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3 Tips for Living in a Small Space

One of my biggest fears before moving into an RV was whether or not our stuff would take over our space. Even in our 4 bedroom, 2 bath house it seemed tough at times to keep things out of the way. However, I’ve learned

It’s human nature to fill up the space we are in.

Many of our clothing drawers won’t shut they are so full. Pantries are Jenga’d with so many goods that stuff in the back expires before we realize its even there. How many of our garages can’t be used to park a car anymore?

Here’s a few tips that have helped us keep our stuff from taking over our space:

A place for everything and everything in its place. This old housekeeping saying definitely holds true in an RV or a small space. Every dish, shirt, toothbrush, or shoe, needs a place to call home. If something new is bought or brought into the house, right then is the time to gently tell it where it needs to go.

Once you’ve got a place for your keys, remotes, and incoming mail, stick to it. It’s much easier and enjoyable in the long run to put things away while it is in your hand.  If you are going to lay something down, why not lay it down where it goes? To me, it beats the alternative of finding it later (after looking for a while), having to pick it up, and then still having to lay it down where it goes.

Your stuff is going to it’s place at some point. Why not do it early so you can enjoy the open space?

Only keep what you use, not what you “could use”. This one has been a tough one for us in the past, but living in our motorhome has forced us to make more decisions when it comes to what we actually use.

The funny thing is, 99% of what we have reluctantly removed has not been missed one bit. If taking frequent trips to Goodwill freaks you out, designate a space (here’s that “a place for everything” coming into play) for things you “may” want to give away. If that pot, that toy, or that shirt lays there for a month or two without being missed one bit, maybe it’s time to put it in the car and get that donation write off.

Take a look at your closet. If there are clothes in there you haven’t worn in over a year, it’s time for them to go. One trick with clothes (which seem to be the king of this struggle), is to have all your hangers facing the same direction. As you wear clothes, turn the hanger around. After a few months, see what you haven’t touched by looking at the direction of the hangers. You may be amazed.

One hurdle when getting rid of stuff is the memories. What if that shirt brings back memories from a time in my life or that souvenir reminds me of somewhere I’ve been?

We’ve looked for creative ways to turn souvenirs and memorable items into something more portable. Physical pictures have been scanned into digital ones. T-shirts can be turned into a quilt. Videos and CDs have been ripped into digital copies that can be watched from any where at any time thanks to the cloud.

The beautiful part of this process is the end result. When we started we had a cluttered, stuffy, chaotic motorhome where we had to rush around cleaning if someone is coming over or clear off a spot if we want to sit something down.

We now have a clean, roomy (as roomy as it can be) home that can comfortably host 4-6 people. We can also quickly find what we need to find because it is where it needs to be and we don’t have to rush around like the place is on fire when someone tells us they are swinging by. Getting to this point has been tough, but it has been well worth it.

Plan grocery shopping a week at a time. All three of these tips have one thing in common: planning. This third one is no different.

Because our refrigerator is less than half the size of most people’s fridge, our old shopping methods had to be changed.

Before the RV, we would buy what looked good for dinner that night and maybe a couple of nights in advance. If we were hungry while shopping (which was pretty much any time we shopped for some reason), we would also grab  a few other snacks, possible sides, and meats for when the time came.

With the RV, we kept our old habits for the first couple of weeks. What we found was (a) we couldn’t fit everything in the fridge and (b) what we could shove into the fridge was often wasting before we got to it.

Food wasting before we ate it was also a problem in our house’s big fridge, but for some reason this reality didn’t hit us until we moved into the RV.

From that point on, we decided we needed to have a plan. We started planning out meals for the week and started shopping at the beginning of the week for the entire week.

By planning a week in advance, our filter for what we bought was totally changed. We only needed food for that week. No stocking up on cans, no stocking up on cereal, we only bought what was needed. And guess what?

  1. Our grocery bill went down

  2. Everything fit into our fridge and pantry

  3. We ate healthier because we planned out our meals

  4. We wasted less food

Why did we not think of this before? Oh yeah. Because it requires planning. Planning is tough. All of these tips require that moment of “Wait a minute, what is the plan here?”

Do I have a place for this?

Do I really use this or am I only keeping it because I “could” use it?

Are we going to eat that this week or am I only buying it because I’m hungry or it is on sale?

Living in a small space is not easy, but it helps you realize what is most important. Our stuff still tries to take over our lives if we don’t pull out the whip and tell it who is boss. These 3 tips are a great start.

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