One of the most significant decisions in minimizing to an RV lifestyle is the subject of clothing. We all have closets and drawers full of clothes! A big part of downsizing was going through the clothes and deciding what to keep, recognizing that storage was minimal and the difference my new lifestyle would require in clothing. I took my clues from Marie Kondo’s book, The Art of Tidying Up. I cleared a big area of the living room, and piled ALL the clothes from every closet and dresser and shelf and basket in the house. Then I ruthlessly went through the mountain of stuff, throwing each item into the three SAVE – GIVE – TRASH piles. Since I would no longer be working in an office, all the work clothes went into the GIVE pile. Then I immediately bagged the GIVE and TRASH piles into garbage bags – white kitchen bags for GIVE to go to donation and black garbage bags for TRASH (underwear, socks, old holey sweats and T shirts, etc.)
With a much smaller pile of clothing to KEEP, I then decided to select 8 outfits for warmer weather and 8 outfits for colder weather. I chose my favorite clothes and put them together into piles of tops and bottoms – and found that most were of the black/white/aqua coloring. The rest I put into more white garbage bags to give away. I made a pile of 10 sets of underwear and socks, a swimsuit, one casual dress, a hoodie, a winter coat, two pajamas, and set them aside. Then I took all the garbage bags out to the car, drove to the donation center to toss in all the white bags, and to the dumpster to toss in all the black bags. DONE! One ruthless afternoon, and no more dithering back and forth about clothes!
FYI – At the same time, I did the same thing with shoes – keeping a pair each of slippers, sneakers, hiking shoes, sandals, flip flops, and casual black shoes. All the rest went to GIVE or TRASH, depending on their condition. The shoes are in an inexpensive 12-pair hanging shoe bag , hanging over the back of the headboard and behind the bed. Used dryer sheets get tucked into the shoes so the van doesn’t smell like a locker room. (I prefer the lavender dryer sheets!)
Now I have been on the road for over a year, and am happy with the clothing choices I made. Most of the outfits coordinate and I have easily transitioned from warm weather to cooler weather to warm weather again. The layers work for me, and I have been very comfortable. If I buy something, I donate the old so I am not adding more stuff into my van. 8 outfits for each season works well.
I do not have laundry facilities in my van by choice. I keep a small laundry basket handy and toss my dirty clothes there until it is full. Then I find a laundromat or use a family/friend washer when visiting. I actually prefer to use a public laundromat or campground laundromat so I am not imposing on others. Here is a picture of my laundry basket, which has detergent pods, dryer sheets, and a coin purse of quarters at the bottom, ready for the next laundry day.
After I have washed and dried my clothes, I set them up as outfits. I place a pair of capris/leggings down first on the table. Then I select a top folded lengthwise and underwear, and roll them together with the underwear inside. Then this small bundle gets rolled up into the pants in a tight bundle. Rolling prevents wrinkles and keeps the outfit tightly together. I vary which tops and bottoms to combine so I don’t get bored with the clothing choices.
I use fabric cubes to store my clothes. One cube will have warm weather clothes (usually capris and a summery top with underwear) and another cube will have cooler weather clothes (usually leggings and a tunic and underwear). Then I just pull the next roll out of the appropriate cube for the weather that day and get dressed. The rolled clothing bundles also make it easy to pack my gym bag if I am showering at a Planet Fitness or a campground or friend/family shower (Really? You never got into the shower room to find that you left your clean underwear in the van, or worse yet — dropped it in the parking lot?!?!?) The fabric cubes are between the bed and back doors, and easily accessible from either inside reaching over the bed or outside via the back door.
If I were a young mom raising kids again, I would definitely do this for the children in the family, even living in a home and not on the road. Roll together a day’s outfit including underwear and socks, and it is so much easier to get them dressed for the day! And clean underwear gets used every day! (Seriously? your kids didn’t wear the same underwear for several days until you noticed?!?!?) The kid picks a bundle and puts it on – no more “which shirt do you want to wear? are those matching socks? no, please don’t choose an orange plaid shirt and purple striped shorts” arguments in the morning!
This is also a great technique for vacations, camping, etc. You get the correct number of outfits and don’t end up with seven shirts and 3 pants and one pair of underwear. Keep a travel bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and shower gel, and you are good to go! It takes me about 10 minutes to pack for a trip – even going 2 weeks to South Korea to visit my daughter.
When I load the fabric cubes according to weather, it makes the morning choices easier – no more hunting for longer pants or a cooler shirt! I know which cube has warm weather clothes and which cube has cooler weather clothes. There is another cube with extra underwear, the pajamas, and socks. One more cube has the swimsuit, hoodie, dress, etc. Everything is rolled to prevent wrinkles, even the casual dress! The laundry basket goes back into the van, making sure there are more detergent pods, dryer sheets, and quarters for the next laundry day – if not, I stop and purchase those things right away before the first dirty clothes get added on top. This way I know I am ready for the next laundromat visit – no hunting for quarters or having to buy detergent from an expensive vending machine!
It takes one washer to clean the laundry basket-ful, and another washer for sheets, towels, pillow cases – which I do once or twice a month depending on how often I slept in the van versus someone’s spare bedroom or my tent. I spend very little time on clothing and am very comfortable with this setup for my particular lifestyle.
Everyone’s life is different, and your clothing preferences/lifestyle may differ, and so I humbly offer this as a starting point to thinking about how to simplify life.
From my bookshelf:
“Very often we view God as a sort of grand puppeteer – making this one to jiggle and that one to dance, all on cue. I wonder, however, if this analogy isn’t all wrong. I wonder, instead, if it wouldn’t be better to analogize God as the master conductor instructing the various sections to respond on God’s signal – this section then the next, rhythmically responding and harmonizing with excellence. I wonder if God isn’t instead this great music maker, teaching all creation to play and sing along to the melody of love. God speaks: “Listen. Do you hear it? Do you know the tune? Join with me. Let us make music in the key of divine love!”
–Essay by Will Albright, The Jesus Lens: Seeing God through Jesus from the book Uncontrolling Love: Essays Exploring the Love of God by Thomas Jay Oord, et al, 2017