How To Downsize for the RV Lifestyle


Cy Wood

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It should come as no surprise that people who are full-timing in their RVs aren’t choosing to do so just in retirement, but instead, they’re hitting the road full-time as a lifestyle. While that choice may not be one everyone is willing to make at this time, there are a lot of other lessons to be learned from the lifestyle, such as getting out of debt and being more minimalistic overall.

Why Downsize?

Packing for your next RV adventure can be simple by following these tips.
Sorting through your camping gear can be fun and rewarding.

Downsizing forces you to take a hard, honest look at your possessions. What do you have that you want versus what do you have that you actually need? Eliminating the excess allows you to truly enjoy the things you care about the most. In a world obsessed with consumerism, it can be refreshing to pair down your belongings to only the essentials. Plus, when you’re living the RV lifestyle, space is often more valuable than anything else.

Benefits of Downsizing

Organization of storage of socks and panties in the drawer of the chest of drawers, cabinet.
Organize only the essentials, donate or discard the rest.

When it comes to the benefits of downsizing, many will be surprised to know how it ripples through their entire life. Downsizing benefits you in more ways than simply having less stuff. In fact, when people choose to downsize their way of living they often discover they’ve upgraded their lifestyle.

A few benefits include:

  • Less clutter
  • Increased cash flow
  • Greater flexibility time-wise
  • Less responsibility
  • Reduced stress

These tips on how to downsize for the RV lifestyle can help you out even if you’re just a weekend warrior looking to bring less with you when off the beaten path, or if you’re planning on making the jump to full-time life on the open road.

Filter Your Clothes

downsizing and donating clothes

We all amass too many clothes over the years. There are no doubt dozens (or maybe more…) t-shirts or blouses or pairs of dress slacks and jeans that you’ve completely forgotten about or that don’t fit any longer. Start by dividing your clothing into piles: a donate pile and a discard pile. If it’s not a regular item you wear, at least bi-monthly, give it away. If it’s in poor condition, discard it. Old t-shirts when torn into pieces make great cleaning rags.

In an RV, closet space is prime real estate. Audit your clothes for seasonal wear—especially if you’ll be traveling from warm to cold areas (and vice versa) regularly to ensure you’re taking full advantage of the space you have available. Plus, a smaller clothing wardrobe means smaller loads when it comes time to do the laundry.

Follow the “Reduce. Re-use. Recycle” rule. Reduce the new clothing you buy, and purchase pieces that are high quality and built to last. Re-use clothing in new ways, upcycling the fabric to use as a beer koozie, pot holder, hot pad, cleaning rag, etc. Recycle clothes you do not wear anymore by donating them to a local charity shop.

Monitor Your Media

downsizing and donating media and books

The new age is here, and almost every movie, book, audiobook, music album,(and any other media you could want) is available in some form or fashion on the internet. CDs, DVDs, and books can all be sold, recycled, or donated to free up space inside your RV.

If you’re planning to hit the road, an e-reader is your best friend. If not, odds are you have a library in close proximity to you that would appreciate the support. You can still get your reading fix without hundreds of books on your shelves. For the few that you absolutely have to hold onto, store them in a storage box so they remain organized and in good condition.

Get Rid of Your Kitchen Gadgets

downsizing and donating kitchen gadgets

You have to be honest and ask difficult questions when choosing to downsize. Do you really need that strawberry huller? The quesadilla maker? The dozens of other one-use-only kitchen gadgets that we all tend to amass over time? No, you don’t. Combat all of those tools by learning some basic knife skills, then practice and make yourself some delicious meals without the help of gimmicky plastic tools.

On the road, a good cast iron skillet and a small set of stackable pots and pans, plus a few basic kitchen instruments are all you really need to cook like a professional chef. Save space in the kitchen for all the fresh ingredients you’ll want to cook with now that you aren’t restricted to the specific items those tools were designed for. Invest in multi-purpose instruments, like a pressure cooker, to make the most out of your appliances. Expand your horizons in the kitchen, and on the open road.

Consider Your Collectibles

downsizing and donating collectibles

Gifts are great, but that shot glass from Paris (especially when you’ve never been there yourself) doesn’t do anything but take up space. Same for all of the swag that people hand you at conferences and the gifts you’re given every holiday. If it’s taking up valuable space and you’re not using it, donate it and savor the memories associated with the gift instead.

When you’re always on the road, you don’t need trinkets to remember a place. Start exploring photography, or even just snap some pictures on your phone when you see something particularly beautiful, then upload them to a cloud service. You get all the perks of making memories without the weight of physically carrying the mementos with you.

None of this is to say you should get rid of everything, especially a few things that you simply like having around or that mean the world to you. Keep those heirlooms that were passed down and that you want to pass down yourself someday. Find a place for that artwork your kid made you when they were in Kindergarten. It’s okay to hang on to the things that mean the most.

This is just a means to minimize your lifestyle and the things in it by removing some of the clutter that accumulates over the years. If you’re living in an RV with limited space, you’ll be thankful you did. After a while, you may start to realize you need even less than you did after your first sweep. When that happens, take another sweep through your belongings.

The RV lifestyle is becoming more and more popular for a reason. It’s not the things in our life that make it worth living, but more so the experiences we share and the memories we make along the way.

Do you have suggestions when it comes to downsizing? Leave them as a comment below!

  • Comment (2)
  • Sandy says:

    Take photos of your collections and take one piece if you have to have a physical item. I downsized from almost 14000 sq ft full of collectibles and junk to 1800 square feet and now cleaning out to downsize to a travel trailer.

  • Brendon Hoover says:

    The book “The life changing art of tidying up” by Marie Kondo has been amazing for the details of how to minimize without diminishing the quality of life. Also “The Four Hour Chef” by Tim Ferris is a great book for reformatting how one thinks about consolidating the kitchen supplies for the minimalist kitchen without diminishing the functionality. These two books have provided much knowledge and benefit without the discomfort of “the learning phase”. Thank you Tim and Marie for your writings.

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