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Staying Organized On The Road

As Published In Airstream Live Riveted
Staying Organized On The Road

As soon as the Airstream is packed up, we’re ready to hit the road! However, being in a small space, it’s easy for our things to take over the entire RV and get in the way of our adventures. We consulted full-time Airstreamer and organizer, Ramona Creel, to gain her wisdom and insight on the best tips and tricks to staying clutter-free while you travel!

What is the biggest RV organizing problem you see?

Surprisingly, it’s not “a lack of space” — even though that’s what most folks complain about. It doesn’t matter that the storage in an RV is a fraction of what you’d find in a house or apartment. (Our adorable little 29-foot Excella measures just under 200 square feet.) Airstreams actually have a plethora of places to stick things — everywhere you turn, you find a drawer, cabinet or storage place inside a piece of furniture.

No, the bigger issue is that there is missed opportunity in maximizing available space. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to help organize someone’s rig because they “don’t have enough room for everything” — and what I find is that maybe 10% of their storage is actually being used. I’m talking overhead cabinets and big deep pull-out drawers and outside compartments where two-thirds of the available space is wasted! Majority of the time, the culprit is a failure to utilize vertical space — folks lay flat items down in their storage areas, instead of standing them up — and leave the remaining area empty. This issue can easily be taken care of with a simple rack or set of hooks, a shelf or stackable bin — and you can suddenly fit two or three times as much stuff in your storage.

How do you keep everything orderly?

Compartmentalization is key. Most storage spaces in an RV (as well as in a traditional brick-and-mortar house) are just big gaping holes, waiting to receive clutter. You have to subdivide to conquer — make use of baskets, racks, drawer trays, bins, and tubs to group like items together and keep them contained. Of course, these organizing tools come in handy with multipurpose use. They keep your valuable belongings from rolling around and getting broken during transit. I love a two-for-one solution!

Are there tips to staying organized especially with children?

Kids are actually my best organizers. They love order, they CRAVE order — but they need adults to provide them with two things (consistently) for that desire to become a reality.

The first is the right kind of storage:

  • create a set place for everything
  • keep it reachable — keep kid items lower to the ground so that it can be reached by the little ones with short legs and arms
  • clearly label every bin in a way they can understand (which might mean pictures instead of words for those who can’t yet read)
  • make sure that is appropriate for their size and ability level (accessible cabinets, drawers that aren’t too hard for their uncoordinated little fingers to grasp and pull out, lidless tubs they don’t have to fight to get open, etc)

The second is discipline:

  • set a chunk of time after each activity for cleaning up
  • before going to bed every night, include in their routine to pick up any items and put them away in their designated spots with a nightly routine where they pick up any homeless items and put them away
  • reward your kids for doing these things proactively, without being asked
  • don’t be afraid to give consequences for leaving piles of stuff where they don’t belong

It’s not always easy in an RV (or on the road) to main order, but necessary if you want your darling tots to clean up after themselves.

How do you keep a clutter free lifestyle in a tiny space?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Clutter doesn’t just magically appear out of nowhere — it takes over because you aren’t paying attention. You go about your day, accumulating all sorts of “stuff” without ever wondering whether you need or even want those things in the first place — until one day you wake up buried in junk! Awareness is the key to creating lasting order.

The best way to prevent clutter is to cut it off at the pass. Make a conscious effort to evaluate each item before you even let it in your rig — if it’s not something crucial to your existence then toss, recycle or donate before it can become part of a pile.

Beyond that, you have to know and respect your spatial limits. When you set up a storage area (like a cabinet, drawer or a section of the closet), pay attention to the amount of space you have for what is going to live there like shoes, glassware or craft supplies. Another tip is to know how much can fit without overloading the space. That’s how much you can own of that particular item — and no more!

In an RV, you don’t have the luxury of storing items in a garage, attic or basement. When your storage starts to get full, you have to clean out. I’ve become a huge fan of the “one-in-one-out” rule — every time you bring something new into your rig, something else has to go.

Super tips — whether you live in your Airstream full-time or part-time, organization is key to enjoying life on the road! If you need Ramona’s help getting your small spaces in order, contact her!

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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