Lessons Learned From Our First Year of Cabin Life

Megan Schetzsle / Insteading

Last year, my husband and I moved from Austin, Texas to a little log cabin in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We changed our entire lives over the course of 20 days: quit our jobs, sold most of what we owned, and moved across the country. Not to mention, I was seven months pregnant at the time.

We did all of this because we wanted a slower pace of life and to be able to spend more time in nature. We dreamt of raising our son in the cabin with the mountains outside his front door and plenty of countryside to explore.

Before moving, we also saw cabin life as simpler. We would downsize to 650 square feet and move to the country — no more traffic, business, or crowds in the city.

Related Post: Transitioning from City Life to Country Life

But what we found was that cabin life has plenty of quirks of its own. It’s taught us lessons that we never dreamed — about ourselves, the cabin, and life in the country.

If you’ve ever wanted to move to a cabin, this list is for you! It’s what I wish we had known before we moved.

1. You Need Less Than You Think You Do

When we moved to our cabin, we downsized from a two-bedroom apartment to a 650 square foot, one-room space. In order to make everything fit, we sold about 90% of what we owned. All we brought with us was our car full of things. Luckily the cabin came fully furnished.

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We’ve been at the cabin for almost a year now! Officially a year at the end of this week. • As spring approaches I’m reminded of so many things that happened last year 😊 This time last year I was about 7 months pregnant and nervous about how we would settle into the cabin and then add a baby into the mix. • One of the things that I thought about the most was how we would make the cabin feel like ‘home.’ It was a new place in a new town. It was exciting but also unfamiliar. • I remember shopping for new things for the cabin, rearranging the furniture, and deep cleaning. These things all made the space feel like ours, but it took time to make the cabin truly feel like home 🏡 • A year later, the cabin definitely feels like home now. And it’s not because of anything I bought or rearranging the furniture — it’s because of the memories we’ve made & time spent here as a family 💛 . . . . . #tinyhome #tinyhouselife #livingtiny #myhouseandhome #myhomevibe #homeiswhereyourheartis #rustichome #cabindecor #livetiny #tinyhousebasics #mycozyhome #lifeasmama #tinyhouselove #hyggehome #cabinlove #cabinliving #cabinstyle #cabinlifestyle #mycountryhome #rustichomedecor #thesweetlifeunscripted #tinymoments #tinyhousecommunity #tinyhousedesign #tinyhousenation #homesohard #aseasonalshift #thesecabinmoments

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This was particularly challenging because we had just moved into a bigger apartment back in Austin and had just finished setting up a nursery for our soon-to-arrive baby. I hesitantly resold all of the perfectly matching baby furniture that I spent months picking out. Along with all of our furniture, we also sold my car, most of our clothes, and essentially anything we didn’t use on a near-daily basis.

Do We Really Need That?

Selling many of our personal belongings felt funny at first. Didn’t we need these things? But what we’ve found is that we need less than we think. Even if there was an initial fear of parting with certain items, we haven’t missed the things we’ve sold. To be honest, I don’t even remember most of them now.

Getting Creative With Our Space

In the cabin, space is limited. This means everything we bring in must have a purpose in order to justify the square footage that it will occupy. We’re more thoughtful now about what we buy because space is tight.

Related Post: Tiny House Transition: Downsizing

Having less space has also taught us to be more creative with what we do own. We’ve learned to repurpose existing items instead of buying new ones. This is partly out of necessity — there are no big stores or shopping malls nearby. Instead of shopping, we work to get creative with our space and re-imagine what we already have.

2. Take Advantage of Your Surroundings

More than in the city, the surroundings of your cabin define your days. Especially in our case. We’re located in a valley at the base of the Tetons, and the weather here can be extreme. We’re submerged under many feet of snow during the winter and in the summer, the sun blazes until 9 or 10 p.m.

cabin covered in snow
Megan Schetzsle / Insteading

We’ve learned that if we don’t work with the weather, and plan our days according to the forecast, we miss out on opportunities to take advantage of our surroundings.

Related Post: Tips for Surviving Winter’s Worst

Cabins are usually unique in that they are immersed in nature, and this was part of what attracted us to ours. We’ve had moose, elk, foxes, coyotes, and deer wander by. On one side of the cabin are the mountains (Grand Teton National Park) and on the other, there’s a National Forest.

Incorporating Nature Into Our Daily Routines

After a year of cabin life, we’re far more likely to take advantage of nice weather days when we get the chance. If possible, we try to incorporate going outdoors into our daily routines: coffee on the porch, time spent playing in the yard, or going on walks.

Our first winter here was long. There was record-breaking snowfall in February and many subzero days. We’ve learned to not take the beautiful days here for granted and to enjoy our surroundings while we can.

3. Keep on Top of Your To-Do List

Lastly, a year of cabin life has taught us not to procrastinate when it comes to our to-do list. This may seem straightforward, but you’d be surprised how even the smallest tasks can creep up on you! “I’ll just do that tomorrow,” may seem innocent enough, but with the pace of cabin life it can result in disaster!

There is one constant that dictates the rhythm of cabin life: changing seasons. In particular, the arrival of winter means that there are many chores you can no longer accomplish. This means planning ahead and general preparation before the snow comes.

How We Learned to Not Procrastinate

Perhaps because we are both born and raised city-dwellers — or because cabin life is still new to us — my husband and I put off a few crucial items on our to-do list this year.

Megan Schetzsle / Insteading

For example, we waited a little too long to get our firewood as winter approached. Surely it won’t snow yet … we both thought in October. And then it did! That first snow didn’t stick, but it had us getting our firewood quickly and making a note to get it much sooner next year. We also ran out of firewood a couple of times during the winter, but that’s a different story!

Cabin life can come with frequent chores and a long to-do list. Take it from experience, it’s best to tackle them as soon as you can. The weather and seasons change quickly, and if you don’t get things done right away, you might not get the chance.

Cabin Life Continues to Teach Us

Overall, we found what we were looking for in cabin life: a simpler, slower pace of life and a new appreciation for nature. All things considered, our first year has gone smoother than we thought it would — blizzards, a new baby, and lots of wildlife encounters included.

Even though we’ve learned big lessons, I suspect we still have many more to learn. The more we discover about cabin life, the more it has to teach us.

Are these lessons about cabin life what you expected? Do you have any of your own? Share what you think in the comments below.

Megan lives with her husband and son in an 800 square foot log cabin in Jackson Hole, Wyo. In search of a simpler pace of life, Megan and her husband quit their jobs, sold what they owned, and moved across the country to their mountainside cabin. Megan blogs about her all things cabin lifestyle at The Cabin Diary.

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