Easy Ways to Make Vandwelling Easier

Ree Ree Stair StepsLiving in the van in the country means changing how things are done.  Tasks often can be combined, storage and organization methods changed, housework performed more frequently, etc.  It’s challenging but fun!

It’s surprising how many people email with vandwelling questions such as how you pee, do laundry, bathe, etc.  I’m not embarrassed to discuss any of these topics or share how this stuff happens out here in the boonies.

So what about the bathroom stuff?  I keep a large mouth cat litter jug (thank you Serena!) with a couple caps of liquid laundry detergent in it.  It makes a great urinal and the laundry soap curbs the smell.  What about #2?  I have to drive 2 miles into a small town… or do it in the woods.  No biggie!  As for Serena … she uses a tiny litter box which is scooped once or twice daily.

My sister asked about disposing of garbage.  That’s easy.  In this rural county we just burn the refuse.  It beats spending $1.50 / bag for garbage stickers like residents have to in Cedar Rapids!

Taking care of Serena is simple.  I just leave food and water for her.  There are some coolers stacked up like stair steps to allow the kitty to walk in and out of the passenger window of the van when I’m not home.  She loves it and can come and go at will – often sleeping in the deep grass under the van.  I plan to add a plastic sheet and powerful magnets to shield the van from rain while still allowing her entry access.  She takes care of herself pretty well… and enjoys the farm life.

One of the biggest issues has been bathing.  Normally I wouldn’t worry so much about smelling well but working at a restaurant makes it imperative.  (They frown on the “Duck Dynasty” look.)  It’s pretty easy to keep clean though… Just using baby wipes for a bath is not enough.  But you can do this with a little planning ahead.

Hot Water HeaterI carry toiletries and clean work clothes in the Chevy Cobalt.  Twice a week the clothes are washed at the laundromat – where I discreetly clean up with a rag and towel.  While in the bigger cities, Anytime Fitness provides a nice hot shower.  Eventually, the plan is to bring the Mr. Heater Aquacube on-demand hot water heater out of storage and use it for showering and washing dishes.  Out in the country there’s nobody around so a privacy tent is not needed most of the time.  Right now, the worst case scenario is having to use cold well water to clean up.  It works though!

ReducedThere are other good options that have proven convenient for van-dining on-the-cheap.  Two of the neighboring towns have grocery stores with deli counters.  Rather than discarding the leftovers, the deli employees discount them to about half price.  I’ve been loading up on egg salad (which is almost always orphaned and discounted!).  The meat counter often has discounted meats, too.  Yum!

Getting internet cheaply has been a breeze.  Out in the boonies there are no wi-fi signals and I’m not going to pay $40+ a month for a wi-fi hotspot.  It’s easy to make sure the Netbook is in the car and ready to check email before and after work.  That’s one nice thing about working at McDonalds!

These are just a few of the conveniences that make this flavor of vandwelling easier.  Any little trip to town for gas, laundry, food, etc. is another opportunity to squeeze in a shower, stock the cooler, buy ice, check email, etc.  For those thinking about trying this lifestyle – vandwelling in the country and working in the city – it’s not all that difficult.  It teaches you some great habits and organizational skills, too!

Take care and thanks for riding along.  It’s starting out to be a busy holiday weekend but hopefully there will be some time next week to visit a nearby campground along the Wapsipinicon River.

Bradford and Serena in rural eastern Iowa







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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

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