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Words of wisdom: You have to be ruthless. Follow the wisdom of the backpacker: “Bring what you need, and need what you bring”. – lenny flank1)

Downsizing for van life

understanding the available space

The best way to understand what should go in your camper is to move it into your camper, or at least a camper-sized space in your home.

If your build is sufficiently far along, actually put each item in your camper when you decide to keep it. The amount of available space and need for organization will become apparent.

general practices

Getting rid of excess material goods takes a long time, and can can be emotionally/psychologically harder than one might think.

Some ideas to help with the downsizing:

  • stop buying physical stuff that will not go in the van with you. Bias purchases toward experiences, digital goods, consumables
  • clear out room by room in your house or apartment. As soon as there is one empty room, measure out a spot on the floor that approximates the living space of the smallest van you are considering. Everything you will own must fit in that space.
  • make spaces for stuff you want to sell, and stuff you want to give away. Put the give-away somewhere near the door so you will remember to offer those items to friends and family who visit.
  • start paring your wardrobe down to the essentials: “Pack as if you're going out for only a week during the summer. Then add what you'd need if you were going out for only a week in winter. That should pretty much cover everything.” – MrNoodly2)
  • let your family and friends know you can't use physical gifts (unless it's an item or material you can use in your build)
  • convert your book collection to an e-reader like a Nook or Kindle; see below.

what to bring

“Pack as if you're going out for only a week during the summer. Then add what you'd need if you were going out for only a week in winter. That should pretty much cover everything.” –MrNoodly3)
“I can't be prepared for everything I can possibly imagine, so I prepare for things that are most likely to happen.” – MrNoodly4)
  • water for drinking, bathing, and doing dishes and laundry
  • food
  • cookware, and utensils
  • ventilation: a fan
  • bed: cot, blankets, mummy sleeping bag
  • a few item to cook and eat with
  • clothing
  • heater
  • toilet, and toiletries: toothpaste/brush, moisturizer

everything else must go

50 ways to leave your clutter:

  1. sell or give away on craigslist
  2. sell it on ebay
  3. give it away on freecycle
  4. give it away by setting it out early for trash pickup - swoop!
  5. give away books on bookmooch
  6. donate it to religious thrifts like the Salvation Army, secular thrifts like Goodwill, etc. Be sure to get your tax deduction slip!


If you need to jettison books quickly, donate them to your local Friends of the Library group for an upcoming book sale or drop the reading material off at a nearby Little Free Library. – rubbertrampartist5)

Many people have an emotional reaction to physical books are are horrified at the thought of giving them up. But They are bulky, heavy, and we will never read most of the ones we already own. In a van or RV you won't have room to store many of them. are popular with 'dwellers they can hold thousands of books in the space of one slim paperback. E-ink models look like real paper and use so little power they can run a month on one charge. Tablet models can do double duty as media viewers, web browsers, etc. Non-Kindle tablets like the iPad or android equivalent can use the free Kindle app.

Your public library probably already digitally loans Kindle books through Overdrive (they are delivered by Amazon). No standing in checkout line or driving back to the library to return them - the books are just deleted from the reader after the loan expires.

If you have books that are not available in digital format companies like 1dollarscan can digitize your physical copy.

Note: Non-DRM books (like public domain works from Project Gutenberg, etc) can be read in third party apps like FBreader, a free and massively configurable reader.

further reading

  • /r/onebag - a community devoted to the idea of lugging around less crap. Fewer, higher quality items, packed into a single bag for ease of transport make life simpler. Feel free to share your favourite bags, packing lists, and interesting discussion topics.
lifestyle/downsizing.txt · Last modified: 2021/03/17 23:03 by frater_secessus