We have discovered the one all important guiding principle that more than anything determines the success or failure of an RV trip: There needs to be a place for everything and everything should be in its place.
When we first began our RV travels, we took everything. Sometimes two of everything. Both Jennifer and I were so paranoid that we left something behind that we overcompensated. Our little 24 foot Class B RV looked like a scene out of that Hoarders reality TV show, you know, the one where people life in houses so cluttered that they had to make tunnels to move between the piles of junk.
We took too much food, too many clothes, too many folding chairs, too many pots, pans and utensils. I had tools of every size and shape, fishing stuff, two bicycles, snorkeling gear, beach towels, workout bags, a pile of books and all my computer, video and camera gear.
We were bloated.
It didn't take long to realize that we were overcompensating for our lack of RV experience by overpacking.
It took forever to load the RV for a trip and even longer to haul everything out when we returned home.
Here's our advice on how to unclutter your RV from our experiences.
The kitchen – We now take two plates, two cups, two glasses (plastic) and, on the rare occasions when you may have a guest, some paper plates. Same with utensils, which are supplemented by some plastic spoons, forks and knives. You don't need place settings for six. As far as pots and pans, we bring one of each. We bring a small electric frying pan for cooking bacon and pancakes and a George Forman grill. We have a very small charcoal grill we sometimes pack in the storage area at the back. I have a small K-cup coffee maker.
Food – The staples are pretty basic. Some olive oil, a jar of peanut butter, jam, bread, granola, yogurt, butter, crackers, cheese, meat, some fruit and some snacks. We eat a lot of salads. Jennifer will prepack the fixings in a zip lock bag at home and bring them. We take no more than a three day supply of food. Its easy and fun to shop locally on the road, getting fresh fruits and veggies. And we do eat out at local restaurants a lot. There is no better way to know an area than to eat where the locals do. We take along a case of bottled water, too, keeping it on one side of the bottom of an armoire we had installed.
Clothing – We permanently keep jackets, sweats and one good outfit in the wardrobe closet. We bring sandals, hiking boots and a presentable pair of slip ons. Jennifer also brings house slippers. We keep them on the other side of the armoire bottom. We have both come to really appreciate the small little packing cubes called eBags. Click that link to see Jennifer demo them. We each bring two, mine is blue, Jen's is red. We easily can get a five day supply of all the clothes we need in them. They fit in a rear overhead cabinet on the driver's side of the coach.
Hygiene and shower items – We permanently leave soap, bathroom supplies, hair brushes, toothbrushes and the like in the bathroom. A surprising amount fits in that pull out drawer. I found a little plastic dish and holder set that attaches to the wall above the sink by a suction cup to store bath items. I also have a small knapsack that has extra soap and shampoo and a pair of flip flops that I carry when using a shower at a campground bathhouse. It goes in with the shoes in the armoire for storage. Jennifer has a large tote bag with her stuff that also fits in the armoire.
Bedding – We make our coach bed up into a king bed each night and put a four inch mattress topper on it that we picked up at Bed, Bath & Beyond a year or so ago. It is more comfortable than our Sleep Number bed at home. On top of that we put on the RV Superbag. Click that link and you'll see Jennifer demonstrate it. It has a summer side, a winer side and luxuriously comfortable sheets that attach inside by Velcro. It's expensive. But we have found it incredible comfortable. We keep the topper in the top storage cabinet across the back of our Roadtrek eTrek. It's a tight squeeze but it fits. The RV Superbag is rolled up and goes in the armoire. We make up the bed each night and then put it away after we wake up. We like having the back area as a sofa/lounging area during the day.
Tools – In the rear storage area beneath the bed, I carry one small toolbox. In it are screwdrivers, pliers, a small hatchet that can double as a hammer, duct take, a tube of sealant, a small bottle of Gorilla glue, scissors, a good pocketknife and probably some other little odds and ends. I keep the water hoses (two rolls of 25-foot white hose), electric hook up cables (two 25-foot lengths), a 50 to 30 amp adapter, a 25 foot 15-amp extension cord , a pair of gloves and my water filter in a large plastic storage bin I got at Lowes. Also in the back are some of those Lego-like leveling blocks, a fishing pole and small plastic tackle box, a ground cover for the patio area outside the sliding door, a small fold-up table and two Pico telescoping outdoor chairs.
Computer and Photo gear – I have a page that lists all the tech equipment I use to do these blog reports and videos and you can click here if you're interested in the details. But basically, my still and video cameras, wireless microphones and their respective chargers and accessories all go in one large bag. It fits in the armoire. I have a backpack for my computer gear that fits atop the bag in the same place. I bring several very small, collapsible tripods.
Storage drawer – In the armoire s a small storage drawer. In it I have flashlights, extra fuses, a small screwdriver with the square head used for most of the screws in my Roadtrek, a small pair of walkie-talkie two-way radios, pens, maps and little things.
So that's what we take with us. We leave as much as possible inside the coach when we're home so we don't have to keep loading and reloading the same things. Instead of a pile of books, we read them from Kindle on the iPad. We only take the bicycles when we know we'll be doing a lot of cycling. Snorkel gear stays home, unless we absolutely know we will be snorkeling. Just because we could use it doesn't meet the test we have set up for what to bring and what to leave: Take only what you are sure you will need. If in doubt, leave it home.
Something else that is important that, if not adhered to, can really clutter up your RV: Don't buy a lot of souvenirs while on the road. If you must, consider shipping such purchases to your home. If that's not possible, make sure you have room for them to be stored away out of sight.
When we are traveling, we have a rule that we both stick to religiously. When we are finished using it, we put it away. We always put it in the same place. I can't over-emphasize the importance of that. I bought a bunch of stick-on hooks that I have affixed to various walls around the coach. We use them for sweatshirts, hats and the like. At night, we each have one hook that we use to hang the clothing we'll put on the next morning.
Everything has a place, and everything goes in that place and that place only.
Organizational experts say that you should go through your home closet every year. Anything you haven't used in the last six months should be discarded. When it comes to an RV, anything you didn't use on your past trip should probably not be brought along on the next one.
That's our system, what works for us. I suppose it's a reflection of our personality. Neither one of us can stand clutter. And with each trip, things seem to get more streamlined.
I'd love to hear how you have uncluttered your RV. Use comments below to share.