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How to unclutter your RV

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.

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Neat and uncluttered. A place for everything and everything in its place

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.

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The ebags

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.

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Jennifer folding up the RV Superbag

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.

 

 

 

30 thoughts on “How to unclutter your RV”

  1. I follow the same principles, Mike & Jen. I would also add the I have a very low tolerance for a noisy coach, so I put a lot of effort into quiet storage techniques. I use three sizes of double layer canvas type bags from the Christmas Tree Shop (cheap!) for most things in my cupboards & closets & even the fridge! Recently, also for the fridge, I acquired some great neoprene storage solutions from a company called Built. Both the canvas & neoprene items slide in & out easily & keep the contents quiet. For my trip clothing, I found padded, collapsible open bins at a Home Goods store that happen to be a perfect fit under the front of my 170 bed when it is made up – easy, & attractive. I like to keep the bed made up on a trip. Both the bins & the canvas bags are color coordinated with my interior. I think that goes a long way toward keeping things looking nice inside! Finally, I’d like to mention that I really enjoy the challenge & satisfaction of coming up with creative, quiet & efficient storage solutions which often involves repurposing things – I think this may be one of the qualities that “little house on wheels” owners share ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Great article Mike. Thank you for all of your efforts putting this site together, Bigfoot Dave

  3. well, i carry more stuff than Mike does, but i’m fulltiming. i also have a cargo carrier box for the big stuff- satellite dishes and outside furniture. but the two plates, two place settings rule still applies, i have one of each size of pot, two frying pans, and minimal clothing. i carry a two week supply of food, but that’s so i can stay out in the national forest for long periods of time. Mike can’t so that- he has to go home and cut the grass ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. To avoid the packing and re-packing in the kitchen area we purchased a set of service for 4, glasses we leave on the door in the RV frig, a couple coffee mugs and a couple basic pans – fry pan, sauce pan and pan for baking rolls, etc in the oven. That and basic paper supplies – paper towels, tin foil, etc. are permanently in the RV. I also have a small 4-cup coffee maker (husband doesn’t drink coffee) that stays in the RV. That eliminates a lot of packing and re-packing for each trip.

  5. Linda Weisgram

    For our toiletries we purchased a plastic jewelry compartmental bag from Bed and Bath. It was intended to hang over a closet rod, but we installed a sticky back hook and put in on the inside of the bathroom door. It has many small zippered pockets (at least 20) and we store toothbrushes, toothpaste, aspirin, tweezers, A&D ointment, q-tips, etc. At night I store my earrings for next morning. In the drawer I store small paper cups.

  6. Good article. I’m a minimalist camper so I also camp pretty lean. Some things I do that work are the following. I take one water hose, but carry a 3 gal water jug for those boondocking places where I can use a spigot. I only take the one built in power cord supplied with the RT. I have three small solar powered lights for the campsite. Always have extra toilet paper and paper towels along with a few Tide detergent capsules for laundry. We carry a small utility bag with 4 compact LED flashlights. I carry an extra qt of oil for the genny, oil for the engine, and some tranny fluid. I have an extra pair of wiper blades, a small air compressor for the tires, tire pressure gauge, an anode rod for the water heater, some cord for a clothes line, a small washing basin, and a small hand held vacuum for clean up. I also take along a ADCO windshield cover.

  7. Great info Mike! I am sure most everything has been covered by everyone.
    Being a popcorn nut I just couldn’t leave home without a package of brown paper bags (for use in the microwave) and a supply of popcorn kernels. I don’t like the prepackaged stuff. Of course, butter is a must too. Don’t worry….my cholesterol levels are way below average and popcorn is my guilty pleasure.

    I also have a small over-the-shoulder picnic bag with two of everything (2 glasses, wine glasses, plates, bowls, mugs, serviettes, including salt and pepper and utensils and cutting board. It works for me as everything is in one small bag.

  8. Thank you for the very informative post. I’m very new to this. Actually this past week we completed an 8,000 km trip to Banff, Alberta. It was our first trip. There was my wife, my Son, his girlfriend and myself all packed into an RT190. We way over packed particularly my son’s girlfriend. She brought most of her wardrobe and several makeup bags (from what I’m told they are necessities). I think the best way to unclutter is to leave the teenagers at home….well that’s my plan for the next trip : )

  9. I like things uncluttered and put away, too … and the tiny little RT is so much easier to organize than my condo. One of the nice things about travelling solo is that there’s always extra room in the cabinets … and I don’t have to skimp on the souvenirs. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Great article. We pretty much do the same although our rig is bigger and we live in in FT. We look for anything collapsible and lightweight that will fit our needs. Like you, we took things we needed from our home when first starting out but they were too heavy, bulky and took up too much space. This site has lots of great collapsible products. http://www.rvspacesavers.com.

  11. Marrianna Westinghouse

    Hi love all the tips. we just finished “doing the Dempster”( almost 9000 Km to Inuvik. We installed a retractable clothes line to dry the towels overnight, during the day they rest on “over the door” towel holders, we also use “over the door” hooks for hats and jackets. Experience has taught us that the shelves need to be drawers or containers on shelves for easier storage.

  12. Great advice Mike,
    I am trying to picture this armoire you mention, where is it? Did you have to remove something to fit it in? Can you post a photo?
    Thanks

  13. Thanks for a great article. I love your ideas for making the bed more comfortable. Where do you store the mattress topper when you’re on the road? It seems a little big for the cabinets and I’d like to see if I can make that work. Helen

  14. You have inspired me! I realized last week on our latest trip that we have too many wine glasses. I also now realize we have too many coffee mugs. Today’s project is to declutter!

  15. Greetings, I’m enjoying your blog and info. My wife and I are ~3 years into utilizing our 2010 chevy awd home-brew van conversion and we may be switching over to utilizing eBags. Right now we have been using standard duffles but the idea of netting on the eBags is nice. We too have a place for everything.
    Another thing we found handy was the seat back organizers by Smittybuilt called “G.E.A.R” organizers (info at http://www.smittybilt.com/product/index/53.htm). Lots of great pockets for small items you like access to on a daily basis.
    Happy Trails!

  16. we are about to go into this full time and it will be home no going home we sold as much as we could and gave the kids the rest thank goodness for smart daughter in laws.. love this blog and go to it for hits and tricks I guess we will have to see what we have to have and unload all the rest…Thanks Mike&Jen

  17. Thanks for this valuable info. As newbies we are still learning. One of us still hasn’t got the hang of putting it back where you found it! Love the ebag idea.

  18. We have a 26′ Winnebago Aspect. I use a plastic shoe box in the fridge to put condiments, etc. in Husband put a shelf under the bathroom sink for more things. Put plastic utility drawers in closet for clothes. Sure enjoy our Aspect.

  19. Has anyone removed the bath sink from the tiny toilet shower area of the Roadtrek? Don’t know why necessary with so little space to shower.

  20. Thanks so much for your precious advice! We are presently loading our Class B RV with all necessary material and we are confronted with many very hard decisions to make !!! Your experience comes in handy – especially since we have had Class A & Fifth Wheel motorhomes in the past, but not never used this tiny little beauty that we now own! Keep posting such videos on FB — they are greatly appreciated!

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