A-Z Guide to full-time RV living: Downsizing

Downsizing from a house to an RV is no easy feat.  And there’s nothing more effective at making you face the reality of what material items in your life are truly important.  This process, for us, proved to be so much different than a traditional move.  Instead of packing our belongings, loading a truck, moving to another location and unpacking, we had to decide what was important enough to make room for in our small space and the rest either had to go away (trash, sell, donate) or go in to storage.  When you’re packing things to go in to a storage unit that you’re paying for and you have no idea when those things will see the light of day again, it really gets you thinking about what’s worth keeping.

Here’s our tips for decluttering and downsizing from a traditional house to RV living…


Mark & I knew the task of downsizing was going to be a big one and so we got to work months in advance.  Selling things, donating things and making trips to the dump and recycling center is a time consuming process.  We tackled that process early so that when it came time to move out we were only concerned with what went in to storage and what would come with us.  Two weeks prior to our closing date we began the packing process and were quickly reminded what a daunting, exhausting task it is.  Had we not spent time months earlier decluttering I think a lot of stuff we didn’t need would have ended up in storage because we would have been too overwhelmed to make the sell, trash, donate decisions. 

Even if you’re currently only dreaming of RV living, it’s never too early to get started decluttering.  Your future self will thank you.


Large pieces of furniture not only suck to move but eat up storage space fast.  We got rid of several pieces of furniture leaving us with only a few large items.  Had we not done that, we would have needed a larger, more expensive storage unit.


You may come across items you know you really don’t need but you hate to see them go.  A great compromise is asking friends & family if they might like said item.  All of our framed landscape photography was given away and I love knowing those prints are now hanging in the homes of our friends & family.


With so little space in an RV, you end up leaving behind much more than what you can take with you.  But every single thing you own, you wanted at one time.  And at one time, you spent money on said thing, making it hard to admit, over and over, all the things you don’t really need or never actually used.  When it comes to deciding what stays and what goes, if you let your emotions decide, you’ll run out of room quickly and end up taking a bunch of stuff you don’t need.  Instead, ask yourself the last time you used or wore said thing.  The answer to that question will make it much easier to decide what’s worth taking and what will just take up space.


Not only is everything in our storage unit labeled but it’s organized in a way that we can easily get to just about anything.  Instead of packing the thing floor to ceiling, front to back, we left ourselves an aisle down the middle for accessibility.  We spend our summers in Colorado and if we think of something we want, we want to be able to grab it easily without having to unpack half our storage unit to get to it.  If something is in storage that we want but can’t find and so we end up buying a new one, what the heck is the point of having it in storage?  And labeling seemed equally important as we’ll never remember what and where everything is.


We spent two weeks at an RV Park near our storage unit in order to get settled in to our new RV home before leaving the area.  In that time we ended up going to our storage unit more times than I could count.  Whether it be to get things out that we didn’t think we’d want or put things in that we realized we didn’t need to bring, there was a lot of back and forth.  Had we left Colorado right away, we would have ended up carrying around a lot of things we didn’t need and buying things that we left behind in storage.  It’s hard to know exactly what you need and don’t need until you’re doing it.


The process of decluttering and downsizing from a house to an RV is both mentally and physically draining.  If you’re going thru this process alongside a spouse, go easy on each other and try to take it all in stride.  It’s easy to get frustrated and irritated when you’re sleep-deprived and feel like there’s not enough time to do anything but pack.  Mark & I laughed a lot over the course of the two weeks we spent packing and moving out.  I don’t know if it was out of delirium or what but keeping the mood light definitely helped get the job done.

Most importantly, keep your eyes on your ultimate goal!  Downsizing means less to pay for, less to maintain and more time to simply enjoy life.  Packing sucks, there’s no way around it but the reward of a simpler life filled with freedom and travel is unequivocally worth it!


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  • That is some great advice, especially staying close to the storage unit to determine what we really need. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about acquiring things we like versus things we really need and use.

  • Nice post! We have often opted to sell those big items instead of placing in storage during a big move. It’s good that you’ll be back each summer and can reassess what is a “keeper” in your storage unit. Thanks for the post!

  • Great Job! When we did this, we never went back to the storage unit. Also, we put everything in 3 of those wooden “shipping” containers with doors. The contents of each box was organized as extreme essentials, moderate essentials, and nice to have’s. Then, when we finally stopped traveling, and ended up in Washington, we shipped the boxes from Boston without having to return to the storage unit. Reason for 3 boxes was if we landed in some remote place like Alaska, we might not have shipped all 3 boxes. Enjoying your post.

    PS: Your blog email submission box won’t let me use my real email address which is (emailxxxxxx.gmail.com, nor will it allow me to use my other email because (xxxx.bmet.org) because they it use the suffix “.org”) and because it contains the first one uses the word “email”. Frustrating.

    • That sounds like a really smart approach, I like that idea!

      Sorry about the subscription error you’re getting. I look in to it as soon as I get the chance.

  • My husband and I just been the journey of getting rid of stuff. Little by little. So funny and helpful to get your post!

  • Well, it is really easy to talk about it and we’ve been planning on making the move ‘doing it’ for two years… the actual process- downsizing & planning is a easy, but once you’re in -your new home – after 20 yrs in a 2000sqft home w/ 2car garage- with all your ‘special’ things in your RV(home) and can’t sit on the sofa or chairs, use the table or see your bed ( a mountain of clothes and enough kitchen gear for 4 RVs). You sort and downsize again…
    till it comfortably ‘fits’
    But it’s been fun, exciting and in the end, it’s all worth while!! We love it.
    We kinda missed our goal, ???? we ended up with two RV’s
    a 30’ 5th wheel w/ full slide out surrounded by a huge covered deck & lil guest cabin on a beautiful acre
    our 30’ toyhauler for traveling with our bikes or off road toys-
    We do live in our RV full time, just two.

  • My husband and I with our 8 year old son, two dogs, and two cats are considering selling our home and buying a fifth wheel to live in on my in-laws property just until the real estate market drops (whenever that may be) so we can buy our dream home with property of our own. The market where we live is very high right now and our home equity is also very high, so it is a good time to sell, but not a good time to buy. Any tips or advise? Should’s or shouldn’t do’s?

  • We are in our 60’s and have our camper on a lake lot. We have decided to sell our home and downsize but it’s hard. We have lived in our home for 25 years. It needs some major work so we have decided to sell “as is” and live life right now with less stress. Hopefully we are doing the right thing! Time will surely tell.

  • I thought I was not making sense, trying to down size all stuff. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am all by myself, older than I like and realizing I do not need all the costs of house living. It was very smart to go to travel trailer. The organization tips you shared are priceless. The advice of staying in same area is very smart. I had to make drastic changes due to pandemic. I fortunately have storage unit very close. I am not as organized as you seem to be, but that gives me a goal to work towards. My unit is right by my job so I swing by as needed.
    I like your advice of purchasing what you need not just want.
    Thanks again

By michele


We’re Mark & Michele, modern-day nomads perfecting the art of slow, full-time travel.  Our tiny home on wheels and slow-paced travel style allows us to minimize our expenses while maximizing our freedom.  May our unconventional way of life inspire you to design a life that you love.


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