The Enemy of all Good RV Storage Solutions – Clutter


There really are a lot of great space saving ideas and RV storage solutions to be found on the internet. Just google ‘rv storage solutions’ and you’re hit with a ton of great ideas.

I have a bit of a fascination with storage and organization myself (yeah, other than the obsession with RVs) but I’m finding that RVs and storage solutions often go hand in hand.

In many of the posts that I read online about RV storage the writers talk about using different systems for organizing everything, or great tips for maximizing the storage space that you do have.

But the one over-riding issue that I have with all these RV storage solutions, is that it doesn’t address the fact that many people are trying to cram just too much stuff into their RV.

It’s clutter that undoes all the good work of storage solutions and so it’s clutter that we must deal with first.

Clutter – to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness

In this article I’m going to go over the steps that we took in reducing our own clutter.

The first step in finding the right RV storage solutions MUST be to reduce the number of possessions.

small 14ft caravan

This has become particularly apparent to us.

We’ve just bought a tiny 14ft caravan and after living in a house for just 6 months… we’ve already managed to accumulate too much. We knew that this was just a temporary stop while we got some work and saved up for a caravan, but we’ve already we’ve accumulated more than will fit into this little caravan, so we’re on a mission to purge again.

We have to understand though, that getting ridding of stuff isn’t just a case of ordering in a big skip bin and throwing out everything that hasn’t been touched in the last 30 days.

There’s a reason that we find it hard/stressful/annoying/distressing to get rid of stuff. It’s because we have an emotional attachment to stuff.

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An Emotional Attachment to Stuff

Most people have an attachment to their stuff, and the idea of having to have a big possession purge is horrible.

I thought I was mostly immune to this emotional attachment, so it was a bit of a surprise to realise I was wrong.

We’ve moved so many times since we’ve been married (8 times in 10 years, two of those moves were to another country where we only took a couple of suitcases) that I thought I could get rid of things with no problem.

However, as we prepare to move into this little caravan I noticed that I was trying to justify all the reasons why we should take our coffee machine.

Go figure. We’re going to live in a minuscule space and I want to take a coffee machine?

I don’t use it every day, we certainly couldn’t fit it on the counter in our caravan and we don’t have a microwave to heat up the milk I like to have with it.

Yet I’ve been trying to think of all the reasons I should bring it with me, even though I know that it would be more hassle than it’s worth. I mean, for the very few times where I’m craving a real coffee, I can just go to a café and buy one! But more often than not, I’m totally satisfied with an instant coffee.

So why am I still trying to make it work in my head?

Emotional attachment. 

Ben bought me the coffee machine for Christmas, and it’s the first coffee machine I’ve ever had that makes yumm coffee and hasn’t broken within the first month. It’s a ‘treat’ machine, and I’ve been really, really happy with it. So I don’t want to get rid of it.

But when I go through all the scenarios where I could use it, coupled with the times I’m likely to feel bothered with the hassle of using it, my head tells me that it’s just not worth lugging it around.

For me, understanding this emotional attachment to stuff and how it fits in to my overall lifestyle goals has helped me to move of from the ‘stuff’ and concentrate on what brings me more joy.

The Steps To Getting Rid of Stuff

These are the steps I’ve gone through to sort out what items items we want to take with us, and what items we are willing to get rid of.

You’ll probably want to follow the same steps:

  1. Figure out what your ideal lifestyle looks like
  2. Purge any of your possessions that don’t fit into that lifestyle
  3. Pack it all in the RV, and keep going until it all fits

1. Figure out what your ideal lifestyle looks like

I’m looking at this from the point of view that we’re moving into our RV to live full-time, so we’ve thought about what we will be doing each day; how we’ll be cooking, eating, sleeping, relaxing, working, traveling etc.

We have the added experience of having traveled around Australia in a camper trailer for 5 months, we discovered a couple of things about ourselves, how we like to travel and the things we need in order to be comfortable with what we have right now.

Overall, we want to keep traveling Australia, that’s the number one priority. Any stuff that does not fit into that lifestyle, needs to go.

Here’s a few other facts we kept in mind while purging:

  • we prefer mild climates but will sometimes find ourselves in either  hot and cold places
  • we’re not fashion conscious or worried about looking pretty (clean and presentable is sufficient for us)
  • we won’t be doing much entertaining, but if we do it’s for friendship, not to show of our nice dinnerware or glassware (i.e. disposable plates will be fine)
  • we value being as light, and therefore cheap, as possible

Obviously, that’s just us. You have to determine what’s important to you.

Some other things you might want to consider for your lifestyle:

  • being able to move quickly
  • being able to get to remote places, often via unsealed roads or even via 4WD tracks
  • do you love outdoor pursuits (like surfing, bike-riding, mountain climbing etc)

2. Purge your possessions

There’s no way to say it delicately, I’m sorry. But you must purge.

Ruthlessly.

If you cannot easily fit all your possessions into the available storage space (and within weight limits!) of your RV, then, quite simply, you have too much stuff.

Or a too small RV. But then the size of your RV goes back to that question above of how you like to travel.

It’s all very well to have someone like me telling you that you must get rid of half your possessions, but the reality is that it can be really difficult to get rid of possessions.

There are two ways that you can approach this emotional challenge, practically or emotionally. Here’s what I mean:

Practical purging

In the example I gave about my coffee machine, I told you that I’ve got an emotional attachment to it and that’s the reason that I want to try and fit it into our RV.

Pros and Cons of coffee machine - list

But I’m naturally quite a pragmatic person, so when I think through the practicalities of taking the machine versus the benefits, I realise that it doesn’t make any sense to take it. And that helps me to let go of that emotional attachment too.

In some cases I will even do a list of pros and cons in an effort to think it through more clearly. In the case of the coffee machine this pics shows my pros and cons list…

Emotional purging – things that spark joy

If you’ve read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. (And if you’ve read her book, you certainly don’t need to be reading this article! ;-))

But in that book, the author Marie Kondo talks about discarding all items from your life that no longer spark joy. Don’t think about it as deciding what to throw out; imagine you’re going to throw everything out and this process allows you to think instead about what you are deciding what to keep, based on what brings you joy.

Let go of holding on to things because you might need it, or because it was a gift or because you spent a lot of money on it. If it doesn’t bring joy to you now, it has served it’s purpose and you can let it go.

Changing your relationship with your stuff

If you’re struggling with reducing your possessions and still have too much to fit into your RV, can I suggest reading Marie’s book? I will admit that some of her recommendations will come off as a little airy fairy or cuckoo, but just keep in mind that it’s about changing your relationship with your things.

It’s about being able to let go of items with contentment and satisfaction. Not being forced to by the constrains of your RV, but because you’ve finished with them; you no longer need them because they no longer bring you joy.

When you’re down to only the items that you truly want to take with you, THEN you can knock yourself out with finding the best and most efficient ways of storing those items.

3. Pack It All In The RV

Compared the emotional turmoil of getting rid of years of your stuff, this one is easy, fun even.

You now get to find the right place for all your stuff. There are dozens and dozens of posts with nifty ideas on how to organize your stuff and make the most of your available storage space. (Ahem… I’ve written some of them!).

Here are some to get you started:

Organize your RV kitchen cabinets and drawers


And of course there are millions more, this is not the problem area. The problem area is letting go, and you’ve already done that. (Go you! :-))

If you find, like us, that it still doesn’t fit into the available space, then take some more time to purge some more.

It’s a Process

In Marie Kondo’s book, she advocates have a big huge clean-out quickly and doing a whole section in one go. I can see her reasoning for it (ensuring that the task doesn’t become too overwhelming and drag on for days… or months).

But for me, learning to let go of stuff has been a process.

Well before we embarked on this journey around Australia I had slowly been getting rid of stuff. Moving house (and country!) certainly helps, but I realise that my main motivation for constantly getting rid of stuff was that I have always wanted to be a traveler. And traveling light is the only way I want to go.

I’ve had trips where my bag was just a little bit too heavy and was a pain to lug around. I’ve been on crowded trains and felt stressed at needing to watch my bags like a hawk, while being embarrassed at how much room they took up.

And I’ve also had an airline lose my bag at the beginning of a three month backpacking trip around the Middle East. And I’ve never been so grateful for the spare set of underwear and a warm jacket that I had packed in my hand luggage. And I did fine without all the other stuff.

I suppose what I’m saying in all this is, if you’re struggling with fitting your stuff into your RV, you need to get rid of stuff, not find a better way of storing it.

There’s two main reasons for this. Number one is safety. You can’t be overloading your RV, it’s just not safe.

And two, when you experience freedom from your stuff you’ll have more capacity to enjoy the other things in your life so much more.

Have you struggled to let go of stuff? What was your process for doing so?


A side note about Minimalism

I have enjoyed reading about and watching documentaries about minimalism, seeing the process of people discarding ‘stuff’ and instead finding joy in the relationships and experiences of their life.

But seeing their stark rooms with few possessions, always made me feel uncomfortable as they looked so sparse and unwelcoming, and definitely not cozy.

It was reading ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ that made me realise why it made me feel uncomfortable. It’s because it didn’t spark joy for me. Deciding what I keep in my RV (or house) is based on what makes me feel good.

Those people probably loved their sparse rooms with white walls, it probably makes them feel calm and peaceful. We’re all different and therefore we all have different things that make us happy, or that we love.

And that’s the whole point, keep the things that spark joy in you, and let all the rest go.
Two ceramic containers on a black background - with the caption: The enemy of all good RV Storage Solutions.

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