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Once you make the decision to hit the road full-time, you will need to start downsizing for full time RV living. While it’s clear you will need to get rid of a lot of stuff, it can be hard to decide what to bring and what to leave behind. After living in our tiny home on wheels for more than five years, here is my advice on what you should bring along for the journey and what you should leave behind.
If you are overwhelmed by the process of downsizing for RV or tiny living, enroll in RV Inspiration’s Declutter & Downsize course. The course includes practical tips on the downsizing process, as well as a workbook and calendar to structure the process.
When we moved into our RV, there were a few items, including family heirlooms and art, we weren’t ready to part with. However, these items were not going to fit in our new home on wheels. So, we ended up renting the smallest storage unit available (5 feet by 5 feet) to house these sentimental possessions.
After five years on the road, we have not pulled a single item out of storage. We regret getting the storage unit every month when the $100 bill has to be paid. We plan to empty the unit soon and give the sentimental items to family members, but this would have been a lot easier (and saved us thousands of dollars) if we had made this decision at the start of our journey.
If you plan to live on the road for a set period of time, it is sensible to store furniture and other expensive items. However, if you plan for your RV living journey to last for years, seriously consider whether the storage unit bill is worth holding onto more stuff.
What to Downsize
Getting rid of a large number of your possessions is hard for many families downsizing for full time RV living. A good rule of thumb is to trash any items you have not used in six months and anything you have more than one (or one set) of.
Some examples of items that should be eliminated are:
- Sports equipment you use less than 12 time per year: Bikes and kayaks are fun, but they are also heavy. Do not bring large, heavy items unless you will use them at least once a month while traveling.
- Clothing you have not worn in the past 6 months: If you have not worn an item recently, you are unlikely to start wearing it now.
- Printer: Unless you are going to use a printer multiple times a month for work, it is not a good use of space in an RV. You can always print at an office supply store on the rare occasion when you need paper documents.
What to Keep
While downsizing is a reality of RV living, you do not need to give up basic necessities or your favorite hobbies. Below are some examples of items you should keep when first moving into an RV. Downsizing for full time RV living is a constant process, so you do not have to get rid of everything on the first try.
- Your Fur Babies’ Stuff – Moving into a new environment can be stressful for your pets, so I recommend bringing any comforts (beds, scratch pads and toys) that will help them feel at home in your new rig. Of course, space limitations may prevent you from bringing a 3-story cat condo, but I would pack any items that they use frequently and are a reasonable size. See our articles on RV living with cats and dogs for more ways to keep your pets happy and healthy on the road.
- Hobby Equipment: If you golf regularly, bring the clubs. If you are a river rat, put the kayak on top of the truck. If you love sewing, pack your machine. While you need to prioritize large items, there is no need to give up your favorite activities.
- Outdoor Furniture: Bring the camping chairs and hammock, you’ll definitely be spending a lot of time outside.
- RV Living Gear: While downsizing for RV living, you will also need to buy a few items for your new home. Check out our list of essential items to buy before you move into an RV.
What to Limit
Some items needed to be pared down instead of eliminating all together. When you start downsizing for RV living, lay out all the items in each category so you can easily see which items you prefer.
- Clothes: How many clothes you can keep will depend on the wardrobe space in your RV and your organization skills. We have a good-size closet in our fifth wheel, but after living in the RV I realized I still didn’t wear a lot of the items I had brought along. When you are deciding what to bring really think about what life will be like in the RV. For example, if you are planning to spend more time outdoors you probably only need 1-2 nice dresses or shirts, but you definitely want to pack more sportswear. See these easy RV shoe storage ideas for ways to fit more kicks in your RV.
- Kitchen Gadgets and Dishes: Only pack the small appliances that you use at least weekly and ditch the ones that you only pull out on special occasions. We choose to bring our coffee maker and a small smoothie blender. When it comes to dishes and cookware, be practical. You only need one cookie sheet and baking dish (two won’t fit in your RV oven at the same time). Also, only pack plates and glasses that are not breakable.
- Art and Décor: It’s important to make your RV feel like home, but practically you won’t have a lot of wall space. We choose to bring one framed poster that was a special wedding present and get rid of all our other wall art. Remember any décor you bring will have to be packed up each time you move to a new destination.
Trust your gut when downsizing for full time RV living. Only you know what is most important for your family to be happy and healthy. Where are you in the downsizing process? Share the hardest part of the process in the comments section below.
Christina Pate is a seasoned full-time RVer who, along with her husband Justin, has journeyed across the US, Canada, and Mexico. Drawing from her extensive travels, RV repairs and RV renovations, she founded Travels with Ted to guide and inspire fellow RV enthusiasts. Christina is also the co-author of The Owner’s Guide to RV Maintenance and the creator of My RV Log Book.