How to Downsize from a House and Live in an RV Full-time

RV living is rapidly becoming more popular. After all, who wouldn’t want the freedom to live all around the country?


For those of you who are considering downsizing from your home to an RV, you shouldn’t go from 2,000 square feet to 400 square feet without learning about RV living and making a plan.


Let’s say you are ready to make the jump right now. Take a breath… pause for a moment. We know you’re excited, but you should keep reading and then decide whether you are truly ready to change your life.

Do your research


You probably have this grand vision in your mind about living in an RV, free to roam as you please. But have you actually put it into practice?


If you don’t already own an RV, the transition from living in a house to RV living can be quite jarring. After all, you’re used to having a lot of space and a lot of stuff. Living in an RV means doing without both of those things.


Before you begin to downsize, make sure you’ve had a taste of the RV life. Rent an RV, and see how you like it. Visit an RV dealer and explore floor plans that might work for you. Look at your vehicle’s towing capacity and figure out how big of an RV you can get or whether or not you would prefer a van.


Visit campgrounds and find people who are already living your dream. Ask them about the pros and cons, and be sure to weigh them both as you ponder your decision.


All of this is to say that you need to do a hefty amount of research before doing anything drastic. Knowing what to expect will make the transition much easier. Let’s face it; you don’t want to realize you’ve made a mistake once you’ve fully committed - much like skydiving, this is not something you can easily back out of.

Create a budget


Once you’ve decided that RV living is the right move for you, you need to evaluate the true costs associated with downsizing, and then create a budget.


In some scenarios, RV living can be cheaper than living in a house, but this is not always the case. This is why you need to carefully consider the costs of equipment, repairs, gasoline, campground fees, and other RV-related expenses. Then there are other items in your budget that will likely not change during the transition, like food, car payments, insurance, and more.


Make a list of all of the things you’ll need to account for in your budget. Compare this to your existing house-living budget. You may be surprised how much you can save, or you might discover that the cost is similar, in which case you will need to really think about whether downsizing and mobilizing is the best path for you.

Find a place to settle


The next thing you should know before making the switch to full-time RV living is where you plan to go and where you plan to stay. Maybe you plan to stay in one place long-term, or maybe you want to be a nomad, driving wherever your whims take you. No matter which lifestyle you choose, it’s important to have a plan.


Research campgrounds, and make a list of your must-haves, including affordability, climate year-round, location and proximity to services, and perhaps most importantly, safety. Generally speaking, when you live in an RV, you want to find somewhere that is warm. However, these other aspects are also very important. 


More secluded campgrounds are likely to be cheaper, but they may be farther away from entertainment, grocery stores, and mail services. If this is the case, some full-time RVers might argue that paying more for a location closer to a town or city is worth it.


Just like planning a long vacation, it is wise to plan your route, how long you plan to stay, and how that will impact your budget. These are all factors to consider when finding a place to live - long-term or short-term.

Sort through your belongings


Once you have nailed down the nitty gritty details of where you’ll be RV living, it is finally time to begin downsizing - arguably one of the more difficult tasks in this venture. Start by sorting through your belongings. There are several ways to approach this.


One common downsizing technique was popularized by Marie Kondo in her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. To summarize the book, her principles are as follows: 

  1. Commit to tidying up. 
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle. This will clarify why you want to tidy and give you a better picture of the life you want to live once tidying is complete.
  3. Finish discarding first. Do not try to organize without getting rid of anything. 
  4. Tidy by category, not location. Don’t organize room by room. Pick a category and roll with it. For example, collect all of the clothes in the house, not just the ones in your bedroom closet.
  5. Follow the right order. To make the biggest impact, it is crucial to tidy up in this order: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and then sentimental items.
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy. Hold an item in your hands and note how it makes you feel. If it sparks joy, you will feel a little thrill. If it doesn’t, you might feel heavy, or perhaps nothing at all.

This technique (called the KonMari method) has helped countless people downsize, with and without the intention to live in an RV. It’s popular for a good reason: it really works.


Another technique is simply to sort your belongings into four categories: keep, sell, donate, and trash. If you choose this method, be smart about your categorization. Very few things can come with you in the RV. Some things may need to be put in storage. Most things will need to be discarded.

Sell or rent your house


You’ve done your research. You’ve set a budget. You’ve created a plan. You’ve tidied up. At last, it is time to decide whether to sell or rent out your house. If you aren’t sure which one to pursue, here are a few things you should know. 


Renting is a great option if you aren’t ready to say goodbye to your home forever or if you’re looking for a steady stream of (relatively) passive income. For many RVers, this can be a very attractive option to help subsidize their RV lifestyle. However, renting it out to someone comes with its own challenges. First and foremost is that you need to manage the property. 


This includes rapidly fixing maintenance problems, finding renters, ensuring property up-keep, and dealing with potential damage to your property - all while living remotely. Ultimately, renting may stick you with a property that becomes difficult or expensive to manage from the road. It may also tie you down to nearby locations or to locations where your renter can contact you 24-7 in case of an emergency, preventing you from venturing wherever you please. 


On the other hand, right now, the real estate market is very hot. It is a great time to sell as many properties have appreciated significantly in value in the last several years. These funds can be used to purchase a new RV, bolster your retirement account, or subsidize your RV-lifestyle - all attractive options. That being said, selling now may also be risky, as you may lose equity on a property that is rapidly appreciating. 


If you have a strong attachment to your house and demand for rentals is high in your area, it might be wise to hold on to your property and rent it out if you stand to make a profit. Beyond that, you may want to try full-time RV living for a year before you fully commit and sell your house. But if it’s a seller’s market, you need the cash now, or simply don’t want to be a landlord, selling might be the best option for you.


Weigh your options. Talk to a real estate agent. Don’t leave money on the table if you can. And make sure you’ve done your research.

Downsizing from a house to an RV is a big decision, but with a lot of planning, it could be life-changing in the best possible way.


If you aren’t sure which RV is best for you, visit a Grand Design RV dealer near you to explore your RV living options.