Follow a few steps to achieve small space RV living.
The hardest part of moving from a house in the suburbs to a home-on-wheels is the daunting task of downsizing. It can be tough and there are some tough decisions along the way. That’s why Laith and I want to share how the two of us were able to move from our four-bedroom house to a space about the same size as our master bathroom. Over time, it got easier. We were able to make faster decisions once we had a sense of our new space and developed the right mindset.
Now, the RV is all packed up and ready to hit the road! Here are the steps to take to get there.
Figure out a plan and get in the right mindset
Downsizing can be an overwhelming process, and having a plan in place makes it a lot easier to manage. We started with one room at a time, and within each room sorted through different categories of items. We watched a few episodes of “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” on Netflix, which helped us get our minds wrapped around what our stuff really meant to us. Our main focus was quality over quantity. If you only have one of something, it should be able to last for years to come.
To store, or not to store?
We knew we wanted everything we owned to be in our RV. We didn’t want to keep a storage unit or to store a lot of things with family members because, at the end of the day, living life on the road in our RV is all about freedom. We wanted to purge our lives of all the junk and clutter we’d accumulated over the years and not have to worry about paying for storage. There were a few items I gave to my mom to hold onto, like my shoebox of old photos and a few sentimental trinkets.
Getting rid of all the stuff in your life is a very freeing process! The feeling of having just the things you need and treasure with you at all times is truly splendid. I worry less. I buy less. I consume consciously. When you live in such a small space, every item must hold a genuine purpose.
Be prepared for a challenge!
Moving from a house into an RV is nothing like a traditional move. Sure, when you move from apartment to apartment or house to house, you may go through your things and get rid of a few items, but most of the time people tend to pack all of their belongings into boxes and then transport them to their new home.
Sell as much as you can
The process of purging everything in your life takes time. Overall, it took us about three months once we really started getting serious. We put big items up for sale on Facebook Marketplace, which was a huge help for us when getting rid of nice items that were still worth a pretty penny.
It’s time to downsize!
Laith was in charge of downsizing the garage, his dirt bike gear and everything related to the RV, like engine oil, jumper cables, generator, etc. He stores all of those items in the cupboard under the daybed/dining table area.
We parked the RV outside of our house and started storing and organizing in every available space. Once I was in the RV, it became clear we had more than enough room for everything we needed. I started with our bathroom stuff, then moved onto the kitchen. If something didn’t fit, it was time to get rid of the least valued/needed items.
Downsizing is a huge chore, but it’s easier with a little organization. Here’s how we downsized in each category:
In our home, I had one of the guest rooms turned into a closet, so I had a lot of items to go through! The closet room was the last thing I tackled because I knew it would be the hardest. I started by putting clothes into piles of “yes,” “no” and “maybe.” I went through my shoes and purses last.
I made piles for jeans first, my “yes,” “no” and “maybe” jeans. I put on some music and started trying on each item. Trying them on was essential for me, because I had so many clothes that I hadn’t worn in forever. I needed to not only make sure they still fit, but I needed to determine whether or not I still liked them and would actually wear them on the road. Then I went to shirts, hoodies and bathing suits and put them in the same piles.
What really helped was getting four small baskets from Target that fit in my closet. I lined them up and assigned each one a category. I ended up with a jeans/shorts basket, a bathing suits/undergarments basket, a shirts basket, then dresses and PJs in the last basket.
The kitchen was pretty simple. I gave a lot of my nice Pampered Chef tools to my family and friends and I kept the bare minimum for what we would use on the road. I kept a few coffee cups, but have really only used one on the road, so I’m sure I’ll get rid of some of them soon. We tend to mostly use paper plates and bowls for our lunches and dinners, and plastic utensils most of the time. This not only saves on water, but I hate washing dishes, so it’s fewer dishes for Laith to wash! I did keep a few nice plates for when we grill up some steaks or want to impress our guests, but we haven’t used them once so far!
Going through my bathroom stuff was harder for me than it was for Laith because I had a lot of beauty products! I had a slew of facial creams and makeup and hair products that I rarely if ever used. It took a whole day just to figure out what I wanted to keep or give away. I ended up spending quite a bit of time reading about these sorts of products and how they affect the overall health of skin and hair. I opted to no longer use any kind of facial cleansing or moisturizing creams and instead chose to clean and moisturize my skin with only olive oil. Eventually, I’ll stop using shampoo and conditioner, but for now, I’ll keep them. I’ve got a lot of “backup” makeup and store it in the bathroom with a bag of all our lip balms.
My office transition
I was able to get everything in my home office down to a backpack — one backpack! I’m still amazed that everything I need to run our business can fit onto a laptop. I think that’s just the coolest thing! My backpack includes my laptop, my mouse and mousepad, charging cables, iPad and Wi-Fi Jetpack.
I gave my 27-inch iMac to my mom and decided to use my 15-inch MacBook Pro, since it was way more portable and easier to store. We sold my desk, bookshelves and desk chair on Facebook Marketplace.
Planners and Journals
I am a religious planner and note taker. I’ve kept a planner since middle school and have held onto every single one since. It took me a whole day to decide if I should keep them or get rid of them, then another day to actually get rid of them. I Googled what other people did with their old journals and planners and discovered that a lot of people struggle with whether they should keep them or toss them, just like me. After a lot of thought, I decided to toss them. I was inspired in large part by an article explaining the purpose of a journal: to document your life and get through what you’re journaling about. The planners and journals I had kept had served their purpose, so I read through them all one last time and then said goodbye and threw them away.
I kept a small box in the RV for blank notebooks and pens, which I have yet to use as I am mostly digital, but I want to hang onto them for when I just need some time with pen and paper.
I’d kept all of my books in my office and getting rid of them was a very time-consuming process! It took a few days to get the books narrowed down to what was worthy of keeping. I started with piles, just like I did with my clothes. I had a “for sure” pile, a “maybe” pile and a “donate” pile. I also had a pile for books that had meant a lot to me that I wanted to give to my family members. I ended up donating about 98 percent of all of my books, which I had treasured for so many years. I had a pretty large collection so the donation center really made out! These were books that I’d held onto since I was a little girl. My whole life I’ve collected books found at garage sales and thrift shops. I was proud of how many books I had. The ones I actually kept were my Bibles and Bible study books that I wanted to read and study with Laith and my soul sister, Sam. I also kept some business books I’d spent too much money on that weren’t available on Kindle. I took photos of the books I hadn’t read yet so that I could eventually purchase them for my Kindle. I kept a signed Dean Koontz book that I got for Laith for his birthday. Other than that, all of our books are now on my Kindle or have been donated to the local thrift shop. Getting rid of my books was probably the hardest part of the entire downsizing process for me, personally.
Our decorations were pretty easy to get rid of, as I didn’t have a whole lot of sentimental value attached to most of them. Obviously, I kept the things that meant a lot to me. Items that were gifted to me from my grandma, mom and sister were put in the RV first. Handmade decorations I’d purchased at Phoenix’s Junk in the Trunk vintage market were kept as well and displayed in the RV. The first thing I did after Laith painted the interior was to put up our decorations. This allowed me to see what could be displayed. Everything else in the house that didn’t fit was donated or given to friends and family.
You can do it!
Stay strong. You will want to give up during “the Big Purge,” but push through! It’s well worth it in the end. Don’t listen to any negativity and stay focused on your end goal. Remember why you’re downsizing in the first place. For us, right now in our lives, stuff is our last priority. We want to build a life for ourselves that ensures we have a financially fit future, and the less stuff we have (and fewer bills!), the richer our lives will be.
Now that we’ve been on the road for almost two months, I’m realizing it’s time to downsize even more! I’ve worn only one pair of jeans this whole time and mostly just leggings, T-shirts and hoodies since it’s been pretty chilly here in Oregon. A lot of full-time RVers say the downsizing process is never really over. You’ll always be getting rid of things you realize you don’t use or really need, and even replacing them with new things you didn’t realize you’d need.
Now go forth and downsize!
All photos by Finding Our Oasis.