RV Renovations

June 15, 2021

When we started renovating our living room. I knew I wanted to get rid of the ornate wood molding that was over the fireplace. But, had no idea that there was a hole behind that ornate wood trim. When we removed it before we started to paint, to our surprise there was a hole behind the trim. Great, now what are we going to do? We can't put it back now, nor did I want to mostly because it was dental molding and would take forever to sand it to paint. Shane right away wanted to put in our soundbar. I was not on board with that at all, that would look horrible just sticking out. Thank goodness it didn't fit right away, I did not want to be looking at a soundbar sticking out. The reason I love our living room is that the TV can be hidden with the touch of a button. (Picture on the right is before all the renovations.)

It took me a couple of days and a lot of Pinterest searching to finally figure out what I wanted. I saw a few mantles in RVs and mantles in houses that had the door. But, I couldn't find a mantle that had a hidden door in an RV. I asked Shane if he could build a wood mantle as you would have in a house. This one would be different, I would want it to open so that we could hide his soundbar behind the door. When he wants to listen to his music, movies, or sports we can just open the door.

Tools Needed

Table saw - Or have it pre-cut at a hardware store

Wood - Cedar or Pine 2 - 1' x 6"

Wood Screws

Electric drill or screwdriver


Sandpaper 60 & 120 grit

Flip down hinges

Stain color of choice

Shelf L-bracket 1 1/2"

Build the Box

The first thing you want to do figure out what kind of wood you want to use. We chose cedar planks because we had some leftovers from the trim we used over the slides. But, you could use pine or whatever you have laying around. I have seen some made with wood from a pallet, this could save you a lot of money. We measured the empty hole above the fireplace and added one inch all the way around. We cut the wood to length so it covered the hole and there was extra room to attach it above the fireplace.

Next, we had to decide how thick we wanted it. Well, actually, how much room we had available when we closed the slides. When we close our slides there are about 12 inches available. We wanted to make sure the slides were able to close with the mantle up. We decided to go with 3 1/2 inches for the width.

We made the measurements for all 5 pieces of wood. The three long pieces will be the same length, but the top and bottom will be a different width. And of course, your end pieces will be a different width and length. You will just need to decide measurements based on what you need.

The measurements we used are below.

Front board - 45" long x 5" wide

Top & bottom board - 45" long x 2 1/2' wide

Side board - 2 1/2' long x 4 1/2' wide

After you have cut all your pieces you can screw them all together. Originally, we nailed them together. Shane was putting in the soundbar later, and it fell apart. So, use the screws from the beginning, learn from our mistakes.

To hold the front onto the box you will need to use cabinet flip-down hinges. Linked here. This will enable the front door to open and the hinges will keep it open. We tried several other hinges and the boards wouldn't open level. These are the only hinges that we could find that worked. We found ours at Lowe's, but I linked them on Amazon above, so you can purchase them from there as well.


After you have it all put together, you will notice that all the wood is not perfectly flat. It will be a little uneven in places and not a square box. If you don't have a wood plane, it will definitely be rough and uneven.

First, we sanded it all down with 60-grade sandpaper on a sander, to help with all the rough edges and even it all out. After you sand it down with the 60 grade, use a 120 grade to smooth the entire mantle. The 60 grade will make it more even all over but will leave it a little rough. Go back over the whole thing using the 120 by hand. You want to use your hand not the sander so it only smooths and doesn't take off any more of the wood.

After you complete sanding with both grits of sandpaper, there will be dust all over the wood. You will need to clean up all the dust with a clean rag. We love to use the cheap IKEA white dish towels for projects like these. Some people use a cleaning solution to clean after sanding, but we never have.


Once your mantle is built, sanded, and cleaned it is time to pick your stain. I used the same stain that we had used for several projects in the RV to keep it cohesive. But, you can use any stain or paint that you want. If you decide to paint, make sure you use a primer before you paint. For stain, we use a clean dish towel, you guessed it another IKEA rag. They are only .79 cents, We buy a ton every time we go to IKEA, they are amazing and can be used for everything! Wipe a couple of coats of your stain on the wood, then use a clean rag to wipe the stain off. Let the wood completely dry outside before bringing it in to hang.


To hang the mantle you will need two people to hold it and make sure it is level. Set the mantle on the fireplace wall where you want it to go. Use a pencil to mark where the L-bracket needs to be. Screw the L-bracket on the fireplace wall first with wood screws. Then, you can just sit the mantle on the L-bracket. Screw the other L-bracket half into the mantle. Then the mantle is complete. Now you install your soundbar in the hole when you open the front door of the mantle.


Here are a few photos of the mantle open from the front and the side.

Side view, you can see the hinges we used.

Front open view, this is where the soundbar goes. The front of the mantle stays open if we have the soundbar turned on. If the soundbar is off we close the door and I don't have to see the ugly soundbar.


Written by: Patty Gill

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Updated: Jun 7, 2021

How to make money as a full-time RVer.

If you ask any full-time RVer, there are so many different ways you can make money from the road. This is a question we get all the time, "What do you do to make money to be able to travel full-time?" Unfortunately, we have not won the lottery yet. One of the ways that we make money is I (Patty) teach English as a second language with the company VIPKID.

When we decided that we wanted to sell everything and go full-time, we knew we needed more income. Shane is retired from the Air Force and gets retirement pay, but it is not enough pay to cover all of our expenses. I will be quitting my full-time position with the government because I am not able to travel with that job. I am also not old enough to retire, so I can't draw a retirement pay yet.

For the last couple of years I have looked around to trying to find jobs that I could apply to where I could work full-time from the RV. I had a friend several years ago who taught for VIPKID and she tried to get me to apply. At the time I brushed it off because I had a full-time job. One day I happened to be on a Facebook group and saw someone talking about teaching from their RV. I had no idea you could teach from your camper. I then reached out to my friend and asked her, how do I apply.

I have always loved working with kids. I started out with home day care, I ran youth events when I worked at a library, and I managed the pre-teen/teen center when we lived in Turkey. I knew once I started researching teaching with this company, this was exactly what I wanted to do.

VIPKID is a company based out of China. It is an online platform that enables English speaking teachers to teach English to kids in China. You are able to set our own schedule, you chose when you work and where you work. You can work from your home, from your RV, from your car, or from a hotel bathroom. FYI, I have taught from all these places. As long as you have a computer, laptop, or tablet, and a fast reliable internet connection you can teach anywhere. You will teach one on one with students and no lesson planning, VIPKID does it all for you. You log in and start teaching, it is that easy. You can between $14 - $22 an hour, depending on your experience. They pay you per class, so it would be $7 - $11 per class.


How to apply. All you need is a bachelor's degree, any bachelor's degree qualifies you to apply. You need to be legally able to work in the USA or Canada. You will need some experience working with kids, babysitting and being a parent qualifies. First you click on my link here to apply, and I will become your mentor. As a mentor you can contact me for any questions, and how to get through the process, I receive a small one time referral payment from the company. If that link doesn't work you can log into VIPKID and use my referral code PATRI0422.

Please Note: If you live and work in the state of California, as part of the Assembly Bill 5 of the California Labor Law was signed into effect in 2020, VIPKID no longer hires residents in CA.

The whole process is done online through their website, and it's user friendly. Once, you pass the initial application process you will need to do a short demo lesson and a mock class. This is also done online where you will have a current teacher watch and see how you would teach a class. Once you pass this process is complete you will receive a 6-month contract to sign. The whole process can take a up to a week or two. Tip: Most people do not pass their first time, so don't get frustrated if you don't pass the first or second time. You can take the mock class many times until you pass. It is also not mandatory that you teach a certain amount of classes. If you teach one or two classes and decide it is not for you, you just don't open any more classes. You are in charge of your teaching schedule and if you want to teach.

What you will need to teach. You will not need all of these to begin teaching. I will put a star by the ones that are mandatory.

1. *Laptop, computer, or tablet, nothing fancy. You can use one you already have as long as it will connect to the internet, and is able to download the VIPKID app.

2. Light source - this can be a small cheap round clip light from Amazon like the one pictured, or you can just use a lamp you already have at home.

3. *Backdrop - You can go cheap and purchase a shower curtain, fabric remnant, wrapping paper, felt. I purchased an inexpensive personalized backdrop from Vistaprint.. You can see mine above in the photos.

4. External camera - Most laptops have cameras on them, but they are not always great. A good external camera is really a gamechanger. If it is a good camera, you will not even need an external light. A good camera makes all the difference when teaching. It is so much better when the student can see you.

5. *Headphones - you don't need an expensive headset, but you do need one that has a microphone like the one I have linked. You can always pick up a pair at Walmart or Target as well.

6. *Props - Props can be 2d or 3d. It is best to get some of each. I have a lot that I just found

pictures of on google images, printed them out and laminated them. Then some 3D ones I found at Dollar Tree, Walmart, & Target dollar spot. I have some small foods, balls, flashcards, dolls, animals, & some misc. toys.

7. Puppets - Puppets are not mandatory, but I find they help when you have really young kids, it helps to get them to open up a bit. I found mine on Amazon and on the VIPKID store website which you can also purchase on Amazon. (Just search VIPKID on Amazon and it comes up with a lot of items.

8. *Awards - Awards are mandatory to teach. You will see in the training they want you to award them with different prizes. I have printed those out as well, found some at Dollar

Tree, and they have some on Amazon as well, like this ice cream award.

9. Adjustable height portable laptop stand. This is not mandatory, you can always use books or boxes. But, this one is inexpensive and great because you can raise it up to stand

If you are interested in teaching for VIPKID feel free to email or DM me on Instagram with any questions you have. Our email is gillsonwheels@gmail.com I will answer any questions and walk you through the entire process. Once you are ready to apply click on this link to be directed to sign up under my account. Also, use my referral code PATRI0422.

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Updated: Jun 7, 2021

Let me preface by saying, this was one of the hardest things we ever had to do. We were a military family that moved every 2 - 3 years, and this was so much harder. Being married 24 years and a military family, we collected a lot of stuff. I mean look at this picture I posted, this was just one garage sale. We needed to get rid of a lot of stuff because we didn't want to have a huge storage unit with a huge monthly payment.

I would suggest you start downsizing a year out from your full-time date. However, we did not do that, we started downsizing 6 months from when we were supposed to move into the RV. Six months is still a lot of time, but if you can start sooner. This list can also be used to downsize into a smaller house, apartment, or just minimalizing your life. After we found a realtor the next step was to start going through everything. I suggest you divide this up into manageable timeframes. Because we both still worked full-time, I would set aside every Saturday that we were home to go through a closet, drawer, or room.

When we started discussing downsizing and I did research I was afraid it would be hard for me to get rid of certain items. I was shocked that I was not the one that had a hard time getting rid of items. Shane was the one that had a hard time parting with certain items. I was only sentimental about one item, and it was a Halloween dancing skeleton. Of all the items I owned, I never thought a skeleton would get me teary-eyed. We had it for so long and I just had a lot of memories with the boys and our friend's kids when they were little.

1. Organize

To make this an easier process organization is key. One thing I learned as a military spouse is how to set up different areas of your home when it is time to PCS (move from one base to another). Set up piles/areas somewhere in the house or set up rooms. We had a few empty rooms and set them up as waiting stations. We had one room that was for garage sale items and one that was for storage items. I used black trash bags for donated items, and trash items (which surprisingly was a lot). To do this correctly, you need to go through every single item in your home, either keep in RV, put in storage, donate, or trash. Don't forget, you can't keep too much in your RV, because of storage and weight issues.

One way to get your items ready for storage is to buy large storage bins with lids. We rented a large climate-controlled storage unit, but the items I kept are sentimental and can't be replaced, so I wanted to make sure they were safe. You can find these storage bins at just about any store, Walmart, Target, Amazon, Ikea, and The Container Store. Shane found some large ones on wheels that had handles. This made transporting them to storage and around the house so much easier.

2. Garage Sale

If you have a lot of stuff like we did, you need to have a garage sale. We actually had so much stuff, I had to schedule two garage sales. For a garage sale you need to be organized as well. First thing is put like items together as you are sorting them in rooms or piles. A great time saver is to purchase stickers that have prices already printed on them, and as you sort the items, go ahead and put a price on them. You could also set up an estate sale, this is where you would just leave everything in the house as is and people come through and literally buy stuff off of your walls. Lastly, you could pay someone to do all of this for you.

3. For Sale Pages & Apps

When I say sale pages, I mean social media sale pages. (no one posts in the newspaper any more). You can post on Facebook Marketplace, Facebook neighborhood pages, Craigslist, and Ebay, are just a few. There are so many sales pages now, I can't list them all. Be prepared to meet up with people at other places other then your home. We found this to be a much safer way to meet up for the smaller items. For larger items, make sure you have more than one person at your house to be safe. Some Apps that you can set up on your phone, Poshmark, Let Go, and Offer Up are just a few of many available to sell items right from your phone. Also, download pay apps on your phone to make payments easier, Some pay apps we used were PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle. There are many other pay apps out there, these were the three most people had on their phones.

4. Donate

Donate items to family members first. We our boys come in and pick out what they wanted, and I mailed some items to other family members. We donated all our blankets and pillows to the animal shelter. Everything else was donated to various charities in our home town. There are so many charities as well where you can donate. Salvation Army, homeless shelters, women's shelters, Habitat for Humanity, and many more. Google in your home town the best places to donate clothes, house items, outdoor items, etc.

5. Trash/Recycle

Last, if you don't even think it is worth donating, just throw it in the trash. Go online and find where to recycle as much as you can before just throwing it away in the trash. I took so many bags to the trash, I lost count. It was around 20 large 35 gallon trash bags. I was able to spread them out over weeks, so as not to overwhelm or be charged by our trash pick-up company. If you have large items that will not fit in the trash cans, you will need to have a bulk pick-up set up with your trash company, or you will need to find a drop-off trash place. Most of the drop-off places will charge. Our HOA had a monthly dump day that was free, so we were able to dump some of our larger items with them for free.

6. Storage Unit

Once you have sold, donated, and trashed all your extra items you will still have some items that you want to keep. The only items we decided to keep were the ones we bought while living overseas. These items would be very hard if not impossible to buy again. At first we went and rented a large storage unit, to later go back and downsize. However, we have not done that yet. It is on the list before we hit the road. We also decided to pay the extra and go with a climate controlled unit. Some of our items are priceless to us, so we thought it was worth it to pay the extra.

Last, we had to move everything we had left into the camper. This is where you might have to get creative. For us everything fit, but we did have to purchase some storage bins, hangers, baskets, and other organizational items. I wanted to make sure everything has it's place and it always goes back into that space. It just helps to keep everything clean and tidy when you live in a small space. This is also a great time to purge again. You will find the things you thought you will need, you actually don't end up needing after all.

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