Friday, December 8, 2023


Keeping track of stuff in your RV

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
“The bigger the RV, the greater the loss.” Before you behemoth Class A folks get out your shootin’ irons, hang on and let the explanations begin. The bigger the RV, the more “stuff” we can load up, and the greater the chance of losing the stuff, somewhere in the rig. So the question is this: How do you keep track of your stuff?

We’ve heard the high tech, the low tech, and the laughably sublime ways to keep track of your stuff. We’ll share them.

High-tech style

Drag out your laptop and your choice of software programs. For those of us who are into words, a word processor is probably enough. If you’re a big time fan of spreadsheets or database programs, you know where to go.

Now, number your outside storage compartments in some sort of logical fashion. Take inventory of all the stuff you have squirreled away in those compartments. You can add numbers or identifications for inside closets, drawers, and cabinets.

Add the “stuff” to the list, identifying the specific storage location. If the list is really lengthy, you can use the “search” function to narrow down the item you’re looking for. For example, “brush” could cover a lot of ground, but it’ll get you there. How about “brush, gas grill,” or “brush, awning cleaning,” or “brush, refrigerator flue,” or even, “brush, hair” for those of us who still have a need for such a thing.

Keeping track of stuff low-tech style

Take out your pencil and paper. Draw a map of your RV and add pointer lines. In small, tiny, hard-to-read-without-magnifier writing, write whatever it is that you have in each compartment, closet, drawer, or cabinet. May require a few pieces of paper, depending on how big the rig and how much stuff you have.

Now the real problem: Put your list away in a place where you won’t (repeat, won’t) forget where the list is. Sooner or later you’ll have two or more copies of the list, for all the times that you lost it, and later found it again.

Treating likes alike style

One RVer says he doesn’t worry about computers or lists. He puts his stuff away like this: “Tools, in the tool bay. Cleaning supplies, in the wet bay. Other stuff bays.”

Then there are the folks who take the industry slogan, “Life’s an adventure, go RVing!” far too much to heart. “I do not organize and do not make a list. I like the hunt. And of course, when I cannot find it, I buy another. That is why I own at least two of everything. And buying another means I then find the first that I could not find before. By the way, has anyone seen my Craftsman 3/8th drive socket wrench?”


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Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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John Crawford (@guest_123951)
2 years ago

It does me no good to make a list of where stuff is because my wife never puts things back where she got it from.

dave (@guest_123285)
2 years ago

15 years full-time in our first coach, not able to find anything we wanted that day, but we always found things we looked for the other day.

Last edited 2 years ago by dave
Paul S Goldberg (@guest_122903)
2 years ago

We have lived in our coach since 2012. The “Where is” has become quite rare because most things have had their place for many years. We do have an apartment and I could walk away form the coach and fly to the apartment with my CPAP machine and not miss anything. My wife being petite has a harder time getting clothes to fit so she does have to carry some clothes back and forth. For overseas travel I have a complete set of travel clothes packed and ready to go (some day). After a 4 or 5 week trip I don’t want to see them again until the next trip. And for that travel I have a travel mini CPAP already packed and ready to go.
For the many manuals, I have them all in a binder buried under a couch. It is faster and easier to look them up online when I need them.

Last edited 2 years ago by Paul S Goldberg
Ray (@guest_122730)
2 years ago

One thing I did not see discussed in the story or comments is the paperwork. There are lots of little “systems” to keep running in an RV, each of which will have an operating manual. Its tough to use an infrequently used system without its manual. So, I store all manuals and pertinent records in a single multi-tabbed expandable binder. The number of manuals/records can be substantial. So to further assist in finding in the binder quickly, all manuals/records are stored behind the binder’s tabs which are labeled according to the location of the system within the RV. For example, the binder’s tabs are labeled kitchen, living room, bedroom, outside, truck, etc.

KellyR (@guest_122636)
2 years ago

I have little trouble remembering where clothes, tools, etc. are. BUT, I like to have some cash around when on the road. I know I have cash stashed in at least two different places in the Rv, but when I last check where I thot it was, it was not there. I know it is still in there somewhere. When I sell it, the new owner may find that he got a $1,000 discount.

Lauren Embury (@guest_122614)
2 years ago

After having my trailer destroyed and needing to tell the insurance what we had in it, I started keeping a very detailed list. Also have pictures showing that the item was in the RV. The list is not kept with the RV

Gene Bjerke (@guest_122612)
2 years ago

I once worked in a film unit that had a can labeled “last place to look.” We usually looked there first, and generally found what we were looking for.

I. Ira Hertz (@guest_122565)
2 years ago

I use Outlinx, a QR code based sticker system. Works well

Fred (@guest_122561)
2 years ago

I set up an Excel spreadsheet just before we started fulltiming 11 years ago. It has 6 columns:
which storage area in the rv
the numbered large storage bin it’s in
The numbered smaller storage container within the large bin
a column to put an X if I remove it from the location for any extended time
the item class, like electrical, water, bolts, clothing, etc.
the detailed description of the item.
The list is sorted alphabetically by item class. If I’m looking for a certain bolt, I go right to bolts & then search the different detailed descriptions I have to find the right one. Because of this list, I don’t have to store like items together. I can put an item in any available spot in any container when I first store it. As long as I have recorded where I put it, I can easily find it any time I want it. It takes me less than 2 minutes to find any item in the rv. I have 2 lists, one for inside the rv & one for outside storage or the truck.

Dorrin (@guest_122620)
2 years ago
Reply to  Fred

I agree with you, Fred. An Excel spreadsheet is excellent. All I have to do is remember to change it when I move some thing.

Ray Leissner (@guest_60193)
3 years ago

I use boxes to contain small items similar in nature. Items that are affected by temperature stay inside, such as glues and paints and tape. I label this one “consumables”. Another box hold all sorts of spare hardware from left over repair jobs labeled “hardware”. I have tool boxes for tools and tools for BBQing and tending fire which stay in their respective outside bays, along with the mats and lawnchairs.

Elizabeth (@guest_60183)
3 years ago

Never thought of this. I’m a newbie about to start this crazy adventure in 2020. Thank you

Ed Owens (@guest_3080)
7 years ago

When we go looking for something in the RV I try to remember the first place I look, so when I do find the item, after I use it I move it to that first place. Next time, voila.

Wolfe (@guest_60207)
3 years ago
Reply to  Ed Owens

Lol… I thought I was the only one to use this rule… it results in unusual organization but “everything is where I expect it to be.” I’ve got too many little things to remember so my little world has to adjust to the way my brain works…

George (@guest_3064)
7 years ago

Easiest not to leave something behind is have a set of everything in the RV and a set at home. My neighbor tells me I have more tools in my RV than he has in his garage so I guess that’s why he comes to me when he needs something. Also, for my toiletries, I have a complete set that never leaves home, a complete set in the RV and a complete set for travelling without the RV. That way you never forget your toothbrush. Cost wise it all works out in the end and is so convenient. Now my wife and all her bags…..naw, won’t go there.

Rich (@guest_60178)
3 years ago
Reply to  George

this is what we do. the MH has all its own stuff…tools, linens, pots, pans, dishes, non-perishable food, clothing, toiletries and so on. this makes the MH a fully stocked lifeboat available in an emergency or ready to go on a spur of the moment trip. just add water.

during winter i remove all food and anything i don’t want to freeze. food is rotated into our home pantry while everything else is placed in crates and stored in the basement.

during the season i keep likes with likes in the basement storage bays. no cross referenced lists on paper or the PC. besides, there’s not THAT much stuff.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_60185)
3 years ago
Reply to  Rich

Wow, Rich. This is EXACTLY how we do it. Our trailer is really our second home and except for size, it mirrors our stuff in the house. If we’re not out in it during the winter, freezables are brought into the ‘sticks’ house. Every spring we rotate stuff (canned goods etc) back into the ‘sticks’ house and eat it, renewing the supply in the trailer.

Wolfe (@guest_60208)
3 years ago
Reply to  George

I started duplicating a lot of things home/RV but then I realized the commonality — my truck is at home, towing the RV *and* at work with me! I now carry an absurd amount of stuff in my truckbed so that whereever I am, a functional amount of tools are as well. It feels weird at first but having the “good enough” tool when you need it is priceless. Sadly, the lathe and 5′ drillpress still stay home…

David Telenko (@guest_122580)
2 years ago
Reply to  Wolfe

Wolf, what no Bridgeport? Nice drill press, is it a radial type? The one I’m thinking of isn’t the ones you buy in todays world!

Wolfe (@guest_122713)
2 years ago
Reply to  David Telenko

ROFL… i wrote the above a year ago, and since then guess what got added to my insane tools? I now DO camp with a mini-lathe sometimes. It fascinates campground kids (some adults) to see someone making small bowls and things (daytime, and not in tight campgrounds). Buzzbox welder still only comes out for emergency repairs at least…

Drew (@guest_122567)
2 years ago
Reply to  George

Yes, unlike men women need to be in style always. That usually means they can’t have a set of clothes that just stays in the rig. It would be expensive to keep two wardrobes for them…so, lots of bags go back and forth. I’ve learned to accept it.

David Telenko (@guest_122582)
2 years ago
Reply to  Drew

We keep all of the above in our rig, except for our 2 pillows! One other is I alway keep a minimum of a half tank of water & fuel & a good supply of non perishable’s This way it’s pretty much ready for an emergency. Tools, you never have enough, I also keep a set for our 06 Jeep, as we wheel a lot & use those tools!

Mike Albert (@guest_122603)
2 years ago
Reply to  George

Or shoes!
Just sayin’.

Helen (@guest_3052)
7 years ago

I don’t have a problem with finding something in the RV, but I do suffer from not knowing whether an item is in the RV or in the sticks and bricks. One tip that helps is to keep a note pad in the RV and to make a note every time I remove something. This happens frequently when I have to raid my second kitchen to replenish a pantry item or something else that I have “borrowed” from the RV. It serves as a good check list when we are getting ready to head out or to go shopping.

paulette (@guest_3047)
7 years ago

I made these lists about 10 years ago and laminated them, then taped them inside the closet door. My only problem is getting my husband to put things back in the correct bay!

Bluebird Bob (@guest_3040)
7 years ago

Just take a picture with your camera or smart phone and download it to your computer….easier.

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