It’s always hard to go from living in a spacious home where everything has a place and there is always space for added belongings, but living in an RV can be a completely different experience. In an RV, you will find that there is much less space and you’ll need to get creative when trying to organize and store your belongings.
In this article, I will share some tricks that I have learned from others as well as a few that I discovered on my own to create more storage space and the best ways to utilize all of the areas in your RV to your advantage. In the first part of this guide, you will see a few examples of how I organize my storage compartments and in the latter part of this article I explain some tips you may want to use in your own RV whether it’s a class A, B, C, or tow behind unit.
Buckets: my secret weapon
I’m a big fan of recycling and repurposing items, so whenever I come across a good bucket I keep it to use in my RV. I particularly like the food grade buckets because there is a rubber “O” ring in the lid and this makes them watertight and airtight.
There are numerous ways to use buckets and you can really get creative when using them for storage. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use buckets for storage or other purposes but you may find other uses for them that work for your needs.
- Pet food. I have a large dog so I buy dry dog food in 25 pound bags. I usually keep one bucket inside my RV and another one or two buckets in my storage compartments I access from outside.
- Dirty laundry. I like to fish and hike in my spare time and as we all know, those activities can produce some really smelly odors on your clothes. When I’m boondocking somewhere where I need to conserve water and can’t use my small washing machine, I will keep my dirty clothes in one or two of these airtight buckets in my basement storage compartments until I can get to area where I have access to a laundromat or the water I need to use my own small washing machine.
- Recyclables and trash. As I said before, I am a huge advocate for repurposing and recycling, so I always have one bucket dedicated to recycling things like aluminum soda and beer cans, plastic milk or juice jugs and canned vegetable or soup containers. I usually try to rinse these out and crush them to conserve room in the bucket. For wet garbage, I repurpose plastic grocery bags I get from almost every store I shop at for groceries or day-to-day needs. I take those bags and tie them as closed as I can get them and then I put them in a food grade air tight bucket and stash them in one of my compartments until I can empty them later.
- I stow most of my fishing and photography gear in some of these buckets and you can to. For the most part, I feel comfortable stowing my fishing gear down below in my basement storage compartments, but I do keep my cameras, lenses and other essential gear stored away in smaller compartments in my living space.
- Conserving water. When I am boondocking, I try to conserve on my fresh water supply so I have a couple of plastic dish washing tubs for cleaning my dishes. After I do my dishes I empty those tubs into one of these airtight buckets and keep it in the bathroom so that instead of using my freshwater supply to flush my toilet, I use this saved water that would have otherwise been drained into my graywater holding tank.
Where to find buckets to use for storage
There are several online retailers such as Amazon that sell them as well as big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. However, I try to find them for free from bakeries or restaurants. Often time’s bakeries order icing for donuts and that usually comes in buckets in varying sizes and restaurants (especially hamburger joints) get their pickles delivered in them as well. Most of the time these places just discard them when they are empty, so I sometimes will ask a favorite restaurant to save them for me instead of throwing them away.
Other containers you can use for storage
Yes, some of my favorite containers for use as storage are manufactured by Rubbermaid. They make a wide variety in several shapes and sizes and they stack well too. I like to keep my power tools such as drills and saws in these containers and I also will store clothes that I wear only in colder weather in one of these totes too. Another good use for these is to keep things like hoses and electrical supply cords in one easily accessible spot which helps to save time when setting up or tearing down your camp site. These are not water tight so I don’t recommend leaving them outside in inclement weather.
Storing tools to conserve space
Some folks will advise you to buy plastic clip-in handle holders to use on the upper side of your lower storage compartments to store tools but I recommend against that.
Plastic fails and breaks, especially if it is subjected to constant movement. A better idea here is to skip the three-to-five dollar plastic fixtures and buy a roll of plumber’s strap (pictured above).
Related: RV Toolkit
It’s far less expensive and since its steel, it won’t fail under the stress of being in motion. Another benefit to using plumber’s strap to secure items is that you can design and shape the strap to hold the item almost exactly to the size of the item. This is not an option when ordering cheap plastic broom holders, and if you’re a wise RVer, you’ll work this out on your own.
Storage tips for each part of your RV
There are all sorts of ways to save or create storage space inside your RV, so we’ll take a look at the best ways to utilize these tips in certain areas of your RV such as the bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, living area, and even the driver and passenger areas. I’ll also give you some ideas of what works best for the type of RV you are traveling in and some possible scenarios that may relate to you.
Storing cold weather gear
This is a great question and one I have dealt with on every RV that I have owned. For example, the current RV I travel in is a fifth wheel that I purchased from a very nice elderly lady that had lived in it for nearly 12 years after her husband had passed away.
One of the first things I noticed after taking ownership of my RV was that there was a very expensive box spring and mattress on a metal frame used in most traditional sticks-n-bricks homes. Since I didn’t need that, I redesigned my bedroom and built up an area that eliminated the frame and box spring and also allowed me to create additional storage space. While all modifications will vary depending on the size or shape of your RV, I recommend that you take a look at Lindsey’s article on how to install a bed in a converted van and that should give a good idea of how to design your new bed platform and create a good working storage area below your design.
Related: How to RV in the winter
Maximizing closet space
I also try to maximize as much closet space as I can. Hanging clothes take up a lot of space so I recommend using this handy item that allows you to use more vertical space in your closet instead of one row of horizontal area.
Another handy item to use in your closet is a collapsible storage compartment for things like shoes and folded clothes. When combined with the fold down hangers I showed you above you will really maximize your closet space.
This handy item is good for trailers and most classes of motorhomes. Their very simple to use, you simply hang them on the top of your door and start using them. I have two of these in my RV, in the bedroom I use one to keep coats and jackets and in the bathroom I hang wet towels to dry on the other one.
Organizing your RV bathroom
I like to use a shower caddy in my rig and this works well in most RVs. Most of these simply hang on your shower water faucet. You may have to shop around for a size and shape that fits your needs and I also don’t recommend traveling down the road with it in the hanging position. I always take mine down while I drive from place to place, but when you are stationary they are a great way to save space.
Related: Best RV toilets
Another popular way many RVers store their toiletries is to use a mesh shoe organizer. However, you should be mindful of how much weight you add to it when hanging it on an RV shower curtain rod. RV equipment isn’t made as sturdy as fixtures you would have in a traditional home so adding too much weight could be an issue. I would also recommend only using this item when you are stationary as well.
Organizing your general RV living area
When I purchased my 5th wheel, it was used and I bought from a lady that used it at only one location where it stayed year round. She had a very nice glass-topped coffee table in front of the sofa bed (which I also replaced to create more storage and reduce weight) in the living area. There was no way I wanted to travel with a glass table bouncing around my coach so I replaced it with a trunk that now serves as a table and works for storage for some of my art supplies and photographic equipment.
Another item I added to my kitchen was this canned food organizer. Before I purchased this item, I discovered that when I was going from place-to-place the cans I had stacked in the cupboard were unstable and would fall over while in transit. Now they are much more stable and I feel comfortable driving down the road knowing that when I open the door to my trailer I’m not going to find a mess in my kitchen.
Another space saving thing I use in my kitchen are “nesting bowls”. These are great for saving space and if you like to cook as much as I do, they are essential when mixing up a recipe where measurements need to be precise. You can also find some of these nesting and stackable items used for cookware but you should be mindful that while they will you save storage space, they will still have handles that make them an item that needs a bit more space to stow them.
So there you have it, these are just a few of the ways I conserve space and organize my RV, but the rest is really up to you. Be creative and think outside of the box. Remember, home is where you make it, so make the best of it. Safe travels to you, and hopefully I’ll see you out there somewhere.