Why you don’t have to be a minimalist to be an RVer

There seems to be a popular wisdom circulating among today’s young RV bloggers and YouTubers that you MUST be a minimalist to successfully live and thrive in the RV lifestyle.

I even saw one “expert” (who, by the way, was selling expensive online courses about living as a nomad) actually give the ridiculous advice that you should outfit your RV with NO MORE THAN two place settings. Meaning two plates, two spoons, forks, knives, cups, etc.  She further suggested you reduce that to only one if you travel alone.


How could one ever give a decent dinner party that way?


Not to mention how impractical. I can go through six spoons before lunchtime! And washing each and every time would waste water.

An alternative perspective to being a minimalist

Let me offer an alternate perspective that I can back up with a lifetime of RV experience.

You absolutely do NOT need to be a minimalist to live happily ever after in your RV. If you want to, that’s fine. But it is not a requirement.

Before I expound on how, let me give you a little background…

I grew up in a family of circus performers. Likewise, I have lived on the road in RVs off and on for my entire life, often alongside other families of circus performers.

Are circus performers RV minimalists? HECK NO!

The job does not allow for it.

For one thing, in circus life, the entire family comes along.

That includes children of all ages and all their assorted clothing, toys and accouterments, including homeschooling supplies. Sometimes Grandma and Grandpa come along too. And there usually is a family dog.

As the show must go on no matter what remote location you may find yourself in, circus performers are always prepared for any possible unforeseen problems. Likewise, in their rigs, you can find an entire prop shop with all tools and parts needed to build and/or repair any riggings and props needed to do their acts. This often includes electrical and even welding equipment.

Wardrobe is important too. In addition to street clothes, circus performers almost always carry sewing machines, feathers, rhinestones, and other costume-making essentials, not to mention sets of costumes in various stages of creation from design conception to the completed garment.

Beyond that, circus performers live on the road for more time than they spend at home. It is important to have comfort, family, good food, and fun during that time.

If circus performers can bring all those things along and live on the road, there is certainly no reason you need to pare down to two place settings!

Take what’s important to you!

You can tell what is important to people by the extras they pack.

In my circus days, I knew British women who traveled with full bone china tea sets. Abuelitas who carried tortilla presses so they could make tortillas in their RV kitchens, and an Italian matriarch of a generations-old circus family who made the best homemade lasagna this side of Naples from the tiny kitchen of her Boles Aero.

Another performer I knew ran a traveling costume supply shop as a side business with a full inventory of jewels and feathers stocked in his van.

thers had things like fishing equipment or SCUBA gear in order the make the most of time off.

These people all found a way to bring along things that were important to them. The things that brought them joy. Or things that allowed their businesses to thrive. Or things that facilitated family bonding.

And to me, that is the essence of living a happy and fulfilling RV lifestyle. Having the things near you that bring you joy while simultaneously having the freedom to go anywhere you like.

At least within reason.

Admittedly, the puppeteer I knew who traveled with a full-sized carousel horse in the middle of his Airstream living room was taking this concept a bit too far…

How to live abundantly in your RV

Just because you don’t need to live an austere lifestyle in your RV does not mean you can take along EVERYTHING. It is important to be selective.

The advice of Marie Kondo, the famous organizing guru, goes double in an RV: If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.

Look at it this way. The more you get rid of things you don’t need or use often, the more room you will have for the things that really do matter. And what matters is highly individualized.

Would you rather fill your closets with a collection of shoes and tons of clothes or a bunch of art supplies?

Is being prepared for any fishing opportunity or scenario an essential thing? Or can you get by with less gear?

Does it make sense to make room to take along a bike or a kayak, or will they sit unused in the back of your truck and make you feel guilty? Be honest with yourself.

I offer no advice or judgment as to the propriety of any of these decisions. That’s because it all depends on what is important to YOU and your family. But you will no doubt need to make some choices along the way.

For me, I have to write, photograph, video, and cook on the road, as all of these activities involve my job. My RV kitchen has a pantry that is better stocked than most bricks-and-sticks homes and some small restaurants. I have enough tools with me to accomplish almost any culinary task.

I also have several hobbies that involve a lot of things, mostly in the fiber arts area. My sewing machine and sewing supplies come with me. I also have a large stash of yarn for knitting and crochet projects. These are things that bring me joy and help me relax. They get to come along.

Conversely, all the books I used to take can now stay home as everything is available electronically. Same with music and movies. That alone freed up a lot of space.

Organizing is key to avoiding minimalism

The second part of the equation is organization.

In order to not live in a cluttered mess all the time, it is essential to have a specific place to put each and every item you take along in your RV. And if you can’t find a space for it, you might have to leave it behind.

You can find lots of things to help you organize: storage bins, crates, boxes in your tow vehicle, etc. You should pack your RV and vehicle in such a way that you both know where everything is, and so you can get to it when needed.

Of course, from a practical perspective, you will want to make sure the rig you are driving can safely carry the weight of the cargo you choose to put in it.

In a nutshell, living abundantly in your RV boils down to just those two simple steps:

  • Choose your possessions by what brings you joy and leave the rest behind.
  • Organize those possessions in a way that is practical for your particular RV and how you use it.

Take the time to do these two things and you’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of travel experiences that truly make you feel as though you are at home, no matter where you choose to roam.

And you won’t have to scramble to find an extra coffee cup if someone comes to visit.

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