For Heather Harger, her husband, Jordan, and their four kids, “normal” is pretty different from many Americans’ lives. The family “left a wonderful, comfortable life in suburbia U.S.A. (by Disney World, nonetheless),” as the Hargers described it on their website No Muck*, to move to an impoverished township near Cape Town in South Africa, where they are doing public health and community development work as well as working with local churches.
We hit the Mom Lottery when we got this jackpot of a gal! What an incredible woman we get to live with every single day. Happy Mother's Day @heatherharger !!! #mom #motherhood #nomuck
As though all of this weren’t enough, the family of six lived, ate, played, and home-schooled in a RV for 18 months in order to save up money for their move to South Africa.
Just to get some perspective, the average home in the United States had about 1,058 square feet per person in 2015, according to the American Enterprise Institute. The Hargers’ RV has 300 square feet in total, meaning 50 square feet per person! Why would the family be willing to live in such a small space, and how do they make it work?
To start, the Hargers felt compelled by their Christian faith to help break the cycle of poverty in South Africa, where apartheid kept black South Africans mired in unemployment with little access to education or healthcare. To do this, they created their organization No Muck*, a non-profit that encourages people to follow their dreams by improving the quality of their daily lives.
For Heather Harger, “no muck” means literally and figuratively cleaning up your life so you can be a more effective person. “For us, the theme of No Muck is cleaning it up in every area of your life, whether it’s your diet, your household cleaning products, living simply, whatever it is,” she explained in a YouTube video about the project.
When it came to the RV, the Hargers wanted to make it a living, working example of the philosophy that governs their family life and their volunteer work. To transform this vehicle that most people just spend a few days out of the year into a home took a long time and a lot of work. “I tried to be more daring than I would be in my normal home,” she said in a tour of the RV on No Muck in 2014.
Harger started by removing bulky things, like the old dining table, and replacing them with modular seating cushions that could be brought out when friends were coming and stowed away when they weren’t needed. She also wanted to use all the storage space to make sure there wasn’t any clutter.
She found the shelves in the dining/living room perfect for storing her kids’ school supplies and even used the microwave, which the family doesn’t use, for health and wellness reasons, for cookbook storage. Cooking was especially difficult as the Harger’s son Silas has a rare health condition that makes him allergic to most foods. His special diet consists mostly of raw juices, and preparing all of that is a lot of work!
Meanwhile, the kids share bedrooms, much like many kids in the South African communities where they now do work. Throughout it all, Heather Harger “enjoyed being a minimalist and purging” stuff that wasn’t being used, as she explained in the RV tour video.
After the family had moved, Heather posted a video where she looked back at the RV fondly. “We actually really loved it and I feel like in a lot of ways it really prepped us to get ready for what life was going to be like in South Africa.”
When the Hargers posted their video, they never imagined it would get so much attention, eventually gaining over 3 million views on YouTube. At a time when many people in America find themselves with bigger houses and fewer people in them, as the study from the American Enterprise Institute showed, seeing up close how this family was making it work with less inspired the internet.
Meanwhile, the Hargers have kept going on their mission to live simply and use their limited resources to help others who have even less than them. Their RV chapter may be over for now, but it definitely fired the imagination of millions of Americans in search of a life with “no muck.”
Twenty one years of going places beyond where we could ever dream. This whole journey of life is so much more full of…