Clothes – laundry — the simple, easy way!

One of the most significant decisions in minimizing to an RV lifestyle is the subject of clothing.  We all have closets and drawers full of clothes! A big part of downsizing was going through the clothes and deciding what to keep, recognizing that storage was minimal and the difference my new lifestyle would require in clothing. I took my clues from Marie Kondo’s book, The Art of Tidying Up.  I cleared a big area of the living room, and piled ALL the clothes from every closet and dresser and shelf and basket in the house.  Then I ruthlessly went through the mountain of stuff, throwing each item into the three SAVE – GIVE – TRASH piles. Since I would no longer be working in an office, all the work clothes went into the GIVE pile. Then I immediately bagged the GIVE and TRASH piles into garbage bags – white kitchen bags for GIVE to go to donation and black garbage bags for TRASH (underwear, socks, old holey sweats and T shirts, etc.)

With a much smaller pile of clothing to KEEP, I then decided to select 8 outfits for warmer weather and 8 outfits for colder weather.  I chose my favorite clothes and put them together into piles of tops and bottoms – and found that most were of the black/white/aqua coloring.  The rest I put into more white garbage bags to give away. I made a pile of 10 sets of underwear and socks, a swimsuit, one casual dress, a hoodie, a winter coat, two pajamas, and set them aside. Then I took all the garbage bags out to the car, drove to the donation center to toss in all the white bags, and to the dumpster to toss in all the black bags.  DONE! One ruthless afternoon, and no more dithering back and forth about clothes!

FYI – At the same time, I did the same thing with shoes – keeping a pair each of slippers, sneakers, hiking shoes, sandals, flip flops, and casual black shoes. All the rest went to GIVE or TRASH, depending on their condition. The shoes are in an inexpensive 12-pair hanging shoe bag , hanging over the back of the headboard and behind the bed. Used dryer sheets get tucked into the shoes so the van doesn’t smell like a locker room. (I prefer the lavender dryer sheets!)

Now I have been on the road for over a year, and am happy with the clothing choices I made. Most of the outfits coordinate and I have easily transitioned from warm weather to cooler weather to warm weather again. The layers work for me, and I have been very comfortable.  If I buy something, I donate the old so I am not adding more stuff into my van.     8 outfits for each season works well.

I do not have laundry facilities in my van by choice. I keep a small laundry basket handy and toss my dirty clothes there until it is full. Then I find a laundromat or use a family/friend washer when visiting.  I actually prefer to use a public laundromat or campground laundromat so I am not imposing on others.  Here is a picture of my laundry basket, which has detergent pods, dryer sheets, and a coin purse of quarters at the bottom, ready for the next laundry day.

The laundry basket – ready for the next washday

After I have washed and dried my clothes, I set them up as outfits.  I place a pair of capris/leggings down first on the table. Then I select a top folded lengthwise and underwear, and roll them together with the underwear inside.  Then this small bundle gets rolled up into the pants in a tight bundle.  Rolling prevents wrinkles and keeps the outfit tightly together.  I vary which tops and bottoms to combine so I don’t get bored with the clothing choices.

Capris, summer top, and underwear – outfit ready to be rolled up tightly
Top and underwear rolled into a small bundle, then rolled into pants

I use fabric cubes to store my clothes. One cube will have warm weather clothes (usually capris and a summery top with underwear) and another cube will have cooler weather clothes (usually leggings and a tunic and underwear). Then I just pull the next roll out of the appropriate cube for the weather that day and get dressed.  The rolled clothing bundles also make it easy to pack my gym bag if I am showering at a Planet Fitness or a campground or friend/family shower (Really? You never got into the shower room to find that you left your clean underwear in the van, or worse yet  — dropped it in the parking lot?!?!?) The fabric cubes are between the bed and back doors, and easily accessible from either inside reaching over the bed or outside via the back door.

Warm weather cube with outfits rolled into individual bundles
Cooler weather cube – outfits rolled into individual bundles

If I were a young mom raising kids again, I would definitely do this for the children in the family, even living in a home and not on the road.  Roll together a day’s outfit including underwear and socks, and it is so much easier to get them dressed for the day! And clean underwear gets used every day! (Seriously? your kids didn’t wear the same underwear for several days until you noticed?!?!?) The kid picks a bundle and puts it on – no more “which shirt do you want to wear? are those matching socks? no, please don’t choose an orange plaid shirt and purple striped shorts” arguments in the morning!

This is also a great technique for vacations, camping, etc.  You get the correct number of outfits and don’t end up with seven shirts and 3 pants and one pair of underwear. Keep a travel bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and shower gel, and you are good to go!  It takes me about 10 minutes to pack for a trip – even going 2 weeks to South Korea to visit my daughter.

When I load the fabric cubes according to weather, it makes the morning choices easier – no more hunting for longer pants or a cooler shirt! I know which cube has warm weather clothes and which cube has cooler weather clothes.  There is another cube with extra underwear, the pajamas, and socks. One more cube has the swimsuit, hoodie, dress, etc. Everything is rolled to prevent wrinkles, even the casual dress! The laundry basket goes back into the van, making sure there are more detergent pods, dryer sheets, and quarters for the next laundry day – if not, I stop and purchase those things right away before the first dirty clothes get added on top.  This way I know I am ready for the next laundromat visit – no hunting for quarters or having to buy detergent from an expensive vending machine!

Ready for the next washday with detergent pods, dryer sheets, and quarters in a coin purse

It takes one washer to clean the laundry basket-ful, and another washer for sheets, towels, pillow cases – which I do once or twice a month depending on how often I slept in the van versus someone’s spare bedroom or my tent.  I spend very little time on clothing and am very comfortable with this setup for my particular lifestyle.

Everyone’s life is different, and your clothing preferences/lifestyle may differ, and so I humbly offer this as a starting point to thinking about how to simplify life.  

 

From my bookshelf:

“Very often we view God as a sort of grand puppeteer – making this one to jiggle and that one to dance, all on cue. I wonder, however, if this analogy isn’t all wrong. I wonder, instead, if it wouldn’t be better to analogize God as the master conductor instructing the various sections to respond on God’s signal – this section then the next, rhythmically responding and harmonizing with excellence. I wonder if God isn’t instead this great music maker, teaching all creation to play and sing along to the melody of love. God speaks: “Listen. Do you hear it? Do you know the tune? Join with me. Let us make music in the key of divine love!”

–Essay by Will Albright, The Jesus Lens: Seeing God through Jesus     from the book Uncontrolling Love: Essays Exploring the Love of God                     by Thomas Jay Oord, et al, 2017

 

 

 

 

OFF-GRID and inexpensive life on the open road

Living life on the road…on a shoestring budget

doesn’t leave much wiggle room financially, and I like being free of expensive habits. So here are a few of my budget-savers which you may want to adapt for your travels!

Generally, I spend less than $5 a day on food.  I don’t have a fridge in the camper, and just use a cooler, which I keep covered with a cooling cover I made with Reflectix material and duct tape.  I shop at Aldi/Dollar Stores for inexpensive packaged food and snacks.  The cooler, which I use without ice, keeps food protected from the heat and I store eggs at room temperature, hard cheese to grate, peanut butter and jelly, bread, fruit, fresh vegetables, crackers, raisins/M&Ms/honey nut cheerios snack mix, etc.  In my kitchen drawers, I store package goods — tuna salad, chili, corned beef hash, soup, stew, bags of cornbread/cake/brownie/cookie mixes, bags of chips, etc. I keep a variety to last a couple of weeks at a time. If I spend $30 on food supplies at a time, that lasts me quite a while, in part because I plan my trips to stop in for visits with family/friends and am often fed by them! (MOOCH CAMPING is fun, love visiting with them, and keeps me social/engaged with everyone!)

Cooler (front passenger seat removed)
Portable 12 volt stove with the fixins for apple cobbler

Above is a simple 12 volt portable stove which plugs into the 12volt power source on the dashboard. An hour before stopping for a hot meal, I plug in this stove while the engine is running (it looks kind of like an old fashioned lunchbox and sits in a Reflectix-lined basket in the console area of the van) and add a quick meal — can of chili with cornbread mix on top, soup with biscuit mix on top, water and pasta, French bread pizza, chicken and gravy, beef stew, corned beef hash with fresh eggs on top, you name it! Or for dessert, a brownie mix, cookie dough, or pie filling/cake mix for a cobbler or buckle (shown above, apple pie filling with a spice cake mix).  20-40 minutes down the road, the meal/dessert is ready so I unplug the stove and leave it closed and hot until I stop to eat. Costs around $30 from Amazon.

12-volt beverage heater

Remembered from my old college days, I recently purchased a new beverage heating coil, seen above, about $10 from Amazon. Adding water to a coffee mug (not anything plastic), I can plug this into the dashboard 12 volt power source while the engine is running, and heat a cup of hot water within minutes.  Great for adding oatmeal/cream of wheat packets, ramen noodles to make a quick meal, just a cup of hot chocolate or tea, etc. (I don’t drink coffee, or that would be another quick cup.)

Portable 12 volt/solar generator,

Another great money-saver is the solar/12 volt generator I use to charge my phone, laptop, Kindle, or run a fan. No need to carry fuel!!! When driving, I charge the generator through the 12 volt power source on my dashboard.  I can charge my phone and Kindle easily at night from the generator so I don’t need to run my engine.  I run my laptop for several hours a day off this generator, as I teach online classes one to three hours a day to fund my travels.  This generator can be charged one of three ways – through the 12 volt power source in the van dashboard while driving, if hooked up to a solar panel (which I may add in the near future as it is a separate kit), or through anyone’s 110 house plugin (AC input) while visiting – adaptors for all three are included. This smaller than 8-inch generator has 2 USB ports, and can be plugged into with the normal 110 current plug of most fans (AC output), and will switch from AC to DC if low on power.  It has a power level LED display, and an ultra-bright LED emergency light. The cost on Amazon was less than $145. Since there is no fuel and the size is very compact and lightweight, I can easily stow this generator out of sight when I will be away from the van.

2 gallon solar shower

Another great addition when on the road this year is a simple solar shower pump. I purchased a new 2-gallon plastic pump multi-purpose sprayer for $10 from Walmart’s garden aisle. I spray painted the plastic bottle with black matte so it will absorb the sunlight more easily to warm the water. I am currently replacing the small spray nozzle on the end with a hose to pipe adaptor and a normal garden hose sprayer.  I can pump the handle a few times and have a decent flow of warm water to rinse off feet, shower, wash my hair, or general cleanup.  2 gallons is not a lot of water, so I am sparse with the water usage.  If I want to take a private shower, I have a hula hoop under the bed with shower curtain attached and I can just hang it up from a tree limb and voila! clean and happy camper!  To be honest, I usually shower at Planet Fitness centers across the country (my only “other” expense at $20 a month to use anywhere) or at the homes of family/friends I am visiting along the way.  But this is still terrific for beach rinsing, etc.

3 drawer kitchen cart in cabinet
Washup sink area on top of kitchen cabinet

My kitchen/washing setup in the van does not have fuel, running water, or refrigeration.  I have a three drawer cart in a homemade cabinet, with a drop-in sink above and a stand for bottled water above the sink.  The three drawer cart has plenty of space for my packaged goods, cooking utensils, spices, pot holders, paper plates and plastic cutlery, cutting board and knives, mugs, etc.  The sink can be easily lifted out to toss the water appropriately.  I use the bottled water to wash, brush my teeth, and spot clean, as well as drink.  The 2.5 gallon jugs of water cost about $2 and I carry one and a spare. I also have a small mirror hanging above the sink to check my bed-head before leaving the van!

Cabinet for potty
Portable self-contained toilet with double bagged waste bag -ready for emergencies

The portable self-contained potty is stored in another homemade cabinet. This cost me $35 for a comfortable potty which I can use in the van or tent. I initially purchased “double-doodie toilet waste bags” which cost over $2 apiece – pretty expensive.  However, I do like the set up and easy disposal so I created my own, using dollar store/Aldi kitchen garbage bags, quart-size ziplock bags and inexpensive toddler disposable diapers, at a cost of less than 60 cents each. I prepare a tote bag full of ready-to-go waste bags, usually about 18 at a time, which lasts me several weeks.  PREP:  I refold the kitchen garbage bags into the ziplock bag and place a diaper in each one.  USE: Then it is quick to grab a ziplock bag, remove the diaper, unfold the kitchen garbage bag (but leaving the bottom end still in the ziplock bag!!) to place into the portable potty.  I pull the kitchen garbage bag top up and over the seat and then place the open diaper in the bottom of the garbage bag.  The diaper soaks up liquid waste, any solid waste is at the bottom of the bag which is double-bag protected with the ziplock bag.  After usage, fold the kitchen garbage bag with waste and diaper down into the ziplock bag (already “attached”), zip it closed, and dispose of the package.  To anyone concerned, this is hygienic – baby diapers are also tossed into regular trash, no medical waste requirements.

Screenhouse sets up in 5 minutes at the campsite (usually I place it over the picnic table provided for bug-free eating)

If I decide to spend some time at a campsite (rare due to expense), I have all my camping gear stored under the bed.  I have a tent, a screenhouse, and gear for cooking over an open fire.  If I do stop for some camping R&R, I will go to a state or federal park or COE (Corps of Engineers) site, which is less expensive than a private campground. I am not interested in amenities and activities, just want a private space under the trees to chill and make a campfire.

Acrylic painting from Cambodia; Cut out family pictures on the wood trim around the van interior
Cut out picture and place on sticky craft foam. Trim and hang – I just staple them to the trim.

Just as an additional FYI, I love to live surrounded by my family so I took a bunch of photos and scanned them into a thumb drive and the cloud. Then I took the original and cut around the person(s). Buy colorful sticky craft foam and attach the photo to the sticky side.  Cut around the photo leaving a colorful edge, and decorate the interior of your van.  I just staple mine to the wood trim.  My family is always with me!

Okay, this concludes some of my tricks to an inexpensive road trip.  I am leaving in about a week for four months, heading east and north.  Happy trails!

Scout…out!

From my bookshelf:

“It is perfectly legitimate and even admirable for Americans to promote their personal values through either religious or political processes…. the role of spiritual leaders in America’s civil rights movement is a wonderful example of the healing role faith can play in our national life. But when we attempt to use our government to force others to worship as we do, or treat those who differ as second-class citizens, then we are violating the basic tenets of a democracy…. Unfortunately, many people of faith today focus more on the quarrels that divide us than on the values that unite us.”

Living Faith by Jimmy Carter, 1996

Tiny home versus Travel (RV) home

For the last few years, as I looked at the empty nest and realized my freedom from those wonderful years of raising a family, I thought long and hard about how I wanted to live. Definitely a simpler life with less stuff! I have never been one for housekeeping or gardening, and living solo gave me the opportunity to make my own choices, independent of anyone else’s opinions.

I love the Tiny homes that are springing up all over the US and around the world.  Looking at all the Pinterest and Facebook pictures really grabbed my attention.  I could easily see myself living in a small space, and those houses were so darn cute!!

The pro side of tiny homes was:

  • Living minimally, even off the grid completely
  • No rent or mortgage
  • Could be set up on someone’s “back forty” if permitted
  • Low cost to build
  • Could still work at my regular job and save $$$
  • Permanent resident
  • Available child care for grandkids
  • Not much change to lifestyle
  • Renovate a camper van for when I retired and then travel

The con side of tiny homes was:

  • Living in one place for _#_ years
  • Whose “back forty”could I use? What if they want to move?
  • Continue working the 9-5 job until retirement (5-7 years away)
  • Lots of towns zone against tiny homes
  • Living through more Northeastern winters — ugh!!!

The more I thought about staying in one place for a few more years and working, the less I wanted to invest in that option.

One of my responsibilities at work each day was to run the obituaries to match up anyone in the database who may have died. (Sorry if the term bothers you, but I hate the “passed away” euphemism.) So many people die before or when they reach retirement age.   What if I were to travel first, while I am younger and healthier, and then move into a tiny home when I was tired of traveling, or not so healthy, or whatever…if ever that were the case?

I started looking more into van camping as a full time RV-er.

The pros of RV camper van life were:

  • Freedom to move where I want when I want
  • Taking my own bed and “stuff” everywhere I go
  • Camping, which has always been a favorite activity
  • Visiting family and friends I haven’t been able to spend much time with
  • Seeing all the beauty and enjoying all the subcultures in America
  • Stealth boondocking (staying for free in someone’s driveway or residential area, BLM land, 24-hour store parking lot, rest area, truck stop, etc.)
  • No packing/unpacking when traveling
  • Stay as little or as long as desired in any one place, and ability to change my mind at the drop of a hat
  • Campgrounds can be found much cheaper than hotels or rent, even to stay for several months
  • Work can be done remotely, or work at a campground, etc.
  • Can still live off the grid, with the exception of gas to travel

The cons of the RV camper lifestyle were:

  • No longer an actual resident of my state
  • Finding remote work to support the lifestyle
  • Not seeing the local grandkids as often as I do now, and being available for child care/a break for mom & dad
  • Increased fossil fuel consumption, with gas prices a variable

Since this thought process was several years in the making, I used the time to head in the right direction – simplifying my life, getting rid of “stuff”, paying off debts, living on a cash basis, and taking some online classes to brush up skills to work remotely – writing copy, social media consulting, blog writing and affiliate marketing, virtual assistant, etc.

I also joined many Facebook groups having to do with RV living, and started following some blogs.  These were so helpful and I learned so much! I spent time visiting RV stores and considering what I liked/disliked about each style and size of RV.   I found so many single ladies of a similar (and older!) age were living the solo RV lifestyle and loving it! The camaraderie of the RV-ers, as well as their honesty about the good and bad of their chosen lifestyle, was of great benefit and echoed so many of my own thoughts.

In February when my apartment lease ended, I was still unsure of my final decision.  I had decided to take the first step anyway, and move into my car until I found a good old van to renovate and then live in that during the renovation period.  When I found a suitable van for less than $1000, I was overjoyed. This six-month transition saved me close to $7000, which I was then investing in the van and in a savings account to support whichever decision I made.  It would either be the funding for a tiny home or an emergency fund for traveling in an old van.  Either way, a win-win!

I found I did not miss the TV and cable at all, surprise, surprise! I felt such freedom in living with less possessions. I loved hearing the rain on the van roof and the wind in the trees.  I could look out the windows and see the moon and stars, and felt like I was already camping, even in the suburbs of Albany, New York! (I boondocked at my son’s house, parking the van in the shady trees in the side yard.)

I purchased a membership at Planet Fitness which allows me to use any of their facilities wherever I travel in the US.  I would wake up feeling like I had spent the night in a campground, drive to Planet Fitness to work out and shower and dress for the workday, drive to work…and then each night park back under the shady trees in my little camper van.  This system worked for me during the final six months of work.  No one at work knew I was living out of my car, then the van.  I charged my laptop, Kindle and I-phone at work, and was happily self-sufficient otherwise.

By the middle of summer, I decided that what I really wanted to do was work remotely with flexible hours as I traveled.  I had some minor health issues that forced me to work remotely for the last few months (thanks to a wonderful understanding manager), which was a good experience and confirmed that this was my best plan. I packed all my tiny home plans and supply lists into my storage and there they will stay until I decide I am done traveling.

I will be traveling on a shoestring in my little camper van.  We will see how it goes, but so far I really love this lifestyle!  I know it isn’t for everyone, but it is amazing to me how many people of every age are living the full time RV lifestyle already!  I can’t wait to meet some of them on the road or in a campground.

So this is my journey, and you’re welcome to follow along. I will be honest and as transparent as possible in sharing my story.  I hope you enjoy the blog posts, and maybe some of you will step out of your comfort zone and embrace this lifestyle also!  Or at least live vicariously through this and other folks who share their stories!

Scout — out!

What book are you reading now?

From the bookshelf…

“I looked to the trees.  They always calmed me.  The redwood grove stood like our own appointed guards; their trunks rose straight and solid from the land, their branches so large, we had seen wild turkeys perched in them….Our oaks were more like wise, arthritic grandparents. If you pulled up a chair and sat awhile and listened, you usually heard something useful.  The fruit trees were like our cherished aunties, wearing frilly dresses and an overabundance of perfume in the spring, then by summer, indulging us with their generosity, dropping apples and pears and apricots by the bucketfuls, more than we could ever eat, as if they were saying, Mangia! Mangia!”

The Underside of Joy, by Sere`Prince Halverson, 2012

*NOTE*

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