Tips for Living in an RV or Tiny Home without Feeling Cramped

RV Owners

From daytime television to the shelves at your local bookstore, tiny living is definitely trending — so much so, it’s pretty hard to miss.

But if you’re thinking of downgrading your life from the typical three-bedroom American household to a small RV or tiny house, it’s important to slow down and take a quick reality check.

Don’t get us wrong, we totally support a minimalistic, experience-focused lifestyle… but most of us do have an attachment to at least a few physical things. From the household furniture you’ve accumulated over the years to your prized vinyl record or book collection, taking on the full-time RVing lifestyle will quickly make you realize just how much stuff actually surrounds you. And even once you’ve sold off or otherwise dispatched most of it, you may still find your compact RV feels close and crowded, even with what feels like just the bare necessities.

But that doesn’t mean you have to give up the dream of living small and making yourself as thing-free as possible. In this post, we’ll give you some of our best hints and tips for living in a small space, such as a tiny house or small RV, without feeling like you’re drowning in your own belongings.

A woman in a campervan in a forest

RV Living

If you’ve been looking into downsizing your life, you’ve likely already had a chance to weigh the pros and cons of tiny houses versus campers. Although both have their own benefits and drawbacks, for this post, we’ll focus on RV living.

RVing is the best way to take advantage of your new, light lifestyle for the express purpose of travel; although tiny homes can be made on wheeled trailer bases, they’re really not made for extensive journeying.

However, from a floorspace perspective, tiny homes and RVs share many of the same challenges. How do you fit everything you need on board without feeling like you’re living in a sardine can? What sacrifices will you make, and are they worth what you gain in mobility?

Let’s get right down to it: can you live in a small RV without going crazy?

The answer to that, of course, depends on how you go about it. So here are a few key tips to make living in a small RV feel a whole lot more like carefree freedom — and less like stuffing yourself into a metal tube.

Small Campers

Here’s how to make living in a small space feel not just possible, but awesome.

Get rid of stuff.

It may be obvious, but it’s true — if you’re going to successfully make this switch, you’ve likely got to get rid of a decent number of your possessions.

If you’re totally lost on how to start the downsizing process, consider trying out Marie Kondo’s technique from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: hold each item in your hands and ask yourself whether or not it sparks joy. Yes, it may sound hokey… but joy is a pretty stringent metric, and you’ve likely got a lot of decluttering to do. You’ll probably be surprised at how much stuff you’ve acquired that you feel absolutely no attachment to.

You can donate your items or sell some of them on Craigslist or Poshmark — which will free you up, give your goods a second life, and add a little extra cash to your travel budget. Win, win, win!

Lean on multi-usage things.

Got a killer book collection? It’s probably got to go — but for your future reading purposes, you could invest in an e-reader.

Love to cook? A mountain of gadgets, gizmos, and kitchen appliances is out… but you’d be surprised at how versatile a simple cast-iron pan can be.

And as far as clothes are concerned, get ready to live in yoga pants and jeans and other items that can be worn multiple times and with multiple outfits. New rule of thumb: Never buy anything that needs dry cleaning. (Your wallet will thank you in the long run — and besides, that stuff is never actually comfortable anyway.)

a woman and child doing schoolwork at an RV table

Make sure everything has its place — and that it actually goes there.

Once you’ve pared down your supply of stuff, the next step is to ensure you organize the remainder. Even a luxury RV only has a limited amount of storage space, and you’ll need to stay creative and diligent to keep things from overflowing.

Luckily, there are some hacks to keeping a clean and livable RV, even if it’s a small one — for instance, investing in hanging closet organizers or drawer dividers to keep everyone’s stuff separate.

Here’s a post with a ton of other clever storage hacks to help keep your rig in ship shape.

RV Storage Ideas

The most important thing to remember? Never leave anything out and about. Learn to maximize your RV’s storage and take advantage of every inch of your RV’s cabinets and shelving — once stuff starts cluttering up your small RV’s kitchen table and other open living spaces, it’s all over.

Finding unique storage ideas and solutions is actually part of the fun of decorating a small RV, and is one of the best ways to make even the tiniest space feel downright roomy. Luckily, clever campers have come up with a ton of unique ideas for stuffing as much goodness as possible into even a teeny-tiny space. Here are some posts to help get you started.

RV Space

Finally, there’s no getting around the fact that a bigger RV gives you more room to work with — though it does come at the sacrifice of maneuverability and low cost.

While we recommend going with the smallest RV that will reasonably work for your family’s needs, looking for a motorhome with slide outs can do a lot to make you feel like you’ve got enough space to stretch your legs.

Finally, don’t forget that every RV has a huge patio — the entire great outdoors!

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