How to Downsize for Van Life and Tiny Living

Van life has become quite popular in the past few years. No longer is the stigma of ‘living in a van down by the river’ for the downtrodden, gypsies or vagabonds. It’s actually become an incredible way of nomadic life and minimalism. So, if you’re thinking of trying the van life yourself, you’ll want to read how to prepare and downsize for van life or tiny living.

If you’re into the van life scene on Instagram, it’s hard not to notice the glamorous sexy side of van life. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

The pictures of half-naked couples sprawled out on frothy, white linen van beds looking out at amazing scenic views. He’s drinking coffee in nothing but underwear. She’s standing in her matching bra and panties cooking gourmet meals without a splatter or burn. And how about those girls doing handstand yoga poses on the roof of their tiny vans with such precision.

But is that real van life? Is it really that glamorous and sexy? Is van life all that’s portrayed on Instagram? Well?

Van Life How To Guide

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Volkswagon Camper Magazine
Volkswagon Camper Magazine is a great resource for the VW van crowd.

Applicable articles:

Downsizing RVs? What You Need to Know!

Van Life Shopping Hacks for the RV Lifestyle

Downsizing Our RV Outdoor Camping Gear

How to Downsize Your RV Kitchen and Bathroom Accessories

Downsizing Our RV: Huge Fifth Wheel to a Tiny Motorhome

Meal Planning and RV Cooking Tips for Tiny Kitchens


How small can WILL you go?

Whether you’re downsizing as a solo, couple or even a family,  you need to think about how small you’re willing to go. Take a few days to visit van or RV dealerships or even RV shows to get a feel of different sizes and floor plans. Also, join various social media channels and Facebook group pages to research van life and how other van lifer’s are doing it.

While looking at the new ones, keep in mind they don’t have anything in them as far as belongings such as clothes, cooking supplies, tools, adventure equipment, etc. Believe me when I say that a van in the RV show or dealership looks a heck of a lot bigger inside without stuff you’re going to bring or pack.

If you already are RVing, visit other van lifers to get tips and advice on everything from layouts, sleeping quarters, clothing and food storage, meal preparation, to driving.

Try it out for size!

If you’re really ready to downsize to van life, a much smaller RV, or even tiny home, I highly recommend renting a small RV or van first. Or rent several of different sizes and layouts. Remember that a van, small RV or tiny home is an investment. Be wise. Educate yourself and get a true feeling of how it really will be living minimally in such a small space.

Start with renting a van or small RV an overnight working your way up to week and then a month. If you and/or your partner can’t make it past an overnight or a week, accept that you may not be cutout for minimalism, tiny living or van life.

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What kind of lifestyle?

Part of downsizing to a minimalistic lifestyle is you need to reevaluate what you’re going to do when you’re not eating, sleeping, working and everything in between.

Will you be bouncing around as a workkamper for seasonal campgrounds or be looking into plausible remote work gigs that you allow you to work anywhere WiFi is available.

Or, are you an outdoor enthusiast? Perhaps you’re a foodie who loves to sample regional cuisines? Maybe you’re you a craftsman who wants to sell your wares at Farmer’s Markets or local fairs? Whatever you decide will reflect on what kind and size vehicle or home you’re going to live in. Appreciate that some activities and hobbies require more gear or supplies. So, you’ll need to allocate a specified amount of space.

Stop Buying CRAP!!!

Just stop being a consumer. If you have a hard time staying out of stores, I recommend that you divert your attention to something that is useful, healthy, or accomplishes something positive; taking walks in the park, go to the library or visit a museum. Or, schedule a coffee date with a friend or family member instead of going shopping. But, make certain you tell your coffee date that’s all you’re in for. Leave your money and credit cards at home (except to pay for your coffee). In other words, stay out of stores.

If you’re eager to spend money to feel like you got something, buy yourself experiences instead such as a taking in a show or concert, a whale watch, or  pamper yourself with a day at the spa. But, skip tangible items unless they have purpose and meaning.

Part of the downsizing process is refocusing on YOU and the whole principle of you choosing the van life, downsizing or living minimally. Or, all of the above.


There’s a plethora of communities online that are pertinent to your interests. Join them! Form bonds and learn from those who share their BTDTs. Their experiences may save you money, headaches and heartbreaks.

Start looking into social media venues that focus on van living or van life. Also, look into joining some minimalism groups. And don’t forget to see if there is a van rally coming to your area so you could walk amongst other van lifers to get ideas and gain perspective to see if the van life is for you.

Some great Facebook pages for Van life:

Van Life Community

Van Life: Tips and Tricks

Living the Van Life

Get Organized

Make a timeline and lists. Get a calendar date book that has plenty of note-taking space. As well, buy yourself a wall calendar to keep up as a constant visual. Write everything on those calendars from yard sales, donation center hours, important meetings and dates, etc. Hold to your schedule and due dates. Because the closer you get to your move-in date, things will happen fast and you’re bound to forget an important date.

Declutter – Process of Elimination

Start with labeling boxes. Begin to separate what you’re going to keep, store, sell and donate. My suggestion is don’t keep those boxes in your sight very long. The last thing you need to do is second guess getting rid of stuff. Remember, that’s just what it is…STUFF.

For big or items that can bring in some decent bucks, get them listed on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. For smaller things you can’t seem to sell,  invite your family and friends over for a gifting party and let them take one thing with them as they leave (to remember you by?). If you have 25 people at your party, you’ll be 25 things lighter by night’s end.

For more tips on downsizing, decluttering and organizing for your van, check out: Declutter and Organize Your RV or Small Spaces

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Read about how you can enjoy free overnight parking solitude!

Ignore the Nay Sayers

Your mother is going to worry. Your brothers and sisters are going to think you’ve landed in the poor house. And your friends are going to tell you that you’ve fallen off your rocker. They all are going to say “you can’t LIVE in a van!”. Just politely nod and ignore those Negative Nellies. They’re not the ones who are living your life.

Don’t let the naysayers talk you out of your dream of van life. Gone are the days of the perception of being downtrodden and living in a van down by the river like the SNL video excerpt below:

Accept Your Growing Pains

Your first week and even the first couple months is your so-called honeymoon period of your new small lifestyle. Once the novelty wears off, you’ll be faced with the reality of your choosing. You’re going to experience the pits of “why the hell am I doing this to myself?” to excitements of “OH, the places I can go!”

Things are going to break. Finances will test you. Weather and illness may put you in places you don’t intend to be. Oftentimes, your patience may wear thin and And lastly, sometimes loneliness will be your worst enemy. But, just remember, all of those even apply to EVERYTHING in life, no matter what or what size vessel or vehicle your journey takes you on. Take one day at a time.

Enjoy the process because your ultimate goal is living and not having.

Live in a Van and Travel Book
How to Live in a Van and Travel: Live everywhere, be free and have adventures on a campervan or motorhome – your home on wheels

The Downsides of Van Life

Considering we’re just one letter away from being Vanlifers ourselves, we share pretty much the same constraints and considerations as those living in actual vans. A good explanation put together by our friends at Drivin’ & Vibin’ in their 5 Reasons to Avoid Van Life will give you realistic perceptions that you need to be aware of.

Know that when you prepare and downsize for Van life isn’t easy. Even we still go through some of those struggles after of living in our tiny 25′ motorhome for over a year. We have our own challenges that we didn’t incur living in our big fifth wheels. But, having experienced living in tighter quarters has enabled us to focus more on the journey, our relationships and the incredible places we explore.

Van Life How To Guide-6

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