One of the questions our friends and family sometimes jokingly ask is how we manage to get on for up to four weeks at a time when living in our motorhome – the interior of which is a little smaller than our bathroom at home and doesn’t allow you to stand upright.
This question is often extended to include humorous speculation about storage, hygiene, eating habits and much more…
So how do we manage? Inspired by Richard’s recent post, “Getting Away”, I thought I would note down a few of the things we’ve learned over the last few years.
Like Richard, we are fully prepared before we leave the house. The fresh water is full, the waste water and toilet are empty and the bed is made up and only needs to be pulled down into position. Similarly, all our food and drink is stored away properly so that it is not in the way but is ready to use when needed.
Starting off with everything in order makes things easier – the flip side of this is that everything has to stay this way, especially in a small van.
We live by the words, “A place for everything, and everything in its place” – it may sound a bit OCD, but it enables us to manage much more easily than you might think, self catering and without using campsites.
Although it is only a 5m van, our conversion was intended from the start to provide plenty of storage, as we knew we were planning some long (2-5 week) European trips.
The van is configured with a fairly standard campervan side conversion, which means that our storage is in two areas:
- Underneath the rock n roll seat / bed
- In cupboards along the offside of the van, including a full height cupboard at the back
Our bed, although it is hard to raise up and down, provides an uncommonly large amount of storage underneath. This is where we store our walking boots and the majority of our food, drink, loo roll, etc.
Behind the nearside rear wheel arch we also keep two 10 litre water containers that we use to supplement the 25 litre container into which the tap is plumbed.
The full height cupboard at the back of the van is quite deep and is divided into two with a removable shelf. Below the shelf (also accessible from the rear without removing the shelf) is the leisure battery and plastic crates with tools, toilet fluid bottles, mains hookup lead, etc.
Above this, on top of the shelf, is our wardrobe. We don’t waste space with hanging clothes – we have six small, stackable plastic storage crates with lids (from a pound shop) into which all of our clothes are carefully packed. We then rotate the crates around and gradually work through our clothes, packing dirty clothes into an empty crate. Clothes pack a lot smaller if you roll them up tightly (underwear or t-shirts) or fold them small (trousers and sweaters).
This ‘wardrobe’ arrangement works extremely well and makes good use of the space, into which we also fit our toilet bags, camera, laptop bag and wireless antenna. It also makes loading the van simple – we can pack the crates in our bedroom and then carry them out to the van and put them straight in the cupboard.
Under the sink we have 25 litre fresh water and waste water containers, plus some homemade shelving where we store food and utensils that is ‘in use’ – bread, cooking oil, saucepans, etc. Similarly, in the fridge, we have fresh food and opened food like half-used tins.
Washing & Toilet
We do not usually use campsites and so most of the time we rely completely on the facilities we have onboard – a toilet, sink and cold tap.
You can manage surprisingly well with cold water, a sink and a flannel, or if you are more delicate, water warmed in a kettle and a sink. As for privacy, that is very much down to personal preferences. It is a lot easier (especially in bad weather) if you are not too bothered about this.
If you want bathroom facilities, get a different van or stay on a campsite!
Getting On With Each Other!
I’m afraid this is down to you and your other half. All I will say is that a small van is a bad place to have a big row. Much better to acknowledge each other’s foibles and adapt to them while away or discuss them before you go away.
We have found that we have gradually developed exact routines for almost everything – getting up, going to bed, toilet use, washing up, having a pre-dinner drink – and that this makes it a lot easier to live comfortably in such a confined space. Both being tidy also helps.
More Motorhome Travel Tips
For more motorhome travel tips, check out my wild camping guide, our guide to European motorhome service areas and our suggestion for keeping your motorhome clean while on the road. Plus we have just reviewed the long range wireless antenna we use for internet access while we’re away from home.