On Organizing and Cleaning a Small RV

It’s now been a month since I moved into the Casita, to commemorate the event I’ve put together another small RV living update. This one is about keeping things clean and organized. The previous RV living update which talked about sharing a small RV with a roommate can be found here. When I started writing this post I also was going to include cooking and living with a cat in a small RV, but the post grew to over 1700 words so I split it up and will be posting the cooking and cats part later this week.

As Nancy pointed out at the end of my living with a roommate in a RV post, keeping things both clean and organized are key when you’re living in a RV, especially a small one.

Before moving into my trailer I wouldn’t have considered myself a particularly neat person, but since the move I’ve had to get better at it by necessity. Even one thing out of place when you’re living space is less than 14′ by 7′ can mean the difference between having someplace to sit down, or not.

In the Casita, and most RVs for that matter, the storage spots are usually deep enough that you can’t just access items in the back of them without pulling everything in front out first. Getting the most out of your limited storage means contemplating where things can and cannot fit and arranging items for the best possible usage of space. Once you have a system worked out, stick to it and put things back where they belong to avoid losing things.

I use to tilt my head and wonder how people could lose things in an RV given their small size compared to an apartment or house but I totally understand now that I’m living in mine. Think about what you’re going to be using more often and make sure those things go into storage spaces that are easier to access. For instance there is prime space to be found underneath the seats of my small dinette and in the back of my deep closet, but reaching these areas are more difficult. I’m storing a lot of my RV maintenance and fixing stuff in these kind of spots because they aren’t things I need too often.

Also don’t overlook the storage possibilities of your tow vehicle if you have one. Leveling blocks, camping chair, toolkit, ladder, and cleaning supplies all have their home in my truck right now being larger and oddly shaped things that wouldn’t fit well in the trailer itself.

One thing I find myself wishing I had more of is storage totes. Eventually I could see having one to keep clothes that are out of season in, and putting all my cleaning supplies together in one, but I’m not willing to drop the money on them until Julie moves out and I re-organize everything again. Julie and I each have a small plastic 3 drawer tupperware in the Casita which has proved useful for very small items like office supplies that would otherwise quickly get lost. Then I also have two totes that hold my electronic gizmos and cords that are kept in the large wrap around cabinet over the rear bed.

As far as cleaning goes, it doesn’t take long to do, but I find myself needing to do it much more often than the apartment. The floor gets swept daily because of how easy it is to track dirt in and because Julie’s cat (who is named Fish) sheds quite a bit. The entryway rug gets taken out and beaten about twice a week and even though we never use the bathroom as a bathroom I already have to clean the toilet because the heat and humidity here in South Carolina has led to mold growth on the underside of the toilet lid and a little on the seat. The fact that the bathroom is on the side that gets a lot of sunlight during the hottest part of the day and has very little ventilation with the main part of the trailer (and thus the AC) probably doesn’t help.

Dishes get cleaned right after eating, partly because for most of our dishes we only have one of for each of us, partly because Fish would get at anything we left out, and partly because the longer things sit out the harder they are to get clean, and it’s harder to clean dishes here in the RV than it was in the apartment for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the less food you put into your gray water tank the better, it keeps the tank from getting smelly and drains better. To this effect we’ve been wiping as much of the food off the dishes with paper towels as possible before getting to the soap and water part of the process. If you let the dishes sit until the food dries and hardens on them wiping them off is about impossible. Sure, you could let them soak in the sink, but again that means more food going into your gray tank.

Second, I haven’t been using the hot water heater, so all our dish washing is done with room temperature water. Soap is harder to rinse off with cooler water so the less soap needed to get dishes clean, the better.

Or, you can save yourself some time and hassle by washing dishes outside – as long as the weather is cooperative anyway. This method requires two cheap plastic tubs (easily acquired from WalMart), but does not require wiping the dishes off beforehand. Just fill the first tub up with soapy water for washing all the dishes, then fill the second with plain water for rinsing. Sadly since we’ve been eating supper after dark most nights due to conflicting work schedules, our dishes are usually getting done inside via the first method since we don’t have a good light source outside and the bug activity gets worse after dark.

As far as drying dishes goes, a standard dish rack would be rather space consuming to store in the Casita, so I opted instead for a highly absorbent mat that can be hung up to dry out overnight then folded and put away in the morning to save on space. I love this thing and count it among the most useful things I’ve purchased for the RV so far.

And that pretty much wraps it up. A quick update about Beryl, it hasn’t been that bad here at all. The past two days have been windy but damage has been pretty minimal – some branches have fallen but very few trees. The bulk of the rain is suppose to happen tomorrow, weather.com is saying up to 2 inches with locally higher amounts possible.

A band of heavy rain went through last night that the wind drove at just the right angle to get past the door seal and into the RV, fortunately there are little drain holes under the door leading out so while a pretty significant amount of rain came it it just ran down the inside of the door and right back out without soaking the floor or, heaven forbid, running under the floor into the subfloor. Here’s a picture of it, not the greatest quality but it’ll have to do. The refrigerator vents are also located on that side of the RV, but water doesn’t seem to have come through there at all.


Are you an aspiring full-timer RVer who has questions about living in a small RV? Are you a small RV dweller yourself with wisdom you’d like to share about something you’ve learned? If so, please comment below and I’ll do my best to address any questions and comments in future small RV living posts.

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21 Responses to On Organizing and Cleaning a Small RV

  1. CJ May 29, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    I’m so glad I found your blog…my hubbie and I brought a Casita over the weekend and plans are to go full-time in the next year. So you are like a breath of fresh air and I’m taking all your courage and knowledge to give me strength to set out on this journey. Hubbie retired…myself, several years away but going to pull the plug and just go for it. Probably get into some workkamping, etc. So much to think about and PLAN. I’m getting my blog cleaned up and will be ready to share our stories. Be safe and happy! CJ

    • Becky May 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

      Hello CJ, congratulations on your Casita purchase! Everyone I’ve talked to who has owned one of these little traiilers has quickly fallen in love with it, myself included. It’s definitely possible to full-time in them and I can’t take the credit for being the first to come up with the idea.

      If you haven’t heard of them yet, Sue over at http://rvsueandcrew.com/ is a retired solo Casita full-timer who travels with her two dogs and Jim and Julie over at http://www.imperfectdestiny.com/ are a working age couple full-timing in a Casita.

      I know I’ll be taking seasonal jobs to support myself on the road, but not sure yet if Workamping is going to be the best option for me, one step at a time. First I need to get the trailer all set up and ready to go.

      I’m glad my blog has been helpful for you and thanks for following along. Best of luck to you and the hubbie and keep us updated on your progress! πŸ™‚

      • CJ May 30, 2012 at 9:00 am #

        Oh thanks for the leads on others running along in their Casita’s, I’ll add them to my RSS feeds! I got our blog cleaned up and now I just need to start posting…hubbie off to bring it home today (now all I need is a name) Here is our blog (a work in progress :O)) itsacozylife.blogspot.com

        • Becky May 30, 2012 at 11:23 am #

          Your welcome, looks like you’ve got a good start on that blog, I like the header.

          My Casita still doesn’t have a name, it’ll have one eventually I’m just not going to rush it.

  2. Marvin May 29, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Glad to hear the storm was minimal .
    I do most of my cooking and dishes outside , even if it is dark .
    Money saving hint :
    Grocery store weekly adds usually get tossed on Wednesday.
    I ask the local store manager for a carton that he is sending to the dumpster and use them like paper towels for cleaning and maintenance . The are made of low grade paper like a newspaper and are great for windows and wiping . Paper towels seem very expensive for what we use them for .
    Be Safe and Enjoy Each Day.

    • Becky May 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      Huh, good idea Marvin, thanks.

      I have an older Coleman 2 burner portable propane stove that my parents bought for camping when my brother and I were kids. It still works and has made it’s way to the Casita (well actually it’s being stored in the roomie’s vehicle) with the intent of cooking outside more, but again I dont’ have a good lantern to use outside right now and the weather hasn’t been very cooperative. It’ll definitely happen at some point.

  3. LenSatic May 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm #


    I came here from RV.net. I saw your post in the tread about off-road travel trailers.

    We also have a Casita and love it. While we are not fulltimers, we do use it a lot and have picked up some tricks we can share.

    When we have to do the dishes inside, we put the dish rack (stainless steel and folds flat) on a folding camp table in the shower and rinse with the shower head. Since you are not useing the shower or toilet, you can leave them in there to dry.

    To add some counter space, you can pull out the utensil drawer and put a cutting board on it. We also added a folding shelf on the right side of the stove using these brackets: http://www.woodcraft.com/Family/2001690/Folding-Shelf-Brackets.aspx When not needed, they fold down out of the way.

    Just curious, but why are you not using the hot water heater?

    You mentioned setting possibly setting up your domicle in Texas. If you do, or if you happen to be ging through Texas, make sure to head to the factory in Rice. They can fix any small problems that you find (like the door seals) and give or sell you some upgraded stuff (like a better, clear, slider for the screen door). We were there a couple of weeks ago and had some self-inflicted damage repaired. Also, be sure to take a tour of the factory.

    I also followed Chris and Cherie when they had their Oliver.

    Feel free to contact us if you have any questions (or want to share your tips and tricks). I’m LenSatic on RV.net and Len Satic on the two Casita forums. Patrick Mc on fgrv.

    My blog is dead now, but has a couple of stories about our early days with the Casita.

    Take care.

    Pat and Nancy
    LenSatic recently posted..Sequoia National Fiasco!My Profile

    • Becky May 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

      Hello Pat and Nancy. πŸ™‚

      Your way of cleaning dishes sounds pretty useful given my current situation. I have a wish list of stuff to buy for the Casita and may well be adding that sort of a rack to it to make things easier when I can’t do them outside.

      I already have a folding shelf on the right side of my stove courtesy of the previous owner. It’s actually a lid that goes over the stove, it has a hinge on it and there are arms very similar to the ones you posted mounted on the side of the stove that can be flipped up to support the lid, very handy!

      I’m not using the water heater mostly due to laziness. The previous owner demonstrated that it worked, but it’s the manual kind that needs to be lit from the outside with a pilot light and I haven’t gotten around to making sure the anode is in good working condition.

      I’d love to stop at the factory in Rice someday to upgrade to a high lift axle to make boondocking easier, but getting solar installed is higher on the priority list. Between Texas and South Dakota I’m leaning towards South Dakota for domicile, but where I can get health insurance will probably be the deciding factor. I’ll be posting more about all of this as it comes up. Thanks for the offer and happy trails.

  4. Ross Macintosh May 30, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    Hi Becky
    I don’t know if you are aware but your blog seems to frequently get hijacked. A few times recently when I checked in to see if you’ve any new posts I’ll find it only showing old posts up to a the end of March or something like that. At the bottom of the page will be various links to viagra suppliers instead of your archive. Instead of “powered by wordpress” it will say something like “powered by viagra”.

    On a more happy note I’ve ordered a little trailer and it will be manufactured in June. It is a customized CampLite 11FDB by Livin’ Lite. What makes their trailers unique is they are all aluminum – no wood at all to rot. Even the cabinets are aluminum framed. The chassis is all aluminum too – so no steel to rust. I was impressed enough with all I read about them to order one without ever having seen any of their products in person. (I’m trusting I’ll won’t live to regret that). Near the end of June we are planning to drive the 1500 miles to the Indiana factory to pick it up! The 3000+ mile international roadtrip should be fun. We are hoping that later in the summer we can do a trip over to Newfoundland as well as weekend trips here in Prince Edward Island. We aren’t planning to live full-time in this trailer. With a 11-foot cabin it might be suitable for a single person but probably too small for a couple.

    Regards, Ross

    • Becky May 30, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      Thanks for the tip Ross, has anyone else noticed this? From my end logged in and when I look at it from a viewer’s point without logging in it has looked fine to me. I get a lot of spam comments but I’ve set things so that first time commenters need to get approved once which keeps all of that stuff out. My more web design savy friends are out of town right now so it’ll probably be a bit before I can get someone to look at it.

      I just went and peeked at Livin’ Lite trailers, they look very neat. Congratulations on the purchase and if the pictures are any indicator I think you made a good choice. I bet you two will have a lot of fun on that roadtrip this summer. πŸ™‚

  5. Brian May 30, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    Hi Becky.

    I’ve noticed the same issue that Ross mentioned above. If I visit IO.com from my home page I may not see the latest 2 or 3 posts. Haven’t noticed any Viagra ads. However, if I see a new post on Facebook and link to IO from there everything is fine.

    I look forward to reading about your solar panel project.


    • Becky May 31, 2012 at 8:52 am #

      Thanks Brian, I’m thinking that issue may be related to cookies somehow.

      The solar panel project is going to be a doozy. I’d like to get another battery installed but the Casita only has room for the one as is, I’m researching places to put the second one, no matter where I decide it’ll take some modifications.

      • LenSatic May 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm #


        I wouldn’t go overboard on upgrades and mods, just yet. We did what you probably did and read the forums and saw ideas that we thought we’d need. We didn’t.

        After you get used to what you have by getting out there and trying it, thien you will see what YOU need or want.

        An extra battery is an example. For the last 4 years, we’ve only boondocked (and I mean real boondocking…in the boondocks). One battery has been fine for us. We have solar but did not mount them on the trailer because that will limit where you can park, and that means not under trees and so that the face south when deployed. We did change all be two of our lights to LED. We kept 2 over the bed because they do add a little warmth in cold weather.

        As mentioned above, various sizes and lengths of wood will serve you much better for leveling. That’s because you may need them to bridge road washouts and ruts and will not want to risk losing some your bag of legos for that. Even using them under the stabilizer jacks, in the mud, is not fun. You can toss the wood block in the fire pit. Depending on how many you carry, they can also be used as a porch landing off your steps as a place to leace muddy shoes, etc.

        BTW, we travel with a 120 lb Akita. πŸ™‚


        • Becky May 31, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

          Thanks for the tips Pat.

          When I say I want to go boondocking, I mean sustainable boondocking with no generator and no campground breaks to charge the battery; and having enough power even in the winter when the sun isn’t producing as much energy, or along the West coast where multiple cloudy days in a row aren’t uncommon. If you’re saying that’s possible without having two batteries on reserve for those lower producing days I’ma do a happy dance because all the blogs and forums I’ve read it didn’t make it seem possible, then again I’ll probably have a bit of an edge being solo and thereby (hopefully) using less power than a couple would.

          I’ll be working seasonal jobs and staying in long term campgrounds during those periods with hookups, but then I’m also hoping to have a couple months a year between seasonal jobs where I can just travel at my leisure (or spend the coldest months boondocking in the SW for cheap), and really want to avoid campgrounds and be 100% boondocking during those times. Financially I can’t know how it’ll all work out until I try it, but I think it’s possible, especially if I find a way to supplement my income via online means.

          As for solar panel placement, do you use the portable kind then that set up on the ground and pack them away while traveling? I’ve thought about going that route too but the thought of having to set them up and take them down everytime I want to move sounds tiresome. Then again it would make for a more comfortable trailer not being parked in the sun. So much to think about – luckily I view these kind of dilemmas as a challenge and look forward to them!

          As for the wood planks, you make a good point and luckily the bed of the truck would be a great place to store things like that. As for traveling with a large dog, good for you! As I think I’ve mentioned on here in the past I’d love to adopt a retired racing greyhound, but am thinking that’ll have to wait until some future time after the Casita traveling is over – it’s a whole nother can of worms. πŸ˜‰

          • LenSatic June 1, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

            “As for solar panel placement, do you use the portable kind then that set up on the ground and pack them away while traveling?”

            Yes. It’s a little cumbersome, but we’ve got a system. πŸ˜‰ We have the 45w three panel system. Some have added piano hinges to make them easier to handle. Gina D. at fgrv.com uses (or used) an 85w single panel that I want to look into. (BTW, we just built a totally off-grid house here in AZ and have 15 220w panels. They cost less than a dollar a watt. Basically, our home is just a scaled up boondocking RV.)

            Speaking of using boards for leveling, on our trip to Texas a couple of weeks ago, we raced a thunderstorm to our overnight spot at a Flying J truck stop. We wanted to get there with enough time to fire up the generator to cook a pizza and still have time for it to cool so we could put in the back of the Tahoe. We found a spot off in the corner so as not to interfere with the truckers. The storm hit just as I secured the generator in the SUV. All was well when we went to bed. The next morning we learned that we were not parked in a pond.

            The rear of the trailer was in shallow water but the water was up to the running-boards of the Tahoe. I put plastic bags over my shoes and entered the Tahoe through the back hatch. It’s 4wd so I easily drove us the 100 yards or so out while Nancy and the dog rode in the trailer. But, we could not recover the board that we used for leveling. πŸ™‚

            Good times!


  6. Hazel May 31, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    It’s interesting how everyone organizes their Casitas differently. We keep our clothes in the overhead bins over the beds, plus hang coats, shirts, etc in the big hanging locker with shoes in a bin on the bottom. Dishes are over the sink with pots/pans under. Kettle and coffee pot are on the side shelf (not the stove lid but a strong shelf). Food is above the microwave, under the bed, and in one underseat cupboard in the side dinette. Tools and such are in the other. Books, music, Blackberry playbook, journal, etc are above the dinette. Other big items like breadmaker are in a bin in the van.

    We do the dishes in the sink and stack them in a tiny dish-drainer from Camping World. If it’s allowed in the campground and the weather is nice, we do them on the table outside. Cold water only…keep it simple! When you’re vegetarian, there are no greasy dishes that need hot water; meals are simple and often one-pot.

    Which comes to cleaners: vinegar and water and baking soda are the only cleaners that are needed and are natural. In the bathroom are a sprayer of vinegar/water and laundry soap. Please, please, give up paper towels! Saves trees, garbage, and money! Use rags if you need to. When you’re boondocking garbage will become an issue.

    Jim and Julie at imperfectdestiny have separate solar panels that they set up on the ground; they were at our RV resort in Texas for a bit last winter. Seemed to be the easiest solution for solar. I know rvsue has hers mounted on her tow vehicle with batteries inside it.

    We got a great deal on a quiet Honda generator that we’re planning to store in a Stowaway box on the rear bumper. We’ve already taken our spare tire off and are moving it to the front hitch area.

    WREN is sitting in our driveway waiting for her next trip…later this summer we hope, and then back to Texas and Arizona next winter. Can’t wait!!!

    • Becky June 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

      Yeah the organization thing is strange. My closet has been modified with shelves and that’s where all the clothes go, there is a 5 hook rack attached to the front of the closet door that jackets and drying clothes get hung on. I’m thinking I’ll be getting a bunch more wash cloths in the future and just washing them all in the laundry in a seperate load when they get gross because I wouldn’t want to put them with my regular cloths, but then I’m wasting time, money, and water that way, I just can’t win. πŸ˜‰

      I’ll get things sorted out as I go, it’s a work in progress. Have fun camping!

  7. Hazel June 1, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    I forgot to say that laptops and wires and charging are issues with us. I have a big Dell laptop for a big screen for my photography and hubby has his too. We got rid of the television so that frees up a shelf for daytime but for nighttime and charging, we’re thinking of building something for underneath the dinette table. What do you do with techie stuff?

  8. Becky June 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    Hazel – My laptop, kindle, PSP (it’s a portable gaming system) and all related cords and accessories live in the big overhead storage compartment in the back of the trailer. That’s where the TV mount is attached to (it’s suspended from the bottom of that cubbie, not a shelf) so there is a 110w outlet right there on the bottom of the compartment – I can have the laptop plugged in while stored in that cubbie and the door will still latch just fine without having to have cords running along the floor and getting in the way. It’s a little hard to explain without seeing it, but I could get a picture if you like.

    Pat – I’ve heard from people on the Casita forum that those 85w portable units work really well for Casitas, I’m just not sure if that’ll be enough power for me considering I’ll be living in mine hence the wanting to get a second battey and a larger panel. If you do upgrade to the 85 though let me know how it works for you.

    It sounds like that was quite the adventure at the Flying J! I’ve stayed overnight at one of those when I was truck camping, I liked how big the parking spots were and made a note that unlike a lot of truck stops it was RV friendly. I got lucky here that the tropical storm didn’t dump a lot of rain at once, it was spread out over a few days.

  9. Jayne August 29, 2012 at 5:49 am #

    Something that we’ve found to be a great time saver is making inventory lists noting where each item is, and another with what is in each compartment. Granted we’ve got a lot more space to “lose” things with a 40′ A, but knowing exactly where something is downstairs sure helps. But there is no way around having to pull everything out to get to something in the back; you just get used to it, and know it is just a part of the life. πŸ™‚ And bins, lots of bins!

    And, reading this, I had to laugh a little when I got to the mention of Beryl. We live in Florida, and are traveling back from a cross-country circuit, as happens at least every summer (we’re not “full-timers”, but “most-timers”), and our planned route (which the driving part gets planned almost down to the minute, it’s just easier) took us into New Orleans at the exact predicted moment of landfall of Isaac, so we changed route at the literal last moment and went north, and instead were exactly due north of it on I-20 when it hit landfall. So we’re driving straight through with no stops trying to get back to the east coast before the rain moves further inland. The good: we just go where the hurricane isn’t; the bad: we do still have an actual house back in FL that we have to leave behind. Remember Charlie? We still haven’t recovered. But we were safe and comfortable.

    • Becky August 29, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

      Yes to bins! I’ve purchased several since Julie moved out now that I have a better idea where things are going, that’s where all my winter clothes went into and how I’m keeping cleaning supplies and Casita fixing supplies together, I even got a little one to put my spices in and keep them from tipping over once I start driving around.

      Taking an inventory of the various compartments would be a great way to keep track of things and I’ve thought about doing that before, but to be honest I’ve been too lazy, I’ve been investing the time in other things instead. Some day though I’ll probably look back and wish I’d done it. Ah well, we’ll see how it goes. πŸ™‚

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