up working. Maybe in another post, when things are more clear, I will indulge more on that aspect, but all I can say for now is that I am taking every moment and making the most of it. I love working so leaving a great job was extremely difficult for me. It almost felt like I was defeated, but in the end, this is the only life I get and I plan on making the most out of it. Finally, I think our family spent way too much time apart when Dan was in the military or even when we were both working. Why have a family you do not know? Now, we are learning how to be a unit and enjoy all the moments that life has to offer. Next week, we will be heading to California to see what adventures we can find there.

I can’t tell the future. For the most part, I rely on my trusty Magic 8 ball to give me the advice I seek. Right now, it tells me “outlook good”. I’ll take that. Plus, this is just the Prelude. The rest of the story is waiting to be written. To be read. To be lived.