Moving from a “house RV” to an “apartment RV.” How do we downsize?

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By Nanci Dixon
After a popular trend to “Go Big,” more and more RVers are deciding to ditch the big rig and downsize to a smaller RV. Class B van-style RVs and smaller Class C’s are definitely more nimble to drive and park, not to mention the ease of backing into tight spots and stopping for groceries and dining out. Campground crowding is making it harder to find big rig campsites, plus a smaller RV opens up far more opportunities to camp in national and state parks.

Readers Suzanne and Danny R. asked how is an RVer supposed go about the Herculean task of downsizing? They wrote: “My wife, Suzanne, and I have been traveling since 2012 in our new-to-us 2008 Newmar Dutch Star 40DP. This past week we sold it since it is becoming too much for me to drive. We are not ready to give up traveling this beautiful country of ours, so we ordered a new 2022 Winnebago Navion 24D (delivery est. 12/21). I have provided this background to set the context for my request. Quoting my wife, ‘We are moving from a house RV to an apartment RV.’ Are you aware of anything that would help us make this transition? We can’t be the only 73-year-old RVers that have downsized their rig. Thanks in advance for your consideration.”

Suzanne and Danny,
Thanks for asking. We’re sure you are, indeed, not the only ones to downsize to a smaller RV. Here are a few tips to make downsizing easier:

Go through your RV every year even before you decide to downsize

It is a good idea to go through your RV every year and weed out the under-used and the unused “stuff.” That is particularly important when downsizing. Plan to methodically open every drawer, cabinet and basement storage area and start putting items in piles of used daily, used weekly, monthly, yearly and never. Right away that helps decide what is essential.

Make a plan when you downsize to a smaller RV

Think of a smaller RV as a new, fresh start – a clean pallet rather than a place to fit all the old stuff in.

When essential items are determined, plan where every single item is going. Writing a plan on paper helps some folks decide. Plastic containers help organize and reduce “stuffing the stuff” in every nook and cranny, which is so easy to do in a large RV.

Think multi-use

Look at everything for its possible multi-use. Can a small table hold drinks or a grill? How about one pan lid that can fit the frying pan and the saucepan? Can layering jackets mean multi-use?

Weigh in when you downsize to a smaller RV

When deciding on essentials and where to store everything, remember to consider the weight. A smaller RV will not have the load capacity of a larger RV. It is extremely easy to go over the GVW rating, affecting both handling and safety. Weigh the RV when fully loaded (including food, water, etc.) and if it’s overweight you must get rid of some stuff. Here are some tips on how to shed some RV weight.

Kitchenware

Pare down the kitchenware. Decide what is used often and what is optional.
  • Keep minimal dinnerware – If entertaining, buy disposable plastic or paper-ware. One couple should keep 4 plates, 4 bowls, 4 cups – that’s it!
  • Cookware – 1 large fry pan can double as a griddle. 1 small and 1 large saucepan are usually enough
  • Cooking utensils – Multitask! Just bring one of each type of cooking utensil – spoon, slotted spoon, turner, can opener. You can easily and cheaply buy additional ones along the way if needed.
  • Appliances – Again, think to multitask! For example, an Instant Pot takes the place of a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, air fryer and it even sautés! Or, something like a Ninja Foodie bakes, broils, grills, air fries and dehydrates.
  • Coffee pot – This gets its own category, it is so important! French coffee press, single-serve pour-over funnels, old-fashioned camp pot and all-around electric drip are all options depending on size and need. Just pick one!

Here are a few ways to increase kitchen storage space.

Clothes – the hardest part when you downsize the RV!

  • Laundry days – Planning how many days between laundry days helps determine the number of essentials in the underwear drawer.
  • T-shirts – Less is more! You can always add a new one from a favorite travel spot. Roll them to save drawer space.
  • Jackets – Layer, layer layer. A light jacket with layers is more versatile.
  • Cold weather essentials – Only one winter hat and one pair of gloves per person.
  • Caps – Take only the favorites! They seem to reproduce in the closet… or at the souvenir shop anyway.
  • Dress up – Think multi-use and only essential. When RVing, you may have little or no need to get dolled up. As a full-timer, I have one outfit that can double for dress-up and, unfortunately, for funerals too.
  • If something hasn’t been worn for six months, consider if it is a necessity or not. If it’s been a year since you’ve worn or used it, it’s probably time to say goodbye.
  • Only take clothes you like and would want to wear.

Tools and hardware

  • There are the essentials, but a whole garage worth is not going to fit. Don’t even try!
  • Keep just one of each essential tool – Screwdrivers, pliers, set of socket wrenches, channel locks, crescent wrench, hammer, etc. Only bring those tools you use most often.
  • A miscellaneous pack of screws, nuts, and bolts always comes in handy at the most unexpected time.
  • Ladders can fold, step stools, too.

Cleaning supplies

  • Laundry detergent can be bought in small packets – For example, Tru Earth comes as a small envelope with 32 loads.
  • Scour the dollar stores for smaller sizes of your favorite items.
  • Even better – Find a multi-task cleaner and bring one bottle only.
  • Only bring one reusable water bottle. You can use something like Bottle Bright to clean it.

Outdoor equipment

  • It would not be camping without camp chairs. Just take what is needed for the immediate travelers. Guests can usually supply their own or sit at the picnic table. We originally had enough chairs for a lawn party and had to cram them in our large rig. We gradually started giving them away to other campers.
  • Small collapsible tables come in handy but weigh the amount of use against the amount of space.
  • Grill – Almost everyone carries some sort of grill with them, usually propane. Think small and what is actually needed for the number of people camping. The grill may need to downsize too.
  • Patio mats are great but decide if a large one is necessary. Does the mat need to downsize, too, or stay home?

Valuables

  • You may not need or have room for a safe, but small fireproof envelopes are available for important documents.
  • Jewelry? How much does one need and where to store it? Something like this might be perfect.

Freedom and rewards from downsizing to a smaller RV

Downsizing a large RV to a smaller RV can provide even more freedom of travel and opens up many more options in mobility, campsites, and the road less traveled. That is one of the many rewards of all the hard work of downsizing to a smaller RV. Best of luck to you!

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william cantrell
7 days ago

Consider a visit look at a Phoenix Cruiser brand motor home. They advertise themselves as the down sizing experts. Pretty sure they sell direct only and are located n Elkhart. https://www.phoenixusarv.com

Rod and Patti PARKER
9 days ago

We downsized about a year ago from a 2014 38ft Montana 5th wheel with large apposing slides to a 2019 2600RB GD Imagine with one big slide and still didn’t use numerous things we brought. In the 5er I had two of some things because I couldn’t find the one I brought. I will take less clothes when we go south this fall. We have a home near Coeur D’Alene ID and go south to AZ for 6 months. We just got home. The smaller Imagine was much easier to manage. When home in the summer the Imagine lets us get into river camping areas the 38fter had issues with.

Tom
12 days ago

For valuable papers, including a backup supply of Benjamins, consider a small fireproof safe. Better than an envelope. It can be fastened down to the body of the coach. Really slows a thief down.

Danny and Suzanne Reid
13 days ago

Thank you for the helpful information. Loved the different areas to consider! The greatest challenge I see will be managing the weight. Can’t wait for the new rig to get here so we can start fresh.