Knowing what to leave home sometimes is more important than knowing what to take with you, and organized storage of the items you do take is vital.
By Alana Phillips Schneider
Two things can ruin an RV vacation: bringing too much stuff or not bringing enough. The problem is, until you get there, you have no idea how much “enough” is. A fine line exists between having what you need and not having room to turn around inside the coach.
Three simple steps will help you sort it all out for your next excursion “” planning, logistics, and storage, or PLS.
Logical groupings. If you never can seem to find a certain thing, or an on-the-road chore never seems to get done, nine times out of 10 the problem is caused by disorganization. The secret is to store the items you need in a logical location, along with other items of the same ilk. Keep what you use together in categories that make sense.
Ron and Penny Dates, F282038, of Memphis, New York, have been RVing for many years. Ron said he has learned it’s not just about storing outside stuff outside and inside stuff inside. Put all your equipment and supplies into categories. For instance, keep all of the cooking, grilling, “visitor” items in the curb-side bins and store all the tools, maintenance, and upkeep materials in the street-side bins.
Where will I use this? Sink cleaner doesn’t do much good under the table bench, and stowing your hiking boots in the bottom of the bedroom closet doesn’t make any sense if you have to crawl over your bed every time you need them. Ignore convention, fellow RVers, and even the RV manufacturer’s intentions. Store your stuff where it makes sense for you.
Weed ruthlessly. Identify the things that tend to pile up. It’s different for everyone. Newspapers, coupons, maps, souvenir coffee mugs “” you know what I’m talking about. It’s easy to fall into that collector trap. Make the tough decisions. Toss the expired coupons. Recycle the newspapers if you want. And leave the collection at home where it can remind you of great trips and wonderful places. Or, at the very least, pack up the souvenirs you find and mail them home or to someone you can trust with your treasures.
Remove. Ron Dates suggests developing good decluttering habits. At the beginning of each travel season, take everything out of your motorhome and then re-pack it. “You will be surprised at how much you decide to throw out or leave at home,” he promised. Start refreshed and with extra room on that first trip of the new season.
Assess. Now that you have weeded and removed, it’s time to be brutally honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “Do I need this, or do I just want it?” and, “What am I willing to give up to have it with me?” Whether it’s clothes, appliances, beach gear, or a DVD player, for every “in” there must be an “out.” Pick wisely.
If there is something that you feel you just have to have with you, but you’re not sure whether you’ll need it, by all means take it. But pack it where it’s difficult to reach. Wean yourself gently. If you haven’t needed to dig it out by the end of one or two trips, it is not required. You can relax and leave it at home thereafter.
Consider carefully what you “must” take with you. Ron noted that it’s the volume that will defeat you.
Next, let’s consider what to do with the items you do plan to carry.
Double up. Whenever you can, make things do double duty. Pick up an indoor-outdoor broom. They work great on bare floors, carpets, throw rugs, and patios. Dress in layers. That flannel shirt also can be comfortable when lounging around at night. Leave that thin, specialty frying pan at home. A thick, cast-iron griddle cooks just about anything from chops to bacon and eggs. In a pinch, beach towels can work as bath towels, and that pool cover-up makes a great robe on summer mornings. If you really try, you may surprise yourself with how many things you can come up with that can do double duty. It depends on what you like to do on the road and what’s important to you and your family when you travel.
Think creatively. Use every available space. Plastic crates fit perfectly at the bottom of closets and under many benches. Take advantage of the many “gizmos” designed especially for RV living. According to Diane Ross, veteran RVer and service manager of RV Way Sales and Service in Cicero, New York, it’s all about space. Diane is a big fan of anything that takes advantage of unused space, such as using holders for coffee filters and paper plates that can be suspended under shelves or cabinets. They keep things out of the way but still are easy to reach. Plus, they don’t take up space needed for something else, so you don’t have to make those “either-or” choices.
Handle it immediately, and only once. If you don’t find the time to put it away now, you’ll just have to find time to put it away later. Louis and Judy Lee have been camping for more than 35 years. Judy figured out her system early. “There’s no big trick or secret,” she said. “Put everything away immediately. If you’re done with it, put it away.” This one precept alone will do the job in reducing your clutter. (If your family is anything like mine, teaching them this skill may be a challenge.)
Excellent planning and logistics lead to …
Don’t fight them; join them. Don’t resist those odd-shaped corners, curved rooflines, and narrow closet floors. Think ahead. What will you keep there? Search until you find the perfect container. Take measurements if you need to, and don’t give up until you find that perfect fit. Trust me, it’s out there. Think outside as well as inside the box. Rolls of paper towels and toilet paper fit in those curved spots under the roof. Tuck odd-shaped and shorter items toward the back and fill the front with frequently used items packed in taller containers. Strong “spatial relation” skills really help with this task. Unfortunately, some of us are not born with such skills, and I truly believe that they cannot be learned. You either have them or you don’t. But if you have a friend or traveling partner who can actually picture how to use space, it’s an incredible help.
Pack tightly. Empty space is your enemy. Fill every drawer, closet, bin, cabinet, and box completely. That’s the only way to make sure things stay put. Bigger storage spaces are not always as wonderful as they may seem. They can be difficult to organize and keep organized. Use crates, removable shelves that you can buy in various stores, or just some boxes to keep everything where it belongs. Cut the front out of the boxes or use see-through containers for quick access and identification at a glance. And don’t forget the “military roll.” Clothes that are rolled instead of folded take up less space in boxes, drawers, and suitcases.
Minimize. More than anything else, when you’re in an RV, things have to be compact. “Everything you carry must be collapsible,” Ron advised. He takes his “minimizing” seriously. He has discovered a safe, sturdy, collapsible ladder and has even modified his picnic table so that the bench seats and legs can be removed to fit into an outside storage bay. Ron and Penny like to grill and eat outdoors while on the road, so an outside table is a must have for them. “Everyone is different,” Ron added. “It’s all about knowing what you like to do and bringing what makes you feel comfortable.”
Think before you buy. Organizing and decluttering your RV begins as you walk through the RV dealer’s lot. Ed Forget, sales manager for Meyers RV Superstore in Syracuse, New York, said, “There are many decisions to be made, whether it’s your first motorhome or you’re upgrading to your next RV. There are so many choices and options. You have to know yourself and understand your on-the-road lifestyle to pick the RV that will work for you.” For example, do you know whether you want a conventional oven, or whether you’d like additional storage in the galley? A single-door refrigerator can mean room for a pantry, and a double-door may mean you won’t have a pantry. A booth-style dinette offers under-bench storage, but a freestanding table does not. Which is best: a washer-dryer combo, or more storage in the bathroom area?
Ed also said few RV users consider that the coach’s air-conditioning system also can affect storage space. Rooftop and basement systems each have their own advantages and disadvantages. A rooftop system leaves room for additional storage underneath, but condensation can create some water buildup and runoff issues. A basement system avoids the water concern but occupies what may be sorely needed storage space. Ed urges buyers to think through all of these options before making a final decision. Making the right choice for your RV lifestyle can play a vital role in ensuring an enjoyable RVing experience.
Packing under any circumstances can be a challenge. But with some consideration and skill, you can take it with you.