After journeying through eastern Canada, I took ten days in Ottawa to prepare for the second chapter of our journey. It was time to assess and make a few ”small” changes. I suspect I might be living on the road for long periods over the next few years, so I want to create a tiny home in the van that is functional, comfortable, safe and soothing to live in. So, I took at good look at what I’d learned, and naturally began applying my “less is more” philosophy.
I discovered I didn’t need a tent, so that was first to go. In the six weeks I travelled, I set it up only once but didn’t use it. I make a simple rain shelter with a $15 tarp and some parachute cord, and this works well. If I don’t have trees, I tie down to the roof rack and edge of my picnic table. I’ve become adept at changing clothes inside the van, and change rooms are never far away in campgrounds. If I need outside storage area, I use a campground picnic table with a tarp over it, or store things under mine. Even when friends joined me, we preferred the coziness of the van to the tent.
I had a comfortable camp chair with a footrest I hoped would fit under the bed. To my dismay, it didn’t, and had to be stored on top of the bed.
I wanted everything safely stowed away for safety; I have this “thing” about having no “projectiles” in the van in case of an accident. Having an “empty” van also means it’s ready for sleeping or lounging without needing to remove anything. Handy when you arrive somewhere in the rain or want to take a quick nap in a parking lot.
Awesome, emotionally, because it is relaxing to be surrounded by space, not “stuff”! Less time moving things around, searching and re-arranging.
When I got back to Ottawa I invested (and it was an investment) in a very small but comfortable camping chair that weighs only weighs 2.1 pounds and fits neatly under the bed or in a backpack. I’m very happy with it.
I returned full-size kitchen tools to the kitchen drawer at home and bought miniature ones that fit in a box half the size. I exchanged two big bowls for smaller ones that stack better. I gave away a colander, realizing I could drain food with my pot lid. I traded a full size dust pan for a tent-sized one.
I said goodbye to the pot and frying pan I took from home – the pot was too small and the frying pan was no good over a fire. And sometimes this gal just needs to cook over a fire.
Instead, I invested in a small cast iron fry pan and medium pot that stack into each other. The pot is big enough for stew for two, and just right for popcorn. Popcorn is an important part of my life; one I wasn’t prepared to go without! Cast iron is easy to clean and lasts forever. The only down side is needing to pick it up with a teatowel, and it needs to cool before storing. It’s heavy, but hardy.
I ditched two pairs of shoes, discovering I wanted only a pair of water-proof sandals and walking shoes in the summer, and the same sandals and a pair of low, slip-on waterproof winter boots in the colder months. I don’t choose slip-ons because I’m old either! I’m still perfectly capable of tying shoes! It’s just easier, and low maintenance, and these things matter in a van. Waterproof sandals don’t need drying time, boots without laces never get wet, yucky laces. Waterproof boots don’t ever have to be put on wet. I keep a tray for shoes and slide it under the van, out of the rain. I just lean out, pull the tray out in the morning, and swing my legs right into the shoes.
I got rid of bulky, leaky bathroom items and replaced them with shampoo and body bars in metal boxes instead. They take up a quarter of the space and are problem-free no matter how they are stored. I now keep a bathroom bag ready to go – with my small kit, a microfibre towel and enough room for a change of clothes, because I usually change my clothes after a shower. I keep this on the floor in the passenger side, as I use it frequently.
It wasn’t all about reducing; I also made a couple important additions. I added a beautiful Canadian-made Grohmann camping knife. My kitchen knife was suffering, being used to cut cord and make wood-slivers to light fires. I also added a set of wood-working tools and a 12-volt warming mattress pad. I put an extra-heavy cotton cover on my duvet and sewed a blanket for the top that has fleece in the middle.
I removed the door from the kitchen drawer, because the hinge was impeding the smooth opening and closing of the door and made a curtain instead. I later took off the curtain because it was always in the way. I added a hose to the sink, to drain waste-water. I’m still having problems with my pump however. After repositioning and cleaning, it worked well for three days and I am back to having water-flow problems. Right now I’m using a 5 gallon water jug I pour into the sink. This remains an issue to resolve.
It’s a continual process – this assessing and reassessing what works; what feels “right” for me. I’m enjoying the practice of keeping things simple, small and multi-functional. I’m continually amazed at how little I need to not just be happy, but also comfortable!
Ultimately, my goal is to have space, not fill it.