Over 4 years ago, I moved from a traditional brick-and-mortar home to living full-time in an RV. When Philip I am I got married, we briefly lived in the house until it was sold, and once again moved into the RV. While we live stationary, moving into an RV requires some creative organization to live “small”. These space-saving ideas in an RV can make a huge difference in how RV owners can take a tiny space and create a home that is comfortable.
Stationary Living or Traveling RV Lifestyle
Many of your storage solutions will depend on if you live stationary, meaning your RV is parked most of the time or if you are traveling full time in the RV. Philip and I are stationary, we actually have two RVs and travel back and forth between the two fifth-wheel travel trailers. While many of the storage solutions will work in either scenario, you will need to properly stow and store any items that are not secure before travel.
RV Kitchen Organization
The kitchen is considered the heart of the home! It’s no different in an RV. Often the kitchen makes up a huge part of the living space you find in an RV. Some RVs are fancy and have full-size refrigerators and large RV kitchen cabinets with a lot of storage space. Other small campers have a small countertop with a kitchen sink and a small stack of cabinets to work with. Regardless of which option you have, you will likely have to carefully evaluate every piece of kitchen equipment you choose.
When I first moved into the RV, I proudly placed my kitchen aid in a single cabinet. It takes up most of the cabinet by itself. Philip quickly stated that it would likely need to be put into storage as it took up too much valuable space. I reassured him that the kitchen aid earned an important place even in my RV kitchen and it was staying! While a full-size mixer might not make the cut in your kitchen, you will have to decide what pieces of equipment you can’t live without and what you can let go.
Food Storage in an RV
Food storage is one of the biggest challenges I face in my RV. Since we are stationary, the bulk of our food storage is on a shelving unit that we added to our second bedroom. I refer to this as the butler’s pantry. We have a preparedness mindset which means that we keep a stocked pantry. So while I have a substantial place to put food, I have it stashed in every available place I can!
In my RV, we have quite a bit of cabinets, but they are shallow and have limited space inside. They aren’t deep enough to use for much stuff or anything sizeable. My daughter, Faith Hardy, had the brilliant idea that we should use the narrow cupboards as pantry storage. Technically my RV has a pantry beside the refrigerator, however, that space is more useful for larger kitchen items, rather than acting as a deep pit that is hard to organize. The narrow cabinets are perfect for canned goods, smaller boxes of food, and refillable storage containers like mason jars. Often great RV storage ideas require you think outside the box when it comes to best utilize your space.
Many of my kitchen cabinets have decorative “glass” in the cabinet door. It bothered me to be able to see the cluttered items inside. A good way to “cover-up” that issue was to use foam board cut to fit each cabinet door. I simply taped the foam board to the cabinet door with brown tape. My resolution is twofold, the foam board is thicker than poster board to protect the glass from the items inside should they shift while the RV is in motion, as well as hide the contents.
Storing Small Items in the Kitchen
One of my big challenges, when it came to food storage, was my spice collection. I am an avid cook, so I have a substantial spice collection. That was further expanded when Philip and I combined households. I tried multiple storage solutions before I found one that worked for me.
I started with small storage bins that were attached to the cabinet door with command strips. This worked pretty well and I reserved it for spices that I used regularly. However, it was limited, since each bin only held about half a dozen spices. It also interfered with items inside the cabinetry. There had to be adequate space to close the cabinet door.
My Ultimate Solution
Eventually, I found the ultimate solution that worked best for me. I used another narrow cabinet that was not deep enough for most storage needs. I bought clear, stackable, plastic bins that fit within the shallow space. While I would have liked to group the spices by spice groups, I had to sort them by the size of the bottles. This allowed me to stack the bins safely.
When I first started this system, I found it cumbersome to find exactly what I wanted. I would end up digging through all four bins looking for exactly what I wanted. Eventually, I made a key for every spice in the bins and numbered the four bins. I put the numbers in more than one spot that was visible from different angles so there was flexibility when putting them back. The key was taped to the inside of the cupboard. This system only works, if you, and every cook in the house, commit to putting them back where they belong! After spending enough time searching, my daughter and I committed to taking time to put things back properly!
While you may not dedicate an entire cupboard to spice storage, the bins and key method can be applied to a variety of smaller items you might need to store in your RV.
Storage Bins: Space Saving Ideas in an RV
We are so fortunate to have so many different sizes of storage bins available to us that create easy storage! Additionally, they come in a variety of forms: shelves, bins, baskets, and drawers. Choosing the right storage container makes all the difference when it comes to RV storage space.
In my kitchen cabinets, I use a combination of storage solutions. I use small, stackable plastic drawers that create easy access to small items. One drawer is full of measuring cups, the pastry blender, and scoops that I use for baking.
I have a portable wire shelf that creates additional storage inside the cupboard itself. The wire storage rack doubles the storage area in my already small space. I placed it over the dinner plates. I keep only what I need, service for four because that best uses the space I have. If I invite more guests, I can use disposable dinner plates, which are now widely accepted even for special occasions.
I have baskets in my upper cabinets and also my RV freezer. Baskets are a great organizational tool. To retrieve an item, you pull out the entire basket. Once I am finished, I place it all back at once. the best thing, there is no delicate balance that is disrupted when I remove one item from the shelf.
Organizing Counter Space in the Kitchen
Counter space is usually at a premium in an RV. Neither of our RVs has much and I have learned to work in a very small area to do all things homesteading. Canning, processing meat, and making meals are all done in our RV kitchen! Wire shelving is a great way to double your counter space. I use it to elevate the toaster oven so that I can store things underneath the shelf, like my compost bin.
In any kitchen, a container to store kitchen utensils always frees up drawer space. If you have adequate counter space, this can be a big help to organize your RV kitchen. I put mine right behind the kitchen faucet, it’s easily accessible but uses a space that isn’t useful for much else. Be sure to stow any loose items on the countertops before moving the RV.
Storing Bulky Kitchen Items
If your RV can handle the power loads, larger kitchen items can be challenging to store. Things like the crock pot, rotisserie oven, and waffle maker are all things I like to use regularly. I actually store them in the belly of the RV. Sadly the air fryer is too powerful of an electrical appliance to use in my RV. It blows the breakers every time. If I really want to use it, I have to plug it in outside. Since we are stationary, we do have access to additional storage other than the RV itself so I can still enjoy appliances that are less than RV worthy!
Bathroom Organization Hacks
Bathrooms are another area in an RV that can be a real challenge to not only use but to organize. In our RV we have two bathrooms which are amazing! However, it comes with two black tanks as well! One of our bathrooms is spacious and has a generous bathroom cabinet and linen closet. However, even in that space, adding shelves and using bins make all the difference in organizing the space. If you can’t afford fancy organization baskets, boxes get the job done.
The small RV bathroom is not much larger than a person. It’s the kind of room where your knees are inches from the wall when you sit to do your business and you can’t bend down to retrieve your pants! That bathroom has only enough space for a small corner caddy to organize feminine products and extra rolls of toilet paper.
An over-the-door coat rack is a great way to organize jackets, bathrobes, aprons, belts, or any personal items you want to stow for easy access.
Extra Storage in the Shower
Our RV has a decent shower with a door. I prefer it to an RV shower with a curtain. While we have the typical shelves that are built into the shower wall, they don’t provide much space for a variety of personal care products. When my daughter lived with me, this was more critical than it is now that it’s just Philip and I. Since a traditional shower caddy may be too large for an RV shower, and there is no place to hang it. I solved the issue of an abundance of personal items using a long, narrow plastic bin. To prevent it from holding water, I drilled holes in the bottom that would allow it to drain. Then it is placed in the bottom of the shower where it’s in easy reach. On travel days everything is stowed together in a bin that is safe at the bottom of the shower.
Ultimate RV Organization Hack
My ultimate pro tip is command strips! Command hooks are the star of the show when it comes to organization anywhere in the RV. They make it easy to not only organize your space but also decorate and make it homey.
Command strips come on everything! Hooks for anything, from lightweight to heavy-duty hooks! Small bins that I use in the medicine cabinet to store things like nail clippers, tweezers, and hair accessories. Hooks are designed to hold our razors in the shower. Mini towel racks to hang hand towels. A cell phone holder to charge my cell phone next to my bed. A holder that hangs the broom. Heavy-duty hooks can even hang coats!
Command strips do have their downside. They work well in a temperature-controlled environment. If it is very hot or very cold, inside or outside, the adhesive can fail. Be cautious to hang items that are especially important to you. Most of the time, it’s more annoying that an issue. I reapply with a new command strip. I also like the Velcro command strips, they seem to help with heavier items and décor items to keep things from swinging.
Under the Bed Storage
Under-the-bed storage is an area where you can really be creative when it comes to storage. It’s not all about linens! Think outside the box! I personally use mine for shoe storage! While I have pared down (pun intended) my shoe collection, It’s still a great place to stash shoes you don’t use every day.
Also, my favorite use of under-the-bed storage was a place to store the printer! We don’t have the luxury of a home office, but the printer was stowed underneath the bed securely and was close to outlets to plug in when I needed it. My husband finds it cumbersome stored there, but I think it was the best place we kept it!
Challenges to Space Saving Ideas in an RV
A challenge we face is that we don’t live small, we live in a small place. These are very different concepts. People who choose to live small, have less. More of a minimalist lifestyle. We still have all of our belongings, much of them in storage. Still, I have worked hard to make living in a small place as comfortable as I can. For me, it’s all about order. If things are put away and easily assessable, I can manage, but when things are a mess, I can’t mentally take that chaos.
While I have really worked out the space-saving ideas in the RV that we live in full-time, the RV in Kentucky is another story. Each RV is just a little bit different. They have different layouts and available cabinetry. The RV in Kentucky is much more open and has less built-in storage. While it feels roomy, it’s much harder to organize.
We are also challenged by the fact that in Kentucky, it’s covered storage. Many things that really don’t belong in the RV are there because it’s a dry place to keep them. Once we make the big move, I will have to get serious about how to make that RV work for full-time living! Thankfully I have a treasure trove of space saving ideas in an RV that I can apply!
What are your favorite space saving ideas in an RV, share them in the comments!
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About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.