(That picture is from when we loaded our new Airstream for our first trip, two years ago!)
This time of year, everyone is interested in organization and streamlining their homes, right? Those concepts are especially important when you live in a tiny house, and even more so when you share your tiny house with another human and a dog.
When you occasionally tow your house from here to there, weight and the ability to stow everything away (I see so many pictures of beautifully decorated Airstreams on Instagram complete with houseplants and knickknacks and I have to assume those Airstreams never travel!) are also considerations, adding extra layers of complexity to the challenge.
We’ve written before about cooking in a tiny kitchen and RV gadgets and gizmos we love, but we haven’t really discussed what goes where and how we organize our wee Airstream space; a reader recently asked us about it, so here are some details. Let us know what you do differently that works especially well for you!
[If you read our site primarily for the pretty destination photos, you will likely not be interested in this post, so you should stop reading now.]
[Still here? Get comfortable–this is a long one!]
One tip that applies to organization across all areas of the trailer: as you’re packing up your Airstream for travel, remember that heavier items should go closer to the ground for optimum weight distribution.
In the cabinet above the fridge we store dry pantry items like crackers, pasta, and oatmeal. We don’t tend to carry a whole lot of those types of foods, so that small compartment is usually big enough.
Cans are heavy, so we typically keep them in plastic bins on the ground, under the sofa. On shorter trips when we’re only carrying a few cans we may put them in our spices/oils drawer beneath the microwave to fill space and keep the oil and spice bottles from sliding around and banging into each other.
Spices / Oils / Sauces
The drawer under the microwave has two shelves. The bottom shelf is dedicated to spices, oils, and sauces for cooking. We have a drawer divider separating the taller oil and sauce bottles in the back of the shelf from the shorter spice bottles in the front.
Some of our shelves are lined with non-slip liners if we worry about the contents sliding around while the Airstream is on the road. You can see it on the top shelf in the above photo, and again in the picture of our dishes below. It can be a pain if it gets bunched up, but I generally think it’s been helpful.
The top shelf of the spice drawer holds our snacks: trail mix packets from Trader Joe’s, RX Bars (obsessed), and all the toppings we put on breakfast yogurt and smoothies: chopped walnuts/pecans/almonds, cacao nibs, shredded coconut, chia seeds, flax seeds, etc.
Bugsy eats both dry kibble and canned food, and we keep her on national brands so we can easily replenish stocks when necessary. Her dry food is kept in large bins under the sofa with our canned goods, and her wet food cans are in the small cabinet below Drawer #3 referenced below. If we’re traveling for more than a couple weeks, we’ll stop at a pet store or Tractor Supply to pick up more cans rather than hauling a ton.
You can read about where all of Bugsy’s travel gear lives in this post.
Our dishes live on the left side of the overhead cabinet above the stove. We stack our plates (a set of lightweight Corel, along with disposable paper plates and bowls for boondocking when we have to conserve water) in these plastic dish holders, with bowls nested atop the side plates stack. Mugs, cups, and glasses are clustered to the right of the dishes.
Sitting on the stack of dinner plates is a plastic mixing bowl, and inside the mixing bowl is a set of measuring cups and spoons.
Utensils / Cooking Gadgets
Our Airstream’s kitchen has three under-counter drawers. We have them organized thusly:
Drawer 1: Cutlery in a basic organizer from IKEA (we got many organizational items there, mostly bins of all sizes, some with lids, some without), and in the extra space, odds and ends like napkins, soy sauce packets, and plasticware packets.
Drawer 2: A long, narrow plastic bin with chef’s knives, spatulas, whisk, garlic press, mixing spoons, peelers, graters; i.e., items that touch food. A long, narrow plastic bin with a can opener, stick lighter, knife sharpener, pens; i.e., items that don’t touch food. A tall cup-type container with bag clips and rubber bands. A tall cup-type container with two foldable silicone trivets. And one more tall cup-type container with a bottle opener, more pens, and Sharpies. The containers are held in place with museum putty to keep them in place.
Drawer 3: Pot holders, and too many koozies (we tend to pick up new ones at drinking establishments we like on our travels).
Visiting new places means eating out a lot to sample the local cuisine and experience the town’s scene, but we actually do cook a lot on the Airstream!
Pots and Pans
We travel with three sizes of pots and one skillet, stored in the cabinet above the microwave. On our big trip we carried a cast iron skillet for cooking in a campfire, but didn’t use it enough to warrant the extra weight on subsequent trips.
Pot lids stand on end next to the stack of pots, along with a collapsible silicone colander. Spare dish towels cushion the lids.
In the compartment below the oven, we keep two Pyrex baking dishes, a metal baking sheet (tiny, to fit in that mini oven), and grill utensils.
Smaller appliances, like the blender and stick blender, live on the right side of the cabinet over the kitchen sink. The Crock Pot is too big and heavy for there, obviously, and so goes in the under-bed storage.
Our Airstream has a microwave drawer, so storing that is easy. Thanks, Airstream!
I’m a coffee drinker, and J’s a tea drinker, so since we’re usually brewing for one we use small, simple, easy to store systems. A bin to the left of the blenders holds my cone and filters, his Teavana tea maker, our travel mugs, and, when we’re underway, the cute collapsible kettle that usually sits on the stove.
Wraps / Food Storage
On the shelf over the pots, we keep foil, parchment paper, plastic wrap, and ziplock bags. On top of the boxes of wraps lay a large and small flexible cutting board and a dish drying mat.
The pots and pan only take up the front half of their shelf, and we have adjustable tension rods (we also sometimes use spare rods to stabilize refrigerator items when we’re on the road) keeping them in their place. The rest of the shelf behind the pots is filled with food storage containers of all sizes and shapes: plastic containers, mason jars, small glass bottles.
The Airstream has two TVs, a DVD player, and a Bluetooth stereo. We’re really roughing it, huh? The TV has an over-the-air antenna that will get local stations in cities, but that’s usually not good enough for us (because we are super into UVA basketball), so on long trips we carry a DirecTV setup that I’ll discuss later. For this section I’ll just say we have DVDs, books (including all the Airstream manuals), games, and cards stored in the cabinet above the dinette. When we’re packing up for towing, we store throw pillows up there too.
I think they counts as entertainment items, for when we are entertaining ourselves outside: we have two collapsible camp chairs stashed in the space behind the short side of the sofa, and a small folding camp table in the hall closet.
And if we’re counting chairs, we should count bikes. We have a Fiamma bike rack on the back of our Airstream, and last year we finally picked up a couple beach cruiser bikes. Somehow they’ve not fallen apart even though we take terrible care of them and they are always exposed to the elements. We carry a bike pump in the front compartment of the Airstream.
All our cleaning supplies are under the kitchen sink, along with extra kitchen sponges, plastic grocery bags, and refills for the smaller hand soap and dish soap bottles we keep on the counter. Grocery bags holding recycling fit in this area too. When we bought the Airstream we were concerned about the small size of the under-sink trash can, but it has worked fine for us. We store extra trash bags under the lip of the cutout where the trash can sits.
I am constantly running the Dustbuster, which charges against the wall behind Bugsy’s bed under the dinette. We also keep a telescoping broom clipped into a dustpan under the short side of the sofa, next to the door, but don’t use it much since we got the Dustbuster.
Under the short side of the dinette sofa we have a big drawer, easily accessed from outside when the front door is open; this is where most of our tools live. A big bin holds miscellaneous items: headlamps, utility gloves, hitch ball lube, duct tape, fuses, the socket for the trailer’s lug nuts. A smaller zipper case has often-used tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers. At the front of the drawer are the tools we use each time we unhitch and level the Airstream: a small bubble level and a cordless drill with a socket that fits our stabilizer jacks.
They’re more supplies than tools, but we also have a small bin with post-its, scratch pads, envelopes, stamps, and return address labels in the under-sofa storage.
Keys / Stuff you want by the door
Our Airstream has two doored compartments just inside the front door. The top shelf is part of the larger below-sink storage area, so we have a small container held in place with museum putty to hold small items we want close at hand–it was supposed to just be for dropping keys when we came inside, but has picked up some other junk along the way.
The bottom compartment is a smaller, enclosed space, perfect for Bugsy’s collars, leash, treats, and poo bags–easy to grab on our way out the door.
The clothes areas on our 27FB include a cabinet over the bed, a compartment beneath each bedside table, and the hall closet. We have clothes in all those spots, and we each have a big plastic bin (that came with the Airstream) in the under-bed storage (with easy side access so we’re not lifting the bed all the time) full of exercise gear.
Bugsy’s clothes and personal items are stored in her own little cabinet, beneath the refrigerator.
The under-bed storage is spacious, but having to lift the bed to get in there makes it not terribly convenient, so we keep bulkier things there that we don’t quick access to: extra toilet paper and paper towels, the space heater and dehumidifier when not in use, Crock Pot, bike helmets and panniers, and spare linens.
Toilet / Shower
We keep our shampoo and stuff in a caddy that suctions to the shower wall, so when we’re underway we don’t have a big mess. It has worked well for us.
Our Airstream’s toilet-and-sink closet is tiiiiny, but there’s actually a good amount of storage in there. The area down low behind the toilet is hard to access, so we keep laundry detergent and dryer sheets there, along with a stash of supplies for cleaning the toilet and black tank. Tissues and extra soaps and stuff live under the sink. The rest of the shelf and cabinet space can be used by whatever personal crap we want to bring. The trick is to keep it from sliding all over the place when the Airstream is rolling; we often use a roll of toilet paper or paper towels to brace everything.
On the counter, we have a few cup-type plastic containers locked down with museum putty holding toothbrushes, toothpaste, liquid hand soap, contact cases, etc.
When we unhitch the trailer, we need wheel chocks (we also carry a rubber mallet to whack the chocks into place) and leveling blocks close at hand. Depending on where we’re staying, we may want our locking wheel chock or reflective triangles. All those things live in the front compartment.
After we’re unhitched, we start hooking up utilities: power (sometimes with a 50 amp to 30 amp converter) and water (sometimes with a heated hose and extension cord). Cables and hoses live in the front compartment too.
Finally, if we’re setting up the sewer connection (which we don’t do at every stop), we’ll get the hose support from the back of the front compartment. We also store the hose used for flushing the black tank up front. J promises a future post on tank dumping, get excited!
The gross stuff lives here: the sewer slinky hose and extender, and the long rubber gloves we (J) wear when handling the sewer stuff. [Airstream provides a tube under the trailer for storing the slinky, but it doesn’t fit with the caps on the ends of the hose, and we don’t want to not have those caps on, because gross.]
The Airstreaming-specific equipment in our truck tool box includes a small propane grill that can attach to the trailer’s propane line, two CGear mats to cover dirt or sand in our yard, and tarps for just-in-case. We also store our hiking boots in there to keep their dirt and bulk out of the house.
We talked about the yard we create for Bugsy in our post on traveling with dogs. The stack of fencing for the yard sits in the truck bed, with our DirecTV tripod bungeed to the top. [I’ll do a post on our DirecTV setup process at some point, because it took a lot of work to figure out and simplify.] Also in the truck bed we carry cement blocks for holding down the tripod feet when upright, and on trips when extended boondocking is a possibility, four water cans with integrated spouts–those spouts make the cans SO much easier to use than trying to use a funnel to get the water into your fresh tank.
When we’re traveling, Bugsy’s crate takes up most of the backseat area, with the DirecTV dish wedged in behind it, and our hiking backpacks stacked alongside.
Whew! That’s a lot of information, but hopefully some of it will help new campers putting together packing lists and storage systems. Happy travels!
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