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RV Advice

9 Ways to Optimize Space in Your RV

Your RV makes it easy and fun to hit the open road and explore wide-open spaces. But what happens when the very vehicle you use to escape crowds and congestion starts feeling a bit, well, cramped? With a little creativity and strategy, you can tame your RV’s clutter and reclaim a whole bunch of free space. Here are nine ways to help make your RV more spacious than you’ve ever dreamed.

1. Create an unpacking list

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The most obvious way to have available room in a fixed space is to simply keep fewer things. This sounds pretty simple, but when you’re fitting life into 200 square feet it requires a plan and dedication. Start with an unpacking list.

For many people, the first step of preparing for a trip is creating a packing list. It helps you remember what to bring and ensures you don’t forget anything of great importance. Now, it’s time to flip this on its head and create an unpacking list. When you get back and start unpacking, take inventory of everything you didn’t use on the trip. Then consider leaving these items off of your next packing list. The less stuff you bring with you, the less cluttered your RV is from the start.

2. Declutter by category not location

Another strategy to help simplify the inside of your RV comes from Marie Kondo—you know the woman who is famous for helping people declutter and simplify their lives? Her idea recommends sorting things by category, like clothes or tools, instead of organizing by room —first the bedroom, then the kitchen, then the living area. Here’s how it works: Place all of your clothing from everywhere in the RV (closets, bureaus, hooks, and all rooms) on the bed, then work through what stays, what goes, and where it will all be placed.

Why does this work? Because you often don’t realize the sheer volume of things you have until you see the giant pile of clothes staring back at you from your bed. Pulling it all together gives you a better idea of how much you really have in one particular category (do you really need five jackets?)

3. Budget space like finances

In saving for retirement you likely had many conversations around how much savings you would need, how you should spend your saved money, and how much you could spend at a time. In short, you budgeted your money. With a finite supply of financial resources, this is a necessity.

The space in your RV is also a finite resource. So every time you bring something new in, you “spend” some of that resource. Make it a rule that when you decide to add something new you have to remove something old—something in, something out. Not only will this make you think about what you really need to keep, but it will also make you more thoughtful about adding new things to the mix—does this new item’s importance trump that of something older? If not, don’t bring in into your RV in the first place.

4. Nest or collapse everything

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Sure, we’re all familiar with the idea of nestable bowls and collapsible chairs. But did you know you can get a collapsible teapot, garbage can, and laundry basket? How about a set of completely nestable pots and pans (with detachable handles)? Try adding the word “nestable” or “collapsible” to any item you search for on Google. You’d be surprised at what’s out there and even more pleased with how much room these items can save you in a tight space like your RV.

One particular favorite is the pop-up laundry hamper. It folds to the size of a large frisbee but keeps your dirty adventure clothes safely away from everything else. It’s even small enough to use in a tent.

5. Get geometric

In your full-size home, storage containers are often round because circular tends to be more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. But in your RV, cylindrical containers waste a lot of space when they are placed next to each other on shelves and in cabinets. Stick to squares and rectangles. They’ll neatly use up every square inch of room.

6. Hang caddies everywhere

Stack smarter, use vertical spaces, and hang anything you can. Nowadays, you can get a storage caddy for just about every spot in your RV. The most obvious might be the caddies that hang on the back of seats. But you can also hang them on hooks for extra wall storage, inside doors, or even next to your bed as a space-saving nightstand. Shoe organizers that hang are the caddies’ larger cousin. Of course, they’re great for shoes, but you can also use them to hold larger items like spray cans, flashlights, or packaged food items.

While not exactly a caddie, suspending a net hammock-style from the ceiling or under cabinets or tables is a great way to keep fruit off the counters or your grandkid’s toys off the floor.

7. Get curtain creative

You probably have a shower curtain in the bathroom. You may also have small curtains covering windows or even small interior spaces. Instead of the traditional one-trick curtains, consider swapping them out with something that has built-in storage. In the shower, for instance, you can get a plastic curtain with pockets to hold toiletries. And in the kitchen, take down the window cover and use a piece of cloth with pockets sewn in to hold spices or small kitchen gadgets.

8. Set the bar high (or low)

Tension curtain rods (window or shower) are an incredibly versatile tool for storing things creatively. Try pressing them into the spaces under cabinets, tables, or desks. They make a great hanging rack and can be used for towels, drying clothes, or even to hold a roll of garbage bags or paper towels. They also work well as dividers inside a cabinet. Press them between the top and bottom of the cabinet’s interior, then slide dishes, books, or anything else that can be stored vertically.

9. Repurpose office supplies

Your days in the office may be over, but some of those supplies might still come in handy. Attach a plastic file holder (also called magazine or literature holders) to the inside of your kitchen cabinet to hold plastic wrap and aluminum foil boxes. Hang metal pencil holders on hooks to keep utensils out of drawers and off the counter. Also, use suction cup hooks and binder clips to hang tea towels and other smaller things.

Following any of these tips will help create more space in your RV. The most important thing to remember is that just because you have more space, doesn’t mean you should fill it with more stuff (see Tip #2 above!) Having an uncluttered RV with room to live, eat, and move will help create a more relaxed atmosphere—something you definitely deserve after all those years of work.

Written by Rob Glover for Matcha in partnership with Kampgrounds of America.