Downsizing From a 1300 Square-Foot House to a 175 Square-Foot RV

Updated on October 5, 2019
sol-perspectives profile image

We quit the traditional lifestyle to roam the US in our travel trailer, the Intech Sol. We want to share our real experiences with you.

Downsizing isn't easy. You have many years of memories captured in the things you've acquired over the years. But when you have to downsize into a smaller space, it forces you to decide if your possessions positively adds to your living space or just clutters it up

Round 1: Decide What to Keep, Donate, Discard

When we decided to live in an RV full time, we knew we couldn't take everything with us. Even if we could afford the multi-million dollar price tag of a mobile home from Anderson Mobile Estates, it would still only be 1000 square feet.

We had a house with an area of 1300 square feet that stored the things we've accumulated over the years. The RV only has 175 square feet of living space, with limited storage options. For example, instead of a walk-in closet, the RV has overhead storage cabinets for clothes. This left us with the tough decision of choosing which items to bring with us, donate to charity or friends, or just plain throw away or recycle.

We knew there are a few essential items that had to go in the RV. These would go in the "keep" pile.

  1. Clothes
  2. Shoes and socks
  3. Towels
  4. Cooking and eating utensils
  5. Hygiene products
  6. Bedding and pillows
  7. Cleaning supplies
  8. Electrical cables and adapters
  9. Drinking water
  10. Food

As we were sorting through our belongings, we started to notice that we had multiple items of the same thing. For example, we had 4 soup ladles. They were all different sizes, colors, and made of different materials. We definitely could donate our extra soup ladles - no one needs that many anyways!

So it was an easy task to find duplicates, decide if we needed it for the RV, decide which one was our favorite to keep, then put the extras in the "donate" pile. Another helpful tip we used, was that if we had not used the item in over a year or two, it went to the "donate" pile. If the quality of the item made it useless for anyone to use, we put it in the "discard" pile. For example, anything made of flimsy plastic would go in the recycling or trash bin.

Round 2: Redo Your Keep Pile

When sorting through our things, it was a hard choice to make when memories or emotions got involved, especially if it was a gift from a loved one. This made our "keep" pile quickly grow larger than the other piles. We needed an intervention!

We made a rule - if we hadn't used or displayed a sentimental item within the last year or two, it had to leave the "keep" pile. If we still loved the item enough but there was nowhere to store or display the item in the RV, we placed it in the "donate" pile for someone else to enjoy. Because some items we really, really couldn't depart with, we made a new pile called "storage." The "storage" pile wouldn't go in the RV but at least we could store it at a friend/family's place or storage unit. We kept the "keep" and "storage" piles small so that they would force us to decide if we really needed to keep something.

Round 3: Redo Your Keep Pile Again

Yes...we had successfully made the hard choices of sorting our things into piles. We were feeling proud of ourselves and really thought this full time RV living wouldn't be so bad with all the things in the "keep" pile. After all, the "keep" pile was only a fraction of what we actually have in the house.

Then we took our things to the RV and our "keep" pile came crashing down. There was not enough room to store all our stuff! We reluctantly accepted that we had to go through the sorting emotional roller coaster again.

Why Downsizing Is Hard To Do

While you are in the middle of downsizing, you will quickly realize that you previously had the luxury to acquire things without having to account for space. Until you brought something home and physically couldn't find a space for it, the only question you asked yourself at the time would be "could I use this?". Usually, the answer would be an easy "yes" because you already are interested in buying it. That's how you mindlessly acquire things and continuously store them in your home. You may or may not use the item afterwards, but you already got your adrenaline hit when you bought it so it doesn't really matter. With this mentality, downsizing is a chore because you haven't had the need to think deeply about why you bought this item in the first place. You bought it because it looked nice or did something better, and most importantly - because you could.

Downsizing is easier when you have less stuff. In order to have less stuff, you need to ask yourself instead, "does this do something I can't already do with the things I already have?" This type of thought process forces you to have an idea of what you already possess before you add more to your possessions.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • sol-perspectives profile imageAUTHOR

      Sol Perspectives 

      10 months ago

      That's great to hear. It's always hard to start something, but you'll feel accomplished once you start to see some progress.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      10 months ago from UK

      I could do with putting your tips into practice with my cluttered loftspace. Thanks for sharing what you have learned.


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