Life in a Fema trailer is a challenge – and the bigger the family the bigger the challenge, but it doesn’t have to be unbearable. It takes planning, organizing, and making sure that everything has a place. Sometimes that place may be unusual, or even inconvenient – the crockpot may go on the floor in front of the sofa and the lunchboxes against the wall under the table and in the refrigerator drawer – but if it is always put in its designated spot, it makes things a whole lot less crazy. It also takes a good attitude and flexibility. I am referring to mental flexibility, but it includes the physical flexibility to dance past other family members as you move about. Otherwise, you just have to wait your turn to go down the “aisle” that I call the hall. (The kids think “hall” is ridiculously over-positive). Once everything is organized and the methods worked out, staying on top of things is probably one of the most important things.
We did a very good job the first year, but lately we have been slipping on a few things. It is becoming easy to leave today’s clothes and outerwear out “til tomorrow” and the mail, school work, etc. on the table (which gets moved to a stack on the sofa at each meal). This is in part, I think, due to the restlessness after so long in a very small space (this is where the good attitude comes in). The more this happens, the more unpleasant life in the trailer becomes, and the easier it becomes to leave things out. During the upcoming school break we are going to clean out and organize all our storage bins and “start over”.
The biggest part of organizing and planning is deciding what is absolutely necessary and then maximizing storage. A lifesaver for us has been the bins that we use for almost everything. The two biggest bins are for the two girls living at home year round. They are for storage of things that would normally be in a bedroom; books, cameras, scarves and gloves, candy, etc. They also serve as nightstand, foot stool, step stool, 5th table seat, and lap desk. We have several toiletry bins on an over-the-toilet rack. Two plastic bins hold our everyday shower items, and two cloth ones hold our shared items such as sunscreen, travel items and extras (toothbrushes, razors, soaps, etc.), Q-tips, floss picks, lotion, etc. Each girl has a very small basket on either side of the sink, as well as a couple of hooks on the wall, for their personal items like hair clips, make-up, jewelry, etc. There is a small medicine cabinet behind the mirror that works for bandaids, toothbrushes and paste, and small medicine bottles. We each have our own personal bin for any personal toiletries as well as spare pairs of socks, underwear, etc. since our dresser drawers are in the container. The girls keep theirs in the bathroom closet (which is where their school uniforms hang) and we keep ours on the shelf over our bed. I removed and stored the cabinet doors over the bed, creating shelves which also holds two magazine bins apiece for magazines, papers, etc. There is a breakfast basket and a lunch basket which live on top of the fridge, a shoe bin at the end of the sofa, a fruit basket and an egg basket on the counter extension, a plastic bowl bin under the kitchen sink, a key basket on the bedroom door knob…you get the idea.
The other lifesaver has been Command hooks. We have strategically placed hooks to meet specific needs. Heavy duty ones hang on the bedroom wall for our clothes and jackets (the girls each have one by the bunk beds) as well as on the bathroom wall for our towels (of which we each have one, each a different color). Lighter weight ones hold headlamps and a set of keys by the door, hair accessories and necklaces by the sink, and miscellaneous items of the girls’ in their bunk spaces. I also put the smallest, clear hooks around the ceiling line to hang little white lights, which is usually all the light we need.
There are a few other things that we added with time as we saw the need. I had to purchase and put up a towel ring by the sink, I hung a small shelf over the kitchen area for our tea basket and measuring cups – this got two more things off the 12″ countertop. We also built a 12″ extension to the counter that includes 3 shelves underneath. This stores the crockpot (it was SO nice to get it off the floor), the toaster (also formerly on the floor), the fruit basket (that we don’t have to move off the table for every meal), flashlights, mixing bowls (that I used to have to go out to the container to get), two travel mugs that had no place, and empty mason jars awaiting a trip back to the basement after a meal. We hung a cheap, lightweight full-length mirror on the back of the bedroom door which gives us an extra for getting ready in the mornings…and, amusingly, makes the place feel bigger! I also have a reusable calendar that sticks to the wall, as well as a blank note board, that use dry erase markers.
Getting each person their own plate, bowl, glass, etc. has worked very well. Less space is needed for storage of unnecessary dishes, and we always know who didn’t wash theirs. Even if every dish in the house is dirty, it is only five of everything. Since the girls don’t have a room, I let them have the whole camper as theirs to decorate. This means we have monkeys on the curtain, bears and masquerade masks over the windows, ColdPlay posters on the doors and coloring book pictures as wallpaper. Here are some pictures I wanted to share to give a visual of how we have things organized.