The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Combining two trailers into one home

Trailer comb

Lindsey's familyLindsey and her husband Keith live in a "crazy, cobbled-together, split-level mobile home" in northeast Alabama with their five children.  "We also have another baby due in February 2013, and we hope to have several more before my child-bearing days are over," Lindsey added.  At 1,680 square feet, personal space in their two-trailer combo clocks in below the average size of even a 1950s-era home, but they find the advantages of trailer life outweigh the disadvantages.

"We moved from western Washington state to Georgia in 2002 with our 7-month-old firstborn, hoping to find a place where we could live on one income and buy some land," said Lindsey.  "Being willing to live in a trailer certainly enables us to live the way we do, on one income with Mom homeschooling the kids.  That was our priority and we were willing to do just about anything to achieve that."

Closet converted to bunk beds"When we found a real estate ad for 11 acres with a 'house' for $40,000 we immediately made an appointment to see it," Lindsey remembered.  The house turned out to be a 10-by-40-foot trailer from the early 1960s with a "poorly-built addition of about the same size," which they later tore down.

"Our plan was to live in the trailer/addition combo for 5 to 10 years while saving money to build a more suitable house," Lindsey said.  "There was always a sort of 'ew, a trailer' attitude between us, although we didn't look down on other folks who lived in them.  We just figured we'd need something sturdier and bigger for the family we were hoping to grow."

  But the trailer slowly won the family over.  "The little trailer had a really good design that took advantage of every bit of available space in a relatively attractive way," Lindsey explained.  "Well, we liked it anyway.  And my husband always admired how well-designed things were for such a small space."

Perhaps because of the positive aspects of the original trailer, the couple opted to increase their living area by adding a second trailer, purchased for $7,500 and moved and installed for another $3,000.  "Our second trailer is a 1998 model 16x80.  It's not as well planned as the older trailer.  I think it tries too hard not to look like a trailer."

Building a porch

Laundry with kidsWith the two trailers butting up against each other, the obvious next step was to turn them into a single structure with a joined roof.  "The roof is pretty colossal and ended up costing a lot more time, money, and effort than we initially imagined," Lindsey said, adding that the final price tag for the roof alone was close to $9,500.  "So we probably could have purchased a place with a more typical home for the money we've spent, but we wouldn't have the space we have now, we wouldn't have a unique home (which we like!), and we would still be in debt instead of having spent the money when we had it, a little (and sometimes a lot) at a time."

Although Lindsey's trailers are not as well-insulated as their neighbors' stick-built houses, the unique roof (and nearby trees) do a great job deflecting summer heat.  "Our pavilion-style roof makes it a lot cooler in our house than it would be with a conventional roof," Lindsey said.  "We have friends with a trailer almost identical to our newer one.  They have zero trees and the original roof and they spend a fortune on cooling it all summer long—for 4 or 5 months—because it just doesn't keep its cool like ours does."

LindseyI was fascinated by the way Lindsey's attitude toward her trailer changed over the years.  "It's been a while in coming but I think we all like our home," she said.  "It's different, more than a little counter-cultural, so to speak, and that's how we like to roll.

"Most people hear about our house and look like they want to move a few feet further away from me, but once they see it or hear more about it they tend to think it's actually kind of cool, if not something they'd ever choose for themselves."  She concluded: "A few years before we finished paying off our land, we realized that we're actually not 'too good' to live in a trailer, possibly forever."

To read more about living in a trailer with kids, check out the rest of Lindsey's profile in Trailersteading.

This post is part of our Trailersteading lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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