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5 Secrets Nobody Tells You About Living A Full-Time RV Life

Photo: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock
A couple with a rv

Today marks our first month living full-time in our class A RV.

For those who aren’t aware of the differences in RVs, class A is the one that looks like a bus. Our RV is 30 feet long and approximately eight feet wide and doesn’t have any slides (which gives you more room).

Since it’s driveable, and we have an SUV as well, there’s a dolly attached to pull our cat. The total length with everything attached is 51 feet — that’s a lot of vehicles going down the road.

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We named her Bettie, and she's our home on wheels.

Photo: Author

Here are five things nobody tells you about living a full-time RV life:

1. Space takes on a whole new meaning.

We went from a 2,800 square foot, four bedroom, three bathroom house, to approximately 300 square feet of living space. I knew it would be a huge change, but I didn't really know. The concept of “I might need this later” goes completely out the window.

If you don’t use an item on an almost daily basis, it doesn’t have a place in your RV.

And there’s no such thing as stuff just "sitting around." You’re driving a beast down the road at 60 MPH, and things will fly all over the place if they’re not properly secured.

This includes items in your refrigerator/freezer, too. On our first drive, we learned the hard way when the refrigerator door flew open and all the items inside ended up on the floor. We immediately installed fridge door locks and tension bars for our next trip.

Living in an RV boils down to deciding what things you need regularly — and then downsizing even further.

At first, I had a week’s worth of clothing for each of us (all seasons). After a month, I pared it down to a week’s worth of clothing for the current season; everything else went into vacuum storage bags under the bed.

Our closet is still full but it’s a lot more manageable than it was before.

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2. The shower is no longer a sanctuary.

Showering in an RV is short and sweet.

Our water heater is around six gallons, which affords you about 10–15 minutes of hot water. If you push it past 10, you’re looking at lukewarm water.

Military showers become the norm: get yourself wet, shut off the water, shampoo your hair, and then put the water back on to rinse. Then water off again, condition your hair and wash your body, and turn the water back on to rinse.

My first experience with showering in an RV was a nightmare. I knew I had to be fast, and thankfully, I’ve never been one to linger — but I didn’t know just how fast I had to be. By the time I got around to rinsing my hair of shampoo, the water was ice cold. 

Shower space is limited, too. I’m not a small person. If I’m careful, I can turn around in the shower, but there have been a few times I almost fell out of the door. 

3. Using the bathroom is claustrophobic

If you’re claustrophobic, RV life is not for you. Thankfully, my husband and I are not shy, so closing the bathroom door doesn’t happen very often, which is great, since once the door is closed, there’s nowhere for your knees, much less your legs to go.

Our RV is set up with the toilet and sink in a room, and the shower across from it. Read: there's no extra room in the bathroom at all. Add to that, we hung a shoe organizer on the door for extra storage, so it's tight.

RV toilets keep a very small amount of water in the bowl. So if you’re doing more than peeing, you have to run water in the bowl first. Otherwise, there’s going to be a mess. And when you’re in a situation where you really have to go, this can be ... challenging.

Also, forget using ‘good’ toilet paper again. In order for your paper to dissolve properly, you must use RV or Marine-specific toilet paper — which is a step above sandpaper. We ended up putting a baby wipe warmer on our counter for better clean-up.

Also, you can’t flush anything that isn’t waste or special toilet paper. That’s how you mess up your tank.

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4. You become very aware of your water usage

When you’re living in a regular home, you probably don’t think much about where your waste goes, including what’s called gray water: that's all the water that goes down your sinks and shower drains.

Our gray tank is about 45 gallons, our black tank (toilet waste) is about 40 gallons, and our freshwater tank is 70 gallons. If you’re parked somewhere that has hook-ups, you can skip the use of the freshwater tank and connect to a local water source.

In our bathroom, there’s a meter that shows your levels, which includes LP (natural gas) which runs your furnace, stove, and possibly your refrigerator and water heater, depending on your setup. Our fridge is a residential one, so it only runs on electricity, but our water heater can run on electricity or propane.

We’ve become very aware of how much water we use — which is actually a good thing. 

Taking quick showers helps cut down on water consumption, and how much gray water we’re producing, which is important for myriad reasons: If you’re parked somewhere that doesn’t have hookups, you’ll need to know ahead of time so that you have to go somewhere to fill your water and dump the nasty stuff.

We figured out we get about five days out of the tanks we have, with conservative use. This includes running the generator full-time, which pulls from your regular fuel reserves AKA gas to run the RV.

5. Parking an RV is frustrating

The biggest problem we’ve had so far is finding somewhere to park for an extended period of time.

And in an odd twist, it’s actually considered illegal to live in your RV full-time in the state we live in, and it’s also illegal to allow someone to run electricity from your home to your RV — but that’s exactly what we’re doing for the moment.

We’ve been parked at my in-laws since we sold our house.

We’re currently searching for somewhere with hook-ups in our general area, but not having much luck. We can boondock (AKA park using just our generator) on family property, but that’s definitely not optimal.

Living in an RV full-time is a learning experience every step of the way. There are so many things we’re having to grow accustomed to, but we’re doing it together, and making the most of each experience. 

My husband and I have both come to realize that people should have to live in a small space like this before they decide to get married. Because if you can make it work in 300 square feet, you can make it work anywhere.

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Demeter Delune is an educator who writes on sexuality, relationships, and RV life.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.