Maximizing RV Storage

As A Traveling Family Of Six
Bibi BARRINGER's child playing in front of their fireplace in their RV

Regardless if you are traveling long-term or not, maximizing storage inside your RV can be tricky. There are odd corners, small shelves and compact drawers that need to be utilized. And if you’re like us and travel with young kids, you’ll need to find a place for all those small toys, shoes and snacks.

Our family of six—including four kids under the age of ten—has been traveling in our KZ Durango Gold fifth wheel for almost five years, so I’ve picked up a few storage hacks along the way. In this article, I’ll walk you through the systems that I use to help decide what to keep, what to downsize and recommendations for where things should go. My goal is to help you find storage solutions that’ll work for you and your family so you can have the best family RV trip.

Here are my best tips for maximizing storage in your RV.

  1. Baskets Are Your Best Friend

    Whether I’m trying to keep all my kids’ socks together or prevent cooking oils and salad dressing from rolling around while we move, baskets are key. You can find a variety of different basket sizes at thrift stores and discount shops, many of which cost less than a dollar. I’ve found that round baskets are great for floor storage, and square baskets work better when trying to maximize shelf or cabinet space. There are two cabinets inside our RV that are particularly small and narrow—one is above the microwave and the other is above the electric fireplace. I found a few square-shaped baskets that aren’t very deep, and they fit perfectly in these cabinets. They’re great for storing things like remotes, cords, chargers, tea bags, and snacks.

    Bibi BARRINGER's baskets for storage in her RV

    Another great spot for a basket is right by the front door. I found a deep basket that is perfect for the kids to drop their shoes. I only keep a select few pairs of seasonal shoes by the front door, while the rest of the shoes are stored in our bedroom closet. This not only helps avoid clutter but it also reduces the amount of dirt that gets inside the RV.

  2. Go Up: Focus On Vertical Space

    Don’t be afraid to use your empty walls and doors for storage. Maximize these spaces with hooks and vertical storage hangers. For example, on the inside of our closest door I’ve hung an over the door shoe organizer, which is perfect for holding both adult and kid shoes. I’ve also added two accordion-style hooks—one in the kitchen for our coffee mugs and another by the front door for the kids’ helmets and hiking gear.

    In addition to hiking, our family also loves music. Despite the limited amount of space we have in the RV, we still love having our instruments with us. We have several small string instruments that are light enough to be hung across empty walls. This helps keep them safe and off the floor, and they also double as decorations!

    Bibi BARRINGER showing vertical storage in her RV

  3. Don’t Forget To Stuff It

    When living in a smaller space, having multipurpose items is a must. One idea is to fill any decorative or throw pillows with extra clothing. You can buy pillow covers that are slightly bigger than the interior pillow, and then fill the extra space with your kids’ sweaters and jackets. We also have a pouf ottoman in our main living space and, instead of bean pellets, we’ve stuffed ours with extra blankets.

    I also like to use reusable grocery bags to store some of our fruits and nonperishables. This way, the kids can easily see what’s inside and grab a snack on the run. I can also use these same bags when we go to the grocery store or farmer’s market.

    Whenever I’m picking multipurpose pillow covers or bags, I try to keep the colors neutral and more natural. I’ve found that this helps the interior feel more calming, and these types of colors are visually less cluttered and overstimulating.

    Bibi BARRINGER's baskets for multiple items in her RV

  4. Bonus Tip: Be Selective

    Now that you have some ideas for storage, let’s talk about the system I use to declutter. As I go through our day-to-day, I habitually keep track of the items that we regularly use. If I find we use something daily or even weekly, then they stay in the RV. But if there are items that aren’t being used nearly as often, or not at all, then I get rid of them right away.

    This mentality is especially important with kids. For example, kids like to go through toys—they have their favorite and most cherished toys, and then there are some that they play with for a week and never touch again. Over the years, I’ve noticed that my kids tend to gravitate towards toys that allow them to use their imaginations. A toy car that makes noise can be exciting for a few days but something like a big silk scarf can be transformed many times into a superhero cape, a fort or butterfly wings. Multipurpose and open ended toys have staying power—they can keep your kids entertained for months. LEGO sets are another imaginative toy option (and they’re small, so they won’t take up a ton of space). We use LEGO sets for both play and for math manipulatives during homeschool.

    Bibi BARRINGER's kids room inside her RV

    It’s important to be selective with your own stuff as well. Any recreational equipment or hobby items that we have in our RV must be current, active hobbies that we partake in regularly. And the same goes for our clothing and gear. Each member of our family only has one pair of each type of shoe—one boot, one sandal, one sneaker, etc. We also have multipurpose hiking sandals, which are great for hiking, the beach, showers, or running errands.

It can be hard to prioritize, declutter and downsize in an RV, especially when you have a big family or little kids. But hopefully these tips will help and allow you to find some fun ways to maximize the space in your home on wheels.

Fifth Wheel RVs

Popular among long-term RVers, fifth wheels are designed for easier, more stable towing. Living space is maximized with additional over-cab space. This camping trailer—affectionately nicknamed a "fiver"—is a favorite of many, especially those taking extended trips or traveling long-term in their RV. The prominent overhang resting above the tow truck bed is frequently employed as a bedroom suite, a living room, even a kitchen.

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