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Tips on Downsizing for RV Life

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

I met Kiana in a blogging group and when I learned she was an RVer I asked her to share with us any tips she had for downsizing for RV life. It has been three years since we did it and I wanted someone with a fresh perspective to offer advice. Kiana writes over at Off The Rock Adventures.

Hi! My name is Kiana and my husband and I started to RV full-time in June, 2018. We lived on a small island our whole lives and decided we wanted to do more than just fly on a plane somewhere for adventure. So we decided to buy a truck and camper trailer and hit the road. Naturally, this was a complete lifestyle shift for us that came with new challenges. We definitely needed tips on downsizing for RV Life!

Our truck (Ramsey) and camper trailer (Cooper)

Before we decided to try RV living, we both downsized from living in a house to living in a 600 sq. foot studio. We had already figured out that both of us wanted to try living with less so we could do more traveling and less worrying about our stuff. So, as we got to the end of our three year mission to downsize for RV life, we were still constantly surprised by how much stuff we still had. This is why I cannot stress tip number one enough!


Now, I'm not saying you'll need three years to downsize for RV Life. That's just how much time we had. You can do it in much less time as long as you put the work in. However, no matter how long you think it's going to take you, start earlier than you think you need to. Stuff just seems to pop up out of nowhere...all...the...time. And hey, if you get done early, that's even better. It just gives you more opportunity to enjoy your hometown and the people in it right up until you leave in your RV. Otherwise, you could end up like we did and still be getting rid of things and packing on the last day. No fun!


Now, I know I'm one of the few people who actually enjoy making lists. I can hear some of you groaning from here! But, I do recommend making some to prepare for this life-changing event called RV Life.

Your list could just be of the important things you know you'll want with you in the RV. I can't imagine having set out on the road and realizing I had forgotten something I really needed, like my passport. Or maybe you're bringing a pet and you need to make sure you have its favorite bed. Or your child's treasured stuffed animal. Lists will help you remember everything!

Another thing you may need to make a list of is to-do's. If you're selling a home, you'll need to do tasks specific to that. If you're going to go full-time in your RV, you'll need to figure out your mail. There are a bunch of to-do's when it comes to moving in to an RV. Ours was a little convoluted since we were moving from Hawai'i to full-time RV'ing on the mainland. But, I don't know how we would have done it without lists!


If you're like us, you're trying to downsize for RV Life while working full-time and keeping up with life in general. So trust me when I say it'll be easier if you schedule out some time to get things done. Even if you have just half an hour to shred that paperwork you've been meaning to, you'll feel more accomplished when it's done. Especially if you have one of those to-do lists you can check things off on (I don't know about you, but I love checking things off as done). Without scheduling, you could end up running around crazy at the end.

In our situation, we both got off of work around the same time and had the evenings and weekends free. We scheduled time almost every night to go through things. We started small (pared down our desk first, then our bathroom, then tackled larger areas). At one point, we even did the minimalist challenge where we got rid of things for a month - 1 thing on day 1, 2 things on day 2, and so on. The challenge would be great to do in the beginning because it doesn't take as much time when you are first starting out and you can get an idea of how much time you'll need to schedule for future tasks.


I cannot stress this enough. If you are going to downsize enough to fit into an RV, most of you are going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff. It will be overwhelming. I can almost promise you that.


But, the good news is that you can minimize the stress by having a system in place. We kept four totes in our living room with labels on them: TRASH, DONATE, KEEP, and SELL. When it was time to work on an area, like our closet, everything would go into one of those boxes.

It was when we started organizing this way that the process became more manageable and sometimes even fun. That's right, it can be fun! As we started getting rid of things, it was like weight was being lifted off our shoulders. We felt great when we looked around and saw less clutter. We felt better about moving toward our goal of downsizing for RV life. So what had been really difficult in the beginning ended up being fun and rewarding.


Remember those TRASH, DONATE, and SELL boxes? The ones sitting in your living room staring at you every day? Make it a point to actually get that stuff out of your house! Put the trash in bags and take it to the dump or set it outside for trash pick-up. Have a garage sale... or a bunch of them. Take boxes of stuff to a donation center. Just don't let the hard work that you've done end up looking like more clutter and overwhelm you even more. That's also when the cute sweater you wore ten years ago that's sitting right there, on the top of the DONATE box, starts talking to you, saying "Are you really going to throw me away? You could use me again..." Get it out of your house!

Our three year downsizing for RV life project included 4 or 5 garage sales. Let me tell you, those can get old really quick. As we got closer to our moving date, we decided how many more times we actually wanted to sit outside in the heat and humidity watching people rummage through our junk. We set a limit of 2 garage sales at the end and donated a bunch after that.

And then we did something else we wish we would have known about sooner…

We had a storage unit with stuff in it. Too much stuff. Let me start by saying that if it's in your storage unit, it's very likely you don't need it. Yes, there are some exceptions to that, but the majority of it is likely stuff you can get rid of. So we went through the unit to make sure we didn't throw away any family heirlooms. Then we took the stuff we thought might sell to our garage sales. And then.... we put what didn't sell back and sold our entire storage unit to one person! Mind you, we didn't get much for it, but we didn't have to haul any of it away and that was well worth it for us.

Also, check with your local storage facilities to see if they're holding any auctions soon. You might be able to put all your stuff into a storage unit and auction it off to the highest bidder. And you don't even have to do the auctioning; the storage facility handles that!


Did you cringe when you read that? I'm sorry, but it's true. Have you done your research on the RV you want to have? It's an important thing to do! Take note of square footage, storage space, etc. and really think about how much usable space you'll have for your stuff. Chances are, it's not much. So when you start downsizing for RV life, you're going to look at something and not be able to imagine your life without it. You'll lovingly set it in the KEEP box. Then, a month later, you're going to look at the KEEP box (that has likely overflowed onto the floor) and realize it's way too big. So you'll have to go through it again and pare it down further.


However, you may have gotten to the point where you're having fun with downsizing. I advise that, when you get to that point, GO BACK TO YOUR KEEP PILE! I can't tell you how many times I looked back through the stuff I thought I wanted to keep and ended up tossing a bunch of things out of it. Why the heck was I keeping a shirt I wore in high school? That was almost 20 years ago! Not to mention, there's no way it fits me now.



This is super important! Downsizing for RV life isn't an easy process. You worked hard to afford all those things you're getting rid of and that can make it even more difficult. So go easy on yourself. You're not going to get it all done right away. It's going to overwhelm you. You might even cry sometimes. But, in the end, it'll all be worth it. You'll have less stuff to worry about and a lifetime of experiences to get started on. Those experiences are worth far more than any trinket or shirt you have. Don't forget that your quality of life is the end goal.

You can definitely do it!

If you have any other suggestions or have any questions for me, I'd love to hear them!

Kiana Bakken

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Jennifer Ambrose
Jennifer Ambrose
Feb 04, 2020

My husband and I massively downsized before we started traveling full-time - and it's so true that you end up doing it more than once!


Some great tips! I am currently trying to pack all the things I need into my car camper!

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