Make no mistake about it, living in a camper is one surefire way to embark on a minimalist lifestyle. If you only have a travel trailer’s tiny living space to deal with, you simply can’t accumulate stuff at the average American rate — or even keep much of the stuff you do have.
But even if you’re not planning on hitting the road full-time, you may find yourself floating in needless items or paying for spare storage space, wondering how to downsize and get back your sense of control. Clearly, at some point, you thought all these things were worth your time and effort… but suddenly, it seems like you’re totally lost in a cluttered, un-comfy living space!
Fortunately, downsizing doesn’t have to be a downer — and living small can actually make way for the great, big adventures you’re dreaming of.
Here are some of our best tips on how to downsize, no matter what your ultimate goals for the project may be.
What’s So Great About the Minimalist Lifestyle?
What with the sudden popularity of Marie Kondo’s famous “spark joy” method and the tiny house movement, minimalism is seeing something of a renaissance. The basic idea of this kind of minimalist living is to become more intentional — and in some cases, more ruthless — about what you do and do not allow to take up your energy and your space. By paying attention to the types of items and habits you allow into your life, you can consciously curate the lifestyle you actually want as opposed to just “going with the flow,” which in many cases can lead to a more affordable, sustainable, and rewarding way of being.
Many minimalists choose to prioritize experience over material wealth, and one of the main experiences they’re after is travel — and lots of it. Coupled with the newly-accessible realm of remote work, thanks to the ubiquity of the internet, this travel focus has lead an increasing number of individuals and families of all ages to take to the road on a permanent capacity, living a life of constant travel and work known colloquially as remote nomadism.
Permanent RV living is one of the most ideal ways to tackle this new and unique lifestyle, since it couples the freedom and flexibility of road tripping with the privacy and comfort of having your own space. (They are called “mobile homes,” after all!)
What’s more, adventuring in a mobile home or travel trailer gives you a whole lot more space to work with than you’d have if you were taking a regular car or plane-hopping from place to place. So if you enjoy outdoor hobbies or activities that have hefty gear, like kayaking or mountain biking, the RV lifestyle is even more ideal.
That said, if you’re thinking about making the switch from a sticks-and-bricks house to living in a motorhome, chances are you’re going to have to do some pretty significant downsizing. Most of us live with far too much stuff to cram into even the most generously-sized Class A or fifth wheel.
But that doesn’t mean the RV life has to be a painful sacrifice. In fact, if you do it right, getting rid of a bunch of your stuff might even be enjoyable — a cleansing ritual that’ll pare down that excess stuff you’ve accumulated to only the necessities that bring you true joy and utility.
Downsizing Tips for Every Homeowner
Whether you’re making the transition to full-time RV living or just in the mood for a serious spring cleaning, here are some of our best tips for downsizing your home.
1. Start small.
If you’re living in a 2,800-square-foot home with three bedrooms, an attic, and a shed out back, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the idea of clearing up even a single room — let alone the whole property. (And let’s not even get started on the intimidation factor of trying to figure out which of those thousands of items deserve a coveted spot in your 300-square-foot RV.)
But if you try to tackle everything at once, you’ll quickly find yourself completely at stand-still, paralyzed by the sheer enormity of the task before you. That’s why it’s important to go in with a targeted plan, and to break down your project into digestible pieces. How you do this is up to you, of course, but since it’s taken the world by storm and seems to work for so many, we’re going to discuss Marie Kondo’s method in the next list item.
And so, without further ado:
2. Go by category.
If you’ve somehow missed the hubbub surrounding the KonMari method of “tidying” — which today is the subject of a smash-hit Netflix reality show as well as a whole slew of books — here’s how it works in a nutshell.
You go through every single item in your home — yes, every item — and hold it in your hands, asking yourself, “Does it spark joy?”
If the answer is no, it’s gotta go. And while it’s definitely a long-term project, it’s made simpler and more accessible in part due to the fact that you’re supposed to go by category. According to Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the most effective method is to start with clothing, since it’s relatively low-stakes and easy, and then move on up the ladder of difficulty to books, papers, miscellaneous items (komono, in Kondo’s native Japanese), and finally sentimental items.
By tackling your houseful of stuff in bite-sized pieces like this, you make the task much more approachable and less intimidating. You’ll also learn how to identify whether or not you really want to keep something more quickly and effectively as you move along, which will be an undeniable boon once you reach the really hard part — going through stuff that has sentimental value.
3. Be ruthless.
Maybe the idea of “sparking joy” sounds a little hokey to you. We totally get it! But part of the reason Kondo’s method is so effective for so many is because “joy” is a pretty darn high bar. That means you’ll have to be ruthless when it comes to deciding what to keep and what to toss — which is essential if your downsizing project is meant to prepare you for full-time RV living. Even the largest RV really doesn’t have very much space, so if you aren’t absolutely in love with something, it’s gotta go. It’s scary at first… but once you start letting yourself get rid of things without feeling guilt and anxiety, it quickly starts to feel like freedom!
4. Remind yourself why you’re doing this.
Whenever you’re taking on a challenging task, it’s important to remind yourself about why you made that goal in the first place. Remembering what changes you want to bring to your overall lifestyle can make it much easier to stick to your guns.
So if your downsizing project starts to feel impossible, just take a second to stop and remember what you want your future to look like: living a carefree and adventurous life on the road, without a bunch of extra weight (and stuff) holding you back!
5. Don’t let yourself get in the exact same mess again!
No matter how diligent you are about downsizing your lifestyle, and even if you get rid of half of everything you own, it’s all too easy to find yourself right back where you started. In our consumer culture, accumulating “stuff” is just part of life.
But that habit is exactly what minimalists are trying to get away from — and it’ll quickly turn your comfortable home-away-from-home into a crowded nightmare of an RV. So save yourself the time and energy — and a heap of money, to boot — by trying hard not to buy more stuff simply because it’s available. Instead of buying that tchotchke as a souvenir, take more pictures; instead of springing for a new pair of shoes, find a way to repair your old ones. Your wallet and your RV’s limited walking space will both thank you.
RV Living: What Else You Need to Know
If you’re thinking about taking the RV life full-time, downsizing is just one part of the equation — an important one, no doubt, but not enough to automatically catapult you into successful full-time RV living.
But the RV lifestyle is what we’re all about here at RVshare, so we’ve written about this topic many times before! Below, find a few more blog posts to help you get ready for the big switch.
- Can you Afford to RV Full Time? Consider This
- How to Establish State Residency if you Live in Your RV Full Time
- RV Living Inspo: Full Timer YouTube Channels
- Ready to Hit the Road? 7 Full-Time RVing Must-Haves
Good luck, campers, and don’t forget — follow your joy!
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