Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Moving Towards

I thought I would explain the plan. People doubt the plan, but I have assumed that it was from misunderstandings. So, I am laying it out step-by-step, and if people still doubt the plan, I am up for suggestions on what we might be overlooking.

Dan is in Bible college currently. He will graduate either Spring of 2011 or 2012, depending on some scheduling issues. Whichever year doesn't effect the plan so much, but it is taken into consideration for the time frame.

So, here is the plan. I will say that we have earned more money for this plan through the blog than through savings. For that I am thankful. If it were not for blog income, the plan would take longer.

Step 1) Buy a mobile home. We have no idea where we are going to end up and how often we'll be moving after, so a mobile home is the way to go for us. At first, we will rent a lot for it in a park. The money we save on rent can be used to pay utilities that aren't covered and to put towards the next step.

Step 2) Fix up the mobile home. I have grandiose plans for a layout that will suit an expanding family. We will change the layout and fix up anything else in need of work. I will start posting my layout ideas when my Touring Tuesdays are done.

Step 3 and 4) Buy land or make home energy efficient. Which we do first depends on whether Dan has a pastorate yet and which will reap savings faster. Not all lots within our price range will be hook-up ready for water, and we may end up building our own well. Thus, if we are looking at land that isn't ready for us, we will want our home to have solar panels for heat and electricity.

Step 5) Build a chicken coop. This will be our first venture into livestock, but not our last. Where we go from there is hard to write on paper, as there will be so many variables in the type of land we have, and how much, but we will continue one step at a time.

All the while...

I will be working on homesteading by increasing our garden and renewable food sources. I will also be researching, researching, researching the next step.

How much, how long?

This is not a short term goal, but I imagine we could be on step five in ten years, and probably going back to step two as we go. Right now, we're putting the blog money aside to start step one. Once Dan is through with school, we will be putting the money that was for his tuition toward these goals, one at a time.


Plumbob said...

Are you still planning on doing all of this without taking on debt? I think living debt-free is an admirable goal, but extemely difficult for the average person.
I am the same age as you are, although unmarried and without children. I graduated from a 4-year university course in 2008 and during my studies I worked in community care and brought in slightly less income than your current family income. I was very, very fortunate that I did not have many expenses and I paid very little in rent because I lived with my parents. After graduation I had about $50,000 to use as a down-payment on a home. I put down 20%.
I would have loved to buy a home outright, without debt, but that would have taken many more years even if my parents were still willing to have me living at home.

As I said, it is an extremely admirable goal and I sincerely hope you are able to achieve this. But on such a low income, and expectations of a decrease in income after Dan's graduation, combined with the increasing expenses of growing boys *and* the addition of more children to the family, I really think you are setting yourself up for struggles and disappointment.

Keep in mind that the Duggar family was only able to finish their current home (being built as finances allowed) once TLC stepped in to pay for it. I know you don't aspire to Duggar-like housing, but I have read far too many accounts of other families living debt free while choosing the Quiverfull lifestyle and having to live in very substandard conditions while they try to afford a bag of cement or a few 2x4s a month to work on their debt-free homesteads.

Emily said...

Plumbob, yes, this is all debt free, which is why we are doing it piece by piece. My husband's income won't drop when we he graduates. We expect he will have to have a second job for many years until we have our homestead sustainable enough. A trailer can be easily found for under $5K here, so buying it outright is the easiest part of the plan. Land goes for around $20k, minimum, and that is not necessarily in the areas we will want it. That will take us a few years to save for.

Plumbob said...

Well maybe it is more doable in America. Here in Australia, my 255K house was pretty much as cheap as you can get. I don't even know if trailers exist as an option here. Things are much more expensive here, but according to your blog comments our beef is high quality! I read a lot of personal finance websites, mostly American, and am always amazed by how cheap US food prices are. It never occured to me that we might have higher standards of quality. I'll have to keep telling myself that as I eat my $4 skinless chicken breast, the best deal I could find.

Mrs. Money said...

OHH yes! I love this plan. I think that is going to work out so well for you. Can I move in too?

ly said...

A couple things:
When you go to buy a trailer go to a lot that handles repos. Trailers are just like cars in terms of title. It will save you a ton of money in the long run. When negotiating the price of the trailer make sure delivery and set up fees are included in the price you are paying. You should not pay extra for that.

Also trailers are very expensive to move. You have to have special permits and escorts. If you are crossing state lines then this cost will double. It may be more cost efficient to buy a new trailer when you move. To move a trailer it will cost you $2000 minimum.
When you are fixing up your trailer you will have to use special products to make sure they are floating. If you do not then when you do move it, wall etc can crack and you will have wasted all you money fixing it up.


onlyme said...

One thing you're missing is that solar panels will not be enough to heat and provide electricity to a trailer in Maine, no matter how well insulated you are. I'm only slightly north of you, and I can assure you that you do not get enough sunlight all winter long to heat even a trailer to livable temperatures. People who live off the grid have wood stoves/furnaces at a minimum.

Early Modern Mom said...

Go Emily! You guys can do it. I find your blog inspiring.

I hate, hate, hate mobile homes with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, though, I have to tell ya. Not in a, "they shouldn't exist" way but in a "OH GOD NO DON'T MAKE ME GO BACK" way.

With our infertility, I don't know where we're going on the 10-year plan. I would love to have a little land in central TX or CO with a small homestead, but I kinda feel like "What's the point?" without kids. By the time we could realize this (5 years or so), our one daughter will be off to college.

Blargh. Oh, and as for the calorie counters . . . your family eats better than mine even though I have a big house, big income, only one kid, two cars, on and on. You're right: these people need a life.

Raleigh foodie said...

Emily, please don't buy a mobile home. The construction materials are so poor. My aunt lives in one that is less than 10 years old and it is literally crumbling -- and she's not sustaining the wear and tear of having several children living in it. If this really is about a long-term plan, save your pennies longer and build a cabin. If you build it yourselves, you can save thousands. And you'll have a structure that will stand the test of time. It won't deteriorate nearly as quickly or make you or your family sick through use of hazardous building materials.

Maria said...

I was going to suggest a cabin too. Kids are tough on mobile homes, especially less expensive homes made with not-so-great materials. Since you plan to have a lot of kids, you'd probably be better off with something a bit sturdier.

Also have you considered square foot gardening? We have a massive backyard but since I was pregnant last spring/summer/fall I didn't have the energy to put in a huge garden. We compromised with a couple of square foot gardens and some indoor pots. I'm still harvesting peppers and tomatoes from my indoor pots!

Minn said...


I think these are attainable goals. Good luck!

Emily said...

On the trailer, maybe I need to emphasize more that portable is key. We don't know where Dan is going to have a pastorate, and although it is ideal to stay in one church for a lifetime, it is just not how it goes anymore. We are planning on, over time, gutting and completely rubuilding the trailer.

Jennifer said...

Would you not be able to build a cabin (or even modular home) where he does get a pastorate, and then sell/rebuild if he moves to another?

Jen said...

How many times are you planning on moving it? I ask because let me tell you, while they are "portable" it is very expensive and you don't want to do it more than once. Those things are not really built to haul around. THey are built to be cheap, made in a factory and taken to their destination. When you move them you risk walls and windows cracking, even with good movers.

Don't most churches provide the pastor with a home? I really thought it was one of the perks to make up for the lack of income. Just a thought.

Unless you plan on church jumping regularly, I would rent until you get to your permanent place, then look at setting up a homestead. It doesn't make financial sense to haul a trailer around.

Hope said...

Have you thought about the fact that many churches offer parsonages for their pastors to live in? They also pay housing allowences on top of salary.

Emily said...

Jennifer, I think that would be more expensive.

Jen, we are not planning on moving around a lot, but it happens nonetheless. We don't know where God wants us, how long he'll want us there and a of the details of our future life. It is not up to us, it is up to him, so, investing in housing that can be moved with us and customizing it to our needs is a must to be flexible with the plans he has for us. I am open to information on other portable home ideas.

Hope, in the area where we are looking to minister, that is rarely the case.

-K- said...

Having grown up in a trailer, I can attest to their rather poor quality. Yes, trailers are meant to be mobile, but the lightweight building materials used to make it mobile aren't meant to last for decades and they certainly aren't meant to withstand wear and tear from half a dozen (or more) people. If you remodel to make it more sturdy it will be too heavy to travel. Also, like a previous commenter pointed out, trailers are EXPENSIVE to move. While most churches absorb the moving costs when hiring a new pastor, I doubt the churches you are considering could front the thousands required to move a trailer.

Emily, I ask you this as one pastor to another - are you TRULY allowing for God's will in this? The attitude you display here is quite prideful. I know you've done research and you think this is best for your family, but what if God chooses to send you to a church with a beautiful parsonage? Yes, we need to use our God-given resources wisely and plan for our future - you are doing an excellent job at that! However, I get the impression that you will forge ahead with this project regardless of any blessings God may have for you. Correct me if I'm wrong


I won't sign my full name, as I don't want it broadcast on the internet, but please accept this comment out of concern and love, not maliciousness.

Sandy Regina said...

You really don't have a clue. Mobile homes aren't meant to be moved around all the time. People move all the time without being limited to only mobile homes. Maybe you should just rent until you figure out where you're going to be, or until you can afford a real house that you can build equity in and sell. Mobile homes do not build equity, they depreciate just like a car would. I realize you are young so it's understandable, but you really need to do more research.

Alicia said...

What's the average square footage of the mobile homes that you would consider?

Sarah said...

My dad was a pastor, now keep in mind this was some years ago, but...they either helped us find housing or provided housing free/low cost. While you can't depend on it, since it really would come down to the area/church, it is something to consider. I almost feel as though you'd be better off renting a two bedroom apartment or a low income house. It would provide more space for your family to live and depending on your area, you probably can find a pretty cheap deal.

Alicia said...

One more question, posted too fast-

How to you plan to keep customizing the mobile home to fit your ever-expanding family? At what point/how many people do you think you would grow out of a typical mobile home. Are you thinking double-wide or single wide?

I'm just curious since I grew up in a single-wide trailer and it was BARELY big enough for my parents and my sister and I. We couldn't have more than 2 people over because we literally did not have the space.

Our Family Is His said...

When you say trailer, do you mean older mobile home, travel trailer, or a newer mobile home? Reason I ask is, my Dad had a mobile home my entire life (came home from the hospital to one, grew up visiting him living in one, he had them until just recently - this last move might have been to one but he's out of my life so I don't know). He had it on the same piece of land, but got a newer one. He had, as far as I know, 3 in his lifetime. The one I came home to, the one he had when I was growing up, and the one he got when I was in my late teens. These aren't very mobile.

Yes, you can move them. But be warned, damage to the home is often done to the older ones due to how poorly they were made. So, on top of moving them (which is far from cheap), you have to pay for repairs once they get settled into their new location. I am not saying that to tell you not to do it, just so you are prepared for that with some extra savings for when the time comes, just an FYI.

Travel trailers, well that's a whole other topic and would be a LOT smaller than when you have not. They are designed to be moved, and moved often. We had one. We purchased it as a "bedroom" when we lived with hubby's family for a few months while we house hunted when we first got married. (literally, our honeymoon trip ended and we went there) It gave us a bit of privacy from the hustle and bustle of their home. But I can't imagine having very many children in it (and we had a nicer one that was older). So I am not thinking that's the type of trailer you meant.

As for newer mobile homes, they are made a lot sturdier. Many look like stand alone houses once you get inside with texture walls, nicer finishes, and bigger rooms. However, they are still mobile homes and will be, for the most part, even more expensive to move than an older one, and damage can be done to them in-transit. Also, $5,000 wouldn't touch one of those. So my guess is you are either speaking of a travel trailer or an older mobile home.

If so, that's good for you guys. But just be prepared for the home repair that might be needed with each move. Having siding gone, a window off track, or other such repairs would be things that needed to be done immediately upon putting it down in the new location.

Again, not to say don't do it. Just giving you an FYI from someone who has a little experience with them. =)

Emily said...

Sarah, in the area my husband is hoping to pastor, homes or housing allowances are just not part of the deal. These are poor churches in poor areas. If we want to rent, my husband will always have to work a second job to provide for that. We want a sustainable home that does not rely on a large outside income.

Alicia, I will be posting my trailer ideas after I'm done with touring Tuesdays. Most trailers have an inefficient layout with long hallways, which are a real waste of space. But I'll share more in a separate post.

crabcakes, not sure where your comment went, but I am ooking into modular homes. I think they would be just as expensive to move (if not more), but with less repairs needed?

Alicia said...

Yes, my trailer had the kitchen and "living room" on one end, then a long narrow hallway that led to my sister and I's room, the bathroom, and my parents bedroom. The layout was terrible. I think we had one closet....

Sarah said...

My mom did not work while we were young, she helped my dad, the pastor, with secretary work when she could. (We spent a lot of our time at the church) When we were older, my parents told us about how hard it was financially for them. They did not have a credit card initially, and would put money into envelopes for different things (one for groceries, one for bills, etc..) We never ate out, didn't get the newest of clothes (thrift stores and hand me downs for us), and we didn't live in luxury, but to be honest, we didn't notice. When we were older they told us there were times that we lived on $1,000 a month..I'm not joking..but this was when the church was letting us live in their parsonage. My mom grew her own food, most of it at least, in a garden. I think living very simply is possible, I just am unsure if that's really a reality to live with hardly any income, 4 kids, etc..

And when we moved to another church and we had to rent and didn't get free housing, my dad did have to pick up a part time job. (Many pastors have to do this now) It's hard and less than ideal, but it's what we had to do. God blessed all of the hard work.

Elizabeth said...

I can totally see your goals in this picture, and it seems your first goal is to own your own home, and then find a homestead. Now we live in two completely different regions of the US, but our costs of living are fairly low as well around here. The fact is, while a trailer can be bought cheaply, it can not be moved cheaply. It is at least a few thousand dollars to move, and that is if it is within a few miles. Several thousand dollars more it is is a bit further. Paying that much to move a trailer when the trailer itself isn't even worth that price, is not a reasonable price to pay. And while "owning your trailer", you are still paying lot rent, which is almost a ridiculous amount (at least a couple hundred here a month). Then there are permits when it comes to moving a trailer and if it doesn't pass inspection you can't move it! In the end it sounds like it would be more expensive to own a trailer (when you have to pay for moving, upkeep costs, lot rents, hookup fees) than it would be to continue to rent for a few more years. Not to mention that the costs to heat a trailer are much higher because they are not insulated well and they conduct heat in the summer which can make it almost unbearable without air that can be another expense.

Plus, it may be cheaper to buy an exsisting homestead with a small house or a fixer upper than to drill your own well or get sewer hookups put in. Those can be several thousands of dollars. You could get an acreage that already has a home on it for a fairly decent price, especially if it is a fixer-upper. It may, in the end, cost less than moving a trailer to some land and trying to hook up your water and sewer systems. And while a wood stove can be done in a trailer, it is not recommended at all because it is a huge fire hazard. An exsisting house could be hooked up to solar, have a wood stove, and be a better homesteading shelter than a mobile home. Even if you buy empty land, a small cabin built can be cheaper than moving a trailer. I have friends who salvaged building materials from houses about to be torn down and paid less than $5,000 to build their cabin!

We too have been on the route to homesteading. A small acreage here with just a simple fixer-upper house is at least $50,000 though. Even just land is atleast $30,000 or so. So we decided to buy intown, gain equity, sell at a later date and then buy something in the country. For now I am learning homesteading in town and have my own raised garden bed, hang my wash outside, have a compost bin, and walk many places to save gas. We went through all the scernios that you have on how to get our own homestead and found this to be the best way for us. I hope my comments have given you some help.

Janie said...

If you are planning on moving or possibly moving fairly frequently, then why buy land? Or would you sell the land once you need to move somewhere else? Or is the land part of a long term goal once you get established in an area where you do not see yourself moving for quite some time?

liveoncejuicy said...

To K: it sounds to me like Dan is already feeling drawn to serve those in poverty. It's unlikely that will lead to a beautiful parsonage I'm thinking. As another person who has always felt compelled to work with those living in poverty, I feel him.

I think your plan sounds good Emily. You're saving and working toward something, which is wonderful. The key is that you're saving. That way, when you start looking to spend what you've saved on a home, you'll be prepared to take advantage of whatever opportunity comes up. I'm always surprised at how, if I'm prepared, the exact right thing comes along. It might not be a mobile home. You might end up doing something different. Or not.

Obviously if portability is important, a mobile home is the only way you can go. It might not be easy or cheap to move, but it's clearly easier and cheaper than trying to move a non-mobile home. I personally have strong feelings about real estate and would rent now rather than buy a regular home anyway.

While mobile homes do depreciate, just like cars if you buy one with problems and fix it up you can make a profit. So you may end up finding that a better option. Especially if you enjoy step 2 and want to do it again :)

Courtney said...

I've never heard of a modular home that could be moved. Although they are shipped in sections to the building site, the sections are then joined together and it becomes just like a regular, stickbuilt house, with a foundation and all. Moving one would be a huge undertaking, I would think...

Me said...

I agree with the others about not buying a mobile home. They are not that mobile and once you fix them up they really are not meant to be moved. Also the poster who stated that they do not appreciate over time is correct. You would do better to buy and sell especially if Dan is planning on pastoring in poorer areas. The real estate would obviously reflect those income levels. I hope you look into this a little more before you jump into a mobile home.

That being said, I think it is great that you are trying to do it debt free but sometimes the Dave Ramsey-esqe car is not the best choice. If you pay cash for something but have to pour lots of money into fixing it up what have you really saved if it comes out to be the same as if you have bought the next level of quality for more $$$ but paid nothing in repairs?

KatieK said...

Emily, I don't know exactly where you live in Maine, but here is a possibility for you to investigate. My parents owned a three bedroom summer cottage on a lake about 45 minutes from Portland. Fifteen years or so ago they built a log cabin on the land and instead of taking a wrecking ball to the existing building the builder moved it to a plot of land owned by a family that needed a home. The cabin needed to be made ready for winter and such so there is some expense involved there, but I think the builder moved it at no charge. There are many 50-60 year old summer cottages in the area that our routinely destroyed so the owners can upgrade the building.

Just an idea for you to invesigate. After the point in your plan where you guys purchase your land you may be able to upgrade from the mobile home for very little investment!

Libby said...

I would strongly encourage you to scrap the entire trailer idea. My husband and I have moved 5 times in the 2 years we've been married (all 1000+ mile moves, including 2 cross country)and it is expensive and difficult enough just to move your persons and belongings. Even if you are moving a lot, I cannot imagine a scenario where you save money or improve your life by schlepping even a lovely, upgraded and modified trailer around the country. Each move will cost many thousands of dollars (assuming any sort of distance). We currently rent (and have at the last 4 locations) but we know are at a job and location where my husband has a good stable job making decent money, and so we will be looking to buy a house in the next several months. It seems contrary to frugality to throw all that money away on moving a trailer around the country. If you're committed to the trailer idea in order to buy something rather than rent (even though I think it works against your goals of having a large, healthy, safe, sustainable family), then at least reconcile yourself with selling the trailer if you have to move. Lots of people move lots of places, frequently, and there's a reason that people have moving sales and don't move their houses (even though you *can* move almost every house). It's too darn expensive !

Christena said...

I agree with the other readers. It sounds like a smarter plan to rent for a while until you know where you're going to be, and then buy a piece of land and build a home. You could always rent a house, or part of a house. I've found that they they often have outdoor space available for the tenants where you could garden and hang your clothes outside.

I was under the impression that you did think that you're income was going to decrease. I'm glad to see that you've got a back up plan (dan getting a second job) to counter the lower paying career that he's chosen.

Lottie said...

Have you considered the potential health hazards of a mobile home? Indoor air pollution is a serious concern. Mobile homes are known to have high formaldehyde emissions due to their construction. Also, I believe without proper heating and cooling you can develop mold problems. My sister lived in one for a while--brand new, beautiful, 2000 square foot doublewide--and she had *mushrooms* growing out of the carpet.

Melissa said...

As a previous poster said, when you are ready to buy your trailor check out repo lots! My mom purchased a trailor from a repo lot and saved alot of money. Also, It is expensive to move. It cost my mom almost $3,000 to move it from PA to NJ. Just something else to think about....

God Bless,

vm said...

I look forward to seeing your plans for layout of a trailer because, if I recall right, you hope to have a lot of kids, and I just can't see how they will all fit in a single-wide trailer.

I guess I'm also still stuck on the idea that you refuse to take out a loan or consider buying a home, selling if you have to move, and then buying a new one---even for a low-priced home. It seems that way you'd have more land, have more room, and have more safety in your life. Remember, you can pay down loans very quickly if you budget right.

Gille said...

Emily, I'm very excited for you.

I don't find your attitude prideful as K mentioned nor do I think you're setting yourself up for failure as plumbob said. Life can be lived debt free and can be blessed by God. I happen to think when God sends blessings your way that you're smart enough to be open to them. Having a plan and going for it is one thing but ignoring God is another.

Your plan is such a big plan that it would be dumb for you to not know your options and plans on mobile homes, land, and his pastoral work. Some replies pretty much assume you didn't research your plan. Good luck on it. It can be done and has been.

I'm looking forward to reading more about your family and I wish you all the best.

vm said...

Also, do you have any idea the cost of building a well and installing/purchasing solar panels for a home? The well seems variable but solar panels would probably run you $10,000 at minimum.

dona said...

1. Mobile homes are not a good investment. They're not built to be moved time and time again.

2. Upgrading a mobile home is a waste of time, energy and effort. The materials are already sub-standard and there is a reason for that.

3. Since you and Dan plan on pastoring in poor communities why don't you just consider renting something cheap or buy a small home and build some equity. You'd come out ahead purchasing a starter home and then building on that. Remodeling a starter home is a more more solid idea than remodeling a mobile home. Nobody makes money on mobile homes. They are just not a wise investment. The money you'd spend outright on a mobile home would make a decent down payment on a REAL house.

4. Do you ever go to your parents for guidance? They have lived a lifetime compared to you and Dan and most likely have some wise advice they'd more than likely be happy to share with you.

5. Where do you come up with these ideas?

Anne said...

Hi, Emily. I've been reading your blog for a couple of months now and have been fascinated by your choice of lifestyle.

My small church recently called a new pastor. He has a wife and a little boy. We don't have a parsonage, but several of us worked hard to help him find a suitable rental property. It is expensive enough to move...I shudder to think of the cost associated with moving a trailer. I imagine it would blow our church's tiny budget.

I live in a town with many churches. I daresay the majority of the pastors of these churches have another job to pay the bills. Such is the nature of churchwork, especially for small churches.

Please consider the reality of your current situation and the situation you hope to achieve. You, your husband, and your children deserve a long, healthy, happy life. Life is difficult enough without self-imposed poverty.

ethel said...

Emily, how long will it take you to save $25,000 for the trailer and the land at you current rate of savings, and how do you plan to increase your income to achieve it?

We did a cross country move recently on the cheap, and it was about $5,000.

As for solar panels, I priced out a 2kw system for our house, and at 7.3 cents per kilowatt hour it would pay for itself AFTER it had to be replaced, in about 20 years. If you have that $15,000 - $20,000 to spend on fun green things a ground source heat pump is a better investment.

Pam said...

If I were writing this post, I would add the phrase "If the Lord wills, we will...". We can have what we think is a great plan, but if it isn't what God has for us, we must be able to abandon our plans for His. His plans are always greater than our plans, and though it is prudent to save and plan for the future, always remember to seek the Lord's will each step of the way.

When I first recommended considering a mobile home over a tiny house, it was because I recognize your desire to get onto a piece of actual land as quickly as possible, and you can get a lot more living space for your money in a mobile home. There are just some homesteading things that you can't do as efficiently or effectively in an apartment. (Though you do more homesteading in your tiny apartment than most people who own their own homes.)

I think this is a great plan, though I am with those who doubt that moving it much is going to work. I say that you work toward your goal, all the while saving, learning, and practicing, and when the time comes, we'll see what doors the Lord opens up for you and Dan! The Lord blesses those who are faithful in the smaller things with bigger things.

Sue said...

How do you plan to build up savings with midwife costs every year? Didn't you say that the last midwife bill wiped your savings out?

And if you have to move a lot, won't you have to sell the land your home was on each time in order to afford new land? Land can be hard to sell, especially cheap land out in the middle of nowhere that nobody wanted in the first place. Which is probably the only land you will be able to afford unless you save for years and years.

I suppose it is possible.... but it doesn't sound very pleasant. I find it very interesting that you are trying so hard to live a life that poor people all over the world, in the past and present, fight to get away from.

I'm interested to see what happens with you.

Emily said...

We would resell land if/when we moved.

The next best idea for a portable home is a yurt, but Dan isn't sold on that.

A Person said...

Emily, I think I just realized why you've come up ... Emily, I think I just realized why you've come up with this plan. You want to be a settled homemaker, renovating and homesteading, but your husband's job doesn't allow for that, so you want to take your secure, homey space with you. Have you told him how nervous and insecure the lifestyle he's planning for makes you? I've followed my husband on several moves and rented for a lot longer than I wanted to so he could follow his dream, but we always had an end point in sight.

You can do a lot in a rental home. Some nice shelves that you build and stain and varnish to match could fill an entire wall of your living room, then when you move you could rebuild them to fit the next house. I know it's frustrating to be unable to change the structure of your home, but you can do a ton to make it more beautiful, restful and functional without demolishing anything.

Alicia said...

I work in real estate, and land is especially hard to sell, so I would not count on that if you are ever planning on having to move quickly (as in, within a year...)

Elizabeth said...

My question is why does your future home have to be mobile? Are pastors always moving or don't some settle into a parish forever? If Dan will be moving from church to church for the first several years not owning a home and instead renting would actually be a cheaper option. If you plan to someday settle to a permanant place than wouldn't that be the time to purchase a piece of land and build a cabin or some structure (mobile homes are actually not meant to last a lifetime)?
It isn't so easy to just buy land and sell it and move and buy more land. Sometimes it can take years to sell land. Seriously, those who move a lot realize that they have to give up something: home ownership or moving.

Christena said...

a yurt!? all the portable yurts I've seen all have lattice wood walls with a vinyl covering. How on earth is that supposed to keep you warm in Maine? They look like amazing solution to many problems. They are portable, relatively cheap, and can be quite large. The largest one available here ( is 706 square feet. But I just can't get around the fact that Maine is awfully cold in the winter.

So I kept looking at the website there and apparently you can get an upgraded cover that has some kind of insulation, which is good. It also has an upgraded wall and ceiling so that it won't collapse under snow or wind (which is something I hadn't thought of). But all of these things that would be necessary for you are upgrades. It doesn't say how much they cost... but I can bet you they aren't cheap.

way to be creative, but don't be afraid to keep looking!

I still think a log cabin would be the best option for you.

Emily said...

On portable living, renting means that for every month for the rest of our lives we have to pay rent. Not true with owning a home and land. Simply, we don't want my husband to be dependent on his second job forever. Our dream is for him to only work as a pastor, no second job. Also, there are a lot more restrictions of square footage per person for renters than owners.

Person, Dan and I have discussed security issues. Neither of us is willing to not follow God's leading Dan into ministry because of my homemaking desires. They are compatible goals.

On income, if you consider my present blog readership a peak and I go down to last month's level, and level off, I can still add $5k annually to these goals.

Christena, that is not the only place you can buy yurts, and you can build them yourself. You can build them in sections and they can thus be portable. There are a wide range of sizes and building options.

Elizabeth said...

Emily, so do you plan to always be mobile or is there hope to someday settle down to a piece of land forever? I ask because the goal of homesteading is to create a self-substaining home and land. Adding animals a garden and becoming self efficent can take years and you can not just move and start all over every few years. It doesn't make econimal sense and won't work if that is your plan.

Having a trailer or even yurt and moving every few years means you are still going to have to buy land every few years and set up a homestead (and dig a well and sewer every few years, which is not an econimical option) or rent land, which means you not only have the cost of keep up with your trailer but also rent). Again, not economical options. The best bet in that respect then would to buy an RV and try to find a church in the south to be a pastor of and rent a spot in an RV camp. The rent would be similar to a trailer court, I imagine, but you would have no costs of moving (except for gas) and would have electrical, water, and sewer hook-ups. That is the only econimical option that I see.

Elle said...

I saw someone once who bought a trailer for a semi and turned it into a home. They're 53 feet long, they *are* meant to be moved all the time, and you can build the inside however you want. They're tall enough you could build a loft to increase square footage. Punch in some windows, fix it up for electricity and plumbing... it could be done. I have no idea about the logistics of it all (if it would be cheaper than buying a mobile home or not), but it would be customizable and if you took the time to do it right, I think it could be done well. And I doubt it would require any special permits to move, because you'd just hire a semi to pull it, and that would end up being your only moving cost (no moving vans needed!)

Like I said, I saw it done once, but I don't know anything about logisitics or costs, but I assume since this guy I knew did it, it might be a cost-efficient option to look into.

Christena said...

I didn't say it was the only place to buy yurts. I just gave it as an example. It's this kind of snippy-ness that makes people say that you're harsh. You seem to get upset when they "jump to conclusions" about you, but you do the same thing to us!

I'm just concerned that if you have something that's portable (thus it's built in sections, or is light enough to move as a whole), that there just isn't a way to keep it insulated properly.

At any rate, if you're completely demolishing your home to move it at any sort of frequency, you're going to have to get rid of a lot of your stuff in order to make it manageable.

When I went to college I brought a TON of stuff with me. I quickly realized that having to move everything I own, twice a year (in at the beginning and out at the end of every year) that you just have to cut back. Every year that I moved in an out of a dorm room (which was anywhere from 80 square feet to 120 square feet)I took less and less stuff with me, until when I eventually moved into my first apartment (which was only 500 square feet). I had enough space to spread out and I realized how little stuff I actually had, but I didn't need anything else because I'd learned to get by with out it. If you really took a close look at what you're using and what you're not, I bet you could get a way with living with a lot less stuff in general.

Razing Ruth said...

Once again, Emily, I think you're losing sight of what's important. What's missing from your plan, aside from experience enough to tell you that some of your plan's tools aren't going to work (land, mobile home - I'll get to that), is that you're not figuring your children (the ones you have and the ones you plan to have) into your "plan".

You talk about your savings. You've even told us how much is in there (by telling us how quickly it was wiped out by a midwife + how your blog revenue funds it + your income leftovers). Without you realizing it, I'm sure, you've given people enough data to figure out your financial picture. What happens to the savings for the mobile home and land when you have the next few babies? At the rate you're going, you're annual blog income with barely cover the midwives fees for a child every 18 months. Extra mouths mean extra food. Growing boys mean extra food. Basically, your expenses are going to grow while, under your current plan, your savings are going to be fairly static for at least two-to-three years and possibly longer. Remember, just graduating from his program doesn't insure he'll be called to a position.

On to your trailer and land -
I think people have pointed out the failings of a trailer, but I'll add one more. Your children! WIth the three boys you have now, you're going to have issues with space in a single wide. If you have more than a single wide, you won't be moving it on the cheap, if at all (especially an older one). As for the land, have you done any research as to how long property is sitting on the market? Unless it's a huge plot of land, ready for development and hooked up, the average time on market, in Maine, is one to two years. That's average. You have to remember that the person buying your land is most likely going to be the same sort of person as you are (looking for the same things). Buying land when you intend to move often, and when you need that money to buy your next property for inhabitance, is foolhearty.

As another poster asked, what will you do if the Lord sends Dan a position with a nice house. You keep saying that the areas you WANT to service won't do that. How do you know? What about God's plan and wants?

I think what people are trying to say is that your plan seems very naive. You talk about your housing needing to be flexible and adaptable, but you're stuck on this future you've imagined for yourself.

Sandy said...

I hope that you will listen to the advice you've been given on mobile homes. The truth is that if you're looking for something that can be moved easily, a yurt is a much better option than a mobile home. That said, a well made, good sized yurt is not cheap. And a cheap, poorly made (or home-made) yurt would be a very goode way to freeze to death in Maine.

I also think that you need to seriously think about the chicken issue, and do some serious research. The advantage to raising a small flock of chickens is that you get high quality eggs for less money than you pay for high quality eggs at the grocery store. Its possible to save money by free ranging your chickens, but that is only going to be an option for part of the year in Maine.

In order to actually *make* money on chickens, you need to have a large enough flock that you can sell a decent volume of eggs, or sell meat, both of which require a lot of space, and even then you might not be turning a profit at first. I'd highly suggest reading "Pastured Poultry Profits" by Joe Salatin and then seeing if your low income, mobile life plan is compatible with chicken raising.

Trica (Tree' - ka) said...

It's true you can buy a used mobile home for little money, especially a repo. Then if you are handy, you can make it nice. But I have to agree, mobile homes are hardly "mobile." Very expensive to move. You would probably be better off buying one and remodeling it, then selling it when you move, making enough to do the same thing again if that's the way you want to go. If you do a good job on the remodeling, you can turn a nice profit on each one and basically live rent free and save enough for a house. We have a mobile home park and have remodeled numerous mobile homes. They can be made nice and you can turn a good profit. But some of them are so cheaply built it's amazing they even stand! Others are better. Just remember, especially after remodeling, they aren't necessarily "mobile."

Emily said...

Elle, excellent suggestion, thanks! I'm looking into that. (: That was something we were considering with Tumbleweeds, but that is more of an adaptation of a tumbleweed plan than a trailer.

ArdenLynn said...

I agree that housing is a huge issue. The biggest mistake we made in our early years was buying houses. We were young, broke and moving around for his job. We had no business buying houses but we thought rent was a waste. Talk about waste!! I wish we could get back all those realtors fees, home inspections fees, closing fees, renovations that didn't pay off. We weren't living in a high appreciation part of the country.
We own a home now and with 8, soon to be 9, children I am glad. I have heard horror stories of renting with a big family. Even still, I would hesitate to go mobile. I think they are junk and would soon become a noose around your neck instead of the security you are looking for.

Anonymous said...

How do you plan to homeschool in these living circumstances? I don't even think you'll have enough space in a trailor for your existing family- let alone to teach them all there.

Your plan sounds fit for a retired couple or a childless couple- NOT a large family.

Rachel In Florida said...

Emily, while a mobile home was never my dream home, I really would not have a problem living in one, especially if it would mean living debt free. I just want to say that I admire you and Dan for having plans and not just allowing life to happen to you. My son and daughter in law, and daughter and son in law, all 25-32 in age, just float through life without any real plans, spending as they go. They are not even planning to buy homes, content to rent. I think this is a mistake financially. But it is their business so I don't say anything.

We are 49 and 46 and owe $110,000 on our home we bought 6 years ago. It was not ideal, but all we could find at the time, before the Florida real estate boom. We are thinking of adding onto the living room and possibly the kitchen to make more room for when all the family is here for holidays. I would like to pay cash for this. We did a home equity loan to do some remodeling of the first home we owned and paid it off rather quickly. But wouldn't it feel good to pay in cash and not face a payment each month? Just continue to trust God with your plans. I know you've heard that old saying, If you want God to laught, tell him your plans. We just never know what is around the next bend in life!

Sarah said...

Emily, while owning a mobile trailer may mean not paying rent year after year, you will either have to pay lot rent or property taxes year after year. No matter what your living option, it will require a yearly payments of differing amounts, of course.

Also when thinking about buying & selling land, remember to consider closing costs. It takes a while to offset closing fees.

Just things to keep in mind.

Ashley said...

I have a question:
You said that your goals will start when Dan graduates in 2011 or 2012. Until you buy your mobile home and have more space are you taking any precautions to not have more children, or do you have enough enough space in your apartment for more? If not, how would the plan change if you have any more children (2 is possible if dan graduates in 2012).

Clisby said...

I agree with ArdenLynn that buying a house/land when you're young and want mobility is a *big* mistake. I didn't own a home until I was 42 - largely because I wanted the freedom to move. Renting can be a really smart decision when your future is unsettled. Once you know you'll stay put for 5 or more years, buying might make more sense.

Margaret said...

I think a yurt might be a lot sturdier in the long-term than a mobile home, depending on how you built it. Our local state park has camping yurts and I think they are so cool. If people can survive Mongolian winters in yurts, I'm sure you could do it in Maine. :)

I think your goal to live a simple and self-sufficient lifestyle is a really good one. The 2,000 sq ft "minimum" is not what most people in the world live with, and it is certainly possible to raise a happy, healthy family in much less. If you manage to keep your wants down and your lifestyle very simple and streamlined, you can fit a lot of living into a very tiny space. And for a good few years, a trailer or other small portable housing will probably work really well. IMO, in the longer term, you guys would probably be better served purchasing a more solid home, somethign that can withstand a bunch of children bouncing off the walls. :) It seems like you would be the type of people who would thrive on buying a forclosure, fixing it up to your needs, and then selling it if God called you to move on.

Oh, and my in-laws are in East Africa and had 10 children. They lived in mud and grass "roundhouse" type of huts, along with their livestock. Their solution to running out of space? Building several smaller huts which served as bedrooms and places for the children to do their studying. They had minimal indoor square footage, but that didn't matter as much as it does to Americans because most of their living was done outdoors, working, walking to market, walking to school, walking to gather firewood and water, cooking, gardening. They didn't need space for a recliner and a TV. :p

Emily said...

Clisby, we won't buy land unless we are thinking we will be staying for a while. But the average length for a pastor to stay at a church is 5 years. This is not what we want, but it is what some churches are accustomed to, unfortunately. It's not that we want mobility, it is that mobility is a necessity.

Sarah, yes, there will always be a cost, but paying the full price for housing each month means he will not be abe to devote his time to only the pastorate. He will have to work a second job. When we are sustainable enough, we can pay property taxes with his pastor's income.

As far as not listening to suggestions, I am listening. I wrote this in hopes of suggestions and information. Just because I don't respond to each comment individually does not mean I am ignoring them.

Sue said...

The mobile home plan is seeming more and more like a bad option....

I'm wondering - why can't Dan work while being a pastor? Back in the olden days (a way of life you are trying to emulate) small town country preachers always had a farm or a job for income. They didn't take money from their churches as pay. (This is what my mother and all of her family have told me and they lived in the country in the olden days.) It is an honorable thing to do. And I'm sure that the money the church would be paying the pastor could be put to better use in the church. There is nothing wrong with a pastor being industrious and having a job, even if it is just part time.
Especially if you plan on being at a small church - there just won't be that much work to do. I used to go to a medium sized country church and the pastor there didn't work and he had a lot of time on his hands. Some days he would go to meetings, other days he would visit people. This rarely took up the whole day. Usually he had 4 or 5 days completely free to write sermons, pray and listen to music. There was no reason why he couldn't have had a part time job.

Renting a house sounds like a good option for you if you really will be moving as much as you say.

Anonymous said...

I know you like the mobility of a trailer but something you might like are shipping container houses. You can add on as needed and they fairly cheap.

Emily said...

Sue, Dan can, and will work while pastoring. However, it is our goal for him to not have to. It is a LONG term goal and not one we expect until most, if not all, kids are out of the house. It is sort of like our idea of retirement.

Anon, I usually don't post anonymous comments, but that link was so cool, I had to.

Elizabeth said...

Emily, you wrote in response to Sarah that there will always be costs, but that you can pay property taxes with Dan's pastor income. Let me just play pretend for a moment and add this up:
Even if you have a mobile unit paid in full (whether it be a yurt or whatnot) you are either going to have to pay lot rent which could be several hundred dollars a month or you are going to have to purchase land and if there is not an exsisting house then there will probably be a need to dig a well and septic sytem, which means you are looking at a good $5,000 or more output. Taxes on even just an acre or two of land could be two thousand yearly or more. So you put at least $7,000 into that land in the first year, not mentioning your moving costs to get there, setting up your mobile unit, and more. Let's just guess and say it cost $9,000 that first year. Your savings are wiped clean but you still need to afford food, midwives, upkeep a decent vehicle, and more. You want to build a chicken coop and so a couple hundred dollars for start up costs. You work a patch of ground to start a good garden and improving the soil takes years. And then in a few shorts years you have to move and do this ALL over again?! And probably have to buy more land before selling your old land? It would be far cheaper to rent a house than do that every few years. It would be far better to assume you can find a country home to rent (around here you can rent a decent home in the country for around $500, so lower income areas would be cheaper) where you can have chickens and a garden but not have those start up costs every time you move. Until you are in a permanant place where you can build a real homestead. Homesteads take years to develop and the money to start them up is a good investment, but not if you up and leave it every few years. You can never get ahead that way and will be throwing thousands of dollars away with each new start up cost.

Kori said...

I find it impressive that you not only have a plan as to what you want to see happen, but also have in place the tools to MAKE it happen. Very impressive in my book!

And sorry about the misspellings in my comments at times; I try to type as fast as I think, and-well. :)

Jen said...

Have you considered the ramifications of home ownership? Yes, renting means paying every month forever, but with that payment comes the knowledge that if the roof leaks, or the furnace breaks, or a pipe bursts and so on that the landlord is responsible for that.

You also talk about rennovating. I thought the same thing when I bought my horribly ugly, needs a lot of work house. I had no earthly clue how much money that takes. I shop deals. We have a habitat for humanity restore and a flooring outlet in the next town over. We have been here almost 5.5 years and have sunk thousands into this house, and have a long way to go. Any idea what a new roof costs? Do you really want to know how miserable it is when the fridge dies and not only did you lose all your food, but now you have to replace the fridge? Do you know how much it sucks to replace a broken window that isn't standard (aka cheaper) size? I am not saying this to be mean Emily. I am there. I got a huge painful dose of reality taking on my "fixer upper" with grand plans. I sincerely wish we had waited on home ownership. Now we have no choice as the market dropped out and we couldn't even sell our house, much less get even close to what has been put in it.

Just some things for you to think and pray about.

AT said...

I know some people who live year round in a yurt but in Marin County, California, so, no snow. They're quite happy and quite comfortable.

These people live in a yurt in Alaska. (Apologies if this link has already been posted.I confess to just skimming the comments today.)

There's an article too:

Clisby said...

Elizabeth makes some good points. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that rent is thrown away, while money spent to buy a house/land is an investment. It might be, it might not be; every situation is different. I love the house we bought 4 years ago. I love having a house of my own. I love being able to control my property. I am not kidding myself for one minute that it was necessarily the best *economic* decision. If our primary goal had been to minimize our housing expense, renting for the rest of our lives might have been smarter.

Alecia said...

Emily are you just throwing out comments by people you don't like? I spent time putting together that list of potential problems with each of the ideas discussed here- is that not what you wanted? Or did you just want it from the people that agree with you 100% of the time?

Ria said...

I like hearing about what other people have as long-term goals. They make mine feel like they're more realistic, more within my grasp, if I see other people reaching for similar goals and believing that they too can make it.

I want to own a small piece of land and get closer to self-sufficiency. I want to make my living at home, doing what I love, rather than having to pander to large companies in order to make my rent money. I want to reduce my weight on this planet and live more consciously and morally. And seeing other people striving for goals that are much the same, well, we're all in it together and we can all give each other strength and support.

Best of luck to ya!

Emily said...

On renting, with a larger family, renting becomes more expensive. It's hard to find flexible landlords, thus we would be looking at a three bedroom apt when we have another baby, and unless that landlord is flexible, a four bedroom apt with the baby after that. That is not what we want at all.

AT, thanks for those links!

Alecia, I don't remember your comment, but not everyone commenting is agreeing with me.

Ria, absolutely!

Ethel said...

I see that other people have mentioned that you still pay out every month as a homeowner in taxes, insurance and maintenance, and you need to amortise the cost of the property if you're saving for it, and for depreciation it it's a mobile home.

In addition to rent money not being thrown away, it give a measure of security that you need substantial cash reserves for when you own. As a renter, my landlord was legally liable to repair the roof, toilet, furnace, etc. As a homeowner no one is going to step in and make sure our house meets certain standards of being weatherproof, having power and water and heat/cooling. We need to have cash on hand to cover a new roof or furnace or car, which we never did as renters. And a new roof costs as much per square foot for a cheap house as it does for an expensive one.

plum17 said...

Emily, since Dan plans to work two jobs until most of your children are grown, how does he visualize his second career? I know he's currently working on the Wal-Mart custodial staff, but there are similar jobs that offer much better benefits. Most colleges and universities have large maintenance staffs, and many of these jobs include livable wages, health benefits, and even tuition credits. Plus, access to the cultural life of a university would be a tremendous advantage for a homeschooling family.

I would really encourage Dan to look into these types of jobs, especially because it can take quite a long time to get hired for one. Ultimately, though, the process will be worthwhile - he'll have an advantage when it comes to finding similar jobs, and may even be able to transfer between campuses in a state university system.

Atheist Mama said...

Making a mobile home energy efficient would require rebuilding the entire thing from the ground up. Totally worthless and will cost you WAY too much money.

Check this out

Now that is something totally portable that I would live in in a freaking HEARTBEAT!

Why not do something like that? I mean...okay, so you can't fit 10 children in it, but a few, sure...

Snork Maiden said...

It's a mistake to assume that renting will always cost you more than owning a home. Somebody above said to consider renting a house. For your LONG term goal, as in retirement, you can get a trailer, and your land, and what have you. But in the meanwhile, when the initial cost, the taxes, the depreciation (factor in), the maintenance, moving costs, and space rent, emergency..septic tank issues or whatever may come, are added up and divided, let's say, by 5, will likely yield a higher number than rent. Some years it might be a lot higher.
You can rent nice homes, or not so nice home that you can fix up a little. With a yard. It is also a more constant cost. You never know when something happens to your trailer and repairs are required. You can save for your long term goals, because you can plan your budget better.
I know what its like to have a goal and carry on with it, and even more stubbornly when the world is against you. And I know it's not likely you'll say, "Hey, you know, you guys are right. This trailer idea is stupid". But I hope you will research alternatives and not up and dump all your savings into a quickly depreciating asset as soon as you husband is out of school and with a job. At the very least you can postpone a long term engagement like until you have tried the viable short term options.
And, what are your plans if Dan doesn't get a pastorate? What about your plans for you and the chldren if something happens to Dan, or your relationship with him?

Ethel said...

Sorry Emily, I'm serial commenting here.

Have you ever sat down and plugged all these numbers into a spreadsheet? Instead of mentally allocating your EITC money as tuition or house savings, enter it in as annual income, divide it by month and you'll see that once it's not going to tuition it will be costing you $333 per month to save for this house. It's the only way to compare costs of two different schemes (renting vs buying).

I am also interested in your comment that you'd continue to rent apartments. They're not that easy to come by in country towns. Most people rent houses, and they are dirt cheap. I would be very surprised if you couldn't find 3 or 4 bedroom houses to rent for what you pay now

Amber said...

I think that's an admirable idea, but I would definitely "splurge" for a double wide if at all possible! A double wide mobile home is plenty enough room for a decent sized family as long as you don't mind living small. When we were looking at houses our realtor took us to a home that said it was a "rancher." What it actually was, was a mobile home on a basement. We were very surprised at how large it was! There were two good sized bedrooms with nice sized closets, a large master bedroom with a big master bathroom, a spacious kitchen, a good sized living room, another bathroom, a laundry/coat room thing, and a dining area.

I definitely think that waiting an extra year to move and saving some more would be well worth it if you could get a double wide instead of a single wide trailer!

I'm glad that you have a backup plan with him still working at WalMart. That's good for if he ends up not getting a pastorate... only God knows what's in store for us.

Aubrey said...

I haven't gone through and read all the comments, so this may have already been suggested. My husband's father builds log homes. What he is currently working on is a little 12x12 guest house outside of their log home. I'm not up on the specifics, but I will talk to my husband and see what his suggestions are. What i was thinking is there must be a way to build a log "square" with some way of moving it. You could even have multiple "squares" that fit together. And it would be much sturdier and more efficient than a trailer! We spent a year in one with the most outrageous electric bills, unable to put a wood stove in because of the flammable material. We were sure it would end up in flames if we did. Granted, the one we lived in was in very poor condition, but all around they are not very efficient or comfortable. Anyway, just an idea. It might be better to invest a bit more in something that will last longer and save money. I will work on the details on the mobile part of it.

~Melissa said...

Emily, I have nothing constructive to add with no suggestions or ideas but wanted to wish you well. As much as I strongly dislike your plan I admire you tenacity!

Roxanna said...

Emily have you checked out this site?

It has super cheap home plans and in the gallery it shows a house that was built for under 10k there forums are amazing and are set up for people who are trying to do similar what you are.

I think your plan sounds good but PLEASE PLEASE look more into moving trailers because they just are not suppose to be moved and are really expensive :( a dear friend of mine was going to move her's but decided not to when she found ouit it was going to be 3k and that they usually 'crack' on the move. Also lot rents can be just as much as apartments sometimes. Btt we all have to start somewhere :)

Amanda said...

I applaud your refusal to enslave yourselves in debt in the name of luxury. While a mobile might not be the most comfortable option for your family, it would be something that you can pay for in cash.
Some things to consider:I grew up in a mobile (family of 5) and it WAS really small and cold. We had bunk beds and couldn't open the door or the closet door all of the way because the room was so small. Maine is a lot colder than where I grew up, so you might check into the insulation factor when buying. Also, in cold climates, the pipes (plastic) on mobiles often freeze, even if you skirt the trailer. Skirting can be expensive, thawing and replacing pipes is also time consuming and expensive. I know our pipes froze a couple of times each winter and the trailer was skirted. Another thing to consider, the roof is usually not slanted much and snow piles up and creates sagging and leaks unless you get up there and keep it cleared off....again time consuming, not to mention dangerous. If you plan on living anywhere in tornado country, they can be a death trap.
Considering the extra expenses of heating, skirting, moving costs, pipe maintenance, snow removal, tools, safety, etc. it might really be more economical to rent. You really can do a lot of homesteading in a rental. We purchased a fixer upper home over 4 years ago and while it has been nice to own something of our own, we have put most of our extra money and time into constant repairs and maintenance. I guess the decision would be either Dan having a second job outside the home, or a second job working on the home, either way it takes a LOT of time away from the family. I'm hoping you can find an option that might allow him to spend more time enjoying all of your children.
Most importantly, please remember that the Lord will give you guidance and provisions for the future :) Please be faithful!

Amanda said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. I have heard about people building a 'recycled' home on a little to nothing budget, as long as you've got time and aren't too picky. They gather used building materials from tear downs, remodels, rebuilds, etc. and build their home from entirely used/recycled materials. If you publicize, I'm sure you would get tons of offers for materials. When we were remodeling, we were more than happy to give away our old stuff, as long as it was gone.

Henrietta said...

The only thing I'm going to say about owning a mobile home, is please, please, PLEASE make sure you have functioning smoke detectors and easy exits. My father, a firefighter, just spent 12 hours on the scene of a fire where three children and their parents died in their mobile home. The construction is such that a fire will rip through one with no chance of escape unless you take proper precautions.

Emily said...

I'm kind of in love with the big rig trailer idea. It is tall enough to have a loft, and the same square footage as many trailers. I am thankful for these suggestions, and think I may have found one that would work for us, and works with our need for mobility even more than a traditional mobile home.

Sandy said...

One thing to consider is that with homesteading, or even just with buying a new house, the first five years are the most expensive. Those are the times when your savings is wiped out from property taxes and closing costs, the well has to be dug deeper than you thought it would, the chicken coop has to be rebuilt after weasels or raccoons eat half your flock, the solar panels have to be replaced, ect.

What you are talking about is repeating those first difficult years over and over for the rest of your life.

Homesteading is an admirable goal. Being a pastor at a poor, rural church is an admirable goal. I realize that you think these two goals are compatible, but, in reality, something is going to have to give. Either you are going to have to find a church that wants a permanent pastor, or you are going to have to scale your homesteading goals back.

Elle said...

"I'm kind of in love with the big rig trailer idea. It is tall enough to have a loft, and the same square footage as many trailers."

Glad to be of assistance :) You could even have two full floors, as long as you were willing to have low ceilings.

AT said...

Thanks for posting that link, Atheist Mom. I could totally live in that one too. Most RVs depress me because they look so generic inside.

I'm now reading their blog.

Alecia said...

Emily, a standard big rig trailer will give you 384 square feet of space. You would need to build a kitchen and a bathroom into it, plus have living and sleeping places for everyone.

This is not a practical idea for 5 people, let alone more. Not to mention, It would have to be inspected and meet code to be legal, which would be expensive. Do you realize how cold a metal box would be in the winter? Even with insulation? You would never really be able to get away from the cold walls- especially if you were sleeping near the ceiling.

Forgive me, I am an extremely logical person and I can't see how this is going to work, logically. I admire your goal of living in a small house- I DO! I too want to live in a very small house, but along with that goal my husband and I realize that we will only be able to have 1 or 2 children, at the most. You can't have your cake and eat it too, Em!

Ryann said...

Hi Emily,

I really like Elle's idea. Something to think about!

What is impressive to me is that you have a plan. You are saving, investigating, researching and are open to ideas. This is not something you are going to go out and do tomorrow.... we are talking years here people. Embrace the fact that they are trying and their hearts are wanting to do the right thing by our country, their Lord (and mine too!) and their family. What a wonderful example... even if we all don't have the same exact plan.

Since you're asking for ideas and opinions, I probably fall into the camp of using salvaged materials and building a cabin. Perhaps it would increase the value of your land? And are you talking like hundreds of acres or just a couple? I guess I've always thought you meant a couple.

And a crazy idea popped into my head. Say you go the inexpensive, salvaged materials cabin route (maybe even the church could get together and do an old-fashioned "barn raising"?) and then you have to move in 5 years and you couldn't sell your land or house. Maybe you could just give it away? I know, crazy idea. But it seems to go in line with your lifestyle and values. What an amazing gift to someone! My husband and I try to live our life by Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Also, does your area have a Habitat for Humanity Restore? My city does and it's a GREAT place to go to buy inexpensive building materials.

Thanks again for blogging!

Emily said...

Sandy, I've looked at building portable coops so that they could graze over larger areas. We would be able to bring it with us.

Alecia, the ones I've looked at today are 53' long by 8.5' wide. Then, tall enough for a sizeable loft, where everyone could sleep easily, even considering thick insulation, that is a plenty of space.

Alecia said...

This website may be of interest when researching the big rig idea...

From that page:

A few years ago, I was obsessed with the idea of living in a shipping container and read up whatever I could on the subject. Even went so far as to contact a few of these manufacturers to get quotes. Ballpark figure for a "livable" container (proper insulation, basic windows/doors, plumbing, wired for electricity) would run about $20,000.

Alecia said...

Emily what may actually be smarter than trying to renovate an old trailer- is just building a wooden "house" in the same dimensions as a trailer but with the capability to haul it the same way (basically a giant tumbleweed). The walls of a semi are not designed to be load bearing, so to put a loft in one, you would have to completely reinforce it anyway. It would also not be metal, therefore a LOT more energy efficient. You may actually be able to go a little higher this way as well.

I personally still don't think it's enough space, but it might make more sense this way.

Elle said...

Alecia, I worked as a safety and compliance officer at a trucking company. Our trailers were 53 feet long, 8.5 wide, and 13.75 feet high. Those measurements give me 450 square feet. They make insulation that is high-density, ultra thin board that could easily be mounted to the inside of the trailer without taking much away from the 8.5 feet wide. Traditional height ceilings would leave a space tall enough for a five foot high loft, which would be great even just for storage, but could easily make a sleeping loft. If Emily is willing to have 7 foot high ceilings on the bottom, she could have a complete second floor that would be 6 feet high. If that was just storage and sleeping quarters, six foot high ceilings wouldn't matter that much. She could have a girls' wing and a boys' wing, like the Duggars do :) If she did all that, 450 square feet on the main floor would be enough for a bathroom and a large open plan kitchen/living room area. Another 450 square feet on the upper floor would give her 900 square feet over all.

The one I saw was actually fairly nice. He had lots of windows, a small bathroom taking up the entire back end, a kitchen in front of that. Over half the space was a large living room. His loft was only above the kitchen/bathroom, and that's where they slept, and the living room had really high ceilings. It was actually pretty nice, and comparable in terms of quality to the pics of the container houses someone else posted (but bigger!). I think he said he had about 700 square feet of living space, and that was only with a loft over kitchen/bath, and not an entire second floor. It could be done, and it would be so easy to transport.

Alecia said...

Sorry for the serial comments today, but this is a topic of great interest to me personally so the wheels in my head keep turning.

Another potential pitfall of such small space- right now you have all boys, but if you have girls they cannot share a room with the boys once they are of a certain age (legally). How do you plan on dealing with privacy issues when your kids get bigger? How would you get any privacy for you and Dan? How much would your family just LOVE the screaming newborn in the tiny trailer with them?

The idea of a tiny space is romantic, I know. But the bigger your family gets, the less realistic it becomes. I'm really not trying to poo-poo your ideas, just want to make sure that you are thinking realistically.

If I were in your situation, I would continue to rent until I could afford to buy a country house with plenty of room for the kids/animals/garden. If you think you'll be moving frequently, I would just rent. It's really not throwing money away- it provides a lot of security for low income families. Eventually you will find your place and you will be able to settle down, but if you sink all your money into the mobile homestead, you may be sunk by one disaster and not be able to afford it then.

I urge you to really explore all the possibilities, I'm sure you can find something that works.

thesavedquarter said...

I think I've posted Delight's home link before: She is the one with the RV posted above, and all of her homes have been tiny and just lovely, welcoming spaces. Definitely great small-space ideas!

I'm with the others on the cost-effectiveness of a rental over starting over homesteading over and over. Setting up shop in a new location every few years would most certainly wipe out any savings over what you would have paid in rent.

Also, I think it's federal occupancy standards that say 2 people per bedroom plus one overall, so for a 1 bedroom, 3 people max; 2 bedroom, 5; 3 bedroom, 7; and 4 bedroom, 9 people. It would take you awhile to outgrow a 4 bedroom rental home, and in rural areas, you'd be able to garden and keep chickens in a rental home. You'd also have the space for people to have a little privacy, for kids working on school projects not to be interrupted by small kids, for the noise to be spread out so it's not all on top of one another all the time.

Pam said...

Not sure if this link about refurbished shipping containers has been shared:

BTW, Unclutterer is one of my favorite blogs!

Anyway, there are lots of links in that post, as well as links to some UTube videos.

Maybe you could tack on another container when your family outgrows the first!

Diana @ frontyardfoodie said...

Love the mobile home idea. I think it was you who posted a link to a site where a guy makes those crazy little houses that look like regular houses only miniature. Totally awesome and quality.

I wouldn't mind vacationing in those at all! hehe. I think I would get claustrophobic if I lived in one though.

Ashley said...

Hey Emily,
In my opinion, I think you should wait on the mobile home. Most churches provide a place for the preacher to live, unless your husband has other plans than preaching.

Emily said...

Elle, I am curious, the 13 feet is the height of the box, not from the ground? That would give a good second floor. We wouldn't want the first floor to be under 7' for guests.

Alecia, I love serial commenters, especially ones that are thinking things through with me. The top floor would have a small room for Dan and I, then the rest would be split down the middle, boys room and girls, with built in bunks.

I love all of the links provided, thanks. (:

plum17 said...

Is it possible to outfit a big rig trailer with appropriate fixtures for a large family? (Wiring, plumbing, etc.) Could these withstand multiple moves?

You also have to consider flammability and ventilation. Would it be possible to insulate a trailer without turning the place into a complete firetrap? Could your family evacuate easily, if that ever were to happen?

Some of these conversions may be possible, but in order to carry them out safely, you'd need the guidance of an experienced contractor, high quality materials and licensed workers (especially a plumber and electricians) who knew what they were doing. This will be very expensive, but the alternative (trusting your family's well being to questionable construction methods) is unconscionable.

Alecia said...

If the loft were split down the middle for the boys/girls rooms- wouldn't that mean that those rooms would be 4ish feet wide since the trailer is only 8.5 feet wide?

Helen said...

I have not had time to read the comments,so someone else may have covered it, but if you are considering buying land sometime for your trailer (and anticipate the need for a well) make sure that land also passes the *perc* test. You will also need a septic tank and leach field. Major $$.

And older home (fixer-upper) with existing sewage, water might be a more frugal buy.

Dixie said...

Seriously emily, even prisoners get more space than 4 feet wide and 5-1/2 feet high.

Emily said...

plum, yes, there will be costs and work with this, but every option open to us has costs and work.

Alecia, custom bunks could be 30", then 18" walkway. They could be hinged to fold up to the wall when not in use.

Elizabeth said...

Just an added note about do not need an extra bedroom for extra children, it usually depends on the sq. footage of the house. As I mentioned, big farmhouses around here rent for $400-$600 and I know several LARGE families that rent 3-5 bedroom houses. Apartments actually tend to cost more in certain towns than houses.

While the semi trailer rig sounds neat (I think) you still have to consider the heating, water, and septic systems...which again put you back to the point that renting is indeed cheaper.

Emily said...

Elizabeth, yes, there would be a lot of start up costs with converting a semi, but we would still be seeking alternative heating and electric. I don't think whatever it takes for sewage would put us over the cost of renting.

Dixie, we believe bedrooms are for sleeping. Hanging out is for the living room, which will be spaceous.

Dixie said...

So you don't believe tweens/teens need their own private space?

Alecia said...

30'' for a bed? That's smaller than a twin. There's no way a kid could even manage to stay on the thing while sleeping!You definetly could not put one of those beds off of the ground over another one- there would not be enough room and if there were it would not be safe. Don't you think your kids deserve more than a teeny fold out cot to sleep on?

I think you can do better. I still think you should stick with renting. You can rent huge rural houses for dirt cheap. It would be much more economical, and less risky, in the short AND long run. Plus, there would be room for your kids to run and play indoors.

Christena said...

18" walk way!? that's smaller than a train walkway, which is as small as any walkway should be (trust me... I lived in italy for a time and the train is incredibly awkward). this picture ( shows a girl sitting in a italian train walkway. the average male's femur is almost 19 inches long. this girl is much smaller than the average male. Lets say that her bone is 17 inches long, that doesn't take into account the room for her muscles and fat including her rear end. Lets say there's 5 inches of fat and muscle. not to mention the fact that she's not taking up the whole walkway. there's a good three inches behind her on that seat. So if we add 17+5+3 we have 25 inches! and that's TINY! have you ever been on a train like this? it's basically impossible for two people to walk down at the same time. not to mention would think it would be a fire hazard and against building codes. and every bedroom must have an egress window in order to legally have anyone sleep there. plus you're assuming that you're going to have a roughly equal number girls and boys. what happens when you have 10 boys and two girls? will ten boys be stuffed into the same space allocated for two girls?

Organizing Mommy said...

Emily, everyone is behaving today--imagine that! You seem more at peace also. A man prepares his horse for the day of battle, but victory is of the Lord. Our plans are just that--plans. The Lord will do what he will, but without plans.. how can we function? So, I know you will do whatever the Lord leads you to do and live wherever he leads you to live. Oh Lord, THOU hast been our dwelling place from generation to generation.

I would have gladly taken a trailer (even though we never had lived in one) over the havoc of having to move every 14 months or so in the military. Nevertheless, the Lord delivered us and it's almost been for 10 years that we have been "stable" in one home. It really felt good. No doubt when you 40, you and your six kids will have a regular home with a fireplace and a hen house etc. and not living in luxury, but have a degree of stability. The problem with our culture is that people are not genuinely interested in making a few sacrifices of comfort for the longer range goals. This is precisely the overall message of this blog: deferred gratification.

Dixie said...

Alecia, renting a house is not edgy or nonconformist so it cannot be considered, no matter how much better an idea it is.

Christena said...

I forgot to mention that 30" beds are outrageously small. would you want to sleep on a bed that was the width of a sofa cushion for the rest of your life?

I sure wouldn't.

and where would they're clothes be stored? there really wouldn't be room for closets in this layout. and if you're putting them one on top of another there really isn't room for under bed storage except for the beds on the bottom.

Perishinor said...

This is a joke right? You are clearly just making this up at this point.

Your kids cannot sleep on a 30 inch wide fold up cot. The trailers are 8 feet wide, by the time you insulate and put in a dividing wall, you are looking at about 3 feet max for each side of the "bedrooms".

Lori in Wisconsin said...

If you get your chicken relatively soon (or know anyone with them you could use God's gift of their feathers for insulation in the walls. It is natural and works well for the chickens :)

Roxanna said...

I think the containers would be a better idea then the trailer and a whole lot more studier :)

Emily said...

Dixie, I don't think teens and tweens need to all have their own room.

Alecia, if two children can sleep in a 40" wide bed together, one can fit in a 30". Obviously, young children will be on the bottom, not top. Downstairs in the large living area is where kids can play.

Millie said...

Hi Emily,

I haven't commented before but wanted to share a few other ideas.

Regarding a well. Where I live, alot of people do not have wells. They have water cisterns. This might be a good solution (less expensive) for you if the area you move to has a water source to fill a portable tank (then the portable tank fills the cistern). We would have a cistern ourselves if our land didn't have an existing well. Here is a link with some information about cisterns and water storage

And for the septic... Not for the faint of heart is the option of compost toilets, provided that they are allowable in the area you end up. The toilet can be purchased or even built yourself.

I personally don't get hung up on the space part after 5 of us living in a camp trailer for 7.5 months I know it is possible to live comfortably in a small space. But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I love living in our much more spacious mobile home (gasp, a mobile home) that we purchased used and had placed on our property. The big thing I discovered in this endeavor is that EVERYTHING costs more than we budgeted for.

I think it is great that you have a plan.

Elle said...

I was thinking of dividing the rooms the other way, so that the rooms would be 8 feet wide and 20-ish feet long, with a hallway in between for the stairs. But after typing that out I realize I didn't take a third bedroom for adults into consideration... hmm.

As for the box height- eek. Now I'm not sure. I remember the measurements from my paperwork in the office but as office staff I didn't go into the trailers often so I couldn't guarantee now whether that's from the ground or the box height. I was thinking it was the box height, but I guess I'm not 100% sure. Something to look into, I guess. But as someone else mentioned you could use that same idea on a trailer flatbed and build a house on top of it, too, and not have to stick to that height. For that matter, you could then go a bit wider too, and you'd just need a wide load permit for transport, which usually isn't much (depending on the jurisdiction and the overwidth of the load).

The Pretend Homemaker said...

What about converting a few shipping containers into a home? It's like starting with a roof, and existing walls and then adding what you want inside. I think it would work well because it would be less work than renovating a mobile home in regards to getting rid of the interior and ensuring that everything is built properly.

Leslie said...

Have you thought about shipping container homes? They can be bought for next to nothing ($2k or less - sometimes free) and you can put 2 or more of them together. You can line with insulation and add windows. Plus, they are made to go on tractor trailors and be sturdy, so I would think it would be much cheaper and easier to move than a trailer. Check out

Emily said...

I'm looking into the logistics of hooking together shipping containers in a way that they could be separated and portable again.

Leslie, I love the zerocabin link. I just added it to my bloglines. Thanks!

plum17 said...

Obviously, there are costs and work associated with every housing option available to you. There are always costs and work involved with housing a family - especially a large one. However, the "frugal" options outlined in your plan may not turn out to be the cheapest ones, and are very likely to result in substandard living conditions. I'm not even talking about space - it's about quality of construction, durability of building materials and basic safety precautions. You can't cut corners, especially because you anticipate moving the home. That requires an uncommon level of quality and sturdiness.

There's nothing wrong with doing something like this because it is novel, and you'd like to see if it is possible. However, you and Dan plan to sink your savings into something incredibly chancy, and have no safety net allowing alternate options if anything goes wrong. (As any home owner will tell you, something inevitably will.) To me, this seems like poor stewardship - not only of your finances, but of the beautiful family God has given you. (One you hope He will expand.) You owe it to your children to provide safe living conditions, which may not be possible in a do-it-yourself housing situation.

Charli said...


I have a question. Serious, NOT snarky, how will you handle things if one or more of your kids is clautrophobic or suffers from anxiety? I imgaine that this kind of living would be a nightmare for a child with those issues?

CaveGirl said...

Emily, are you serious about moving your family into a box, aka shipping container? Do you really think that's a good plan? That's the sort of thing that can actually get your children taken away from you.

I have to agree with most of the others about a trailer not being the best investment, but it's much better than living in a box. I'm speaking from experience here. I live in a 16x18 singlewide and it's falling apart despite me taking care of it. That's the nature of trailers. It would cost me close to $5,000 if I wanted to move it. Digging a new well is in the $15,000-$20,000 range. They're more expensive to heat and cool because the insulation is poor. I could go on and on.

I like how you have building a chicken coop as a goal. Chickens are fun. I built my coop a few years ago--it took me a day and cost under $300. I've since converted it to a storage shed since my flock died out and I haven't replaced them.

Ami said...

Interesting. Mobile home solutions is something that I've been looking at for a while for my family.

Here's a thread on a lovely (nice!) forum with families that are actually DOING it:

And a blog about it:

It's doable, but it's not an 'easy' solution. Right now, for a bigger family I am favoring bus conversions. There's the lower luggage chamber for storage, even!

Captain Cleavage said...

ok so i dont know if you have thought of this or not but here goes. have you considerd using (or making) murphy beds (they fold up into the walls). This opens up more space. I know my aunt and her family have murphy beds ((2 adults 10 kids 3 bedrooms)You can also use this same concept to build in wall shelving etc for storage.

Guinevere said...

Aw, I was going to recommend shipping containers before I started reading the comments, but so many people beat me to it! No idea what those would cost to ship, but they'd be very customizable -- if your family did need more space, you could add another. And you can build a container-house either horizontally or vertically. If this link hasn't been posted already, I think this article leaks to many interesting resources:

I also love the yurt idea. I read once that, with proper insulation, they are actually very inexpensive to heat (a wood stove can be quite adequate), and they're very sturdy due to their design, in the face of bad weather. Except for having to build a platform for them, I think they'd be pretty mobile, although I've never researched specifically for that. They are designed for people to put them up with their friends' help, though, so it can't be impossible.

TP said...

Some of the tumbleweed tiny houses look like they're portable, at least in the sense of being hooked onto a trailer on the back of a car. Don't know if that would be big enough or sturdy enough for your family, but I think they're cute. ;-)

Christena said...

another thought about the semi trailer... if you're planning on putting in two levels, you'll need to keep in mind that the floor for the second level will eat up space from the lower level. IE if the thing is 13 feet tall, you can't split it 7 feet for the first and 6 for the second because that doesn't take in to account that the floor boards will be separating the two levels.

LK said...

I confess I don't much about this, as we are just starting out and still developing our plan. Have you considered a camper? I don't know if that would work in the cold Maine winter (?) but I did read a blog (Ante Family) a year ago (she closed it sadly) about a family in Texas that became homesteaders and later moved to Iowa (or maybe Idaho? Can't remember now) where they did it all over again. They lived in a camper (3 boys at the time) on their plot of land while they slowly built their home by hand. I know you said it needs to be mobile and a camper is pretty mobile. Campers are generally really expensive, but if you go to repos, police auctions, or just town auctions you can get nice ones for an excellent price. We recently had a police auction where $200,000 campers were sold for $25,000. They had bedrooms, a full kitchen, full living room, working bathroom, and who knows what else. For gutting it out, you could always add in sleeper bunk beds, kind of like how the Duggar's have it in their camper. The camper the Ante family lived in was much simpler. They also didn't have electricity and I believe they used the water they had from catching rain? I never understood it all very well, but you can find it on the internet. It's like a giant box that catches the rain and keeps out mosquitoes that can be used to fully operate a home.

They lived with these people: They have a lot of good ideas and are really helpful if you are curious about anything. This family helped the Antes learn everything. I think they have a lot of good information.

I know a family right now that is living in a camper on the mom's sister's land. It's in a warm area, but they have 5 kids and some pets and make it work.

Sorry this isn't more helpful! I don't know much about this so I'm just forwarding what I saw others do.

LK said...

I found this while googling what a yurt was (embarrassing, but I have never heard of one before): I'm sure you already know, but maybe it will be useful for others that don't quite get it (like me!).

Roberta said...

Wow Emily. I have just come across your blog in the past week, and while I applaud your efforts to be frugal, what I am puzzled by is lack of respect for your children. I'm pretty sure I read in another post that you believe children are blessings and should not be (prevented) not your actual quote, but yes they are blessings and should be treated as such. You stated above with the converted trailer idea that

" if two children can sleep in a 40" wide bed together, one can fit in a 30". Yes they CAN but SHOULD they have to? Just because their bodies fit in a small space does not mean it's ideal for them. Growing children need plenty of sleep, and I can't imagine even a tiny child can rest well when only allowed 20" of personal space.

Children are blessings. Yes they are, so think about them first and maybe slow down on all this planning. Sit with them and play and just be together instead of all this measuring and figuring business. Maybe extra time spent with them will make you realize you should cherish each moment without it being a math equation for you to figure out.

Elle said...

"IE if the thing is 13 feet tall, you can't split it 7 feet for the first and 6 for the second because that doesn't take in to account that the floor boards will be separating the two levels."

They're actually closer to 14 feet tall (assuming that is the box height and not the ground-to-top height), leaving some room for floor width.

Billy Goat said...

What about buying house/property where you live. Then when you move, instead of selling, you could rent out the old house/property to get an income, and rent until you can afford a new house/property with the goal of eventually not having to rent, but being able to always buy land where you move with your rental income.

chickennon said...

Emily, one thing I want to point out is that renting is not always paying money to a management company. You might be able to, for instance, provide company and livelihood to an elderly parishioner who rents out the old family house, or trade work on someone else's homestead / farm for part of housing, or otherwise rent from someone else in a way that provides a service to your community while keeping you from overinvesting. I think one thing I've seen in your blog is that you like to dream big - and that's something I tend to do to - but sometimes I'm best served by remembering the important role of humility in making plans :D

Ginger said...

Don't have time to read through all the comments, but to piggyback Elle's comment on the semi trailer idea...I saw a program on T.V. a couple years ago where, as an experiment, a builder created an entire low income development out of metal cargo containers (like used on cargo ships...we bought our 40 ft. long one for less than $2500 delivered for storage on our property). I think his idea was actually to test the idea for use not only here, but in lesser developed countries. It was a huge success apparently and the development looked pretty cool...very modern with simple lines. Since they are metal, they are sturdy & with some welding skills, you can cut into them to create windows, doors, skylights, etc. and you can insulate & sheetrock rooms to fit your needs. You could add additional containers (they also come in shorter sizes, like maybe 20 ft) as your family expanded and simply build small breezeway connecting them and they would hold up much better to repeated moves I think. Because you'd move them in pieces it wouldn't require anything other than a semi trailer just like when they are originally delivered. Something to think about anyway because I totally agree with others who've pointed out that mobile homes/trailers just don't stand up well to tons of people and moves.

MandaJeans said...

Are you really seriously thinking about moving into a shipping container?

tatortotcassie said...

I know nothing about mobile homes/trailers etc so I'm just staying out of that. I would only caution you that some city ordinances do not allow farm animals to be kept in residential areas and that would include chickens. If you're going to be moving from place to place that is something to consider.

(My great uncle used to raise a small flock of chickens. I gotta tell you, my experiences taught me that chickens are smelly, noisy, and downright MEAN.)

Annie said...

Hi Emily,

If you're going to be "portable" you'll need to also take into consideration whether your mobile dwelling will be up to code - building codes are different from county to county, even if you stay within the state, and should your mobile dwelling not be up to scratch, you could actually be in violation of child protection laws (which I'm sure you don't want to do!)

Also, you mentioned earlier that this is your goal for retirement once the kids are grown, but then have also referenced multiple times needing room for a growing family - I would love some clarification on this point, as it greatly changes things =) For example, for your family as it is now, an RV might be an option if your #1 goal is portability - if affordable living space is your #1 goal, then a rental home (rather than apartment) might be a better option, especially if you'll have the space for your portable chicken coop, laundry lines, garden, etc. and it would accommodate a growing family.

Sandy said...

"Chicken tractors" are designed to be moved over a (relatively) small area, but it should be possible to make one that can be taken apart and reassembled that will also be fairly predator proof. That said, chickens don't like moving around, so every time you move, you're going to loose weeks or even months of production. It also doesn't change the fact that the chickens will not be able to forage a lot of the year. This means that you are going to have to pay for their feed. Again, there are lots of good reasons for keeping chickens, but getting eggs as cheaply as possible isn't one of them.

Cris said...

No I don't doubt some of it from misunderstandings, I just don't think some of it is the best idea.

Homeowning, even when you're a DIYer, is more expensive than usually imagined. Incidents happen over and over. I mean plain dumb things you'd never think of like four pipe leaks in a year...

It's probably more sustainable, not to mention cheaper and easier, to rent. You won't be dumping money or material resources into a mobile fixer-upper that may never work out well. A rental house already exists and you already know how to be environmentally sound and frugal. You'll get more time to save for land and discover where Dan is headed as far as leadership.

You may be like me and my friends who use so little electricity that solar panels will never pay off. The exception being central A/C and heat whereas solar panels - even here in AZ - don't even come close to generating enough energy to operate (even on a low level). I find panel technology to still be very new and impractical.

What I call "outdoor living" is more suitable for temperate climates. Me and the kiddo are outside practically everyday and have the windows/doors open so as well, but we live in AZ. In summer the timing is greatly modified to avoid the daytime heat. I know we could live in a much smaller space in Hawaii where A/C/heat is not necessary and being outside the majority of the time is truly possible.

Things like this come to mind.

Jennifer said...

I never comment here, but I had to this time. 53 (the length of the trailer) divides by 3 to get a fraction over 17 feet. so dividing the space up by three, you get (taking into account for walls and some form of traversing up and down levels) a good 15 X 8.5 room. Plenty of space. As for those of you pooh poohing the fold up bunks (by fold up, she means like a murphy bed only on the side and not the top), that plan is working quite well for another family, as thats how I discovered Emily's blog.

I think the bigrig/shipping container option is much better, as they are meant to be transported.

Andria said...

New to your blog... Kinda embarrassed to admit that I stayed up last night reading your archives. :)

I think it's truly commendable what you are doing. I was in a opposite situation, I was married to a man who made 6 figures a year. But, he was abusive. Now, we are getting a divorce, and have already spent over $30,000 in the past 4 months just on lawyer's fees. I am still in my 20's, have two kids and one on the way, and have NO clue where I am going to end up financially. Suddenly, I'm looking at all my expenses, and trying to find ways to budget and cut costs. You certainly have some great tips!
Off topic question- do you twitter?

mrs. c said...

the only thing i know about trailers, is that we used to keep the horses in them. they wee sper cold in the winter, nothing more than a shelter from snow and wind, and super hot during the summer. now i know they get fixed up to be livable for people, but ours were on cement blocks, and they didnt seem too portable. anyway, maybe it will work for you, would'nt it be funny if you really made it wok, and they made a reality show about your family??!! then you would show everyone!

Emily said...

I am excited about all the suggestions today. I'll definitely be doing some research and I think this topic will come up again when the Touring Tuesday series is over.

Andria, I'm so glad you have found some of my stuff useful. I don't twitter. I have an account set up, but never got into it.

Devon said...

Maybe this is a dumb, dumb question. But if you might purchase a semi trailer I suppose it should be asked...what about space for a bathroom and kitchen? And if you buy a straight trailer and plan to outfit it yourself, wouldn't it get expensive to provide it with plumbing, a toilet and a kitchen? Maybe I'm not seeing something obvious, but to me that would severely limit what little space you had in the first place in a trailer. Just sayin'.

Josie's friend said...

Seriously, the idea of an entire family of potentially ten children and two parents (or more kids) living in a semi trailer is downright scary. I say that with all due respect, Emily, but really, I don't think it is a doable plan. It seems like you would boil in the summer and freeze in the winter, and what about answering the question about claustrophobia that someone asked up thread? It just doesn't seem like enough space, and I would also worry about overall safety and egress (would there be two places to get out, in the event of fire, for example?).

I am somewhat claustrophobic, and the whole idea of living in that narrow a space, with so little headroom and overall room to sleep, gives me the heebie jeebies. Yes, I know people live on submarines, but usually it is their chosen profession. Your kids will have no such choice. They will also never know privacy, having a place for an individual thought, etc. THink about it, before you do something you might seriously regret.

thelittlegreenhouse said...

I completely admire your plan to do this without debt, and I agree it can be done.

But I also agree with the posters re: a trailer. If you can buy a trailer for 5K, why would you then spend 5K to move it? Why not sell it and buy another 5K trailer when you get to where you are going?

Also, many states do not allow you to move a trailer in if it is so many years old. I know in Kansas, my bro and SIL were trying to get rid of a trailer, and they couldn't even give it away because it was too old to be moved. (And I think it was only 15 years old or something...nothing crazy-old.) They finally had to demolish it and sell the metal for scrap because they couldn't find a buyer or someone to take it for free.

And when they moved it to their place the first time, soooo many things were damaged. They had damaged plumbing, twisted walls, some of the kitchen cabinets would never shut right...just a lot of little and big things went wrong.

Anonymous said...


Don't know how I found you. First time poster. You have a cute blog and it is apparent you want to do the best thing.

I haven't read thoroughly through your writing but have skimmed through it enough to come away with the impression that you may be placing a future goal or ideal over the present and future well-being of yourself, your little ones and your husband.

May I suggest you listen carefully to those who are nutritionists, or other health-care workers who have expressed genuine concern regarding your diet. They are correct. Your baby while nursing will be fine, but you won't.

I am a fifty+ mother of four sons who all came along in five years. I am in my third decade of marriage. I was a nurse and left that field to raise my children over twenty years ago. I live in Canada. Our health care is paid for. Each one of my babies required extended post-natal hospitalization and care. It is my understanding you do not have medical insurance. We would have been sunk without our insurance.

In my early years of homemaking I managed to get our weekly food bill down to approximately $60.00 CDN when the boys were all in the 4-8 age range. It meant my making everything scratch. Everything - and cutting whole milk with skim milk powder. I followed Canada's Food Guide while reading Tightwad. She got her house paid off but nutritionally speaking I believe she isn't the best role model.

It all took a toll, physically and mentally. I homeschooled too.

If you plan to be the future wife of a pastor, you are going to find yourself in demand more than the common homemaker. I hope you are open to being flexible in your plan. You will at some point have to adjust for the amount of work, money, and time this is going to entail.

I am concerned like others have mentioned here, that the nutritional needs of your growing children are not being met. Your little ones may not eat much now, however, as they grow, so will their caloric demands.

Now and always, they need fruit and vegetables. Leafy greens. Think bright orange and bright green. They need several servings of these foods every day. They need milk with fat which promotes and facilitates healthy brain development.

A prenatal vitamin for pregnant and nursing moms is standard care done to prevent spinabifida in developing pre-born infants. Taken by nursing moms and it helps boost her health.

My 60.00 per week did not last long. My children were hungry and I was spent with work. You can say your children will help to do the work as they grow. Grown men and teen boys who work long hours do not come home and help with the housework and food chores.

A bible verse kept coming to my mind when I was trying to do what you are trying to do and on a much higher income. It was about the folly of spending money on that which is not food.

Our ideals are just that. Ideals. Our children and the decisions we make concerning them - we live with forever.

I am dealing today with issues which could easily have been averted had I placed my children higher than a lifestyle ideal.

Please rethink your ideals and future goals which very well may be attained but at what cost?

Elizabeth said...

After reading all these comments about a semi trailer and shipping containers I am wondering why no one has seriously considered an RV (or is it called a camper trailer?). These are already have plumbing, propane heaters and stoves and fridges, already take space into consideration and often times have fold up beds, tables turn into beds, etc. You can get one that hooks onto the back of a truck or one that drives(I assume the ones that hook up to a truck would be a better deal and you don't have to worry about engine problems with that). They have a toilet and shower already. This option has to be much cheaper than actually converting a semi trailer into a home and has to be much safer as the manufactors have to follow fire codes and building codes.

As an added note, having a home in a semi trailer is a liability. Consider the fact if you have to relocate and can't afford land to landlord will let you park a semi trailer in their park but you can always find a mobile or RV park to rent if you have an RV. If your home isn't built safely (and hiring someone to convert a semi sounds expensive) it is also a real reason that CPS could take your children away). Just some added thoughts. I truly think it is wonderful that you are planning ahead and thinking of several ideas, but living in a converted semi trailer sounds more like a luxery of someone who wants to live non-traditional but has the real money o build it safely. It sounds like it would need a lot of measures taken to be a safe home and that sounds too expensive.

Cave Girl said...

^^I am so building that yurt this summer. I've been looking for a way to build an inexpensive yurt to put back in my woods for camping. Whoever posted that link, THANK YOU.

I lived in a camping trailer for over a year back in 2003/2004. We only had one small child then and while it was cramped, it was doable. It was parked in my parents driveway and my uncle hooked up our electricity. We used a garden hose designed for potable water to get running water. The propane tanks only held 5 gallons so showers in our miniscule shower never got us very clean and there was no bathtub so baths weren't an option. The refrigerator was tiny and couldn't hold much food. There wasn't much storage space in the kitchen. The bedroom was only big enough for the bed and nothing else. I did like that the dining area was a booth with a table that folded up against the wall and storage under the benches.

Was it doable? Yes, with one child. Would I do it again? Especially with the 3 children I have now? No, not unless I had no other choice. Living in a camping trailer may be ok for a family of 3 but it's a bad idea if you have more than 1 child. There isn't enough space. Children need space to play. Teenagers need space for privacy.

I think it's wonderful that you're looking ahead to the future and want to be self-sufficient on a low income. It is not, however, wonderful that you're planning on purposely subjecting your children to substandard living conditions. Children are a gift. They deserve better than that. It seems that you're looking more into following your own somewhat bizarre desires with no thought to the affect it will have on your lovely children. Please reconsider. Please do what's right by your children. Do you think God would approve of putting your wants ahead of their needs? Think about it.

Your original post is not really that bad of an idea. Owning a mobile home isn't great but it's far better than living in a box or a camping trailer. However, your interest in living in a box or camping trailer disturbs me. Your desire to out-frugal everyone else appears to be heading toward pathological and your children will resent you for it. I don't think you understand the hard work that goes along with not only being a preacher's wife, but also the hard work that comes with growing your own food, owning livestock, homeschooling, having older children, pushing yourself to live on a very low income, etc. It will take it's toll on you and your family. I live in the country. I've homeschooled in the past, owned chickens (hint--they're more expensive than you think), and grown my own food on a low income. The homeschooling had to go not only for my own sanity but also because there simply isn't enough time in the day to do everything.

Boysmom said...

I think that it's going to be impossible to plan your whole life out now. Not to mention, we make plans and God laughts. I've found that to be true. I had a plan. I got married, bought a house, decorated it for a year, and then was supposed to have a baby. Luckily my husband wanted to bump up the baby plans, because it took five years before we actually had a child. I never thought I could stay at home, but after 5 years of my working and us saving, I was able to. You don't know what the future will bring. You may not be able to have as many children as you are planning, or you may have many more. I think that brainstorming ideas is great and a fun idea, but until you know where you are going it will be impossible to know what the best plan is for your family. One thing I am learning as my children grow (13, 11, 11 and 5) is that their needs change greatly and they are important members of a household as well and therefore I take their needs into consideration in our plans. I can't imagine my children sleeping in 30 inch bunks for example. When they become adult sized (which happens much younger then you think, my oldest was 5'10" at 11) that will not work anymore. So even if you did go with a plan such as a semi, you'd have to reevaluate at that point. We are as well in a smaller way, we need to buy him an extra long twin bed! He's 6'2" now at 13.5, so I'm sure there's a few more inches of growth left at the minimum. He eats a LOT too, as you might imagine, so that blows the food budget I'd planned for. I spend 600 per month now, and I used to only spend about 300.

Henrietta said...

Hi Em,

You might have to rethink the semi trailer thing...I just checked with my husband and they are 13 feet tall from the ground; that is not the height of the box itself.

Also, in regards to moving wide loads, here in California it costs several thousand dollars (in gas and permitting...not sure if this includes labor costs) to move a load a couple hundred miles. Obviously this will vary depending on your load size and the states you cross. (This is for a slightly over-width load, not the kind that requires flag trucks, etc.)

Just thought I'd share a little first-hand knowledge.

CaveGirl said...

If you're really set on living in a tiny, portable home, have you considered getting one of those storage sheds from Lowe's? They have some that have little porches on front and can be used as cabins. They also have a 2 story model--the first floor could be your living area and you guys could sleep upstairs.

KimC said...

You go, girl!
5 years ago,we lived in a 29' travel trailer with our 6 children for 18 months while we built our house. The amount of space wasn't up to expected American standards, but it was so worth it! With a modest income and 9 children, we now have 5 acres and a house with a monthly payment of less than $400.
We have real-life friends who have done or are doing similar things. Americans are spoiled when it comes to lifestyle choices, but it's great to be able to plan, work and live outside the box.
Oh, and one more thing - don't let your trolls discourage you. I have plenty of my own. That's what happens when you dare to live differently. At best, you are making people think in new directions. More likely, they feel judged simply by the fact that you make different choices than they do.
I don't mind dissenting opinions on my blog, but I do use the delete button without hesitation or remorse when they can't be civil or constructive.

PK said...

No matter how small or poor the congragation was when we pastored when I was growing up, they always, ALWAYS were more than happy, eager even, to help with our housing.
Sure, it took a little time, but each tiny church always provided a place for us, be it a purchased and remodeled mobile home, a small wood house ,or even a large RV. Everyone pitched in and helped with the construction. You will find that even Non-church goers will do so. Community members will not only volunteer their time, but supplies as well.The majority of building supplies were donated , as tax write offs.
And this helps the small church tremendously, by leaving it with a parsonage for the next pastor.
Salaries might be non-existant or tiny, but never were we lacking for a place to live, at no cost to us. (and this was before the time of Craigslist and Freecycle!!)
Emily, I think you need to understand that pastoring is something that has to be 100 % led and guided by God, Man's plans don't apply.
If you honor the Lord by choosing to follow the path of dedicating your lives to pastoring, He will provide.
In the case that you find pastoring is NOT for you ,well, then, you'll have your savings and a backup plan.
PS. the mobile homes are horrid...they fall apart , need constant costly upkeep, and AMEN on the part about not moveing well!

your ideas are normal elsewhere said...

As someone who was traveled to other countries, please know that your ideas are not bad AT ALL. In fact, I admire you for thinking outside the small American box. People in other countries live with multiple people in a smaller space than our living rooms. Your apartment in fact reminds me of what I saw in China.

1. Urban homesteading. That site should help your husband understand that you CAN actually own a few farm animals that work for you as well as become your pet. Read the CA site especially for that. A few chickens, a few ducks, and a goat live in a tiny space in CA, in a city lot!

2. People buy travel trailers (campers) and gut them, replace with better storage, yet proper weight and have a totally moveable homes

3. People live in Silos. Mud bale homes. There are even homes that can be built for like 2k I think. Do it yourself style. Backwood Homes type magazines can help with that.

4. Triple bunkbeds that you build yourself. free plans online.

5. I think you would benefit in reading in some of the China adoption circles. I hesitate to post that as the trolls might find a new hobby. Though it might be funny as the top 20 or so China adopt bloggers have atty's or have some in the family, or their husbands are attys LOL.

I am meaning more the China adopters who adopt several special needs children from China to give them a home and great medical care.
They get very creative with space in their homes.
Tripple bunk beds, small living quarters but lots of space to run and play is a common theme I have seen.

In closing I really wish people would study traveling the world with nothing on them but a backpack. Carry On only style.
It's amazing how the rest of the world gets it and we don't. Less is more.
The less you have to deal with the more free you are to travel, see people, serve people. What could be better than that?
A large house full of people sitting on their bums, in their private bedroom ,watching the tube?

I hope you realize the lifestyle you have chosen, and your love of having less, your husbands training......... will make you very good potential missionaries. You could move overseas in a heart beat. While for others they get so encumbered a move like that is difficult.
You could easily move and live in a one room apartment like a lot of the world does and be fine!!!!!

Emily said...

your ideas, thanks! I always thought I was normal! I would love some links to China adoption blogs. I'm doing some swagsearches on it, but if you wanted to email me any of note, I would be thankful.

Patti said...

Hi Emily,

I've never commented but thought I would to send this link. It is from a blog that I follow and I thought about you. She is a felt artist and is helping to build a yurt!

If you click on the link in her blog you'll go to youtube and see one being made.

I find your blog very interesting. I am growing my own green onions because of you!

Best of luck to you.

Debbie Meyer said...

Hi Emily,
I was just wondering, have you and Dan ever considered buying and living in a Yurt instead of a trailer or one of those small tumbleweed shacks? It seems it would be more economical in the long run, plus Yurts are pretty awesome looking.

Thanks for answering,
Debbie Meyer

Emily said...

Debbie, yurts are on our radar. It is something we are discussing. Dan wants more of a traditional looking home, but I am pro-yurt for many reasons. I love the look of them and the fact that they can be made to be semi-portable.

Tammy said...

Emily, Isn't this great?! Good, informative comments from people who are interested and appreciate (usually, but it's OK not to in a respectful, healthy way) what you are doing! And we are learning from each other! I think this is how your blog was meant to be. Yay!! Don't close it down! You have a lot of great followers. :)

Karen said...

Emily have you considered that as a pastor and family that you might need a home to host bible study, visiting missionaries and other small events?

Just thinking about pastoring a small congregation may mean that your home will be an extension of the church building--meaning that you will be called to use your living room for than just your own families needs.

Enjoy your blog.


Oosaka-san said...

If you intend to buy a mobile home, please please read one or two of these posts :

Owning your house but not the land it's on is quite dangerous, so when you do make the leap please be very careful, get information with the organizations that help people in that situation, try and have guarantees that an eviction or a rent hike one day won't force you to abandon your home and all you have invested in it !

Patti said...

Hi Emily,

A friend just posted a dogtrot home on his blog. I followed one link to another and found this. Though it's not portable I thought about you.

This is a dogtrot house:


nepamom said...

I know you're probably tired of hearing this but...I have to agree, a mobile home isn't the greatest option. We had one offered to us for free. The plan was to either attach it to our existing one or leave it separate for one of the adult chidren to use. It was in nice condition and only about 5 miles away and FREE but after calling every single person/company I could find to move it...the minimum quote was over $1000 and didn't include any kind of set up. Stil not a horrible deal but $1000+ is still a lot of money for us to spend just to get a free anything.

I'm thinking if you add up the true cost of buying a mobile something, the lot rent and eventual moving costs, plus repairs for damage done while moving and compare it to average rent for homes in the areas you'll likely be staying, you'll probably save more money by renting until you can settle in one place for sure. Renting is frustrating but it's more practical in some situations.

(of course, I am also in the middle of your Step 2 and realizing that the more I fix the more needs to be fixed. In those moments I think I'd rather stuff us into a camper untl we could build a cabin from scratch. So I might just be projecting my annoyances onto your plan LOL, it could work out wonderfully for you. Whatever you least you know you will be a happy loving family together!

Anonymous said...

While I find your plan a tad naive I think the fact that you have a plan is excellent. Having goals and dreams is the stuff of life.

My two cents, for what it is worth, is the importance of flexibility when it comes to a life plan. At your age I too had a well thought plan that involved completing graduate school and so on. And then my husband and I gave birth to a profoundly disabled child with a host of medical complications. Talk about radical revisions to one's life plans!!

K sort of hinted at it I thought earlier. Sometimes God has different ideas for your life and it is important to allow those to unfold even if it means your plans get radically revised. It can be scary and heartbreaking to have to rethink those dreams but the personal and spiritual growth that emerges can be quite a journey.

My main bit of advice, if you are willing to hear it, is to allow for the notion that sometimes your plan is just that, YOUR plan, not God's. It can be hard to hear this message sometime if you are pretty stuck on a specific idea. Be open and flexible as you journey this life. Allow for the idea that God can work in mysterious and very surprising ways. I have found that while my life is very different than I had pictured in my twenties (I am not in my forties) it is richer than I ever could have imagined!

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