But I don’t cook meth: overcoming my own “trailer trash” misconceptions

Guest post by Kathleen
The Simpsons Trailer Trash Bumper Sticker

I think part of growing up is becoming disillusioned with your uninformed, sometimes immature, expectations about adult life. I thought when I became a grownup I could have ice cream for breakfast whenever I wanted, and now that just sounds like a great way to get horrible indigestion. When I was in college, I imagined I would be buying a house in just a few years, or at least living in some fabulous urban loft, because I was going to become a famous classical singer in no time flat. Once my fiancé and I were both out of college and in the dreaded real world, I quickly realized that this was not to be.

We were drowning in student loan debt, had just moved back to our hometown in the Midwest, were shacking up with my parents, and planning a wedding. To top it off, we had just left an apartment in one of the less glamorous California neighborhoods that had, shall we say, a slight infestation problem (I won’t delve further, because I still have nightmares about it) and even that apartment was too expensive.

We were scrambling to get out of the nest — I needed stability and after being crammed in my childhood bedroom for eight months, we both needed room. But we didn’t know where to start.

So we developed three requirements for a new home.

  1. Must be a place we could see ourselves staying for at least five years.
  2. Must be affordable.
  3. Must accommodate our cat.

Sadly, every apartment we looked at we completely hated — either the neighborhood wasn’t good, or it was old and run down, or it was out of our price range.

When the idea of living in a mobile home was first suggested, I scoffed at it. Don’t weird people who cook meth live in trailers? Surely not someone like me.

But slowly, we began to warm to the idea. It would be OURS. We could paint and decorate, and boy was there bang for our buck. Our interest was piqued even more when a five-year-old trailer went up for sale just blocks from my fiancé’s office. It had THREE BEDROOMS AND TWO BATHROOMS. The luxury of so much space secretly excited me.

So we went with our realtor to look at it.

The park was clean, and there was an application process to attempt to weed out all the meth cookers. There was a list of rules for the park involving keeping your grass cut and no cars on blocks. They were kiboshing all the stereotypes I had in my head.

Walking through the trailer, I could picture where our furniture would go. The smallest bedroom was the perfect space for my vanity and keyboard. The kitchen was much larger than the sliver of space we had in our previous apartment. We both wanted to live here. And it would be well within our budget.

The road to actually buying the place was a little more difficult. Financing for mobile homes is not easy to find, but there are a few specialty companies our realtor recommended. The process is much more like buying a car than buying a house, which I guess is fitting, given the wheels. It was scary. We were committing to this place.

I avoided telling everyone except our nearest and dearest the details of where we lived. I even out-and-out lied and said it was an apartment once. There is a stigma attached to mobile homes…

We finally sealed the deal, moved in and got settled. But I avoided telling everyone except our nearest and dearest the details of where we lived. I even out-and-out lied and said it was an apartment once. There is a stigma attached to mobile homes, and even I had preconceived notions about what it would be like and how it would define me.

Shortly after we moved in, I went through this period of feeling like a bundle of failures. I had gone off to California to get my degree, escape my dreary Midwestern hometown and build a fabulous, successful life for myself. And here I was, back to my hometown with my tail between my legs, and living in a trailer. Every disappointment I felt about how my life was progressing (or not, as the case may be) all got tied up in where I lived. Plus, we got a few funny looks and some judgey comments that I took deeply (and unnecessarily) to heart. For months I kept where we lived under wraps, and when I did tell people, it was with a tone of apology, almost always followed by the reasons why we had chosen to live here. I felt the need to justify it.

But after a year of having people visit our home and love it, I just think about how awesome it is to have exactly what we wanted in a way we could afford. We did what made sense to us, and made our home into a place we love.

Comments on But I don’t cook meth: overcoming my own “trailer trash” misconceptions

  1. The stigma of mobile home living is real…which is sad because so many wonderful families have chosen this affordable lifestyle. My husband and I couldn’t be happier with our choice. In fact, we have to pinch ourselves sometimes because we feel so blessed. Thank you for this wonderful post!

  2. I am SOOOOO happy to see this! I decided to move in with my wonderful boyfriend about a year ago into a trailer. I avoided answering the question of where I lived for a long time. Then after my complaints about living in a trailer my boyfriend pointed out to me that I have the power to change all of the things I don’t like. It didnt really occur to me until months in that HE (meaning we lol!) own the space we live in. I have to power to paint, nail wholes in the wall, and even change the carpet!
    We don’t plan on living here for a long time and its an older trailer that isn’t worth much money so I get to experiment with my new found home improvement abilities.
    A bonus that my friends in armaments don’t have is we have a YARD! We have several tree’s and even have enough room to have two storage sheds on our lot. We also have our own washer and drier. AND our lot rent is half the price of my friends rent for a one bedroom apartment. Seeing my friends surprising jealousy makes me happy to live here.

    • I feel a lot of the same way! I forgot that it IS awesome I don’t have to shlep my laundry to a community laundry room. And our yard is kickass. Have fun painting and carpeting and tiling and whatever else you decide to do with your home!

  3. I have been feeling a lot like this lately. My fiance and I recently moved back to my hometown when I was offered a job here. While getting a full time job in my field was the goal I felt a bit like a failure moving back to my hometown. I was always the girl who was supposed to live in “the big city” and never look back.

    However this is a much better place to be settling down in, the possiblity of eventually buying a small home is quite real and we can send our future kids to public schools without any real concern.

  4. I’m glad to hear it’s working for y’all! 😀

    This is one thing I wish I could’ve gotten my husband to relent on — we had friends who lived in pretty solid trailers, who had nice homes and a ton of space, whereas we were forever struggling to make ends meet in two-bedroom spaces.

    Despite it (and maybe because we didn’t think so highly of some of our friends-of-friends, for other reasons), he just wasn’t able to let go of his preconceived notions of living in one of the local trailer parks.

  5. Unfortunately where I live in the Bay Area its = or cheaper to buy a condo because the space rents in the parks are so high and the mortgage on a nice trailer is as expensive as a condo. You get more rooms with the trailer but the space rent kills the savings. 480 in a run down park is the cheapest while they more run in the 700 range. With a mortgage on the trailer a condo is cheaper and probably in better condition.

  6. This article gave me a bit of a giggle because, believe it or not, it was actually one of my childhood dreams to be trailer trash! I used to imagine myself sitting on the trailer steps in Daisy Duke cut-offs, sipping coffee and watching my hubby in a torn lumberjack shirt working on the engine or a car or motorbike… ah… bliss.

    But you can’t really do that in the UK. There is MASSIVE stigma against people who live in caravans (Roma gypsies, Irish travellers). I’d need to sneak into the US and never leave.

    • You should really, really see “My Name is Earl”. It’s an American show about rednecks, and the guy lives in a trailer park and so do his friends. 🙂 You’ll probably get a kick out of it…and I can say, having grown up redneck, it is preeeetty accurate to some of the people I grew up around…

  7. I’ve seen some nice trailers over the years, and sadly, Alaskan trailers are not it. The vast majority are from the 70’s (you never see new ones) and after that many years in the cold, they definitely look the worse for wear. Not to mention most parks here don’t seem to have stringent requirements for keeping it neat and tidy. You’re lucky you’ve got a good one!

  8. I love this so much! I have been debating buying a trailer for a couple years now. I’m a single gal, and would love to have my own space. Something of my own. When I first considered a trailer, and when I have talked to people about it, I got the judgy comments and weird looks. But honestly, I’ve seen a few trailer parks and trailers and most of them are actually quite nice! Like every community, you will have people who do not keep up their stuff, but most people take pride in their own place.

    I think a trailer is a great way to have all the luxury of owning a home but also be affordable. Plenty of people think they need a certain type of home to be happy. But then they become unhappy having to keep up with all the maintenance and expense that comes from owning a very large home. But a trailer is a great option because you can have everything on your wishlist (and more!) and still fit within a budget.

  9. My husband and I have owned 3 different mobile homes over 30 years of marriage. We have never considered buying a stick built home. In the area we live in, all the mobile home communities are like you described. We have to have an “interview” with the owner to go over the community rules, and told flat out “you disrupt my community, you’re gone”. Which is good. There is one “trailer park” here that no one but meth cookers and addicts would live. We just bought the 3rd mobile home which we will be updating and upgrading, which will be fun.
    And if living in a mobile home was good enough for Minnie Driver, and Pamela Anderson and Matthew McConaughey, it’s good enough for me. I wouldn’t have been able to drive through that community, but, you know….

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