I try to reevaluate myself often. In the famous words of Marie Kondo, I try to only choose things which “spark joy.” A continual purging of mental and physical clutter is often necessary for me to maintain peace.
— Michelle Mattison

In 2016, I was completely burnt out.

My husband was often away for work, and I had four young kids to take care of. We lived in a beautiful house with a big backyard. It was the kind of home that I had dreamed of having since I was a little girl.

But I was so busy just trying to maintain it, that I hardly had time to breathe - let alone play with my kids or get outdoors.

From the outside, everything in my life looked great. Our family appeared to be succeeding. We had the things that we were supposed to have, and we did the things we were supposed to do.

But behind those walls, everything felt so backwards to me.

My priorities were off. I wasn’t spending my time the way I wanted to at all, and I lived in constant frustration and exhaustion just trying to keep up.

For me, the majority of the pressure came from maintaining all of the stuff that we had accumulated.

But I was still constantly buying things to fill every corner. A wall needed more art, or a bedroom needed bins for organizing, or the kitchen needed more gadgets to fill the cupboards.

I had been interested in the idea of a tiny home for awhile. There was something about the idea of getting rid of everything that just made me giddy.

It became this fairytale fantasy. I would picture myself just walking away from the mess I had created in pursuit of a simpler, more peaceful life.

That year, the dynamics of my husband's job changed, and we realized that within 12 months we would likely be leaving our state. The job shift presented us with the perfect opportunity to reevaluate our lifestyle. Since we didn’t know where we would end up, we decided that buying an RV would be the most practical way for us to downsize and prepare for the future.

We settled on a two bedroom travel trailer that totals just over 300 square feet, sold nearly everything we owned, and promptly moved to our local campground.

I expected the adjustment to be difficult, but it really wasn’t. Sure, I couldn’t have lots of company over unless the weather cooperated, my wardrobe was much smaller, and I couldn’t let dirty dishes pile up if I wanted my kitchen to be functional...but in a lot of ways, it was genuinely easier.

Downsizing simplified things, and it also taught me some really important lessons:

  • It Taught Me How To Get Creative

The most obvious area I’ve had to get creative in is how I store the things we do have. We are a family of 6 (+ 1 dog) so even when our wardrobe and personal items are down to the bare bones, it can all take up a lot of room.

I care a lot about having a clean, clutter-free space to call home, so I’ve worked to come up with storage solutions. I often reconsider how we use a cupboard or closet, and I frequently purge items that aren’t getting enough use.

Another way that downsizing has encouraged creativity in me is how I spend my time. With this new shift in our living, I read a lot more and I’ve started a freelance writing business. These are things I have always wanted to do but never could seem to find the time for.

  • It Redefined “Need”

Need is relative, and if downsizing has taught me anything, it’s this.

I used to say “We need _____ soon,” multiple times a day.

Very rarely was the thing I thought I had to have ever a true, legitimate need.

People in third world countries need clean water. A homeless woman on a city street needs shelter. Children need loving homes.

I do not need a new pair of shoes.

It’s fine to want things. It’s fine to want nice things. But as I have gotten used to being choosier about what I bring in, I have tried to use the term “need” very carefully.

Not giving in to every impulse buy has kept me sane, given me perspective, and helped my budget.

  • It Showed Me The Importance Of Fresh Air

When we lived in our house, there were so many sunny, beautiful days that I wasted inside. Because I felt so busy, getting outdoors was a luxury I rarely afforded myself.

That is not the norm anymore. Whenever possible I exercise outside, I read outside, I eat outside, and sometimes I even work outside.

More of my days are spent outdoors, and it continually astounds me what sunlight and fresh air will do for your mood.

Because there’s not much “to do” in a 32-foot travel trailer, we also get out and do things more often as a family.

Sometimes that means a long hike in the mountains, and sometimes that just means a walk to the park to feed some ducks. Regardless of the destination, the best cure for I know for a bad mood is getting outside.

  • It Helped Me Let Go Of “Normal”

People either think our lifestyle is genius or crazy.

And you know what? I couldn’t care less either way.

It’s been three years now, and while I would love to have a small house one day, I’m not ready to give up adventuring yet.

Other people are always going to have thoughts about how you run your life.They’ll have opinions on who you date, what school you should go to, what kind of job you should pursue, the kind of house you live in, the car you drive, and how you raise your kids.

When you try to live up to these expectations, you just end up burnt out and exhausted.

Throwing the entire rule book out the window, and moving into a camper, gave me the freedom to really let go of what others considered “normal.” I truly am okay if no one else understands the decisions we make. I care about what works best for my family and what will keep us happy and healthy.

  • It Reminded Me That Happiness Is An Inside Job

In spite of these lessons, this isn’t exactly a “happily ever after” story.

If I’m being honest, I’ve been back at burn out several times since downsizing.

Wishing you could move into a different space can actually just be another thing that creates dissatisfaction in your mind. Another thing to want, and another reason to be discontent with your present.

Even with less stuff, I can choose to pack my day with too much work, too much screen time, and too much activity. I can skimp on rest, wish for different circumstances, make unhealthy choices, and end up living distracted.

I can still miss being present.

The good news is that you don’t have to move into a camper to become happier.

It starts with a head shift.

Sure, you can start taking some practical steps to declutter your life, and you will probably experience a lot of freedom and peace by doing so.

But the learning doesn’t stop there.

You have to be continually intentional about guarding your space.

Your home, and what you allow in it. Your life, and who you allow close. Your time, and how you choose to spend it.

I’ve found that “simplifying” is never a one and done deal. It’s a continual process.

As I grow, and as I approach new seasons of life, I try to reevaluate myself often. In the famous words of Marie Kondo, I try to only choose things which “spark joy.” A continual purging of mental and physical clutter is often necessary for me to maintain peace.

If we think that growth is supposed to be linear, we will always feel like we don’t measure up. But if you view your life as a fluid, moving thing that will always be a work in progress, it will help you embrace the journey as you move towards more simplicity.



I’m a freelance writer who loves working with health, personal development, and wellness industries. I love wine, gardens, books, dresses, and adventures. My husband and I have been married for 12 years, and we currently travel the country in our RV with our four kids and Doberman.


Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.
— C.S. Lewis


  • This Must Be The Place by The Lumineers

  • Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

  • In My Life by The Beatles

  • Breezeblocks by alt-J

  • Georgia by Vance Joy

  • Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

  • Record Year by Eric Church

  • Work Song by Hozier

  • Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison

  • Universal Sound by Tyler Childers

You can find out more about mICHELLE here: or you can follow HER journey on Instagram at @_gypsylivinG