- With limited storage space, living in a van, RV, or bus often means adopting a minimalistic lifestyle.
- That lifestyle doesn’t stop during the holidays. Instead, people living in tiny homes on wheels often search for simple, small ways to add holiday spirit inside their homes.
- From foraging in nature to hunting in thrift stores, four families shared with Insider their strategies for decorating small spaces.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When Will and Kristin Watson, their daughter Roam, and their dog Rush moved into their 180-foot bus, it meant downsizing.
“When we moved on to the bus we got rid of all our holiday decorations,” the couple, who nicknamed their bus Juan, told Insider.
And they’re not the only dwellers of tiny home on wheels to do so.
Here’s how four families living in vans, buses, and RVs use their precious space to create holiday cheer.
All the families Insider spoke to said their minimal lifestyle also applies to the holidays
Living in a tiny space means less stuff, and that same logic applies to holiday decorations.
There’s no lawn for Christmas-themed inflatables or living space for a seven-foot Christmas tree.
The people Insider spoke with often shared foregoing “typical” decorations – like stockings or sentimental ornaments – and opting for things that they can part with at the end of each season.
“We feel it’s important to keep the atmosphere calm and cosy without over-doing it and causing more clutter and chaos than we already have with three little boys,” Kimberly Dekker told Insider.
This year there are fewer decorations, and small elements, like holiday-themed bed sheets, are used to create an element of Christmastime in the space.
The Watsons also opt for minimal decor in their skoolie.
“In a tiny space a few decorations will have you feeling like you’re in a winter wonderland,” the Watsons said.
For example, a letter board they keep by the front of their bus displays fun holiday quotes.
This creates an element of “holiday spirit” in their bus without having to buy any new items for the home.
Finding storage space can be a challenge, which means van owners often decorate with only the essentials
Sydney Ferbrache keeps all of her holiday decorations in a bench under her bed.
Ferbrache has lived in her 70-square-foot van for nearly three years, so she’s quickly learned to take advantage of every inch of storage in her van.
“If I’m going to make room for the decorations in my small space, they have to be worth it,” she told Insider.
Other families hunt through thrift stores searching for decorations they will donate instead of store at the end of the season
For the Watsons’ first Christmas in Juan, they searched for ways to incorporate the holiday spirit without taking up too much of their precious storage space.
They found their solution in thrift stores.
“We didn’t want to be wasteful and buy brand new decorations just to get rid of them,” the family said. “We decided the most sustainable way to decorate for our family would be to buy our decorations second hand at a thrift store and then re-donate them after the holidays.”
This year, the tradition continues. The Watsons explained that searching for the ideal decor has become a fun adventure for the family.
“It’s actually really fun to go look at all the different decorations that have been passed down from other families,” they said.
Where Wild Ones Roam, an RV family made up of Andy, Kristen, Kieghan, and Kinsler Murphy, observe the changing of the seasons by celebrating Yule, solstices, and equinoxes.
Their motto is: “Simplicity is key when it comes to decorations in small spaces,” the couple shared with Insider.
At the beginning of the season, the family said it takes inventory of what was saved from last year and makes a list of what they plan to donate and what they need to buy for the season.
“I donate or sell locally what I don’t want to keep early in the season, and then I aim to only buy what I cannot DIY,” Kristen said in an email.
Some families said their minimal decor revolves around nature
At the beginning of December, the Murphys start decorating their RV, and they will continue to craft throughout the entire month.
A majority of their decor has a natural element.
“We try to forage what we can to create fresh, natural decorations each year rather than buying new from the stores,” the family shared with Insider. “We have enjoyed it much better, and the kids love getting to make things year over year.”
For the Dekkers’ first Christmas in the RV, they plan to make homemade decorations and add natural elements throughout their space.
“We love to bring nature treasures into the RV anyway, so we’ll be crafting some simple pine cone garlands, stick stars, things of that ‘nature,'” the Dekkers said.
Small spaces also mean downsized Christmas trees
The Dekkers decided it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Christmas tree, but this year it will be much smaller than the tree that previously fit into their North Carolina home.
Kimberly said they’re considering placing one near their bookshelf, but if that feels too cluttered, they will opt for a miniature tree for their table’s centrepiece.
The Wastons also got tiny when it comes to their tree. They don’t have a tree up this season, but last year, they ventured out to a tree farm to pick a pint-sized tree small enough for their bus.
“It was the perfect size for the front of the bus,” the Watsons said.
Ferbrache added that she also opts for mini items.
Beyond her van-sized Christmas tree, she told Insider she typically takes advantage of Target’s dollar section, not only because it’s cheap but because the items are often smaller sized.
Some families opt for unconventional Christmas presents instead of tangible gifts
For the last six years, the Watsons’ Christmas tree has remained empty on Christmas morning.
“We don’t buy each other gifts, instead we pick a destination and take a Christmas trip there,” said the Watson family.
Ferbrache also added that Christmas experiences are the best part of the holiday season.
Winter is the only time Ferbrache isn’t travelling. Instead, she heads back home to visit her family in Indiana.
She told Insider that she looks forward to that time every year. Over the years, she’s built some fun traditions, like decorating her van with her sister.
“She doesn’t get the van thing but she fully supports it,” she said. “So when I get home for the holidays, she always helps me put everything up.”
For some, it’s out with the old toys and in with the new
Kimberly, her husband, and her three boys haven’t fully switched to experiences.
“We’re not quite to a point yet where we only gift experiences,” she said. “We have always kept tangible gifts very minimal, so that will not be a huge adjustment for them this year.”
And after Christmas, the family plans to purge their toys to make room for the new ones.
Some elements of the holidays are easier in small spaces
The Murphy family celebrates the winter season in a new destination, where they will explore the area’s holiday lights and decorations.
Exploring new destinations is one advantage of living in an RV, and another is the fact that the family can decorate more affordably and more intentionally.
“The smaller space allows you to be intentional and can keep you on budget,” they said.
The Dekkers similarly can create a cosy environment they love with fewer items.
Kimberly fills their home with fuzzy blankets, hot chocolate, and smells of cinnamon and vanilla.
This year, achieving that atmosphere will involve fewer blankets and fewer candles.
Ferbrache and the Watsons agreed. A small home makes it easier to decorate. A cosy, wintertime environment can be created with just a few items.
“The van makes it easy to decorate and easy to take down,” Ferbrache said. “Plus, I have a much more emotional connection to the van so it’s way more fun to decorate.”
No matter if you’re on wheels or foundation, people in all-sized homes are finding creative ways to spread the holiday cheer this year.
- Read more:
- These hotels across the US go all out with their Christmas decorations
- What Christmas looks like in every state
- A woman’s side-by-side photos show what it’s really like to live in a 70-square-foot van
- 12 of the best isolated destinations to visit across the US, according to RV and bus owners
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