There seems to be a popular wisdom circulating among today’s young RV bloggers and YouTubers that you MUST be a minimalist to successfully live and thrive in the RV lifestyle.
I even saw one “expert” (who, by the way, was selling expensive online courses about living as a nomad) actually give the ridiculous advice that you should outfit your RV with NO MORE THAN two place settings. Meaning two plates, two spoons, forks, knives, cups, etc. She further suggested you reduce that to only one if you travel alone.
WHAT the WHAT?
How could one ever give a decent dinner party that way?
Not to mention how impractical. I can go through six spoons before lunchtime! And washing each and every time would waste water.
An alternative perspective to being a minimalist
Let me offer an alternate perspective that I can back up with a lifetime of RV experience.
You absolutely do NOT need to be a minimalist to live happily ever after in your RV. If you want to, that’s fine. But it is not a requirement.
Before I expound on how, let me give you a little background…
I grew up in a family of circus performers. Likewise, I have lived on the road in RVs off and on for my entire life, often alongside other families of circus performers.
Are circus performers RV minimalists? HECK NO!
The job does not allow for it.
For one thing, in circus life, the entire family comes along.
That includes children of all ages and all their assorted clothing, toys and accouterments, including homeschooling supplies. Sometimes Grandma and Grandpa come along too. And there usually is a family dog.
As the show must go on no matter what remote location you may find yourself in, circus performers are always prepared for any possible unforeseen problems. Likewise, in their rigs, you can find an entire prop shop with all tools and parts needed to build and/or repair any riggings and props needed to do their acts. This often includes electrical and even welding equipment.
Wardrobe is important too. In addition to street clothes, circus performers almost always carry sewing machines, feathers, rhinestones, and other costume-making essentials, not to mention sets of costumes in various stages of creation from design conception to the completed garment.
Beyond that, circus performers live on the road for more time than they spend at home. It is important to have comfort, family, good food, and fun during that time.
If circus performers can bring all those things along and live on the road, there is certainly no reason you need to pare down to two place settings!
Take what’s important to you!
You can tell what is important to people by the extras they pack.
In my circus days, I knew British women who traveled with full bone china tea sets. Abuelitas who carried tortilla presses so they could make tortillas in their RV kitchens, and an Italian matriarch of a generations-old circus family who made the best homemade lasagna this side of Naples from the tiny kitchen of her Boles Aero.
Another performer I knew ran a traveling costume supply shop as a side business with a full inventory of jewels and feathers stocked in his van.
Others had things like fishing equipment or SCUBA gear in order the make the most of time off.
These people all found a way to bring along things that were important to them. The things that brought them joy. Or things that allowed their businesses to thrive. Or things that facilitated family bonding.
And to me, that is the essence of living a happy and fulfilling RV lifestyle. Having the things near you that bring you joy while simultaneously having the freedom to go anywhere you like.
At least within reason.
Admittedly, the puppeteer I knew who traveled with a full-sized carousel horse in the middle of his Airstream living room was taking this concept a bit too far…
How to live abundantly in your RV
Just because you don’t need to live an austere lifestyle in your RV does not mean you can take along EVERYTHING. It is important to be selective.
The advice of Marie Kondo, the famous organizing guru, goes double in an RV: If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.
Look at it this way. The more you get rid of things you don’t need or use often, the more room you will have for the things that really do matter. And what matters is highly individualized.
Would you rather fill your closets with a collection of shoes and tons of clothes or a bunch of art supplies?
Is being prepared for any fishing opportunity or scenario an essential thing? Or can you get by with less gear?
Does it make sense to make room to take along a bike or a kayak, or will they sit unused in the back of your truck and make you feel guilty? Be honest with yourself.
I offer no advice or judgment as to the propriety of any of these decisions. That’s because it all depends on what is important to YOU and your family. But you will no doubt need to make some choices along the way.
For me, I have to write, photograph, video, and cook on the road, as all of these activities involve my job. My RV kitchen has a pantry that is better stocked than most bricks-and-sticks homes and some small restaurants. I have enough tools with me to accomplish almost any culinary task.
I also have several hobbies that involve a lot of things, mostly in the fiber arts area. My sewing machine and sewing supplies come with me. I also have a large stash of yarn for knitting and crochet projects. These are things that bring me joy and help me relax. They get to come along.
Conversely, all the books I used to take can now stay home as everything is available electronically. Same with music and movies. That alone freed up a lot of space.
Organizing is key to avoiding minimalism
The second part of the equation is organization.
In order to not live in a cluttered mess all the time, it is essential to have a specific place to put each and every item you take along in your RV. And if you can’t find a space for it, you might have to leave it behind.
You can find lots of things to help you organize: storage bins, crates, boxes in your tow vehicle, etc. You should pack your RV and vehicle in such a way that you both know where everything is, and so you can get to it when needed.
Of course, from a practical perspective, you will want to make sure the rig you are driving can safely carry the weight of the cargo you choose to put in it.
In a nutshell, living abundantly in your RV boils down to just those two simple steps:
- Choose your possessions by what brings you joy and leave the rest behind.
- Organize those possessions in a way that is practical for your particular RV and how you use it.
Take the time to do these two things and you’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of travel experiences that truly make you feel as though you are at home, no matter where you choose to roam.
And you won’t have to scramble to find an extra coffee cup if someone comes to visit.
Great Article!! And very timely as I am in the middle of packing up the house into RV/sell/donate/dump boxes/piles – and what I have wrestled with the most is giving up my hobby related stuff and especially my coffee/tea accoutrements because – 1) I love them and 2) isn’t being social one of the great RV attractions? I may be too new to offer much in the way of RV advise – but I’ve got a good ear for listening and the coffee/tea and a baked goodie or two thing down to an art 🙂
Thank you, Cheri!
Loved the picture. What a life that must have been. Always enjoy your writing. Mix of info and a novel :-).
Good article. We prefer to use the term “right sizing” vs “downsizing”. We’re FT on the road and about twice a year evaluate what we’re hauling around.
Thank you for pointing out that RVing can be more than boondocking (not deriding b-d, just saying there are alternatives). “Home is where you park it”. If it is a backwoods adventure, great! If it parked all winter in an RV park where your scattered friends gather every year, that’s great too! Either way, tow safely but make it what kind of home you want for the duration.
Great article! We are kinda in-between in our Class B. Just the two of us and a dog. However, we carry 6 cups – two for us, four to offer coffee or tea to visitors. The book library is now digital which numbers in the hundreds of titles. Cameras, only two, are now digital also, and without the multiple lenses I used to carry in a box the size of a suitcase.
It is such a pleasure to read your work, circus sideshow performers adopted me and I always knew I wanted a life that took me places. And yes I have always taken my life with me wherever I went. And although no longer full time I’m still on the road whenever possible. Van packed and ready.
Thanks for the well-balanced & full of life article perhaps especially for those of us who have such a difficult time making up our minds about such things as “what to take & what to leave behind”. Now I look forward to my next going through everything before hitting the road again. Bless you.
How fun! I was reminded that my 1st Rv experience was at 18 when I ran away with the carnival! My new FIL ran and invented carnival games. My first experience as a snowbird was ‘winter quarters’ in Florida moving around the state, playing small carnivals. No RV at the time, just a platform bed and small car loaded with possessions. I learned a lot in that short 2 years of traveling. And , now I’m back at it again, this time for the pleasure and joy…and the wonderful night skies! Thanks
Such a wonderful read! Especially with the circus background component. If it fits, is within proper weights, and gives meaning to your life, bring it aboard! As fulltimers, we’ve pared down over the years, but only because the items were no longer useful to us. We carry a nice array of tools, my pantry and kitchen can provide a Thanksgiving feast, we have emergency food, medical, and “pandemic” stocks, three weeks of clothes and linens, laptops, tablets, and smart phones, games for rainy days, crafts (paints, card-making, macrame), you get the picture. And we still have space available (32′ fiver).
Organization is key. To us, it’s LIFE on the road, not self-denial. Again, a fine article!
Oh, my! As others are saying, this was a wonderful read. Thank you for sharing Cheri! Hubby doesn’t usually limit my crafty stuff – he may comment that I might need to remove a pair of shoes to make up for the additional weight….so… I’m barefoot, not a biggie!
Of all the advice & experience of traveling, living on the road, and camping, this is by far the BEST practical article I’ve read. And don’t forget that last bit: weight: both above the tires and … under the belt.
Wow, thank you!
I prefer to be more of a minimalist. After 5 years of full time in a class C, I dropped my placesets to two. I’ve eliminated a lot of things because they just weren’t being used. I am happier without the extra weight of unused just-in-case stuff. I have redecorated the RV to suit me.
To me, one of the advantages of a Class B is that it forces you to simplify your life. It is too easy (at least for me) to complicate things. Better to do less and do it well than be half-assed at a lot of things.
Well said! We, particularly me, are quite willing to have all we need and want in our rolling condo (i.e., Class A DP) and we are neither ashamed nor apolgetic about being far from minimalists. If being a minimalist “floats someones boat,” then have at it, but my boat floats very differently and the divergence does not bother me in the least. Hopefully my lack of minimalism does not offend the minimalists.
Great thoughts, thank you for this article. I hope it will help people clarify their ‘must-take’ list.
The people I know with cavernous empty rigs have no hobbies. They are bored easily and constantly looking for excuses to go shopping or cook a fattening feast. It’s sad. Have some interests and pursue them!
A hot cup of good coffee and a beautiful sunrise of course the coffee must be what you love no matter the cost or else it’s just not the same.
I grew up around the business but didn’t participate full time, meaning I knew I could always fall back on the carnival or circus in town if I needed work. I was adopted by circus sideshow freaks and they gave me a wonderful outlook on life. We had a tourist court in Gibsonton Fl and every winter we were packed, those people that came each winter were the aunts and uncles that raised me to be an independent woman that loved travel and I have been able to make a living at numerous types of venues over the years and never skimped on my comfort.
As long as I have something in the driveway that I can sleep in and hit the road in I am a happy camper.
Great story Patti- glad you had those experiences.
I can relate. My happiest times were spent living on the road. I had a long hiatus but am so happy to be back to it. Technology is wonderful these days as I can work and stay connected from anywhere, something we did not have in my circus days. I remember going to the pay phone with a baggie of change to call home (and it was expensive). I am really dating myself now. 🙂
The author never mentioned the one safety consideration that should be on every RVer’s mind.
The weight of your rig with all your “Abundant Life Crap” and the GVWR rating of that rig. Rarely do those match!
Most RVer’s have never taken the time to weight there rig when loaded. Most would be surprised how heavy their rig really is when in their mind they packed “Light”!
An “Abundant Life” is not all about your “Stuff”.
Think about that the next time you hit the road!
From the article: “Of course, from a practical perspective, you will want to make sure the rig you are driving can safely carry the weight of the cargo you choose to put in it.”
Thanks Debbie, for pointing that out!
I certainly did mention that.
some people are very selective readers😜
Great point and can’t be overstated. Unfortunately, some RV manufacturers are more interested in money than safety and add enough whistles bells and shiny things, instead of focusing on the foundation, you get dangerously close to the vehicle’s weight limits. In fact, some larger Class Cs, barely have enough capacity for passengers and a full tank of water.
Get weighed after loading up your RV with what you desire, then pare back accordingly. Otherwise, you risk tire failure and are placing a lot of stress on the RV that will quickly degrade the suspension and structure. Tire failure can be catastrophic
If you have the capacity and don’t mind a little loss of gas mileage, go for it. But always put your safety and that of others first.
Great article ! My husband does leather work in th garage area of our toy hauler, when dinner time comes he packs it all away and the area becomes our dining room.
I live to cook and I also do canning in my RV,I made room for about 12 jars in my one closet.
Do what you love !!
I love it. I have not canned since I owned a food website (WAY back when I first met RV Travel editor Chuck Woodbury), but I do make probiotic fermented vegetables and pickles in the RV. I usually store in the possum belly as it can get fragrant (even in the possum belly it can still get fragrant in the trailer). Once I get a shell for my new truck they will go back there.
loved your article, cherie
Awww, thank you so much.