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11 Lessons Learned after Living 11 Days in an RV

We moved into our fifth wheel on November 24th. In some ways, it feels like we just got here, and in other ways, it’s already seeming familiar.

In the time I’ve been here, I’ve learned these lessons.

1. We really don’t need all our stuff

Glorious panorama of all that's left of our stuff that isn't coming on the road with us!

Glorious panorama of all that’s left of our stuff that isn’t coming on the road with us!

We have a 70 square foot storage unit full of stuff we couldn’t bear to get rid of. And we haven’t touched any of it in months.

To be honest, if I were still in my house with it, I probably wouldn’t be touching it there either.

The number of things I use on a daily basis is very limited, and this RV gives us plenty of space for them.

2. Every new hobby requires equipment

Levelers, sewer hoses and power tools

Levelers, sewer hoses and power tools

Nothing is free, as they say, and that’s the truth with RVing. While it can be less expensive than living in a house over the long run, we’ve spent more than I’d like to admit on sewer hoses, tools and other essentials.

Fortunately, many of these are one time (or at least infrequent) purchases. And at least we had some garage sale proceeds to help cover these costs.

If you’re interested in pursuing this lifestyle, know that the spending won’t stop with a motorhome, trailer, or truck.

3. Electricity is finite

Hooked up to shore power

Hooked up to shore power

We haven’t blown a fuse yet, but our 50 amp rig is currently connected to 30 amp shore power, which means we’re somewhat limited on the electricity we can draw. This wouldn’t be an issue unless we needed to run both air conditioners, but even in Houston it hasn’t been hotter than the mid-70s.

Having a more limited amount of electricity available to me than I usually would in a house has made more more aware of my consumption and actively try to limit devices that unnecessarily power.

4. We use a lot of water

Hooked up to city water

Hooked up to city water

Our 5th wheel has a 70-gallon grey water tank and a 40-gallon black water tank. Using water the way I did in the house fills up these tanks in just a couple of days.

It’s amazing how much water goes down the drain when I’m brushing my teeth or taking a shower.

This experience is leading me to be much more careful about conserving this important resource.

5. RV people know a lot

Mac the Fire Guy leads an RV fire safety course

Mac the Fire Guy leads an RV fire safety course

As one instructor pointed out at Boot Camp, RV owners are more than just vacationers. They’re mechanics, electricians, plumbers, sanitation engineers, professional drivers, and on and on.

The wealth of knowledge about useful stuff that RV veterans have earned is amazing.

I feel a lot like Hermione Granger: merely book-smart and woefully unprepared for real-life challenges.

6. RV people are helpful

Instructors at RV Boot Camp

Instructors at RV Boot Camp

The good news is that this knowledgeable bunch is more than happy to share information with newbies.

There are countless forums and groups dedicated to this, but the fastest-responding and most helpful one I use on a regular basis is a Facebook group called RV Tips. We also gained a lot of great insight from the Escapees RV Boot Camp we attended last month.

7. We produce a lot of trash

Every day yields another one of these

Every day yields another one of these

Part of this is probably just trash produced as a result of moving. But, dang, I produce a LOT.

Food and product packaging, cleaning supplies, disposable items, kitty litter… you name it. I pretty much make a trash bag every day. I guess it’s just more obvious when you have nowhere to put it.

8. We’re highly adaptable to using less space

New problem: bottles fall on the floor every time we move. New solution: stick them on the wall.

New problem: bottles fall on the floor every time we move. New solution: stick them on the wall.

For two adults and two small animals, 400 square feet is proving to be plenty. Honestly, it’s probably more than enough. I have a feeling we’re not really going to be using all the space in our RV once we fully get settled. We really don’t need as much living space as we think.

Another adaptation challenge I haven’t faced yet but am anticipating with a bit of worry is that of securing everything before we travel. I think we’ve got the shower secure, and locking cabinets should keep clothes and towels in place, but I’m not sure our plates or other breakables will survive.

9. Nesting is important

The new look is starting to come together

The new look is starting to come together

I’ve seen a lot of questions posted on RV tip forums wondering if they should alter their motorhomes or trailers to suit their tastes. They fear that changes to wall color or furniture placement might harm their resale value.

And maybe it will, but RVs resell more like cars than homes. That is to say, they’re not an investment. You’ll be losing money when you sell no matter what, so why not make it your own?

That’s why Josh and I had our carpet floors replaced with wood laminate and the ugly recliners that came with it reupholstered in blue leather. We had the cabinets painted, and we plan on painting the walls. We have dreams of replacing some fixtures, removing window valences and installing a faux glass tile backsplash in the kitchen. We even sold the dining set and sofa bed that were original to the RV because they didn’t fit our needs.

Who knows when we’ll be done with our RV or how little we will get for it when we were ready to sell? This is our home for the foreseeable future, so we want to make it feel like one.

10. Support is awesome

Marie's awesome parents let us stay with them while we were in transition

Marie’s awesome parents let us stay with them while we were in transition

I don’t know what Josh and I would have done if we didn’t have family and friends here in town who have been so supportive. There was more than a month between us selling our house and moving into our RV, and we were fortunate to have a place to crash.

Even after moving in to the RV, my parents have remained extremely helpful, letting us send mail to their house and keeping their door open for whatever we might need.

I’ve gotten used to seeing them often during this time period; it’s going to make our temporary goodbye even harder.

11. Good partners make the journey more fun

BFFs in front of our home sweet home

BFFs in front of our home sweet home

I’ve heard of plenty of single folks who RV, and a lot of couples too. If you’re going to RV with someone, be honest with yourself before you commit to the stress of transition and tiny living quarters. It will probably bring out both the best and worst in both of you.

After working from home together for over a year, Josh and I felt confident we could pull this off. We’ve definitely already been tested, experiencing several tense moments trying to figure out how to operate our new, robotic house.

But we’ve also been having a ton of fun. Now that we’ve done it a week, there’s no question. Even my grandfather, who has been married for 60 years, joked: “If you can survive this, you can survive anything.”

For those of you with a lot more experience RVing, what lessons have you learned?

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