It’s a perennial question: “Would I be better off with a smaller RV?” Like boat people, RVers tend to progress through a somewhat predictable series of ever-larger RVs until they have reached the pinnacle of RV ownership: the coach that’s too big for them. I have done this with boats and RVs and then survived the downsizing experience. You can, too. Should you?
I reached the pinnacle in a 40-foot Foretravel, which suddenly became much too big for me due to life changes. Needing to get it right the first time, I did a prodigious amount of research on downsizing. (Read more about my experience downsizing here.)
At first, the temptation was to downsize a little, not a lot. An epic downsize seemed like perhaps too radical a step. But then logic caught up with the dizzying array of choices in the RV world. I realized that to downsize genuinely, one must fully downsize—create the ideal RV in the smallest form factor possible. In short, I chose a Casita travel trailer. It is 17 feet long. It has about 63 sq. ft. of interior living space. When I brought it home, I immediately realized what a colossal blunder I had made.
Or had I?
Mega land yacht vs. tiny home
The Foretravel was a mega land yacht, with doubtless more storage cabinet space than the Casita has total. Learning to live in a tiny trailer would take some creativity and the commitment to live a simpler without the “stuff” that I carried (and, by the way, mostly didn’t use) in the big coach. Here’s a sample of what I had to learn quickly:
- If you haven’t used a kitchen appliance or gadget in a month, don’t bring it aboard.
- You can RV full-time with fewer than 40 bath towels.
- Trading a 30,000-pound coach for a 3,000-pound travel trailer means just what the math says: Get rid of 90 percent of your stuff.
- You now have roughly a dozen tiny storage cabinets, where you may have had 20-30 or more large residential-style ones before. So carefully, carefully plan and load each one with things you need and will use.
- Unlike your land yacht, where you could easily handle things just casually tossed here and there, in your right-sized tiny house there must be a place for everything and everything in its place. Example: In the big coach, if I left a pan on the galley range, there was nothing near it to need access to, so it was no problem. Tiny house—a utensil left on the stovetop or prep table is in the way of accessing a cupboard, the sink, or having a place to set your coffee cup. Example: In a minimal-space living situation, if you do not put the tire pressure gauge, your socks, the Scotch, or your orthodontic bite plate exactly in its designated place where it belongs, you won’t find it for a week—if ever.
- Clean, do dishes, tidy up, and address maintenance issues immediately. Letting your house get cluttered or broken will frustrate and demoralize you. A clean, well-kept little house is a happy house.
You can’t dance in the shower
- You cannot dance in the shower of your tiny abode. There’s a reason the shower head is on a flexible hose. And if you’re boondocking on the 30 gallons of fresh water in your mini home tank, showers will be much shorter. And different. You will appreciate the luxury of your bygone 100-gallon water tank and your 100-gallon gray- and black-water holding tanks. But they’re gone now, and you will adapt. You will be fine.
- You will have no difficulty finding something to do with the thousands and thousands of dollars (“coach bucks”) you used to spend fixing and maintaining the complex systems of a huge motor coach. In a smaller, more straightforward format, the number of mechanical maintenance and repair tasks you can and probably should do yourself will be significantly increased and appreciated.
- I think it was learning to master the shower without overfilling the holding tank that I began to feel I was making it as a little-house full-timer. Then after about a month, when everything worked, I knew where everything was, and I lacked nothing of necessity, it was time to score downsizing as a success. I can honestly say that I would never return to a life of excess RV.
Pick a small, simple RV with capable systems and enjoy it to the fullest. You will not regret it. You’ve got this.