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RV Storage Smarts

Living in the small space of an RV doesn’t have to be frustrating. Although storage compartments and space vary from one type of unit to the next, certain space-maximizing truths are universal. With our tips, a little creative thinking, and a few inexpensive organizing tools, you can develop RV storage smarts that will enhance your whole RV experience.

Exterior Storage Strategies

Use exterior storage compartments on the curb side of your RV for items you need to access frequently or want at the ready upon arriving at a campground. Consolidate like items as much as possible. For instance, use a single compartment for your grill and its accessories, charcoal or gas containers, and outdoor chairs and tables. On the street side of your unit, reserve spaces for your sewer hose and attachments, your water hose, electrical hose, cable TV connections and wiring, and any supplies or sundries that you access infrequently such as extra toilet paper, paper towels, bottled water, etc.

It’s All About Containment

Lidded, stackable, plastic containers and bins not only help you organize, but also keep your stuff from being jostled into chaotic piles during the drive. They’re durable, come in a variety of sizes, and are translucent enough for you to see–more or less–what’s inside them. They’re also affordable and readily available at places like the Container Store; Bed, Bath & Beyond; Target; Kmart; and Walmart. Again, group all items associated with a given function or use in their own appropriately labeled container.

Larger containers are great for extra linens and blankets stored under a bed or in exterior compartments. Smaller containers are great for keeping kitchen cabinets, drawers, and under-the-counter storage spaces tidy. Use them for utensils and gadgets as well as for spices, baking goods, coffee, and tea–the list of possibilities is endless.

Small and medium-sized plastic containers work well in closets for socks, underwear, belts, and neatly folded off-season clothing. Speaking of closets, the stores listed above are also great places to find items that maximize space, such as hanging organizers for shoes and sweaters; thin, lightweight (i.e., not wood) hangers, including some that accommodate multiple items; shelf and drawer dividers; and removable hooks. And try to think outside the box–sometimes closet storage items work well in a bathroom or kitchen space, and vice versa. A little time spent wandering the houseware aisles might just lead to a lifetime’s worth of organizing ideas.

You might also want to bring a couple empty plastic containers to hold dirty clothes or linens. It’s also good to have a plastic bin for firewood at the campground. Just empty it when you leave. Owing to problems with insects, some states will confiscate any wood you’re caught traveling with to prevent infestations in their pristine camping areas or state or national parks.

There’s “Volume” and Then There’s Weight…

Remember those cereal box disclaimers: “Package sold by weight, not by volume”? Well, just because you can pack storage compartments efficiently doesn’t mean that you should fill them up without thinking about weight. An overweight RV can lead to premature tire failure and other problems and safety issues. Know your unit’s weight ratings–including how much it can handle when loaded with passengers, personal items, gear, and fluids–and weigh it frequently to ensure you haven’t exceeded its limits.

Here’s a tip: when traveling to a campground or RV resort, save weight for your stuff by not filling your freshwater tank to capacity and by traveling with empty, or nearly empty, black and gray holding tanks. You should also empty your holding tanks at the camp site or a dump station prior to setting out on the road.

Clean Out, Reorganize, Repeat

From time to time, take stock of your possessions, unloading what you don’t use or really need and reorganizing what’s left. The easiest first step is tossing canned goods and toiletries that are past their expiration dates. Next, go digital as much as possible with books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, paperwork, and photos. You could even replace your computer with a tablet, and take a portable hard drive along that contains your electronic wonderland of knowledge and entertainment. From there, move on to things that are worn out or broken beyond repair. You might tell yourself it will come in handy someday, but, trust us: it won’t.

Finally, eliminate duplicates large and small. What you’ve accumulated might just amaze you. Yes, that souvenir bottle opener (or souvenir whatever) is great, but do you need it and the store-bought one? Eight sets of frayed towels for two people? Why not four nice new sets? And those half-dozen number-3 Phillips-head screwdrivers and two-dozen T-shirts are probably overkill. Getting rid of a little bit here and there adds up to big space (and weight) savings and a more organized and enjoyable RV lifestyle.