Full-time RVing will teach you a lot, including the old adage that less is sometimes more. RVs are usually smaller than most houses, meaning you can’t just bring all of your belongings with you. This translates to a major downsizing effort when you first make the transition. But between deciding on what to keep, parting ways with cherished items, and figuring out what to do with the leftovers, downsizing isn’t always easy.
Our advice? Break the process down into smaller steps! Here are our nine downsizing tips for full-time RVer.
Tip #1: Start early.
Just like the time it takes to build a home, downsizing your belongings will always take longer than planned. With that knowledge in mind, try to start as early as you can to plan for your first day of freedom. You don’t want to have to stuff half your belongs in your RV the day you set off for your first national park!
Tip #2: Know your RV.
Some prospective full-timers have yet to purchase their RV, campervan, or travel trailer. But if you are one of the lucky ones, you know just what you’re going to be living in on the road and how much storage space you’ll have. Knowing how much space you’ll be living in will come in handy when you’re trying to stuff a few of those beloved snow globes into nooks and crannies the day before you leave.
If possible, plan what types of items you’ll put in certain locations of your home on wheels. For instance, know that clothes will go in a shirt closet or drawers, food in pantries, etc. Also keep in mind what kind of exterior storage your vehicle may have and what items can be placed there. Brushing up on your RV organization skills will help you with this!
Tip #3: Make lists.
Make these three lists:
- Things you must keep like family heirlooms, photos, meaningful momentos, etc.
- Things you’d like to keep. Consider what’s negotiable and what items you could reasonably part with.
- Things you can’t keep. Categorize these into sellable items, donate items, and trash—and yes, we know that Beanie Babies collection may seem irreplaceable, but…
Eventually, you will have fewer things in your “must keep” list than you start with. Feel free to move items around on this list as you begin to realize what is really important to keep versus what you are willing to part with.
Tip #4: Give things away to friends and family.
Once your lists are finalized, ask immediate family or close friends if there is something they would like to have. Sometimes they will even volunteer to keep things for you—at least, in their words, “until you come to your senses and want to move back into a house.”
Many won’t understand your desire to change the course of your life, but I’ve found that most are willing to help you in this endeavor and will eventually warm up to the idea.
Tip #5: Sell high-value items separately.
Many things like furniture and art collections are valued at higher prices than you might expect to receive from a yard sale. So find a different way to sell them. For instance, auction houses specialize in furniture, china, jewelry, and artwork.
Selling these items on local apps like LetGo and Facebook Marketplace do well, as long as your description tells the buyer about their value. Most people who would purchase such pieces know the difference between a Stickley chair and that pleather sofa that’s been used at a college frat house. Tell them what a great deal they would be getting, mention the item’s approximate value, let them know about the great sales price you’d let them have it for.
Tip #6: Have a yard sale.
Everyone loves a bargain, and if you keep in mind that your goal is to get rid of stuff, people will find plenty of bargains at your yard sale.
Tip #7: Donate items to charity.
If you have some pieces that could be useful to local charities like Habitat Restore or Goodwill, donate them. Most will even come pick up your donations. Be sure to get a receipt for your goods, as your donations are usually tax-deductible.
Step #8: Place must-keeps in storage.
If you still have something you just can’t part with but don’t have room for in the RV, ask a friend if you can store a box in their basement or garage and offer them a bit of “rental” payment. If it’s more than a box or two, consider renting a storage space.
Tip #9: Let the other items go for free.
If you still have items left, put them on the curb with a sign that says “FREE”. If you want to go the online route, post them to Facebook Marketplace for free. You’d be surprised how fast these items will leave. If the items still aren’t gone or aren’t usable by anyone, consider simply chunking the items in the trash.
New Lease on Life
Soon you’ll feel as though you’ve received a new lease on life—and when you finally hit the road, you’ll realize you have. There will be no need to buy a shot glass from every bar you visit or purchase a T-shirt from every street festival you’ll wander through. You now have no space for them!
But better yet, you’ll begin placing more value on the memories you make and the people you meet along this new journey, rather than on collecting “things.” If you need more advice or inspiration for downsizing, check out this video from Exploring Alternatives. They share 6 easy tips on downsizing and adopting the minimalist lifestyle, which can come in handy if you’re living in an RV.