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Van life organising – minimise stuff and maximise joy

Van life organising - setting up a caravan

Van life organising – or sorting out a caravan, campervan, mobile home or RV – follows similar principals to arranging a home. However space is particularly limited, so a minimalist mindset is crucial.

As well as being a professional organiser, I have spent long stretches of time enjoying van life – including an entire year with small children. Here are my tips.

Van life organising – things to let go of

Just-in-case and aspirational clutter. Leave behind the things that future you may want to try / be / fit into. Van life organising means embracing living in the present.

Unitaskers (items that only do one thing). When space is precious, everything you take should have more than one use. Get rid of cherry pitters and waffle makers. A good knife kit and pan set can do it all. Exceptions can be made if you have a unitasker you can’t live without. (Coffee drinkers unite!)

Excess ingredients. Simple cooking means leaving the multi-page recipes at home. If you want something fancy, eat out occasionally or buy single-use quantities of niche ingredients. 

Bulk buys. Extra toilet paper is always handy, but boxes of on-sale soft drink are hard to store and weigh down your load.

Memorabilia. Try to keep it mostly digital.

Hobby clutter. Van life organising is difficult if you want to do every craft and play every sport while on the road. Prioritise, and aim for minimalist hobbies. 

Books. Use the community libraries that are often at caravan parks, and/or get an E-reader.

Shopping and accumulating. Stay away from the Aldi Special Buys. Purchase only what you need, when you need it and be prepared to donate unnecessary items as you go. Op shops are everywhere, and caravan park laundries and foyers can be great donation spaces if management is open to it.

Van life organising – additional things to consider

Driving with a heavy load means spending more on fuel. You will literally be paying for your clutter every time you go to the bowser. So that bulk soft drink wasn’t so cheap after all. Heavy loads are also a huge safety and legal issue. Travel light.

For comfort and safety, your van should be fairly equally loaded so that it’s not leaning or sagging in a particular direction.

Your home is mobile, so belongings move around when you travel. That means benchtop clutter is impractical, and everything should have a place. Also, smaller tubs inside cupboards can be particularly helpful to stop breakages and prevent your categories from intermingling. For example, a biscuit tin for sewing, a basket for your Tupperware containers, some drawer organisers in your kitchen setup. This also enables you to access the full depth of cupboards. 

Utilise vertical space. Think about command hooks, magnetic strips (great for spices) and hanging shoe racks. Too much stuff on the walls can make me feel a little cluttered, and can get precarious if you’re travelling a lot – but having frequent-use items in easy reach makes sense.

Consider using space-saving camping products like collapsible containers and nested cooking pots with removable handles. Again, I don’t advocate getting carried away. Having to concertina out everything you use can become annoying, but works for some items.

Roll-folding your garments Marie-Kondo style can maximise space while keeping wrinkles out. On a side note, you can forget ironing in van life organising. If you must – your kitchen bench with a beach towel on it can suffice as an ironing board. 

There is usually hard-to-access storage in weird places like under couches and beds. Keep that for rarely-used items and use labels so you remember what’s in there and don’t repurchase unnecessarily. 

Van life organising – further reading

My How to Organise Small Spaces has more ideas on tiny living.

This caravan-specific organising post by Howards Storage World suggests particular products.

My YouTube clip on van life organising showcases me taming a chaotic caravan.

Happy vanning, and see you on the road! 

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