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RV Minimalism Part 3: Rethinking Space

June 2, 2014

One of the goals – or at least outcomes – of minimalism is to get more out of less.  I want to get more enjoyment of life from fewer resources.  When you look at it this way, it really makes a lot of sense.  Think about gas mileage for a second.  Would you like to put in ONE gallon and go 10 miles, or get 50 miles from that same gallon?  By exercising minimalism, you put in less of your resources (time, money, energy, etc) and you get a comparable benefit – frequently even MORE benefit!

Well, one area where this can be applied is when thinking about space.  No, not like poor old Sandra Bullock floating around trying not to die, but you know, like, a void that can be occupied by mass.  (Yes, I know that isn’t a good definition of “space” and no, I’m not interested in you correcting me with the actual one, but thanks anyway!)  A frequent way of quantifying the space that people occupy with their domestic tranquility is by counting the square feet, i.e. “My house is 1200 square feet”.  We do the same thing, and usually use a number somewhere around 100 square feet (often I say “99” just to make it sound more dramatic, but really it depends on what you count).  So when someone says they have 1200 square feet of house, they’re saying that the living room is 300 square feet, the kitchen is 200 square feet, the den is 300 square feet, a couple of bathrooms are 50 square feet each, a couple of bedrooms are 100 square feet each, and they have a number of closets and a laundry room that equal the final 100.  And this is all well and good, but they are also not usually thinking of one irrefutable fact which I have spent a LOT of time thinking about.  You ready?  Here it is:

One person can only occupy one of those spaces at any given time. 

Profound, right?  Let’s just consider one person for a moment, and let me think through this with you a minute.  When that person is in the bathroom, they are essentially “using” 50 square feet.  The remaining 1150 is unused.  When they are asleep in the bedroom, they are “using” 100 square feet, leaving 1100 unused for 8 hours each night.  When they are cooking dinner and sitting at the table they are “using” 200 square feet, leaving 1000 unused.  But they are still paying for those unused square feet every day!  And in most cases, they are paying to heat, cool, clean and maintain that unused space as well.


This is where RV minimalism comes in.  Our bedroom is about 40 square feet.  But that same 40 sf turns into our living room when we wake up and fold our bed into benches.  That same 40 sf turns into our kitchen when we’re cooking dinner, and when we get ready to eat that dinner the same 40 sf turns into our dining room as we fold our table from it’s clever hiding spot right into the middle of it.  We have another 40 sf of space towards the front of the RV which does the same thing.  When we’re driving around it’s the kids’ seats, but when we are parked it’s their room.  At bedtime those seats fold down into their bed, and when we turn the front seats around that same area can serve as a den of sorts.  Right now I’m using it as my office while I work on this article.

Now, I’m not unaware of the obvious challenges this line of thinking presents.  We DO have four people, and it WOULD be nice at times to have some other options for personal space.  But the point is, we have a minimal commitment of resources going towards this space, and when you add up the square feet available it is actually comparable to a typical American house.  Check this out:

(NOTE:  For the purpose of this exercise I’m counting more like you would in a typical house.  A “bedroom” is 100 sf, even though the bed itself – which is all you are actually occupying – only takes up about 40 or so.  A bedroom includes the empty space for walking around, the closets, and so on).

Master BR:  70 sf

Living Room:  70 sf

Kids BR:  70 sf

Kitchen:  70 sf

Dining Room:  70 sf

Den: 70 sf

Bathroom: 20 sf

Office:  70 sf

Entryway:  20 SF

Closets and Storage:  20 sf

TOTAL:  550 square feet


Mother's Day 2013:  This meal was fit for a QUEEN (note the flowers and chocolate)

Dining Room


Bedroom: 70 sf (counting “walking-around” room)

Bottom line:  If you’re going to be an RV Minimalist, you just have to think about the space differently.  Could you live in 100 square feet?  With four people?!?  Maybe not.  But if you realize you ACTUALLY have over 500 sf, suddenly it becomes a whole lot more manageable.  And when you remember that you’re only PAYING and MAINTAINING 100 sf, but getting the BENEFIT of 550, now you suddenly seem like a genius!

Now….this genius has to get back to playing frisbee in the park with his family.  Since I don’t have a McMansion to pay for and maintain, I got a lot of extra time on my hands for that stuff.  See ya!


Frisbee in the park on a beautiful Pacific Northwest morning





From → RV Minimalism

  1. Scott permalink

    Love this post! So true, thanks for sharing.

  2. eyehop permalink

    I left my 650 sq ft apt for a 100 sq ft rv and I love it! Less really is more. I feared not feeling grounded in a vehicle, but I have more sense of home than ever, a nice surprise.

  3. Thomas lewis permalink

    most people live way beyond what they need to be happy.growing up in Southern calif,we were always traveling,like wise my own children experienced the same,everywhere we went we took the the stories and what ever you ultimately decide on,keep it simple,you,your wife and your children will better off for it.

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