Ashley Petrone didn’t expect she’d end up living in an RV.

Indeed, it was only a year ago that Petrone, her husband and their three kids — ages 8, 7 and 4 — were living in a 2800-sq-ft, 5-bedroom home in Moorpark, Calif. But that all changed when she and her husband found, and bought, a plot of land abutting the mountains near Ventura, Calif. where they hoped to build their dream home. The only problem: Where would they live while they built that home?

“At first we thought about living in an apartment, but that would have cost more than a mortgage,” says Petrone, an interior designer. “So we had this crazy idea to have an adventure and live in an RV.”

The Petrones then sold almost all of their stuff and bought a 180-sq-ft 2003 Cougar Keystone RV — “it had blue carpet and ugly everything inside,” she says — for $8200. They then put in roughly $4000 to renovate it inside and out — creating a light-filled, welcoming space with a small master bedroom, triple-bunk-bed room for the kids and open kitchen and living room. “The whole point was that I didn’t want us to feel displaced while we were living there. I wanted it to feel like home.”

Get ready for your feed to blow up with flowers because I am on a flower power kick right now!👊🏻🌸🌼🌿 •I have not forgotten about #aabdanceoff … ok maybe I have. But I was sick for a few weeks so that’s my excuse. It’s Wednesday and I want to see all your moves.💃 •Dino and I worked on my playlist last night and he was determined to beat me in “the best playlist” showdown. SO we both have a Spotify link up on our profile pages. •Head to my stories tonight to vote, we may even do a little dance off💃💪🏻 Don’t forget to share your moves on your stories sometime today too! •I will highlight some favorites on my stories tonight! Happy dancing!✨ . . . . . . . . #glamping #homeonwheels #howyouhome #therollinghome #theeverygirl #everydayIBT #flowerpower #beckiowensfeature #anthropologie #anthrohome #flowerpop #lonnyliving #abmlifeissweet #abmlifeisbeautiful #dwellmagazine #bohohome #showemyourstyled #currenthomeview #smploves #rvlife #apartmenttherapy #myserie7 #vanlifemagazine #livingtinyproject #smmakelifebeautiful #myhousebeautiful #mydomaine #habitandhome #elledecor

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Of course, living in the tiny space has come with its challenges — like when it rained for days and the kids covered the tiny space with mud, or how guests must eat off paper plates because there’s no room for extra dishware — but Petrone says she wouldn’t trade this time for anything.

“The most surprising thing has been what it has done for our family and my marriage,” she says. “Imagine being locked in a small room with your entire family … people are going to get in your way, get under your feet.” But, she says, the tiny space forces you to deal with those kinds of conflicts on the spot. “It’s 180-sq-ft. There’s nowhere to hide, so you can’t go to bed mad.”

And not only do the kids think it’s a fun adventure — though they do have moments when they ask when the new house will be done — they are learning valuable lessons, she says. “The kids don’t have toys: they have crafts, books and some Legos,” she says, adding that this year they didn’t get gifts for the kids for Christmas because there’s no room for them. “A little part of me feels bad about this but I know it’s a good thing.” What’s more, “they’ve learned how to play together better — they have to — they use their imaginations.” And she jokes that while she used to have to “push the kids outside to play and lock the door,” now “they stay outside for an hour at a time — they have no other options — they’ll play soccer outside until dark.”

Well that’s it folks.. were off for 3 whole weeks! 😆 Wish us luck! Looks like we’ll be heading to Santa Ynez for Christmas this year, we’ve never been so we’re all excited! I’m mostly excited about all the yummy bakeries we’re gonna hit up in Solvang, because that’s really the main reason I like to travel!🙌🏻 But we’re starting the weekend off at home in the RV, with a Christmas movie and ramen! Happy Friday! . . . . . #rvlife #thatsdarling #tagyourrags #wanderlust #pursuepretty #everydayibt #goexplore #siblinghoodlove #fromwhereistand #everydaymoments #familyfirst #dailyparenting #childhoodeveryday #motherhoodunplugged #travelingfamily #honestmotherhood #liveoutdoors #livethelittlethings #flashesofdelight #mytinymoments #thesetinysquares #ohheymama #magicofchildhood #everydayibt #pursuepretty #christmasdreams #habitandhome #clickinmoms #candidchildhood #motherhoodrising #candidmoments

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The tiny RV has also been a boon to the Petrones’ savings. They park it on that same land they’re building their dream home on, so their only household bill is the $500 a month they pay for the RVs utilities. “We save almost my husband’s whole paycheck,” she says. “We’re putting thousands per month into savings because of this,” she says.

While Petrone admits that the RV life is only temporary — the new house will be about 3,100 square feet when it’s finished in a year or two from now — she’s still glad her life journey took her on this tiny route. “It’s not easy, but it is so good for you.”