Tank You, Tank You, Tank You!

Posted by Rebecca

“Tank You!” was a staple in my impersonation of Lawrence Welk.  My teenage friends and I would giggle as we waved a “conductor’s stick” and uttered phrases like, “Let’s go, let’s bugaloo till we puke.”  When I look back on clips now, his German accent is minimal and he clearly says “Thank You.”  But I prefer how he will always sound in my mind and my memory, with a thick and sharp accent, introducing the hottest accordion players of his time.

So, on that note – tank you, tank you, tank you, everyone!

My article on my decision to live in a trailer was featured this week on Tiny House Blog.  It’s the same article that was published on CNN iReports.  (And one I had actually originally written for Tiny House Blog.)  This article features more photos, and as a response, a plethora of love, encouragement and commendation in the comments.  It is truly overwhelming!  This is the sort of stuff you lovely strangers have expressed:

I really admire your spirit and creativity.  I believe that you are a great example of how to respond to what happens when our lives take a turn in directions that we didn’t plan!

This is an AMAZING story!!  I am in love with this trailer.

Lovely ~ you show that trailer living can be elegant, healthful and, most important in these times, low impact.

I think you’re amazing, and your home is beautiful! Truly, you’re an inspiration!

You have given me a new hope!

Just stunning, like you and your pup.

Delightful! Inspiring!

You are my hero!! Your story couldn’t have come at a better time in my life and it shines a much-needed beacon of light filled with inspiration for me.

This is exactly what I want. Beautiful, just beautiful.

I might just have to look into buying a single wide trailer.

I’m thinking of buying one (a trailer) myself, and your amazing transformation got me so excited about it.

People judge by outward appearances but your home clearly has the heart of a castle!

Well, as us wild Texas Women say,
Honey, you went BIG and you are HOME!


This outpouring of kind words has left me choked up and speechless.  I didn’t start this blog to inspire others, but as a form of therapy for myself.  I had just been through a rough patch, and needed an outlet for my feelings, and a way to share my renovation with far-away family.  The fact that it is reaching others is an incredible and unexpected bonus.

I cannot say it enough: Tank You, Tank You, Tank You, for your lovely response, and for your wonderful encouragement.

Rebecca Knabe



13 thoughts on “Tank You, Tank You, Tank You!

  1. Hi Rebecca, I just wanted to say that there is so much to this story, more than renovating a trailer. The whole global dynamic of those of us who had plenty and thought it would last forever, only to find out now that we have less (MUCH less) in many cases. Then there is the shame, the confusion, the anger – and what to do about it all, who’s going to help, etc. I believe the States are much worse off than those of us here in Australia – but still we are suffering. I see it as the most amazing experience, the 70’s flower children who wanted to live on air now have the opportunity 🙂 And in our supposed suffering, we are actually finally contributing to making fewer demands on the resources of the planet (’cause we can’t bloody well afford them anymore) We had a politician about 20 years ago who talked about ‘the recession we had to have….”. It’s such a lost opportunity that so many of my peers are hiding behind the shame and bluff of their current situation. I believe it’s the new ‘out and proud’ of the 21st century – those of us having to reinvent our lives. My husband is a builder, no work, over 60 – he’s reinvented himself. I was a medical secretary – no work, too old – now I have a whole new career as an online medical transcription typist and have never been more busy – from my computer at home. Thank you for raising awareness – so to speak – and we all need to continue to speak out. I love my second hand life……bit harder on the blokes, unfortunately. Thank you on behalf of all of us – young and old – who are part of ‘the recession we had to have’…….

    • Thank you, Leslie! I really appreciate your words, and sharing your experience. I hope your ‘reinvention’ continues to go well, and your simplfied life is a happy one.

  2. Ahh…but it is inspiring in today’s world to find someone who, when life has handed them a rough spot, they choose to seek the positive and move forward. This is right where I am today…where so many people are today, because of the economy. I’m older than you, and my generation has been a generation that truly believed that bigger is better. My generation (I’m 48) was the one where you started out with a small “starter” home and then you moved to a McMansion to show the world you had “made it” This mentality destroyed my marriage and finances, and though I never really adopted that attitude, my husband (now ex) did. It ruined us. I am a simple person…want simple pleasures in my life. But I still struggle with what others might think…though that is becoming less and less with age. So, at age 48, and still digging out from a failed marriage that ended 8 years ago, I am choosing to purchase a mobile home, move back to my VERY small hometown in Indiana and start over. I plan to do things much simpler this time around. I plan to live within my means and find JOY in that! I plan on going on bike rides with my teenage boys and spending time with them instead of trying to keep up with a large home. I told my cousin yesterday that so much of my prior life was built on false pretenses…lies. I feel like my “moving home” and into my own little home (I’ve been renting for 10 years) is the right thing and that once I get there (which hopefully will be within the next couple of weeks) I will finally be truthfully living…being who I am meant to be. I’m so ready to downsize! Though, the whole process has been a hard one. Living in a trailer has not been an easy decision because of the stigma, but because of you and other websites, I have found excitement in it and am ready for the move. So, I say to you…tank you, tank you, tank you. For putting into words what many others are experiencing. It always helps to know you’re not the only one going through something. I love your blog!!

    • Thanks, Jill!! I hope your move goes well, and I hope your blogging continues to help your healing process. It is such a relief to live within your means, and not to be constantly accumulating unnecessary stuff. All the best to you and your family!

  3. I’m so happy for you Rebecca!. Your a remarkably talented woman and you’ve shown the world what gorgeous homes a vintage mobile home can make. You’re a perfect spokeswoman for all of us. Let’s see: The Nate Burkus Show, CNN and some awesome blogs have already featured you, I’m excited to see what’s next! Also, thank you for putting my button up, I greatly appreciate it!

    • You’re welcome! I had to have my techy friend help me…. I am so lame with all the technical stuff! Haha. She also did the script and an image for a button for my site, so I’ll email it over to you later today.
      Thanks for your words of encouragement, and again for featuring my trailer on your site. I love what you are doing with your blog! 🙂

  4. Hi Rebeccca, I’m one that didn’t leave a comment on the Tiny House Bog. I don’t often write comments, but when I drifted over to this blog, I felt compelled to. Yesterday, I met a woman that lives with her husband in a 5th wheel travel trailer on some land they have here in North Carolina. Just looking at her, you’d never know! She’s educated, artistic, fashionable, an excellent conversationalist and she owns a coffee shop, so she’s very much a social person. I told her about you and we talked about the trailer lifestyle; she had pictures on her phone.

    I’m no stranger to trailers; I had lots of family and friends that lived in them. A memorable one belonged to a friend in Ft Worth. He liked that he could see the sun rise on his right and set on his left from the same chair at the kitchen table. Just as we have to love the bodies we have and accept the imperfections, injuries and wear they receive, we must also embrace these places where we reside and the reasons we landed there.

    You’ll do fine and glow inside one day when you realize how much you’ve grown as a person through this adventure.

    I wish I was one of your friends… what a wonderful group of individuals you run with!

    My best to you and to them,


  5. Wow, wonderful! I read the article and feel a kinship – I had a similar rags to metaphorical riches experience. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your blog!!!

  6. Rebecca,

    I saw your story on the Tiny House Blog and found it not only inspiring, but affirming. We have a similar story we would like to share with you. In February of 2011 the DH and I moved into a 2 bedroom, 1 bath 1964 10’x47’ (with a 4’x7’ tip out) trailer, which we dubbed the Tin Can, and it came at a time when we were at the end of our rope.

    I had a disabling work related injury in 2007, which resulted in losing my career a year later (just in time for the economic tank). The DH was already unemployed and was unofficially retired since my income was more than enough to support us both (his 40 year career evaporated with the dot-com bubble burst and he couldn’t draw full retirement until 2013). Surviving through the next 4 years while fighting with the powers-that-be over this disability, we spiraled downward having to deplete our savings, tap first my 401k then my pension, and gradually selling off the majority of our belongings (unintentionally downsizing). We eventually lost the house to foreclosure in late 2009 and threw what belongings we had left into a storage unit.

    We were technically homeless (but officially homeless on the 2010 census) for a year and a half while we and our 3 cats couch-surfed with friends and lived in an extended stay hotel. While staying in a hotel can be expensive, this one worked out OK as off-season it was $600/mo (less than we would have paid for a smaller studio plus all utilities, and it was in a nice safe business park plus it had the added bonus of clean linens and housekeeping once per week). When they discontinued the monthly rate for the summer, the new weekly rate was more than double what we were paying. :-/ After having to move out of that hotel we were then invited to stay with a former coworker and his family. They were also in financial trouble and shortly after we came to stay with them, they put their house on the market to avoid foreclosure. During the time they were packing up their house in late January of 2011, DH had a heart attack and was in the cardiac ward for 4 days.

    We had friends trying to find a solution for us and one of them put us in touch with a lady who was willing to do an owner-carry on the trailer she was flipping for $6k. We hadn’t been looking at buying anything (not with our once stellar credit in tatters; hell, we couldn’t even pass a credit check for a scuzzy studio apartment – we tried multiple times, only to be denied and out the $70-80 background check fee for each attempt). It was in a nicely maintained 55+ park in a deteriorating part of town (and under the flight path of the Portland airport). The manager accepted us based on the owner-carry. He told us that if we didn’t pay the rent, he would go after it from the contract holder as she could legally evict us faster than he could, so the contract acted as a co-signer of sorts. With trepidation, and no other options, we signed the contract and started moving in that day.

    The woman selling it bought it from a 90+ year old man who couldn’t maintain it (physically or financially) and so was moving into an assisted living home. It was a train wreck. She and her husband tried to do some repairs; band-aids mostly, some of which were illegal, like replacing the broken sewer line with a flexible aluminum dryer hose. The ceiling sagged in the livingroom/kitchen (4” in the lowest point). Half the electricity didn’t work (we later found out that one phase of the electricity on the rotting power pole had a loose connection, and the manager had to fix that). The appliances all worked fortunately, but the furnace, hot water heater and stove all had standing flame pilot lights so the place smelled of burnt natural gas continually. And pet urine. The walls were all discolored paneling so it looked like the interior of a large shipping crate. Everything was covered in a thick layer of grease and nicotine tar. (The seller said she spent a week or more trying to clean off the grease, but it was still nasty.) The floors were spongy. The carpet trashed. But the roof didn’t leak (which is surprising since we later discovered that the reason the ceiling was sagging is because someone had walked on the roof when they were sealing it and broke the trusses).

    Since we didn’t have the luxury of being able to fix it up before we moving in, we had to do it while living in it. We shampooed the carpets after drenching the urine stains with Nature’s Miracle (locating them with a small black light). The paneling was spackled to fill the grooves, with sheetrock tape over the joints, and painted with recycled paint from Metro recycling ($8-10/gal) in earth tones. I kludged together some window screens for the single pane, crank-type windows by removing the interior frame, stapling metal screen (not fiberglass which isn’t cat claw resistant) to the wall, trimming it and putting the frame back on, so we could open the windows and still keep the cats in. We also replaced all of the wall outlets (they were so wobbled out, anything you would plug into them would just fall back out) and updated the light fixtures. I reused the vintage box-style wall sconces in the bedrooms as the bright brass finish was still good. They were the twist knob type (just like a lamp) so I re-wired them to have a wall switch. I couldn’t clean the original shades so I made new ones for them by using a thin sheet of lightly frosted plastic I found at Joanne Fabrics that is used to make quilting templates (it had to be sturdy enough to hold up yet flexible enough to curve around two small radiused corners). I attached specialty scrapbooking paper to the plastic with spray adhesive (which wound up being the most expensive part of the project), and then cut to size using the original shades as a pattern. They came out great and looked a little like alabaster.

    Fortunately we live in the temperate climate of the upper Willamette (rhymes with Bill, dammit) Valley of Oregon, so the winters don’t get too cold, nor the summers too hot. But still, the Tin Can was poorly insulated. Insulated window curtain panels from Wal-Mart helped a bit (at about $10/panel) as did the plastic trick over the windows (same procedure as the screens). We supplemented the heat with a space heater and electric blankets for the winter and the old window AC barely kept the livingroom cool in the summer.

    We did our best to make it home, considering we were by then surviving on DH’s early Social Security withdrawal of less than $600/mo. But we weren’t going to be able to make the heavy duty repairs that it would need by ourselves. We got a quote to fix the broken roof trusses and it would have been more than $5k to repair, including the new ceiling panels and roof overlay. About the same for the floor joists, new floor decking and flooring. And DH was having a hard time with the burnt gas fumes, so all the gas appliances would have to be replaced (and an outlet wired up for the stove so the electronic igniters would work). So, we decided to ‘trade up’ in a year or so, after I won my disability case, to get another trailer with better bones.

    In late May of this year, during my usual morning ritual of tea and news sites, I did a wistful perusal of craigslist and at the top of the postings was an ad for a 1982 Star 14’x53’ 2 bedroom 1 bath mobile home that had been posted only 15 minutes earlier. The guy selling it was retiring, and wanted to sell it quickly so he could spend the summer traveling in his motor home. He had set a very low price of $3200. I immediately called him and was the first person to see it.

    We didn’t have high hopes for it initially, considering the low price, but we couldn’t believe what good condition it was in. It was solid, with vinyl wallpaper coated sheetrock walls (that a previous owner had painted white everywhere except the bathroom) and had some updating (newer vinyl windows and a rubberized insulated roof overlay), but was mostly original and in very good condition for its age. It also had a heat pump and a washer/dryer set! The park is also 55+ and smaller than the one we were in, but very quiet at night. (And no cargo planes flying over at 4am! But we were told we could hear the Amtrak and freight trains whistling at the 3 crossings in town.)

    On the way back to the Tin Can, we crunched some numbers and while we weren’t planning on upgrading for at least another year, we determined we could scrape up enough money to get it. It was highly unlikely we would be able to find another one in as good condition for the price. We pulled over and called him back. He was in the process of showing it to someone else who also wanted it, but he told us since we were the first to see it and because of our situation, he wanted us to have it. If we had waited to call him back from the Tin Can, we would have been too late. We didn’t know if we would be accepted into the new park, but thanks to a year plus of positive rental history at the old park, we had no problem.

    And to top it off, we didn’t have to sell the Tin Can. When we told the manager that we would be moving out, we mentioned we were planning to “pay it forward” and give it to someone in need; just take over the contract. He gave us the name of a lady who had looked at one of the park-owned mobiles for sale. She was trying to find a place for her ex-husband as he was living on the coast and due to deteriorating health, needed to get into town closer to medical care. Because he had a fixed income, he needed to find a place that would carry the contract. The contract holder said to just sign it back over to her, and she would take care of selling it to him.

    We have now been in the new mobile home two months and we love it. So do the cats (you should have seen them when we let them out of the carriers the first time; they investigated every inch and did some playtime running up and down the hall before crashing for a nap). We are looking forward to fixing it up over the years as we love it so much here, this will likely be our home for a long time (fingers crossed). It’s located in a small growing town that is actively improving its “livability.” We are only a short drive from all of our favorite places in Portland, and we have the small town atmosphere. The best of both worlds. Plus our housing costs and utilities are less than they were in the Tin Can (thanks to the added insulation a previous owner put in the walls, the heat pump and a community owned utility) which leaves more money for upgrades!

    I really didn’t need to overcome the stigma associated with mobile home living. My first place was a 50s era mobile home that I bought for $250 when I was a college student (about the same time our “new to us” home was being built). The lot rent was about $125 back then. I’ve lived in mobile homes off and on between the stick-built homes I owned; typically when/where the cost of living in a stick-built home was more than I was willing to dole out – and I don’t ‘do’ apartment life very well. This is the first time DH has lived in a mobile home. Before we were married, he was an apartment dweller almost exclusively (the closest he’s come to living in something like a mobile home was living on a houseboat for a couple of years). He didn’t like the Tin Can, and never referred to it as “home”, but he loves the Star and called it “home” practically from the beginning. We are rebuilding our lives. After going through the five stages of grief, mourning over the loss of our previous way of life (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance) we are now embracing our new minimalist way of life, and take comfort in knowing others are doing the same.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your story. It sounds like you really have a lovely place to call home, even though it was a rough road getting there. I hope you, DH and the kitties are happy for a long time in the Star.
      Portland is a great city! I lived in Bend, OR for 9 years, and know the Willamette Valley well (but will now forever think of it as “Bill, dammit” :)).

      • Thank you. It was a tough time, but we came through it together. We saw it as a “reset”, which forced us to clear out and simplify.

        It also let us deprogram from the Madison Avenue propaganda of what The American Dream™ looks like. We are happier now than we have ever been. It was as if the weight of the world was lifted off our shoulders. All the trappings of “keeping up with the Jones” – the house (and all the stuff that went into it), the cars, everything we worked so hard to get in order to make us “happy” – it was as if we were packing it all on our backs, laboring to hold on to it. Losing it all allowed us to see what was really important to us – each other (and the fur kids). It’s not four walls that make a home; it’s the love you build together, family and friends.

        I’ve lived here for nearly 14 years now. I love it here. I also lived in the Reno area for a couple of years. First in Fernley, then the ex and I moved south of Minden when I got a job as a tech at Bently-Nevada. I liked that area a lot. I loved driving into work in the morning, dropping down the hill on 395 to see the sun splashing along the scarp of the Sierras traversed by Kingsbury grade, which jutted out of the valley floor like a great wall. Loved going up Kingsbury grade to South Lake. Your photos of Tahoe reminded me of the intensity of the blue water mirroring the brilliant blue of the sky. One of my favorite places is north of where Kingsbury joins the road around the lake. There’s a stone mansion built in the 30s on the water’s edge called the Thunderbird Lodge that has a small stone lighthouse on a boulder out in the water. I heard the lighthouse was damaged in some heavy storms a few years ago. Do you know if they ever fixed it?

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