February 13, 2012

Where Does It All Fit?

While we are relaxing along the Mississippi River today, I thought I would start to address a few questions that we get from time to time about RV living.  One of the most frequent questions is how we can fit everything we need for a nine month trip in such a small space. The simple answer is that we had to pare down what we deemed to be “essentials,” and we had to pack as efficiently as possible.  I spent several months figuring out just how we could accomplish this.

Over a period of weeks last summer, we whittled down the items we absolutely had to carry with us.  When we stopped to think about it, we realized that we only needed a limited amount of clothing.  We had to include items for cold weather, but lightweight down jackets and sweaters could be compressed to take up limited space.  Bulky items were left behind.  We were able to fit in one dressy outfit for both of us, including a cashmere blazer for Tim.

Packing the RV was like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle.  For an organizational nut like myself, this was an exciting challenge.  What type of container would fit in this space?  Would this one work better than that one?  The Container Store and other organizational websites became my best friends.  Finding unconventional and multiple uses for various products just added to the fun.

Tim and I prefer a minimal look, and every container had to be attractive and coordinated.  I knew that everything would have to have its own place so we could easily find what we were looking for. 

Pretty Containers Fit Over the Visors to Hold Phones, Cameras, Etc.
Other Pretty Containers Fit Under the Sofa to Hold Larger Items
Maximizing every inch of space became my mantra.  I discovered that there was much more vertical space than horizontal, so I searched for tall containers.  Tim came up with one of the most ingenious ways to use vertical space for storing our shoes.  Finding a place for shoes so they wouldn’t be in the way, but would be easy to get to was a challenge.  Tim suggested using the space inside one of the ottomans for shoes.  But instead of just throwing the shoes inside, he thought of installing shoe cubbies vertically to efficiently use the space.  I found a shoe cubby at The Container Store that fit perfectly inside the ottoman.  Voila, a space for eight pairs of shoes, four apiece.

A Perfect Place for Shoes
We also found, or made, vertical containers to store food.  I found tall, narrow containers that fit perfectly in our pull-out “pantry.”  Each one holds a box of cereal or a bag of cat food. We even cut down mailing tubes to hold seven cans of cat food.  Small containers meant for craft supplies are screwed together, one on top of the other, and hold small quantities of staples.

Vertical Containers Hold Cereal, Cat Food and Crackers
Packing our clothes was another challenge.  We were able to store our pants in the closet on multi-tier hangers, and there was also room to hang jackets.  Even that wasn’t as simple as it looks since standard hangers are too wide for our closet.  An online search finally uncovered petite-sized hangers that would fit.  Unfortunately, they were ridiculously expensive, but they work, and they are pretty.  Two hanging jewelry organizers became a perfect place for those little items that are usually stashed in junk drawers.

More Things to Hang
Office Supplies Can Be Hung

Since we have only one drawer, I knew we would have to store our shirts, sweaters and other items in the cabinets above the sofa.  Tim and I would each get three cabinets, and that’s what eventually determined how many clothes we could take.  Since everything would need to be stacked (again, think vertical), I wanted an easy way to reach items on the bottom without disturbing what was on top.  I found flexible plastic boxes with attached lids that were intended to hold scrapbooking supplies.  These boxes stack securely and now hold sweaters, pajamas, socks and underwear.  

My Three Cabinets Have Room to Spare
Clear Boxes Can Be Stacked
My favorite find has been a Fold ‘n’ Stax system to store shirts. Maybe it’s a bit extreme, but we can fold our shirts, place each one on a divider and stack about ten shirts. The stack of shirts fits inside a Slide ‘n’ Stax storage cube, which keeps the stack from tipping over. The best feature is that the item on the bottom can be removed without messing up the ones above it. The system works exactly as advertised, and I absolutely love it. For me, it’s been no big deal to maintain it. I’m not sure Tim is as enamored of the system as I am, but he’s been a good sport.

Shirts Are Stacked Neatly on the Right Side of the Cabinet
From time to time, I’ll post some of the other solutions we’ve come up with to make our lives easier and our space more efficient.


  1. Amazing! Good job Sarah. You need to come back here and organize my house. Are Tim's cabinets as neat as yours? ha ha LV

    1. LV, Thanks. I try to control myself and let Tim keep his cabinets anyway he wants to. They're his afterall. That said, however, his cabinets are very neat, and he can always find what he is looking for. Sarah

  2. I am sure Tim,s cabinets are not as good as Sarah's