Living the RV lifestyle full time is not for everyone – but those who do make the leap often find that it is a truly exciting and rewarding experience. In this article, we will explore how to make the transition from a regular home, and how to downsize to allow your life to fit into an RV.
Reasons To Switch to a Full-Time RV Lifestyle
There are plenty of reasons to switch to a full-time RV lifestyle. Before we take a look at some tips for downsizing for those who are contemplating the switch to living in an RV full time, it might be helpful to take a quick look at some of the reasons why you might be contemplating such a switch.
To Go Greener
Choosing to downsize to a full-time RV lifestyle can be an eco-friendly choice, especially if you are contemplating an electric or hybrid RV, looking at ways to run your RV on biodiesel or recycled cooking oil, or taking measures to save fuel while you are on the road.
Living in an RV can make you part of the tiny home movement – a movement that shows why less can most definitely be more. RV’s can make ideal tiny homes and be part of this big trend in sustainable housing.
A tiny home is not always an RV, but an RV could be a tiny home and help you live greener.
Generally speaking, the smaller your home, the less land and resources were used in its construction, and the lower the carbon cost of the home will be. An RV or other mobile tiny home can be ideal because not only does it use fewer materials to make than a standard, larger home, being mobile it also reduces the impact on land, and reduces land use for construction.
What is more, by living in an RV full time, you can significantly reduce your energy use – especially if you take measures to live off-grid and generate your own power from renewable resources by, for example, installing solar panels on your roof. You can also use far less water too, which can be another great way to go greener.
Downsizing for RV living can also be a great way to reduce your consumption. You will obviously have less space, and so you can end up buying less. This is another thing that will definitely help you to go greener as you transition to your new way of life.
To Save Money
Living in a tiny home can save you money. It will almost certainly reduce the amount that you have to pay out for electricity and other household bills. Of course, if you are living in your RV full time, you will also not have to think about the other overhead costs associated with running a standard home. For example, you will not have to worry about paying rent or a mortgage, paying for home buildings or contents insurance,or being hit with bills for things like roof repair.
However, it is worthwhile noting that there will still be a range of expenses to consider when living the RV lifestyle full time. Of course, an RV is a home that will usually depreciate in value far more quickly than a bricks and mortar home. You will have to find the money to purchase your RV in the first place, to repair it (when, not if) repairs are required, and, of course, money to fuel up when moving between different locations.
Unless you are lucky enough to have places to park up for free, your own land or a friend with their own land that they let you park up on, then you will probably also have to shell out to stay on campgrounds, or pay ground rent wherever you decide to stay. There are also other expenses like vehicle insurance to consider.
It is important to note that living in an RV does not always work out all that much cheaper (if it is cheaper at all) than living in a standard home. If saving money is your only reason for switching to an RV lifestyle then you may want to think twice before actually taking the plunge.
Of course, RV living can vary considerably. How much it will cost will depend on where you plan to travel, and indeed on how much you plan to travel around. There is a lot that you can do to reduce the costs, and downsizing can be cheaper – but only if you do your homework and make sure that you are not missing any hidden costs.
To Enjoy More Freedom
Living in an RV could allow you to work from a range of amazing locations rather than just being stuck in one place.
Another good reason to choose to transition to a full-time RV lifestyle is to enjoy a greater level of freedom. Owning a home that stays in one place can sometimes feel like a millstone around one’s neck. Homes can sometimes come with a range of duties and responsibilities that make it difficult to get away.
Transitioning to a full-time RV lifestyle can often be not only a way to escape from the responsibilities of being a traditional home owner, but also a way to escape the rat race. Living and traveling in an RV full time can allow you to explore a less traditional way of life. It can be a way to escape from the drudgery of a 9-5 job.
When you take that show on the road, you can enjoy a greater level of personal freedom. You can explore avenues for seasonal work – or become your own boss and become one of the growing number of ‘digital nomads’ plying their trade around the globe.
Of course, even living in an RV,there are still plenty of limits to your freedom. That is definitely worthwhile considering before you switch to a full-time RV lifestyle. You will,of course,be limited by the rules of the road, and by the capabilities of the vehicle you have chosen in terms of the types of road and the distances you are able to travel.
You will also have to consider the limits for travel. Of course, it will usually be difficult to take your RV over seas or oceans. Usually, you will be limited to the land mass on which you begin your journey – the Americas if you begin there, Eurasia, or Australia, for example. This does limit the amount that you will be able to travel between these different parts of the globe.
If you need to work along the way to fund your travels, it is also worth remembering that you will likely be limited by the job opportunities in the region you are traveling through, and if you work online – by the Internet connection.
To See The World
Breathtaking giant sequoia trees are just one of the world’s wonders that we have seen on our RV adventures.
That said, living in an RV will definitely allow you to see much more of the world than you would do living a static existence in a regular home. RV travel is a wonderful way to venture outside your usual bubble and discover a wide range of different places and a wonderful array of different opportunities and experiences.
As long as your RV can take you there, there are few limits to the places you can go and the amazing things you can encounter. Living the RV lifestyle full time will allow you to get up close and personal with the amazing planet we call home, and the wonderful wildlife that lives on it, meeting plenty of stellar people along the way.
One of the things that people who have made the switch to a full time RV lifestyle often say is that they see far more sunrises and sunsets than they did when they lived in a regular home, and feel far closer to nature than they ever did before.
Is a Full-Time RV Lifestyle Really Right for You?
Before you make the transition to your new way of life, it really is important to sit down and work out your reasons for making the switch. By thinking carefully about your motivations, and considering all the pros and cons in a realistic and honest way, you can work out whether or not the full-time RV lifestyle really is right for you.
Before you commit,it is a good idea to ask yourself not only why you want to live in an RV full time but also:
- How will you fund your adventures on the road? Will you be working? If so, how and where. Consider all the practicalities.
- Where will you travel?
- Where will you stay and how long will you spend in each destination?
- If you are not traveling alone, is everyone else equally enthusiastic about making the transition?
- Can you really afford the lifestyle you envision?
General Tips for Downsizing to a Full-Time RV Lifestyle
Before we delve a little deeper into the practicalities of downsizing to live the RV lifestyle full time, let’s take a look at some general tips for the process:
Remember – Less is More
It may sound very obvious, but downsizing means just that. If you live in an RV, you will, of course, have likely have to significantly reduce the number of personal belongings that you own. In order to make this switch, it can be helpful to think about the following rules:
- Everything you have should be useful or beautiful – ideally both.
- Every item should have multiple functions – not just be good for one thing.
- Everything you choose to bring along on your new adventure should be something that you cherish, and which will last.
If your downsizing is part of an attempt to go greener and live a more eco-friendly life, then it might also be a good idea to think not only about longevity, but also about the carbon cost and environmental impact of every item that you choose to buy when transitioning to RV living. Looking at the materials used in each thing, and the processes involved in manufacture and transportation can help you determine whether or not each item is a sustainable choice.
What To Do With Household Items & Furniture You No Longer Need
If you are downsizing from a full-sized home to RV living, then it is likely that you will own a number of household appliances, furniture and other large items that you will not be able to bring along for the ride.
It is important not to simply throw these items away, as doing so can have a big impact on our environment and worsen the existing global waste crisis. Each year, many such items end up on landfill sites, contributing to the pollution of land, water and air.
Recycling where possible is a partial solution. There are now a number of companies which specialise in dismantling electronic appliances and devices and recycling as many of their constituent parts as possible. However, many of the items you own will likely not be recyclable, or it will not be economically viable for companies to recycle them.
Gifting or donating old items, and accepting gifts from others can both help to make sure you have the right things (enough and not too much) for your new RV lifestyle.
You can help by making sure that all the items you own continue to be used for as long as possible for the purposes for which they are intended. Here are a number of suggestions to help you discover options to keep your old furniture, appliances and other household items in use:
- Consider gifting items to family, friends or neighbors.
- Consider gifting items to strangers through ‘free economy’ internet sites like Freecycle and Freegle.
- Gift items through charities in your local community.
You may also be able to sell used goods to raise extra funds for your new life. You might try:
- Listing items for sale on online auction sites like Ebay, and other online forums.
- Selling antiques or good quality items to antiques stores or thrift shops.
- Upcycling old items to bring them up to date and make them more appealing to new owners.
Choosing Which Items to Keep for an RV Kitchen
But which items do you actually need? What should you get rid of and what should you consider bringing along on your new RV life? Let’s begin to answer this question by taking a look at your RV room by room and area by area. First off, let’s take a look at what you might need for an RV kitchen:
Choose Plates, Crockery & Pots that Stack Well
It is unlikely that you will wish to bring along all the plates, bowls, mugs and other crockery that you own. But which items should you choose to bring? A good place to start is by looking for items that will stack well. This will make storage and organization in your RV kitchen a lot easier.
Bring Enough, Not More than Enough
Another thing to think about when it comes to crockery, and also when it comes to cutlery, utensils and other items for eating food is that you should aim to own no more than two sets of everything per person. One person travelling alone will rarely need more than two plates, two bowls, two mugs etc…and this can be extrapolated outwards for couples, and for families who plan to hit the road.
Storage Containers Can Find a Range of Uses
Any storage containers such as jars, baskets and boxes that you already own can often find new and innovative uses in an RV, where safe and secure storage is often a primary concern. Keep storage options to hand as you make progress towards your final packing list, as these may really come in handy – sometimes in the most unusual and unlikely of ways.
Nix Unnecessary Kitchen Cleaners
Another thing to consider when planning a packing list for an RV kitchen is that you will not need a raft of kitchen cleaners. Living in an RV can go hand in hand with transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle, and part of that involves doing away with unnecessary cleaners in plastic bottles. All you need are a few simple, natural ingredients to keep a healthy and clean home. In an RV, adopting a simpler, more natural cleaning regime can also help you fit everything into the space available.
Choosing Which Items to Keep for an RV Living Space
Next,let’s take a look at which items you might like to keep for an RV living space:
While most of the furniture that you currently own is unlikely to be of much use in your RV, there may be a range of soft furnishing items that you could keep, to enhance the comfort of the space. Consider keeping throws, blankets and cushions to make the RV living space feel more homely and to add your own personal touch to the RV’s interior décor.
Book-lovers will never want to be far from a few volumes, but if you are a book hoarder, you’ll have to whittle them down and keep only your very favourites.
The largest area to consider, of course, and one of the main stumbling blocks for many people when downsizing, is entertainment. If you have a huge number of electronic appliances and computing equipment, a huge personal library, or lots of toys or collectables, then of course many of these things will likely have to go.
Whatever you like to do for fun and relaxation, the key to successfully downsizing lies in working out the bare minimum you require to allow you to enjoy the things you enjoy. If you are into your electronics and gaming, for example, perhaps one laptop computer,and/or one games console would be enough.
If you love to read, select a few favourite volumes and sell/donate the rest. Look into finding places where you can pick up books to read on the go, and perhaps consider joining some libraries or lending schemes. Another option might be to switch to an electronic reader, to store thousands of books in the smallest of spaces.
If you have a collection then again, select your favourites to bring along on your travels, rather than trying to find a way to bring everything along. Try to encourage kids to do the same with their toys. You should try to operate a one-in one out policy, so stacks of toys and kids things don’t mount up over time.
Switching to a full-time RV lifestyle might give you more time to enjoy a wide range of hobbies, or encourage you to take up new ones. For existing hobbies, try to choose compact, smaller items to bring along. For example, if you enjoy art, try a travel easel rather than a full-sized one, and a single paint set rather than an entire box of art materials.
If you are thinking of taking up new hobbies – cycling,for example, or other outdoors pursuits, do not be tempted to buy expensive, bulky equipment right away. Remember that you can often hire sporting or outdoors equipment, and even if you do need your own later, you can always build up the things you need over time. Otherwise you may find that you have a lot of stuff taking up space in your RV that you actually hardly ever use.
Consider Organisation & Office Supplies
Especially if you plan on working from your RV, you may need to bring office supplies with you. Focus on packing items that cannot easily be purchased on the road. For example, bring specialist stationary rather than reams of paper… try to do as much as possible paperless and online.
Keep anything that can help you stay organised and store your work items – things like binders and boxes for paperwork can really come in handy when living and working in small spaces.
Good organisation will make it much easier to store and access all the things you need to work from your RV.
Choosing Which Items to Keep for an RV Bedroom
As in your living space, comfort is key in an RV bedroom. You may have bedding, pillows or other comfort items that you wish to keep and bring along. Keeping the same bedding can sometimes help you feel more at home and make the major life change less of a shock to the system.
However, when considering comfort and deciding whether to bring bedding along, it is important to consider how the environmental conditions where you are traveling to and in your RV might differ from the conditions in your current home. You may need warmer bedding, cooler bedding, or a specialist type of bedding better suited to your new way of life.
Downsizing Your Wardrobe for a Full-Time RV Lifestyle
Another major component to consider when it comes to fitting everything into your RV bedroom is, of course, your wardrobe.
To make a start on downsizing your clothes collection, first examine your current wardrobe. Take some time to spread out all the clothes you own. I bet you have more than you thought you did!
Should You Take Your Old Clothes With You?
Look carefully at each item and consider whether it is something that you wear now, something you might wear again, something that no longer fits, or something that you have never worn and cannot imagine wearing in the future. Keep aside all the clothes you wear regularly. Then take a look at all the rest. Before you decide which of them to dispose of:
– Breathe new life into older garments. (Learning basic sewing skills can give you a wealth of ways to rejuvenate older pieces). There are also other tricks you can try. For example, if a jumper is bobbling, pop it in the freezer – that should stop fabric degradation.
– Shrink items that are too large or stretched in a washing machine, or tailor items to make them fit?
– Repurpose old (or too small) items into something new. You do not need to be a sewing expert to turn an old pair of jeans into a pair of shorts, or a long skirt into a shorter one. Upcycling old clothes is a great skill to learn, and you will get amazing items that are unique to you.
– Use the fabric from older clothes to make entirely new garments.
Consider spending the money you might have spent on new clothes on a sewing machine, and perhaps a book or two on sewing instead. A small treadle sewing machine that you can use off-grid could be a good choice for RV living. It will take up less space than a massive clothes collection and allow you to fix/upcycle items on the road.
What to Do With Old Clothing You Don’t Want or Need
Pieces of clothing that are still serviceable but you no longer want or need can also be donated. You can take them down to your local charity shop, or even consider selling them online through sites like Ebay etc.. or giving them away on Freecycle or Freegle.You could also consider getting together with friends to arrange a ‘swap meet’ where you all bring your old clothes that you no longer want, and swap them for someone else’s ‘cast offs’.
Once you have reused, repurposed or donated all the old clothes that are no longer of use, you can re-evaluate your wardrobe and see exactly what you have and what you need.
Ask yourself – how many clothes do you really need?
Choosing New Clothes for your Greener RV Lifestyle
Consider your current wardrobe of clothes you wear:
- Do you know where your clothes were made and by whom? Ask brands you buy from, #whomademyclothes.
- What was the environmental cost of your clothing? Is there transparency in the supply chain?
- Did animals suffer in the making of your clothes?
- What were the energy, carbon and water costs of making your clothes?
Getting answers to at least some of these questions will help you understand the problems in fashion better and better understand how to make sustainable fashion choices moving forward.
Now you know what clothing you actually need, before buying new, think about:
- Sourcing second-hand ‘pre-loved’ or vintage items. (From friends, online for free, or from charity shops, vintage boutiques or online stores.) Remember, cultivating a few basic sewing skills will help you tailor make clothes to suit you perfectly and help you develop your own unique style.
You may still wish to buy some new items, but when you do, try to choose eco-friendly clothing from sustainable suppliers. Think about:
- Choosing natural, organic materials rather than synthetic ones.
- Choosing clothing that is cruelty free, when it comes to both people and animals.
- Choosing clothing that will last, rather than cheap, throwaway items.
- Creating a capsule wardrobe of items you wear often, going for quality rather than quantity.
Of course, creating a high-quality capsule wardrobe will not only be kinder to the planet, it will also make it easier to find space for your clothes in your RV.
Choosing Which Items to Keep for an RV Bathroom
Having a few extra towels on hand can really be handy in an RV. While you will not really need more than a couple of towels per person for regular bathroom use,you may like to consider keeping a few extra old towels from your old life to mop up spills and clear muddy footprints from the floor of your RV. Old towels can be kept with tools, or even used to provide a little extra insulation for, for example, a water tank.
Looking around your existing bathroom, however, you will soon realise that when you are downsizing to a full-time RV lifestyle, most of the bottles, unguents and accessories will have to go. Of course you will need the basics: toothbrushes, hairbrushes, razors perhaps… but if you are really honest with yourself, you will realise how little you really need to keep yourself clean and well-groomed.
Downsizing Personal Care Items/Toiletries for a Full-Time RV Lifestyle
Most bathrooms are filled with lots of plastic bottles,pots and jars of cleansers, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, moisturisers and other cleaning and beauty products. But in an RV you usually won’t have anywhere near as much space for all of these things. Switching to a full-time RV lifestyle can be a good opportunity to consider switching to a simpler and more natural cleaning and beauty regime. This can not only help you save space, it can also help you transition to a zero waste lifestyle.
Of course, in this article we have not covered all the items from your home, nor explored all the things you will need to live in your RV full time. However, the above should have given you a good place to start, and made it a little easier to make your way into your new way of life.
Elizabeth Waddington has an MA from St. Andrews University and a Permaculture Design Certificate. She is a green living consultant, with a passion for sustainable travel, permaculture and the natural world. She lives in rural Fife, just north of Edinburgh, close to the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland.
No stranger to RV travel, Elizabeth has travelled all over Scotland, the UK and beyond in search of natural wonders in her RV. Her camping adventures have taken her to the Grand Canyon, up the Pacific Coast of the US, to Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons and to explore the wonders of Utah. She has travelled extensively in the Pacific Northwest, and around New England. In Europe, she has taken trips through much of the western part of the continent, travelled up to Norway, and down through Romania and Bulgaria to Istanbul. She looks forward to further eco-friendly adventures.