Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What we do for storage in a camper

Storage in a camper?  Is that even possible?

No, this is not a rhetorical question.  But, I must be honest about this difficult task.

  Let me share my story.

For the first year and a half on the road full time, I tried everything to make our camper organized, neat, and with minimal clutter.  It seemed that every couple months I was rearranging and reorganizing in my attempt to accomplish the above goals.

Struggle after struggle, frustration, defeat....until finally I realized this is impossible! 

What we are doing is impossible!

That is right. 

It is impossible to to travel full time with six kids and a husband and wife. 

It is impossible to cram everything everyone needs into 42'.

It is impossible to fit winter, summer, and inbetween clothes for 8 people in our camper.

It is impossible to find a place for all of the food necessary to feed my family for an extended amount of time.

It is impossible to put tennies, dress shoes, boots, sandles, and any other shoes in our shoe rack by the door.

It is impossible to fit all the books I so desperately want to bring.

It is impossible to bring the kitchen utensils I would like to have to feed this large family.

It is impossible to keep all the toys organized that my little ones want to bring along.

And while I am at it, let me tell you what else is impossible:

to see all the sights,
to hike all the trails,
to see all the friends,
to stay with all the family,
to go to all the museums,
to do something fun every day.

My point is this....


I stopped trying to find a place for everything.  It is impossible.  All I can do is my best.  There are piles here and there.  Books crammed in the bathroom.  Winter clothes are under the dresser drawers.  School books line every shelf in every area.  Food is on the counters, in cabinets, under seats.  Just to brag a little, I can now fit 8 gallons of milk in my little, tiny fridge!  I only keep around 4 in it, though. If I do put 8 I can't fit much else:)

The day I realized my life is impossible was truly freeing for me.  My mind was not constantly preoccupied with chores and trying to put everything away and reorganize constantly.  Now, I do my best.  I keep a clean home that is sorted the best I can with the time I have.

Since then, I enjoy the trip more.  I know that I have such an amazing life and am so blessed.  Yes, it can be difficult, but the joys outweigh the hard times.

We don't get to go everywhere we would like or see everything that is amazing.  I tell my kids to not have the "Adam and Eve Mentality".  We can't forget all the amazing thing we get to see and do and just focus on that one place we didn't get to go, that one family member we didn't see, or that one event we missed.  We have to focus on what we have done, where we have been, all the blessings we have enjoyed.

Now, I will get off my soap box and get to the realities of what I have done to store things the best that I can.  It is not perfect and neither am I.  So, each day I learn new ways to make my home better and more efficient.

Let's start my tour in our 15 passenger van and truck.  These are two of my secret storage places...sshhhh...don't tell!  I have our umbrellas in the van door along with our sun block.  I keep a few extra blankets in the back.  We can use them while sight seeing if needed or if the weather is cold while traveling.  Then, in the winter, we bring them into the camper for the kids.  I keep the baby slings I sell under the back seat.  In the very back you'll find our sand toys, picnic blanket, basket balls, volley ball, tennis rackets, and other play toys.  One of our strollers is in there along with two child carrier back packs.  There is a breathing machine, a snow sled, and 8 pairs of rubber boots.  The kids have toys under their chairs, also.
I'm sure there is more, but you get the idea.

My husband keeps some things in the back seat of the truck.  While traveling we put the cooler in the bed of the truck along with our gray portable sewer tank.

The outside cabinets of the camper are full, also.  There is the generator, tools, an air compressor, electrical cord, extension cord, lawn chairs, snorkels and fins, life jackets, outside toys, fishing poles, tackle box, net, rubber boats, hmmmmmmm let me think what else...... I'm sure there is a ton more, but that is what I remember right now.

As I walk in the front door, there is a shoe rack to the right.  Everyone gets one shelf.  You have to get all your shoes on your shelf, minus the rubber boots in the van.  Above that are 3M hooks with hats hanging all over the wall.  To the left, there is a small cabinet we keep our cast iron cookware in and a few table cloths. 

I had a desk in this main room, but recently gave it to my six year old for a play area.  He likes to build legos and our sweet one year old kept knocking them down, so I gave him my desk in the hope he would be able to build to his hearts content.  Since he has my desk, I put all of my desk items on my dresser. 

Under the kitchen sink, we keep our cleaning items as well as garbage bags, aluminum foil, lint roller, etc.

The kitchen drawers - top one is pencils, pens, and everything else everyone throws in.  My husband likes to sort this one.  It gets full all the time

The second drawer has tape, scissors, some flashlights, packing tape, and permanent markers.

Last drawer has dish towels and the manuals for our fridge and hot water heater.

The cabinet above our sink has one plate for each person, one bowl for each person, 2 frying pans, pots, popcorn popper, mixing bowls, coffee, a basket I put baggies in, two glass measuring cups, a bread pan, camp plates for outside, a small blender, toaster, and two small cutting boards.

There is storage above our kitchen cabinet.  It has a net around the outside of it to hold items in.  I keep a medium crock pot and a small crock put there.  Also, an electric frying pan, backpacks with water bottles built in, a rice cooker.  We put plastic grocery bags over every item because of the dust.  That way we just take the items down and pull the bag off and it is ready to use.  Otherwise, everything gets a nasty, dusty slime all over it.

I have a tall, two cabinet pantry.  Top cabinet has boxed food, cups on middle shelf, canned goods on the bottom shelf.  I put the canned goods there because they are heavy and our camper's shelves aren't exactly built for heavy items.  The bottom cabinet of my pantry holds all the flour, sugar, and baking items I need. 

Over the stove, is where our microwave used to be.  It broke, so we took it out and my husband put in three shelves instead.  I miss the microwave sometimes, but I would rather have three shelves instead of it.  The top shelf we keep chips and crackers, middle shelf has bread and tortillas, and bottom we keep seasonings, lighters, hot pads, potatoes and onions.

I put two cast iron frying pans inside the oven.

The fridge is a work of art, well not really.  I have found ways to cram so much food in there.  Top shelf holds 3 - 18 packs of eggs, and a lg container of yogurt.  I moved one of the fridge shelves up to I could fit milk in different places.  Otherwise, there is not much to packing a fridge and freezer!

We have a shelf above our fridge that my son keeps his books on. I sneak a few cook books there.

Above our living room slide out is a long shelf, the length of the slide out.  It has a net around it like the one across from it that is above the stove and sink.  We don't put a lot of weight on it in case it should fall.  It has movies, mostly education-school type, and some books.  We also keep a air freshener and cleaner here.  I had bought a large one a couple of years ago, but it was balky and always in our way.

I have a huge, laminated monthly calendar and another that is yearly hung on the wall with putty.  I plan on getting a map to put there also.

We had hung a full length mirror on the door that leads to the back room, but that didn't last long.  I recently found the bendable mirrors in the auto section at Walmart.  I bought two just to try them out.  It was a little pricey, but worth it.  If we stand too far away it looks like a circus mirror, but up close it is great.  I am going to buy more to put down the length of the door. (Sorry I couldn't find a link for it.)

Our camper came with lots of storage, so we try to use it wisely.  In our slide out there are cabinets that line the wall above our table and desk.  From left to right I store the following:
1. rolling pin, playing cards, extra baggies, lemon press, cookie cutters, other small miscellaneous items.
2. different kinds of rice and beans
3. pasta
4. almonds, walnuts, pecans, hot cocoa mix, oatmeal, apricots, and prunes
5. different kinds of tea bags and supplements I add to milk.

There are two drawers under the dining room table bench seat.  I have Pyrex glassware that I use for cooking in and storing in.  I don't have room for lots of different food storage containers, so I like Pyrex since I can bake and store in the same piece. I also put extra lids for mason jars and kids cups in this drawer.  There is also an area behind the drawer that I keep canned goods and extra food.  I have to really watch for mold in this area.  With condensation such a problem in campers, certain areas can be a real battle. We put Damp rid products in areas like this as well as our storage trailer to try to keep back the mold.

The other drawer is where I keep our extra batteries that I buy in large quantities from Sam's Club.  It also holds my cookie sheets and two glass baking pans.

Behind it I keep more of the extra food.  I like to keep a supply of some items in case of a natural disaster or emergency.  I said earlier that I can't store a lot of food, but when I can, I will stock up on canned goods, spaghetti, applesauce,and other food items that can last longer without being refrigerated.

There is a center cabinet under the bench that my husband uses for the rv items; electric cord, chalks, etc.  It is accessible from the outside and inside. 

There is a large tv in the main room.  Next to it I keep napkins in a large stack.  The shelf under it has held books, Wii, and now, more food.  Up above, in a loft bed, is my son's bed and area.  He has crammed as much as possible into that bed.

There are many more places, but this is a start.  I hope it gives you some ideas if you are living in a camper too!

  Happy sorting and organizing!!!!

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