Home Sweet RV Home
Downsizing into an RV is an increasingly popular option these days. Full-time RVing has been common for older and/or retired folks for a long time, but more and more younger singles, couples and families are seeking an alternative to the produce-and-consume American Dream we’ve all chased for decades. For many who are seeking a richer, fuller life, the nomadic RV lifestyle represents the most favorable compromise between affordability and freedom.
But just because we move out of a house doesn’t mean we can’t have a home. If home is indeed where the heart is, then ideally we want to love the space we live in instead of getting lost in it. (See what I did there? Lost in Space? Danger Will Robinson! DANGER!) It doesn’t matter how much space you have or don’t have, what matters is that we connect with that space on an emotional level that makes it feel natural to call it “home.”
Organizing your RV sounds like an easy first step, but you’d be surprised how many folks misinterpret its purpose. RV organization isn’t just about cramming more stuff in smaller spaces, it’s more about enjoying the physical space that’s left over after everything is put away. Who wants to spend every day and night staring at stuff shoved into every nook and cranny?
Why is an RV so hard to organize? Compared to a stix-n-brix house that has tables of every size, bookshelves, mantles, counters, islands, large cabinets with multiple drawers and shelves, etc., RVs have precious little useable horizontal surface area - even the drawers and shelves inside cabinets are often smaller. And much of what horizontal surface area an RV does have is dedicated to something other than storage, like sitting or cooking. Making the horizontal space inside an RV multi-functional is an excellent way to de-clutter a room while simultaneously adding a little decorative form the function.
Many office desktop organizers can double for organizing a galley. Something like this Rustic Wood Organizer is charming and organic and could hold a lot of spices and condiments or small cooking utensils. Another option is this Makeup Organizer that could serve a similar function in the galley, but it could also be put to good use in many other areas of an RV, like the bathroom, shower or laundry areas.
More often than not, the real struggle boils down to convenience vs. capacity. Drawers and pullouts make accessing stuff easier, especially anything way in the back of a cabinet, but they also waste a lot of space inside the cabinet. Stackable Baskets can double or triple drawer or shelf space and come in all shapes and sizes. While they’re typically used on countertops, they can make a huge difference in drawers or pullouts or inside cabinets by adding multiple levels of convenient horizontal storage where there used to be only one.
RV basement storage might not sound like it adds a whole lot to your quality of life on the road, but the more stuff you can efficiently store in the basement, the less stuff there is to clutter your RVs interior.
Storing stuff in your RVs basement is a little easier to deal with than interior RV storage because we’re not as concerned about aesthetics, but it can still be a challenge. Plastic Storage Bins can really simplify the task by helping us group related items together in one or more tubs that are easy to access. I use Colored Duct Tape and a magic marker to make it easy to find whatever I need; the colors group tubs by contents - like green for outside cooking stuff, or red for roadside emergency equipment - and the hand-written label tells me exactly what’s inside each tub.
The trick to using storage bins in a basement is to leave yourself some space to move tubs out of the way so you can get to other tubs deeper in. The closer all the bins in your basement are to the same size, the easier it is to maximize the storage space and move them around to find what you need when you need it. Think of it like one of those sliding tile puzzles we played with as kids without all the fun and excitement.
A lot of RVs have sliding storage trays in our basement, and they really are very convenient. But, like any drawer or pull-out shelf in a cabinet inside your RV, they take up a lot of room on their own. (Plus, they’re really heavy so you have less weight carrying capacity to store stuff you need!) Depending on how much headroom your sliding tray has, a rolling Underbed Storage box can help organize the tray and make it easier to move stuff out of the way.
RVing with Pets
Pets help make any house a home by filling it with unconditional love. (Plants can have the same effect, they’re just not as much fun to play fetch with.) Cats and dogs are the obvious choices for the RV lifestyle, but many RVers travel with birds, reptiles, rodents - even fish! - and many others travel with a combination of some or all of the above.
Our cats don’t love traveling down the road, and they absolutely hate being in their crates. We initially had pretty good results with Bach’s Rescue Remedy and Thundershirts for Cats, though they eventually became so accustomed to the road that they didn’t need either anymore… but they sure helped in the beginning.
Outdoor pens for your pets offer them both fresh air and safety - from predators and from getting lost. They come in a wide variety of sizes and typically fold to take up very little storage space. Many cats and even small dogs love Window Perches for sunning themselves while enjoying the view, and with a little modification they can even be used on the outside of the window for many types of pets - just add some window screen or sun shade to enclose the outward-facing openings and voilà… you have an instant outdoor pet balcony!
Decorating Your RV
How many of you have thought about painting the interior walls and/or cabinetry but didn’t know where to start? As a professional carpenter and woodworker for many years, I can tell you it all starts with proper preparation.
The process will be different depending on the surface material - wood vs. wallpaper vs. paneling - but once it’s properly prepped a good coat of Kilz Oil Based Primer / Sealer will make the rest of the job a lot simpler with far better results. I strongly recommend oil-based primers for a number of reasons:
- They adhere far better to wallpaper or paneling without the risk of it soaking through to the underlying glue and encouraging it to peel or bubble;
- On wood, oil-based primers won’t raised the grain like water-based latex sealers will, so there will be a lot less sanding and re-coating.
- Oil-based sealers cover stains much better in a single coat, and this one will even cover most cooking, smoke and pet odors!
- Quality water-based latex topcoats (which I also strongly recommend) will stick like glue to an oil-based primer. You’ll need a chisel to get it off!
Interior color palettes can literally be whatever color(s) you want, but in general the smaller the space, the lighter the color; the larger the space the darker the color. Again, it’s not a rule, just a suggestion, but it’s a good one that many interior decorators start with as a baseline.
Whatever color scheme you choose, remember that an RVs interior takes a lot of abuse, so a high-quality paint is a must for excellent results and durability. For those reasons alone I’m a huge fan of Valspar products, not only for their wide variety of colors and finishes but also for their ease of application and reliability.
The key to good color choices isn’t that everything should match, but rather that everything should complement and/or enhance everything else. Our RV is rather spacious with the slides extended, so my wife and I chose a medium-toned earthy palette for the walls to complement the extensive amount of richly-colored cabinetry we have throughout the coach, while adding a solid base for all the accents of bright color we have, like pillows, throws, vases, rugs and runners, and especially our bedding.
You don’t have to be a professional carpenter to remodel the interior of your RV, though it helps to know one if only for the access to some tools you might not have. Ripping out our old shower enclosure and installing a full-tile surround was a huge undertaking, even for someone with my experience, and it isn’t something I would recommend for the average DIY-er. But there are many remodeling projects that can be accomplished with even the most basic skills - or no skills at all! - that can help transform your rolling brick into a lovely home.
One very popular choice right now is peel-n-stick Wallpaper and Tile. Either can be used to accent a small area, like a backsplash, or even make an entire wall stand out and be noticed. They’re simple to cut, simple to install and look great when you’re done. Again, proper preparation is the key - clean, smooth walls are a must - but you’ll be very proud to show off the results!
Replacing your existing flooring is another very popular option, though it can be a little tougher job than painting or peel-n-stick tile. Many RVers choose vinyl flooring because it’s easier to install for most folks, it’s durable and there are a lot of colors, patterns and textures options to choose from.
When someone asks me what type of flooring they should install, I almost always recommend vinyl as a first option - for all the reasons I mentioned above AND because it’s so thin it’s less likely to interfere with your slides rolling in and out. (The previous owners of our rig had thick tile and underfloor radiant heat installed, and it’s thickness has caused an alignment issue with one of our slides I still haven’t resolved!)
Your RV dream home!
We all have different ideas of what makes a house a home; no two RVers I know do everything the same. (I was recently denounced as a heretic for daring to use a 6-bladed razor!) But whether your house rolls down the road a little or a lot, making it a home is absolutely the nicest thing you can do for yourself and your family.
Travel safe. Travel well. Travel often.