Remodeling Travel Trailer Interior For Full Time RV Living

When we bought our used travel trailer, the 2003 model was basically a brown box with a sofa and cushions that were sprinkled with American flags and Eagles. Not exactly our style! Since we were going to live in it full time, we wanted to make it into something homey, colorful and cheerful. During our cosmetic renovation  and remodel, we replaced a few things to make it more eco-friendly, but also changed some things to simply make it more pleasing to the eye.

Since we work remotely from our trailer and on location, we needed a solution to have 2 work spaces as well. The original trailer had a cabinet and a captain chair installed on the left side of the entrance, but the previous owner had already removed the chair, which was great for us, as it provided for the perfect place to add a work desk.

We replaced the dinette table with a simple built that has a slot to store laptops and hard drives so it can be used as a work desk and dining table while not having to shuffle around too much. We also replaced the fake-wood kitchen countertop with an inexpensive and simple butcher-block type wood and replaced the double sink with a small bar sink to get more countertop space.

As for the original sofa and cushions, the Eagles and flags are just not our style, so we covered the sofa with a simple fabric and added some color with pillows that we already had. And with only a few alterations we turned our old looking brown box into a modern colorful home.

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Installing Bamboo Flooring In Our Travel Trailer

When we bought our used travel trailer we decided to add bamboo flooring to cover the unattractive beige laminate floor that came with the 2003 original built. When we researched flooring options that were suitable for a travel trailer or RV, our criteria were 1. eco-friendliness, 2. light-weight, 3. water and scratch resistance, 4. low cost.

Although we loved the idea of using reclaimed wood, there were three main problems that came with it: 1. Finding reclaimed wood is hard to find if you live in New York City and don’t have a car to drive around and search for it, 2. wood is quite heavy and would have added a lot of weight to our trailer, 3. it can be more costly than some other options.

We learned, that Linoleum flooring would be a great eco-friendly option as the material is made of natural solidified linseed oil, pine resins, ground cork dust, wood flour, and mineral fillers such as calcium carbonate, most often on a burlap or canvas backing. Linoleum flooring comes in different colors, is water resistant, lasts for up to 40 years and is low-maintenance.

Vinyl flooring is commonly mistaken as being the same as Linoleum flooring but the truth is far from it. Vinyl is a synthetic product made of mostly petroleum, a non-renewable resource. It is inexpensive, water resistant, wear resistant and easy to peel-and-stick to the floor, but we decided against it as it is not an eco-friendly option.

Cork flooring is another natural and eco-friendly option as cork is being harvested from tree bark of Cork Oak Trees, and the bark is growing back after stripping it. Cork flooring is great because it has a warm look, somewhat soft surface, helps to insulate the floor, it is waterproof, mold and mildew resistant. The eco-friendliness of the manufacturing however can differ greatly as well as the cost.

Recycled tiles are another eco-friendly option for a house, but not for a moving RV that is going through earth-quake like vibrations every time it moves.

Bamboo flooring has grown in popularity lately and for us it was the best solution for our travel trailer renovation project. Bamboo is a fast growing plant and much more sustainable than wood. We recommend to buy bamboo from a provider that is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. FSC is a global organization devoted to responsible management of the world’s forests. Another point to consider is purchasing a better quality eco-bamboo that is made with low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) components.

We decided on bamboo because it is low-maintenance, water resistant, easy to install, somewhat light weight and affordable all while having the warm look of a hardwood floor.  We have been happy with our decision on the floor and it has held up well so far.

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Travel Trailer Interior Renovation Painting

When we bought our 2003 Coachman Spirit of America travel trailer, a 25ft long and 7ft wide cube on wheels, we were super excited to paint the interior and make it our own. For the last 50 years, the RV industry used pretty much only 3 colors for interior design: light brown, medium brown and dark brown. No way we could live with that look! We wanted to live in a cheerful and colorful environment. After gazing through some magazines and interior design blogs, we decided to paint the walls white and the cabinets in a light blueish-gray. Since the original hinges and handles were ornamented bronze we decided to donate them and bought sleek, modern and silver-colored ones instead. Then after the painting was done we added some cheer with colorful cushion fabric and re-use the colorful pillows we already had in our apartment.

During the renovation and for the paint-job we used eco-friendly products whenever possible: biodegradable soap, sponges and garbage bags for pre- and post cleanup, odorless and low VOC primer and zero VOC paint for walls and cabinets, eco-drop cloth to protect the floor from dripping paint and we used mineral oil to clean brushes.

Although this was our first time painting an RV and it is a pretty difficult and labor-intensive job to paint the shiny flat fake-wood paneling surface of RV cabinets, we are so happy with the outcome. We decided not to sand down the cabinets before priming because we simply did not have the time for it. As a result, the primer did have some difficulty adhering to the surface during the first layer. As an end result, there were a few uneven spots in the paint overall – not perfect by any means, but we nevertheless are happy on how the paint job turned out.

Here’s a list of the Environmentally-Conscious Products we used:

Trimaco 02101 9′ X 12′ Eco Drop™ Paper Drop Cloth

Scotch-Brite Greener Clean Natural Fiber Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge, Made from 100% Plant-Based Fibers, 2-Sponges

13 Gallon Tall Kitchen Bags – 3 PACKS (36 Count)

Afm Safecoat Safe Seal, White 32 Oz. Can 1/Case

Simple Green 13005CT Industrial Cleaner and Degreaser, Concentrated, 1 Gal Bottle

Grn Mnrl Spirits Carb Gl

KILZ Odorless Interior Oil-Base Primer/Sealer/Stainblocker, White, 1-gallon

5-gal. Ultra Pure White Zero VOC Flat Interior Paint

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Less Is More – Eco-Friendly Downsizing

We are Eliane and Damian, two outdoor enthusiasts who became digital nomads, moved into a travel trailer and travel full time while working remotely and on location.

Before we started our adventure, we lived in New York City in a 900sqft apartment. When we bought our 26 foot travel trailer we started to downsize and minimize our belongings. We put only a few pieces into storage and decided to give most of our stuff away. We sold a few instruments through craigslist and gave all our furnitures to friends who could make good use of it. We brought the rest of our stuff including clothing, kitchenware, CDs, books etc to a local donation drop spot and a Salvation Army store around our neighborhood. It was a lot of hard work to go through years of accumulated stuff but it was an incredibly freeing experience!

 

“Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury – to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.”

Albert Einstein

“The more material we lose, the less we have. The less we have, the more we win.”

Anthony Liccione

It seems to be a human trait to want more, collect more, own more. We buy things because we think it makes us happier. But what many come to find is that having less improves our quality of life because it allows us more room in our heads and our hearts.

Simply put, more material clutter means more mental clutter. The less excess we have, the less distracted we get. The less distracted we are the more peace, energy and happiness we gain. Besides, the fewer expenses we have, the more money we can spend on enjoying the moment. After all, it’s meaningful experiences that make us happy and not our material belongings (as multiple studies have shown).

Need some inspiration? Watch the movie Happy.

The 75 year long Harvard study on happiness revealed that relationships are the key to a happy life. The way we at wander.green see it, this includes the relationships we have with ourselves, with our co-inhabitants, as well as with our environment. Living on this planet makes us a small part of a big eco-system and it makes us responsible for the way we care for our own lives surroundings. Everything we own needs to go somewhere once we’re done with it, and it is our responsibility to recycle or dispose of it without hurting our environment.

Aspiring to be green and eco-friendly includes more than just using products that are better for our environment. Living a green lifestyle includes maintaining healthy relationships with ourselves, our body, our mind, our environment, and those around us. The process of minimizing our possessions is part of a healthy and green lifestyle and provides us with healthy space in our heads and hearts while reducing our environmental footprint.

This means minimizing waste, reusing as possible, recycling as needed and selling or giving to charity instead of throwing in the landfill.

Both of us at wander.green moved across the ocean over a decade ago, bringing with us only the bare necessities. That was our first experience with drastic downsizing. Of course, we accumulated new stuff over the years. Recently we have for the second time purged our belongings so that we were able to move from a one bedroom apartment into a 25ft travel trailer, our mobile home. Here’s what we learned and found to be helpful:

Downsize, Minimize, and Declutter Your Home

Make a list of items with three categories: 1. Need 2. Want 3. Give away

Start with one room (including the drawers and closets) and sort everything according to the 3 categories. Go over the “want” pile a second time and move any items you don’t feel a strong love for into the “give away” pile. Do this systematically in each room of your house.

Once the drawers and closets have been cleared, use them to store the items that you will keep, grouping similar items together. Put the “give away” pile into a large cardboard box for transport and donate, sell, or recycle it the very next day.

There are several helpful methods to aid in the sometimes-overwhelming downsizing process:

The KonMari method, a methodical approach to decluttering and keeping only items that bring you joy.

The 30-day Minimalism Game, a methodical way of getting rid of one thing the first day, two things the second day, three things the third day, four things the fourth day, etc. You get the idea.

The Closet Hanger Method, a method suggested by Peter Walsh as seen on Oprah.

Another helpful tool is to look at all the things in your “want” pile and throw out anything you have not used in the last 3 months.

It is a good idea to go through this clean-up and decluttering process every few months to downsize even further and so keep your home tidy over time. Don’t forget your jewelry box, accessories, shoe rack, bathroom cabinets, make-up bag, hand bags, garage and attic, the inside of your car and even the items on your phone and computer.

Here’s a list that might help:

Computer and Office

  • De-clutter your computer and delete, delete, delete.
  • Organize your files and file-structures in a logical manner and keep file folders neat.
  • Scan all your important documents and save them in a specific folder.
  • Save your files and photos on external hard-drives for backup.
  • Shred all paperwork except the legal documents – store them in a fire-proof lock-box.
  • Subscribe to paperless-billing whenever possible.
  • Unsubscribe from unnecessary emails and spam via https://unroll.me/
  • Printed photos: scan your favorites including important memories. Photos of special moments with friends – frame and give as gifts. Shred or burn the rest. This can be a great way to create your own ritual to say goodbye to some memories from your past.
  • Unsubscribe from junk paper mail: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email, https://dmachoice.thedma.org/, https://drowndinginmail.wordpress.com/start-here/

Clothing, shoes, books, CDs, kitchen items, toys, electronics and most of your other stuff can be either sold or donated. The process of selling is much more time intensive than donating, and for us the time investment was not worth the few hundred bucks we would have made from a sale. But there are other plenty of other websites that can help you out if you decide to sell your stuff.

If you are donating, don’t forget to ask for a donation receipt so you can deduct it from  your taxes.

Donate Your Stuff

  • Salvation Army – clothing, furniture, household goods and cars, depending on location they provide free pickup.
  • United War Veterans Recycling – clothing, furniture, etc, free pickup.
  • Vietnam Veterans of America clothing and household items with countrywide locations for drop-off or pickup.
  • Housing Works – free furniture pickup in New York City.
  • Homeless Shelters – usually take clothes and bathroom items.
  • Dress for Success – an international service to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing professional attire, clothing, and support.
  • Clothes 4 Souls and Soles 4 Souls – clothing and shoes, distribution around the world.
  • Brides Against Breast Cancer – wedding dresses and accessories.
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Voilence – cell phones, laptops, mp3 players, digital cameras, and video game systems.
  • Public Library – call your local library to see if they accept book and magazine donations
  • Better World Books – nationwide donation locations for books.
  • Books for Cause – books and electronics.
  • Local Shelters and Senior Resident facilities, Nursing Homes and Hospitals – call to see if they take magazine and book donations and other items.
  • Habitat ReStore – furniture, appliances, household goods and building materials:
  • SAFE – stuffed animals for children in need.
  • Bikes for the World – bicycles.
  • Mr Holland’s Opus – musical instruments (except pianos and keyboards).
  • New Eyes – reading glasses, sunglasses, hearing aides, watches, jewelry, silverware.
  • Project CURE – medical equipment and supplies.
  • St Jude’s Ranch – used greeting cards.
  • Feeding America – a nationwide food bank.
  • Zealous Good – connects givers with charities in need of specific items.
  • Donation Town – a free service that connects you with donation centers who pick up your stuff.
  • Charity Navigator
  • Craigslist – list your items under the “free” section and have it picked up.

If you need to get rid of things fast and don’t have the ability to lug it yourself, then you may want to consider a paid service like The Junk Loggers. They are an eco-friendly service who pick up your goods for a price then bring it to one of their contracted donation sites and recycle what is left over. Another option is College Hunk.

Continuing the Path

Once the declutter and cleanup process is done, it will bring much joy and lightness to your heart. It is a good idea to do a thorough cleaning in your home and enjoy the fresh space once everything is cleaned and organized.

To continue this path—preventing future clutter and being a more conscious consumer—here are some ideas that might help:

  • Don’t go shopping (except for food and bare necessities) for the next 30 days
  • Don’t buy any new clothes for the next 3 months
  • When you get the “I need” or “I want to buy” thought, write the item on a list and wait for 1 week before making the decision to buy it
  • Plan your purchases and make a list with items you really need before going to a store
  • Never go shopping without your list and only buy what is on your list
  • Do your research and always choose the most eco-friendly and locally produced version of an item
  • Choose better quality items that will last longer, even if they are more expensive
  • Stay away from online shopping sites and malls to prevent shopping triggers and urges
  • Think about how many hours you had to work to be able to pay for an item and consider if the value is really worth it
  • Go through your belongings every 3-6 months and remove whatever is not needed
  • When you are at a store and get the urge to buy something, always ask yourself the questions:
    1. Do I really really need it?
    2. Do I really love it and will it bring me joy?
    3. Will I use it for a very long time?
    4. Where will it be stored in my home?
    5. Can it be recycled once I don’t use it anymore?
    6. Is my money really worth it?
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