Does the idea of moving into a 440 square foot, mobile apartment terrify or excite you? If you’re somewhere in between, you’re in like-minded company. Three years ago, I looked around our 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home and couldn’t imagine how I would make it all fit into our newly purchased RV. I needed a Mary Poppins bag, a magical packing spell, and a wizard to make it happen. Instead, I started packing as if I was stocking a vacation home and everything else went into storage. Initially, I had envisioned needing so many more household items than were really necessary. Clothing was also a huge struggle, having to consolidate into a quarter size of our old home. The first time I tried to put away all my clothes, I laid out everything on the RV bed and felt overwhelmed by the task. Becoming a nudist was not an option and neither was fashioning a nest out of my own clothing. Slowly, I was able to determine what items were essential and what were for storage and donation. There may have been some drinking involved in the process.
I was just coming off of another active duty tour with the Army so we were in a position to travel wherever Bee’s linework might take us. As a pale girl from the Pacific Northwest, I was hoping for sunshine. Instead, we moved to Portland Oregon during their 20-year record high for rain and snow. I believe Bee and I are unknowing super villains, whose combined power is creating miserable weather. Snow in southern California? That was our handywork. If only we could figure out how to use our powers for good.
Parks Parks Parks!
Finding a good RV park is like finding a good parking spot. Sketchy neighborhoods are a bad place to park, fancy neighborhoods will usually cost extra, and sometimes all the spots are taken and you have to wait for an opening. Depending on the length of the job, we may move every few months. Currently, I am enjoying the nicely appointed Bakersfield RV Resort. This beauty of an RV park has some extra amenities, to include a gym, pool, restaurant, bar, gift shop, and the best staff I have experienced at a park. Things I look for in an RV park:
- Dog friendly (Sophie is family)
- Paved roads and/or trailer spaces (dirt roads with high traffic is a nightmare for cleaning)
- Fenced and gated (random people passing through have tried to pry open storage bins and vehicles)
- Updated 50-amp power (old and faulty wiring can fry your breakers and leave your trailer unlivable)
- Ample space between trailers (our trailer slide-outs should not be close to touching our neighbor’s)
- Timely trash removal (overflowing dumpsters attract critters and flies)
- Friendly and available staff (sometimes a live-in park host will help in off hours, but I shouldn’t have to disturb the ancient guy that lives by the showers just to get a rent receipt during normal hours)
High Class Line Trash
Time for the grand tour of our 38ft, 5 slide-out, Cardinal 5th Wheel by Forest River. In this floorplan, we removed the dining table and chairs to place a wardrobe, shoe rack, and entry bench. Against everything the health experts say, we use TV trays in the living room for meals. Shocking! They fold up and take up minimal space, but one downside is having to have a decent throwing arm when “passing” the salt. Go long, Cotton! The storage gained was worth the loss of the table. We needed space for coats, linens, pans, and an expansive liquor collection. If you have ever built Ikea furniture before, try building it inside a 6ft by 8ft area. Swearing and miscommunication while lifting heavy objects together is another of our talents as a couple. We should have an R-rated show on HGTV.
I also want to say that in my original trailer photos, the plan was to have everything perfectly organized. However, I won’t lie to you guys and pretend that clutter isn’t a constant battle in this space. Therefore, you are seeing our real life with dishes in the sink and laundry in the hamper.
The livingroom is up in the gooseneck of the trailer where most other designers place the bedroom and bathroom. We preferred this flipped design with the full-profile roofline to accommodate Bee’s height. A full-profile roofline means that there is no major slant to the trailer roof on either end. Although crowded, we use storage ottomans to keep extra DVDs and books. When moving to a new location, there may not be internet for a few days, and we take turns picking from our DVD collection for entertainment. You may notice the two sets of brown steps leading to the couches. These are for Sophie since she has had two back surgeries in her life. They also double as a comfortable leg rest while I type.
One corner of my couch is my home office, with adjustable lap desk and charging station. I use a felt basket with throw pillows to hide items I use often, but don’t want left out on the table such as a tablet, game controller, and inspiration boards. I also store my BodyBoss Portable Gym under the basket. It uses resistance bands, so I don’t need free weights and it sets up easily in the kitchen or livingroom. We put down a 6ft by 10ft rug to save the wear on the existing carpet. The rug makes it easy to change out once a year when too much life gets ground into the floor. Most of all, I do wish we had a spot to sit together that faced the TV. His and hers couches are the anti-snuggle setup, unless you are Sophie, who can snuggle anywhere she can fit a paw.
The kitchen came with the option for either an oven or a dishwasher. I opted for the dishwasher and learned to rock the convection oven, with assistance from the instapot and crockpot. Although the oven is tiny, the refrigerator is a full-sized residential style. When I came home from deployment, it held mostly beer and pizza. Now, we fit some salad in next to the beer. The fridge holds a whiteboard for grocery lists and notes to each other. My favorite note from Bee so far is, “Dump the black tank. Merry Christmas, shitter’s full!” You can’t live in an RV and not quote National Lampoon’s on occasion.
I also use the meal delivery service, Hello Fresh, for three dinners a week. This cuts down on the amount of ingredients I have to keep on hand and has helped me learn that I can actually cook when I read the instructions. Who knew? Bee has his espresso machine to get that 5-shot caffeine lightning bolt before work. I keep my Scentsy oil diffuser by the sink in the kitchen since it is handy and I can fire it up to mask the smell of burning dinner as needed. I may let a few dishes get too warm since it’s a gas stove. For the food items I do keep in the RV, there is a pantry, top of the wardrobe, and top of the fridge. I considered putting everything into organized boxes but being able to see everything at a glance is more important than aesthetics. Speaking of unsightly, I use Command Hooks everywhere. They hold up hats, hoodies, hanging organizer, and family photos. This utilitarian decorating theme continues throughout the house.
By RV standards, we have a fairly large bathroom. This is accomplished by eliminating the bypass hallway and pushing the bathroom out the full width of the trailer. However, you must pass through the bathroom to reach the bedroom. You must pass through the bathroom to reach everywhere else. If someone needs to use the bathroom, you must decide on which side you wish to be trapped. Also, the foot of the bed is about 3ft away from the toilet. The room was only divided by frosted glass. This setup is not for squeamish newlyweds. For some added privacy and light blocking, we glued a mirror to the bedroom side of the glass. Now you can still talk to your partner as they sit on the toilet, without having to also see their outline sitting on the toilet.
You may notice that the linen closet is inhabited by a washer and dryer. The installation of these lovely, clothes cleaning bots was worth another episode of our R-rated HGTV show and the loss of towel storage in the bathroom. If you forget a fresh towel, you have to streak through to the kitchen wardrobe. It really adds to the whole experience and helps enforce the importance of the distance from the neighbors. I highly recommend a shower squeegee for post-shower water wrangling. Speaking from experience, these RV showers don’t hold up well with strong, bleach cleaners. I also try to use wire or clear dividers for everything in the bathroom, so I’m not attacked by a hygiene product avalanche after moving to a new location. Objects may shift during flight.
In the bedroom, there is enough room for a king-sized bed, a closet, and a small walkway between the two. Changing the sheets is akin to wrestling a hippo into a prom dress. Rolling out of bed will only get you wedged against the wall. Sophie has a heated bed on the floor since she is a terrible bed hog and she prefers to sleep on a heat source. Inside the closet, we built a six-cube divider to create extra storage for folded items. We would literally have to disassemble it to remove it from the closet, so it there forever now. To help block out light and heat from the two large windows, Bee lined both with reflective insulation. I’m sleeping in a baked potato and it is cozy. Please pass the salt! Underhand, if you don’t mind.
Feel free to ask anything you might want to know about fulltime RV living. Safe travels, my friends!