Small Space Living

If you’re a person who likes puzzles, Tetris, and efficient organization like Mari Kondo, RVs are heaven on earth because organization really is crucial for maintaining sanity.  In case you are not familiar with Marie Kondo, she is 34 years old and is worth over 10 billion dollars from showing people how to fold clothes and throw stuff out. 

We really learned efficient organization in our boat, then in our travels in the Airstream Interstate Camper Van, and definitely now as we go “ALL IN” in our Airstream Trailer.  I expect that it will take more than a year, going through all four seasons, to get things just how we want them.  So far, we’ve learned a few rules of thumb, that as least for now, are working.   

To ensure domestic tranquility, it’s good to be kind of picky about the mundane stuff that fill every day.  This makes the days go more smoothly.  Provisioning in the RV is different than on the boat in many ways.  On the boat, we had a refrigerator with room enough to store a whole side of beef.  In the RV, not so much.  On the other hand, in the RV we have ready access to grocery stores, on the boat, it could be weeks before a market of any size.  On the boat, we had to be very cautious of the waste generated.  In the RV we have access not only to huge waste receptacles but also recycling containers!  You can take the dog for a walk without taking a swim.  You learn to take pleasure in the small things!

But there are many things the same between boating and RVing.  You have to be judicious with use of space and the things you take on board. You have to be vigilant about use of power and water, and waste tank levels.

Make the most of vertical space . . . everywhere (see pictures)

If it’s trash, put it in the trash can

A place for everything and everything in its place;  if you take it out, put it back; if you open it, close it.

Clean as you go.  A little here and a little there.  That way everything stays clean!

Hooks are great!  Put them everywhere.  Hooks, plastic bins, bamboo organizers, are your friend.

No space is wasted. Ovens and microwaves are great spaces to store bowls and pots.  Hanging a sweater over a blouse or tank top saves a hanger.

Pictures make your RV a home.  

Get gel or powder manicures. They last longer, are more durable, and you never know when you will be near a good nail salon.

Learn to wash the day’s dishes with 1.5 gallons of water.  Get a big single bowl sink in the galley.  Double sinks are always too small for things like big pots and cutting boards anyway.  We love boondocking so conserving is critical.  We first run out of fresh water, then fill up the gray tank, then fill up the black tank (you know what that is, no?).  Here’s how I do it.  I have a plastic dish pan in the sink that I use to wash.  I put a little water in the pan with a bit of dish soap.  I wash the glasses, bowls and silverware in that little water and leave the washed item into the pan.  Then I rinse those items over the pan so it fills up then place them on a drying pad or towel.  Then repeat until all the dishes are done.  I try to do dishes only once a day because that saves water also.  When the dishes are done, I pour the water into the toilet!  Oh also, if you can, get a hot water booster.  Lots of water is wasted waiting for hot water.

Plan your meals (see Meal Plan) and shop for those meals.  You don’t have room to stock up.  Plan on a few non-cooking meals (see Meal Plan)

If you find that you are putting something in the same place, put a basket there to contain it.

We like to eat on a regular basis.  And I like to cook because it is healthier, actually takes less time than going out, and is less costly.  Even though you may have been shopping, eating and cooking all your life, some adjustments are needed in an RV.  Over our years of boating and RVing, we’ve developed some useful techniques for provisioning, meal planning and preparations (as well as for parties).  

Provisioning(Supplies):  Basically, you don’t need nearly as much as you did in your land locked home base. Every little bit you can pare down saves valuable space.  For example, use a small whisk not a big one, or better yet, use a fork.  Minimize the kinds of cleaning products you use.  Ajax can double as a steel pot cleaner. Windex can be used anywhere.

  • Three pots are sufficient:  17” non-stick fry pan with lid, large soup pot/Dutch oven with lid, saucepan with lid
  • Three high quality knives and sharpener:  6-inch chef’s knife, paring knife, serrated knife
  • Two cup Pyrex measuring cup
  • Nesting stainless mixing bowls and collapsible strainer
  • Flatware for six
  • Pyrex storage bowls with lids (make sure they stack or better yet nest for storage)
  • You only need one set of sheets for the bed.  On Laundry day, wash them and put them back on the bed.  The nice thing about this is you don’t have to fumble with folding the dreaded fitted sheets.
  • Use your bedspread as a comforter.  No need to have something fancy just for looks.

Provisioning(Shopping):  My rule of thumb is to plan meals for 4 days and shop for everything that will be needed. Build your pantry as you go.  Buy only what you need now.

Meal Planning and Recipes:  Collect and keep handy recipes that are healthy and easy to prepare in a small space. Even Thanksgiving dinner can be prepared in a small space.  You will meet a lot of friendly and helpful people along your journey.  Ask them for their favorite RV meals.

Meal Planning Rules of Thumb:

  • Write down your meal plan for the next several days to a week (if you plan to boondock). This works well at home also for visitors and holiday planning.  Your meal plan will be very different if you have vegetarians coming for a week, kids, or someone with allergies for example.
  • Your meal plan should have a list for Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, and Snacks (link to sample meal plan)
  • Plan meals with multiple meals for one effort are key: a dinner with leftovers used for breakfast or lunch is always good. 
  • Create the shopping list from your meal plan and group items into the corners of the page by produce/deli, meats, dairy/frozen foods, then everything in between.  This keeps you around the periphery of the store where the healthy foods are. 

Combos:  Dinner to Breakfast

Polsaki Pockets to Egg Scramble

Heat a scoop of vegie/Kielbasa mix (about 1 1/2 cups) in a large fry pan while you scramble the eggs in a bowl (add salt, pepper, milk as desired), put cream cheese on the bagel, and cut up the apple.  When the vegie mix in warm, push it to the side and pour the scrambled eggs to the vacated side of the frying pan.  Move the eggs about to get them cooked on all sides.  Cut the apple into 8ths.  That way those folks that put the whole piece in their mouth still show couth, the people that take bits get two dainty bites.

Brats and Tots to Egg Scramble

Combos:  Dinner to Lunch

Rizi Bizi                                                          Burger and Three Bean Salad

I’ll be adding recipes as we go.  If you have recipes to share, send them to me and I’ll add them in as we try them.