Avoiding 4 Common Pitfalls in Setting Up Your RV

Today we will explore four pitfalls that trip up many new RV owners when setting up their units.  They are:

  • Over packing
  • Buying storage bins (etc.) before knowing where they will be used or if you even need them
  • Not putting things near where you use them
  • Unrealistic expectations


Pitfall #1: Over packing

Over packing is something almost every RVer has to go through before they learn what’s important.  In our case, even though I’m an organizer and knew that packing light was the best option, I still think we’ve only used about 50 percent of the things we brought.

Now, I will say, we have used everything that we bought for the RV.  But there were some clothes and personal items that I haven’t used but just couldn’t bear to leave behind.  And there were a few things that I know we would only use several times a year but still wanted to have on hand…like our sleeping bags and fishing gear.

My advice in this area is to only bring the things you love or that you know you will use. 

Before I left I printed out several lists of things that were supposed “must-haves” and then I adapted it for what I thought we needed.

A caveat would be to not be afraid to bring a few impractical things along.  I fell in love with some stemless wine glasses that had owls on them (owls are my spirit animal for the year) and so brought two of them because they are cute and make me happy.  Are they practical?  Since they are made of glass, not really but they don’t take up that much room and are worth it to me.

However, if you do over pack you must be willing to purge when you find something isn’t being used.  In the first four months of our adventure, I’ve made three Goodwill stops and unloaded a lot each time.

Want to know what we’ve added since we left? We have made several smart purchases including a mattress topper to make our very firm, short queen bed more comfortable and an Oxygenics showerhead that has totally lived up to the hype.  Recently, I added collapsible bowls to my stock of kitchen items and I love those as well.

Overpacking will make you feel sick! LOL

Pitfall #2: Buying Storage Bins Before You Know What You Need or Where You will Use Them

One of the first rules of organizing is that you don’t buy organizing products until you sort and purge and know how much is left.

It’s tempting to shop first (especially when storage options are so gosh dang adorable!) but in the confines of an RV you need to make sure every space is being used in the best possible way. 

This can take some trial and error and several tries to get everything located where you want it. I’ve moved things around several times before finding the perfect spot or the perfect container.

While I firmly believe that done is better than perfect, sometimes you get lucky and get both!

This is my “office” with the things I use every day. Notice different categories have different sized bins.

Pitfall #3: Not Putting Things Near Where You Use Them

This was a common problem when helping people organize their homes.  They didn’t use their prime real estate effectively.  This is true in any room, but I saw it most often in kitchens.  People would put their Christmas dishes in the cupboard above the dishwasher, while dishes they used every day were halfway across the kitchen.

In an RV you must make sure to have the things you use the most somewhere that’s easily accessible and near where you use it. 

So, if you grill, your matches need to be outside in your outdoor kitchen, if you have one.  Your atlas needs to be somewhere that can be reached while driving, etc.  It’s just common sense, but not always easy to find the right spot for the right item.

The most difficult area for me to organize was the cabinet above my sink.  It had to hold plates, bowls, glasses, and our toaster, as we use our toaster every day but I didn’t want it cluttering up our counter.  Some RVs have decent counter space, but ours is NOT one of them.

Storage in “prime” space right above our sink.


Note the lack of counter space in our kitchen. This makes me very 🙁

Pitfall #4: Unrealistic Expectations

While the other tips concentrate on the physical aspects of setting up your RV, this one is more mental.

It probably isn’t politically correct but Brent and I find on travel days we each have the same jobs each time.  I’ve never touched a sewer hose and he has never cleaned the toilet. 

I don’t typically grill, and he doesn’t usually wash dishes.  I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for us because we know what to expect.  We pull in somewhere and I put the slide out and he gets the water, sewer, electric and cable going.  I put everything on the counters and put out family pictures (if we are going to stay somewhere for more than a few nights) and he gets the t.v. going.

When it’s time to leave, I go into cleaning mode. I sweep and mop the floors, clean the bathroom, do any dishes and put everything away so nothing is sliding around or falling out of cupboards while we drive.*  Brent drains the black and gray water, unhooks everything, packs the basement and makes sure we haven’t left anything outside.  In the four months that we have been on the road, the only thing we’ve lost is a wooden spoon, which is pretty amazing.  I keep waiting for us to drive off and leave something important behind, but so far so good.

Does he look guilty to you, or just troubled?

*We had a near miss once when the door to our pantry opened on its own, a can of tomato paste lept out and somehow made it from the middle of our RV to under Brent’s foot as he was driving.  The can of tomato paste is now undergoing counseling as it obviously had a death wish…or maybe it was just trying to kill us? 😊