Motorhome vs. Traditional home: 5 key differences

What’s it like to live fulltime in a motorhome? I know I was intensely curious about that topic while we researched transitioning to this lifestyle. I’m still a relative newbie at this, but below are a few key differences that I’ve noted between living in a regular house and living in this compact, rolling home.

1. You have to be strategic and selective in what you take with you.  The first, and biggest, adjustment is the need to pare down everything you own to fit into this smaller space. I found that I can take quite a variety of things with us, just in smaller quantity. For example, I can’t take every kitchen appliance I used to have, so I purchased an Instant Pot which is multi-function. I have clothing for every kind of weather, but less of everything. I still have crafting supplies, Christmas decorations, dishes, clothes, games, linens, office supplies, camping gear, tools, and so on, just not as much of each.  I even have our guitar and my violin. You make room for the things you REALLY want to keep, and fill in the gaps with the other necessities and luxuries. The process forces you to decide what is really important to you, and what isn’t. In a traditional house, I often kept things just because I could.

2. Everything is just a bit smaller and clutter can accumulate quickly.  Everything in the bus is scaled down just a bit; the shower, the couch, the dinette area, etc. (The bed is still king size, though!) Because you have less overall space, items can stack up and overflow corners and on counters very quickly. You can’t just shut the door on the dirty dishes in the sink and go into the living room to watch TV because it’s all one living space. The old saying “a place for everything and everything in its place” applies here. I find that it works best to put items away immediately after use and clean as you go. The good thing about a small space is there is less to clean, so it takes less time! I must confess, I was a more lax housekeeper in my 4 bedroom house. Of course, I also had a maid service then ….

3. You can cook just about everything – but not all at once. My lovely kitchen is equipped with a two-burner induction cooktop and a standard size convection microwave oven. Induction cooking is awesome; quick and efficient. But the power is split between the two burners, so I can’t set both on “high” at the same time. And since my oven is both my microwave and conventional “heat” oven, I’m limited as to the quantity and cooking method that I can utilize at any one time. The oven will fit a half size cookie sheet, but not a regular one. I can manage to fit my lasagna pan, but not a large pizza. Counter space is also limited, so I can’t spread out as much during food preparation.  If I intended to throw a large dinner party with many dishes or bake 12 dozen cookies, I would have to plan and make adjustments. But, for two people and ordinary meals the facility is more than adequate. And most campground parties are potluck anyway! If all else fails, there’s always take-out.

4. You have to manage holding tanks.  One of the realities of RV living is dealing with holding tanks for fresh water and waste. If you are “off the grid”, then the amount of water in your fresh water tank is all you’ve got! Being self-contained means that all of your waste water flows into waste holding tanks, and when they are full it’s got nowhere else to go but to “back up” into your home! If you are on fresh water hookup, then water supply is provided by a hose so the supply is limitless, but water pressure is not. You have plenty of water pressure to wash dishes OR take a shower OR run the washing machine, but not all at once. Having a sewer hookup sounds easy – just run a hose to the drain and you can just flush everything all the time, right? Well, not exactly. The problem with leaving the drain constantly open is that liquids drain and solids tend to be left behind to accumulate, forming what is affectionately known as a crap pyramid.  Accumulated solids can plug the line, foul tank level sensors and generally wreak havoc. The way around that is to keep the drain line closed, wait until a waste tank is reasonably full, then dump it all at once. That approach is not difficult, but requires that you regularly check tank levels and plan your tank dumps accordingly. You want to stay on top of it and not have to do an “emergency” tank dump in the dark or in adverse weather. Checking the tank levels has become an automatic part of my day.  When not in water conservation mode, we usually need to dump the gray tank (wash water) about every other day, and the black tank (potty water) about twice a week. No big deal. Oh, and you have to use a toilet paper that is “septic safe” so it breaks down in the tank. No more cushy 2 ply, it’s the thin TP from now on.

5. Remember where you parked!  Being on the move means that you are always figuring out where everything is, such as grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. When living in a regular house for 20 years, I could put  my drive home on auto pilot. Not so when a different week brings a different parking spot! Thank goodness for GPS.

So there you have it. After I’ve lived in the motorhome longer, I’m sure I’ll develop another list!

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