I’ve written posts before about “How to Live Out of Your Car”, but when I had written that post, I was traveling – not actually “living” in one location with a job and a routine life… This post, however, is about how to actually live an ordinarily routine life from out of your car!
In this post, I’ll explain how I did it, and how this is completely different than traveling with your car.
The single traveler types (with no kids) who happen to be in one location longer than expected…
Think about how little time you actually spend in your apartment… You work all day, go to the gym, get drinks with friends, run errands, etc. By the time you get home, you only have time to eat dinner and perhaps watch TV for about an hour or so before you have to wake up and do it all over again… Your apartment sits there, empty, most of the day… You’re paying for a place to “live”, but most of your time there is just sleeping!
Doesn’t this seem silly?! It does to me! So here’s my story:
I was living in Seattle for about four months and had a pretty sweet deal… I was living in an amazing house, in a great location, with great roommates, for a very reasonable price, on a month-to-month lease (so I was free to up and travel if I ever wanted to). I loved the house and roommates so much, that I decided to stay the entire four months.
When the lease was about to end, I started looking at other apartments… but, compared to the house I just lived in for four months, I was honestly sad looking at other apartments – none of them even came a little close to how awesome that house was… So…
I became “homeless” (by choice) and I’ll describe, in detail, how I do it and why I love it! I looked at apartments, but I didn’t love any of them. They were all just “ok”. I’m not picky (obviously), but I just didn’t feel like being in one place, often, where I didn’t absolutely love it… OR, I didn’t feel like paying for a place and then being away from it the majority of the time because I didn’t absolutely love it… Either way, “homeless” was the way to go!
I’ve lived out of my car a number of times while traveling around the U.S. and Canada, and I finally perfected it! It has come from years of trial and error and brainstorming and I’m about to share all of it with you right now! See how I can comfortably live out of my car (sleeping, food storage, arrangements and designs, etc.), read all my tips about how to make this life-style the preferred choice, AND find out why I feel more productive, healthier, better dressed, and cleaner by living out of my car!
MY NEW ROUTINE
I sleep mostly at friends’ houses or in my car (and my car is actually really comfortable – see below)… In the morning, I go to a café, eat breakfast/lunch, and get work done… Whenever I’m bored or hungry, I leave the café and either get food or make food in my car… Later, I go to the gym, workout, and shower… At night, I meet with whichever friends want to meet up for dinner/drinks and then crash at a house of whichever friend feels like dealing with me that night… If people are busy, I really don’t mind (in fact, I kind of like my alone time at night in my car).
Years ago, my biggest complaint when sleeping in my car, was that people could see me sleeping in there (which was always awkward)… I used to have the length of the car split into two parts: half was my sleeping area and the other half was for my bags, clothes, and other stuff…
After casually joking around and then, later, seriously brainstorming – I decided that instead of splitting the length of the car into “left and right”, that I should split the space into “top and bottom”. As cars are right now, there is no “top” on the inside of the car to put stuff so this might be hard to imagine for the first time, but try!
Imagine the seats of your SUV are down so the entire back is, basically, flat. Now imagine a “shelf” at the bottom of the windows that goes across the back… So if you open the hatch in the back, you would see a wood plank going across the car (from window to window)… and if you squat down so that the plank was eye-level, you would see the space underneath… Got it? See pictures below for a visual!
So now, the same space is split in a completely different way… Why? Because this way, I can store all my stuff on TOP and I can sleep on the BOTTOM. Why? Now, when people look in, it just looks like a packed car and no one will ever know I’m in there!
WHERE TO PARK
Night Time – The primary concern is safety. Park in a well lit public place with a relatively big parking lot (small lots are more likely to have towing). Walmart is a great place, supermarkets, malls, etc.
Morning – Although no one can see me when I’m sleeping, I still have to come out of my sleeping area in the morning… Because of this, I avoid places that I know are most popular in the morning such as cafes and convenient stores (those places usually have smaller parking lots, so you should avoid those anyways).
How It Differs From Traveling:
Traveling is usually consists of 95% backpacking/hiking clothes. Routine usually requires nicer clothing because you have to go to work… You’ll need more clothes and nicer ones at that. Therefore, more of a formal closet area is a bit more necessary to feel at “home” rather than just traveling
I made a little closet area – complete with hangers for nice clothes, a bag of gym clothes, etc. I found a thick stick outside and cut it to the correct length to fit between the two holes in the car’s ceiling! I use half to hang clothes on hangers, and the other half to just through my tank tops on… under the tank tops, I have my duffle bag of miscellaneous clothes that I can care if they get wrinkled (like all my gym/hiking clothes).
I really like this system because I can reach all of my clothes from inside the car. It’s like a “walk-in” closet! I can comfortably go through what I want to wear and change right there in the back seat without anyone knowing I’m there!
Note: I used to have drawers in the back of my Jeep to keep all my clothes, but this really was annoying day-after-day because I had to get OUT of the car to access my clothes that were IN the car… Practice makes Perfect! CLICK HERE to see my first trial car living!
WHERE THE EXTRA STUFF GOES
All the clothes that I don’t need on a regular basis, I keep in the very back [where it’s harder for me to reach from the backseat]. I also have things that I used months ago that I no longer use such as my snowboard, boots, snow pants, etc. This stuff that I’ll never use during the summer months, I put in the hardest place to access: in the back, on the bottom…
Basically, you want to set it up so that things you use often are at an arms-length away and accessible… The less you use something, the further away it should be from the front and backseat…
FOOD / KITCHEN
How It Differs From Traveling:
Able to cook some things at friends’ houses
Basically, all my food is in a cooler on the passenger seat in the front. Sometimes I make hard boiled eggs and other easy things at friends’ houses and then keep it in my cooler… I rarely put ice in it – I eat stuff fast enough that it can stay a day or two at room temperature… Although, with the summer months, ice is not a bad idea. Don’t just throw ice in there though. I found that the best way is to get a huge zip-lock bag and then fill it with ice if you eat at Subway or something… that way, when the ice melt, you can easily take the bag out and dump the water (instead of water getting all over your food – most of it won’t be in water proof containers).
CLICK HERE to read more about how to set up your “kitchen” area.
For the first time in my life, my car was broken into while living out of it in Seattle. Luckily, I wasn’t in the car at the time! But nevertheless, they broke the passenger window and took two bags of mine and all the electronics in the center console. Yes, it was stupid of me to have bags in plain view, but I honestly wasn’t even thinking like that… but I sure do now!
After that incident, there were a few things that I tweaked in my arrangement in order to protect my stuff. You have to realize that your home will be right in the open, on the street, for all to see. You need to protect it the best way possible. Learn from my mistake and my corrections!
One of the major things that I rearranged was the cooler in the front. I used to have the cooler on the floor in the front and then I could throw my “every day” things on the front seat when I get into the car… this was a mistake because things on the seat when you’re out of the car for a second, can be easily taken! So what I did was I put the cooler on the front seat (off the floor). This way (1) there is room on the floor to store a few things that no one can see because the cooler is blocking it, (2) the huge cooler in way of the window deters people from breaking in, (3) it’s a reminder to me to get my stuff off the top of the cooler because now it’s higher and at eye-level every time I leave the car, and (4) with the cooler on the seat instead of the floor, it leaves more room for the front seat to be move up and makes a lot more room in the back!
I also cover the back windows so that people walking by can not see all my things!
After working at cafes all day, working out, then getting ready for the night, most of the time I’m hanging out with friends… but if all of my friends are taking it easy due to having to get up early for work, I’m perfectly ok with entertaining myself in my little house-on-wheels! What I do:
- Watch TV/movies on my computer or smart phone. If I’m lying down and watching, I use headphones and then eventually just go to sleep… Other times, I really like sitting in the driver’s seat and eating dinner while I watch. When I sit in the front, I plug my smart phone into the Auxiliary port so that I can eat while I watch my shows with surround sound.
- Work on some projects like sewing my jeans or anything else I’m working on.
- “Clean House” / Organize my car – put clothes away, separate dirty from clean, etc.
LITTLE THINGS I DO
(refer to the picture)
- I use the pouch on the back of the front seats to hold laundry – it’s right there when I change so it’s easy to throw used clothes in there…
- I put a plastic bag (usually a Subway bag because it’s thin) on the driver’s headrest. I use this as a trash bag and I put it there because I can reach it no matter where in the car I am (and it’s not in my way).
- I always have bottles of water in the car – one for drinking and for the gym and another that doesn’t leave the car. I use that one as my water supply in the car (for washing my hands, or if I need a little water to fix my hair, or to brush my teeth, etc.)
- I keep a paper cup (like a used coffee cup) in the door so if I want to brush my teeth in the car, I have a place to spit.
- I have a thin rope tied from the front of my car to the back where I hang a dark colored scarf. I use this as a sliding curtain so that I have privacy when I change as well a good way to block my window so that people can’t see into my car when I’m not there. I also use this rope as a clothesline to hang my wet towel after showering.
USE THINGS IN MULTIPLE WAYS
Nothing is for show – Everything is functional and, usually, can be used in more than one way…
Put your clothes to a better use than just covering yourself! You’re not going to wear every article of clothing you have every day, so put the ones just sitting there to good use!
- The “curtains” are actually a scarf that I wear sometimes.
- The mirror ornament is actually a headband I made (from a peacock feather) and wear sometimes.
- If I want some extra privacy, the curtain I use is actually a wrap-around skirt
- I fold my vest to fit perfectly into a mini pillowcase – This isn’t really necessary for the car, but I’m just used to doing this from backpacking [where even the space of an extra sock matters].
WHERE TO SHOWER
When I live out of my car while traveling, I shower at truck stops and campgrounds (CLICK HERE to read all about that life style and how to find those showers). But when I live out of my car while living a routine life, I simple shower at the gym. I pay $15/month for a gym membership and this gives me (1) unlimited work out time, and (2) access to a shower any time I want it.
I sleep at friends’ apartments all the time, but not once have I showered at a friend’s apartment… I feel bad using people’s things when this is MY life style; why should someone else have to deal with what I’m choosing to do? I just feel a million times more comfortable showering at the gym where I know I can use as much hot water as I want and not be rushed because of other people’s schedules.
THE AMAZING BENEFITS
- I work more! Every day I work on Hole Stories! In an apartment, if it were sunny outside, I would have no problem spending my day outside with a beer getting some vitamin D… If it was raining, I would have no problem taking a nice nap… Now, no matter what the weather is, I am forced to go to cafes every morning (to use the restroom and eat) which results in staying for hours and working hard!
- I exercise more! Again, in an apartment, if it were sunny or rainy or if I were lazy or tired, it was a lot easier to make an excuse to not go to the gym because I had a place to be lazy. Now, living out of my car, I don’t really have a place to make too many excuses… I go to the gym all the time because it’s now part of my routine where excuses really can’t happen and it’s also where I shower so…
- I dress better! This one might not make sense, but hear me out! Living out of my car makes me live hour-by-hour; I never know what I’m getting into until it’s happening… After I workout, shower, and get ready, I put on nice clothes because I never know what I’ll be doing that night. I could end up going out to dinner, getting drinks at a nice place, dancing, who knows! Before, in an apartment, I would just leave the gym, shower at home, put on sweatpants and a hoody, and then basically call it a night… lame. Which brings me to my next benefit.
- I go out more. I don’t have a home to be lame in so… If a friend is out, what excuse do I have? None. I love not having excuses – It’s like the movie “Just Say Yes”. A situation presents itself, you do it because, well, why the hell not?
The most important part and the key to make this life-style work is this: YOU MUST BE INDEPENDENT! I don’t just mean financially or you live by yourself… I mean: are you ok with really being on your own mentally/emotionally? Of course a lot of people like to think they are independent but most people aren’t MENTALLY independent.
Can you go to dinner by yourself? Can you sit at a bar alone? Are you ok with not knowing what you’ll be doing in 30 minutes? Are you ok with instant change in plans? If your friends are busy, are you perfectly happy entertaining yourself? Can you take care of all your needs from living out of your car on your own with no help from others (eating, sleeping, showering, working, etc)?
If you can do EVERYTHING on your own, then when friends invite you to dinner or to crash at their place for the night, then these are just great surprises. You shouldn’t try this life style and then expect anything from anyone else. This is YOUR CHOICE, and your choice ALONE. They say that “beggers can’t be choosers”… well, choosers shouldn’t be beggers. If you choose to try this, don’t ask for favors. This is your choice – not your friend’s.
THE ONLY NEGATIVES
- Worse gas mileage because there’s more weight in the car.
Fix: Don’t drive all over creation – do just the few things you need to in the day.
- Your “house” is no longer a place to invite people to hang out or for a party.
Fix: Go to their house :)
LET’S HEAR WHAT YOU THINK!
Do YOU think you can live like this? Have you ever lived similarly to this and have suggestions for anyone that would like to try this?