RV Organization: Our Old Problems and Some New Principles

About two weeks ago, I shared a post about my frustration with getting (and keeping) our RV organized. After two years of good intentions, I decided to get serious and call in an expert.

Yvonne Moss showed up with her measuring tape and smart phone, inspecting every inch of the camper, and firing questions at me about our family habits and trouble spots.

This is going to be an ongoing project for us, and I will only share a ‘tip’ or ‘idea’ if we actually tested it and it kept us more organized on the road. As a family of five, with three boys five and under, it is not enough to start a trip with everything looking neat and tidy. Our habits and routines have to be easy and practical in order for things not to be chaotic by the end of the day.

The Problems…

So what were the greatest problem areas (or “Hot Spots”) in our camper?

1. Big, undefined spaces. We actually have plenty of space in our RV for our two-week long road trips. The problem is large spaces that get cluttered and messy by day two or three of a trip. I needed a way to make good use of large and deep wardrobes and kitchen cabinets.

2. Laundry. It’s a problem in our home and it is a problem on the road. I always felt like there were dirty clothes everywhere: on the bathroom floor, on the floor of the bunkhouse, shoved under the dinette. You get the picture.

3. Transitional Items. You know the damp swimsuit that might be worn later that day? Or the hooded sweatshirts and jackets that get tossed over the couch when everyone walks into the camper? There is a word for those items that aren’t clean or dirty, and seem to be in constant use. Yvonne taught me this word: Transitional.

The Principles…

In the time that she spent tearing through our RV, there were five principles that Yvonne kept emphasizing that ended up having a dramatic impact on our organization over the course of our last trip. Sometimes it is not about finding the right cubby or rack, but how you think about a space that helps you stay more organized.

1. Think vertically. There were so many things that I had laying down (like cutting boards, potholders, and scrub brushes) that suddenly took up a lot less space when I stood them up vertically. They were also easier to find and access that way. As we travelled I started to apply this principle to many things and it opened up so much space. A bag of straws in a drawer? No way! Stand them up in a cup. Etc., etc.

2. Mind your stacks. When Yvonne first said this, I laughed out loud. But it might have been the best advice I received. Know how things fit together, learn that order, and make a habit out of stacking them the same way every time. With a little attention, all of my bowls, pots, and colanders actually fit in one perfect stack. As long as I ‘minded’ it, my cabinets stayed neat and tidy.

3. Co-mingle the real, the paper, and the plastic. I had my paper bowls and plates separate from my enamel ones. I also had my plastic utensils separate from my metal ones. Yvonne pointed out that there was no reason for all of these stacks. When the real plates, paper plates, real bowls, and paper bowls were all nested together, my dish cabinet was the picture of organization and I could easily reach for whatever I wanted. I applied the same principle to my silverware drawer and it worked like a charm through a 16-day trip.

4. Place everything in a movable container. This was an absolute game changer. Part of the reason the bathroom cabinet got so messy was that bottles and containers got knocked over when we were reaching for something towards the back. When I placed all toiletries into smaller boxes, it was easy to lift it out of the cabinet and then put it back without everything ending up in a heap. The best tip? Yvonne encouraged me to cut down boxes I already had instead of purchasing something. Loved it. Did it.

5. Manage your transitions. I had a great space for the dirty laundry under the dinette. The problem was it was hard to get to. Yvonne suggested a small pop-up laundry bag that someone would empty into the bin at the end of each day. Simple chore, easy to remember. Perfect solution. We also ended up with a small clothesline in the tub and lots and lots of hooks for those jackets and sweatshirts.

Next week, I’ll start sharing the before and after photos with the specific fixes for our problem areas. Some very easy changes we made were ‘transformative’, according to Jeremy. I totally agree. However, the most transformative thing for me was the way I thought about our habits and started looking for practical solutions. I hope these principles help you think about your small space in a new way.

Keep sending me your tips, tricks and principles for staying organized on the road. I would love to compile them for one of the posts in this series!

Yvonne blogs about keeping things neat, tidy, and delicious at yvonnemoss.blogspot.com

4 Comments

  1. Bill & Claudia

    Your “vertical” idea about the straws caused me to suggest that you get a piece of 2″ PVC pipe, and a cap for the bottom, and drill a hole through it, so you can screw it to a wall….you could then put enough straws for a trip in this holder, and store the extras away, until they are needed.

    Something that wasn’t addressed, is how so many things go “flying” when the RV is on the road. Keeping things safe and sound during the trip, is probably even more important than once you get to the destination. Of course, this is probably more important in a Motorhome, as you actually see the things flying around, where you are a bit oblivious to what is happening in the trailer…LOL!!

    Reply
    • livelylittlecampers

      Good points! Jeremy is nuts about battening down the hatches, and I am not allowed to make any ‘permanent’ changes like drilling holes because he worries about resale value. He has his eye on the prize…Class C. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Nikki in Reno

    We travel in a Jayco 154BH. That’s a teeny, tiny space for our family of 3. It is shocking just how quickly it looks like a cyclone went through it. I was desperately craving some organization tips when I initially found the podcast (on our way home from our Memorial Day weekend camping trip). Almost immediately I ordered packing cubes and stocked up on 3M removable hooks. I took the packing cubes on a family trip recently, and then on our camping trip this weekend, and they are a miracle. My 3 year old loved packing her blanket, pillow, and special stuffed animals in the large one, and her clothing all fit well in the medium one, with some toiletry items in the small one. I ALWAYS overpack, and this weekend was no exception. But, with the cubes it didn’t matter. Everything stayed tidy.

    We are working on identifying some other modifications we can make that won’t make re-sale difficult. Although… small units seem to sell quickly no matter condition. We are cutting cork squares down and mounting it into some of the recessed cabinet panels to allow us to hang keys, campground schedules, etc. I’m adding a hook inside my daughter’s bunk for her to hang her PJs on. We’ve added hooks in the shower for wet towels, bathing suits, etc. We now have a shoe bin outside the door tucked under the camper.

    We are beginning to think about what our next RV might look like. Maybe a little larger, but not much, since we’re in the west and plan much more state/national park travel. Definitely larger tanks for being off grid a little longer. But, whatever we arrive at, I’m confident that the organization skills and systems we are putting into place now will be invaluable as we move forward. Thanks for sharing the tips. Between this and the spring stock-up, I’m hoping I will be able to keep the mess to a minimum and never forget the toothpaste again.

    Reply
    • RVFamilyTravelAtlas

      So glad the packing cubes worked for you also, Nikki. We really feel they were transformational! Keep us posted on any of your other modifications. It’s hard enough keeping a house neat with kids, much less a RV. We strung clothesline across our shower for bathing suits and it has works well.

      Reply

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