Not everything is peachy in the camper

Remember when I said I’d share my problems? Well I’ve got one…a leak in a window that has water dripping down inside fhe wall. It has taken a month fixing the other end so I won’t get to this end till spring. So I covered it with a garbage bag and duct tape to keep the water from leaking into my bed. I had to turn the mattress so it dries underneath and doesn’t mold. I slept on half a dry bed.

God help me what did I buy?

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Doors and windows oh my soul!

The door was next on the agenda today. I have had an unprecedented two days off in a row. I slept in. I woke up. I saw that door. And that was it.

The door had ripped paneling all along the bottom. I considered taking out the whole panel and buying a new piece. Then I remembered the great success of that hole in the ceiling I fixed and I thought why not? Except this time foam insulation wasn’t going to work because I couldn’t get a piece in the hole. I reached for the blue can of Great Stuff for Windows and Doors. I probably should have used the red can for gaps and cracks but this stuff worked pretty well!

Now. You have to be prepared to use the whole can when you initially use it because it can be self sealing, if allowed to dry in the tube sprayer. So if you only use a little and put the can away, you’re not going to be able to use the rest of it. Put down newspapers because you don’t want this stuff on your carpet or linoleum.

I sprayed it in the hole in the bottom of the door where I could see daylight in the frame. The outer shell of the door was in one piece so thats why this worked well. Had there been a hole all the way through the door I would not have been able to use the spray foam.

It sets up in about 15 minutes which is pretty quick . Don’t worry about if it poofs out. When it dries you can cut off the excess flush with the window or door. Here’s what it ended up looking like. I ended up spraying a second layer to get it all filled evenly. I trimmed the excess the second time.

It filled in the hole pretty well. And the outer shell on the door held it all. You can see why shoving a piece of foam insulation would not have worked well. I topped off this layer of foam until it filled the space evenly.

Then I got out my magic peel and stick laminate! (You knew that was coming!) That stuff is like duct tape. You can fix anything with it! An hour later, this was the finished product:

It isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that no cold wind or snow will be getting into my tiny home this winter! I love the way it turned out. You can’t tell the laminate from the original paneling!

I also used the spray foam between the insulation I put on the wall:

Again, not perfect. Trimmed the excess and it worked just fine. I’m ready to cover it up with new paneling or fabric.

To celebrate the day’s work I bought red leaf mini lights on a string which made it look very festive! The more I do on this camper the happier it feels! It is home. I can’t wait to decorate it for fall.

From house to car to camper–a series: What we can do without would surprise you

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When I wrote my initial blog entry “From House to Car in 2.6 Seconds,” I was not prepared for the interest this entry would generate. I am giving a bit of an introduction to the change of mindset that a move from consumerism to minimalism requires because 1) my mind is still getting used to the idea of downsizing, 2) I suspect many of you may not have known the option to live “tiny” existed. Or that it was feasible. Or that it could even be cool. What you may not realize, as I have not, is that you don’t really have to “go without”” in order to have a great quality of life. What does happen to your mind though, is that it gets “retrained” to think about what is truly necessary versus what we think of as “necessary.” For instance:

  1. I got rid of a bunch of clothes today because they won’t all fit in the small closet in my camper. I didn’t wear these clothes for a long time. I had no earthly use for them. I still had plenty to wear after getting rid of four big boxes and now those four big boxes are going to do other people good. Pros: I have less to wash, thus my laundromat loads will be cheaper. I kept what I REALLY liked.
  2. I don’t need a TV. I have Netflix on my 4 year old iPhone.
  3. I don’t need a phone contract. I got prepaid through Cricket for 30.00 a month with unlimited talk and text and 2G of data. What did I do with Facebook and Messenger? I deleted them off my phone because I have them on my iPhone, which I use for watching Netflix, email and Facebook. (I don’t use the iPhone as a phone anymore and I have never felt the need to upgrade to a thousand dollar iPhone X).
  4. I don’t need cable, or satellite. That saves me probably about 1200 a year.
  5. I don’t need WiFi. I can use WiFi for free at McDonald’s, Arby’s, Applebee’s, or just about any other public place including the public library. If I really want WiFi, especially in the winter when I might not want to go out in the cold I can add a prepaid hotspot to my phone to use for about 30 bucks a month instead of the traditional 75 and 80 dollars a month plus fees through other companies.
  6. I don’t even need to use electricity off the grid. I can, after a time, if I want, invest in solar panels for the top of my camper, and set it up to generate my own electricity for free.
  7. I don’t need the laundromat. I can, once I get on my feet a little better, get a portable washing machine that is compact, and drains in my camper sink and save myself the laundromat money. I can hang my clothes out to dry year round.
  8. I don’t need a bunch of food in my pantry or refrigerator. I can stock fresh meat and cheese and refrigerated goods a week at a time, and eat more fresh fruit and vegetables that don’t require refrigeration. I can stock dry goods like rice, flour, sugar and the like and make better meals instead of processed boxed meals. I have a CrockPot I can use. I can preserve food without refrigeration as well (canning, fruit jam, jelly, syrup, dehydration, etc). If I don’t have a ton of food to eat I won’t eat as much, and that’s just better all around. Better quality food and less of the junk.
  9. Don’t need to use a lot of propane. I used to spend hundreds filling the propane tank when I lived in the West. In a camper the propane tanks are small, and since I have electricity in the camper, it is not necessary for me to run the propane furnace. So it is a backup should it be extraordinarily cold. I can use an electric heater, and save the propane for cooking. The camper is such a small space it won’t take much to heat it, and I am taking the precaution of extra insulation, laying down rugs on the floor, covering the windows in the winter and laying black plastic on the roof to attract the sun in the winter.
  10. I don’t need to use full size shampoos, conditioners, and soaps. I started buying travel sizes for lotions, and shampoo bars instead of bottles. Shampoo bars are better for the environment as there is nothing to throw away. Ivory soap is biodegradable, and stackable! I threw out a bunch of products I haven’t even been using.

The time we really spend in our homes is minimal when you think about it. You are at work about a third of the time you are awake or more. When you are not at work, you are out with your kids, or out at the park, if the weather is nice, or you go out with friends. The time we spend at home tends to be in the evenings, before we go to sleep, and early morning before we go to work. Weekends we may spend all day at home, but you can see we don’t spend a lot of time in the house. Living in a camper due to the small space almost pushes me outside to tell the truth. It will be cozy when the weather is inclement, but I’ll be outside a lot of the time. Yet, the camper is large enough for company should someone visit me and need a bed. There’s an extra bed on the other end that folds up into a breakfast nook with a table. Neat, huh?

Granted, living tiny isn’t for everybody. Some just like their houses, and that’s quite all right. Living tiny appeals to me because I am so aware of how much time gets sapped away on Facebook, TV, video games, and working, and I find myself listening to other people who wish they had time to go to the beach, or time to read a book, or spend with someone they love. The start of living tiny for me is getting back to basics, and spending less time on technology (not giving it up altogether), and finding that I have time now that I am not distracted by TV or the need to be “entertained,” to read a book, or to write in my blog. Work is necessary, in order to live, but work will not define my life. I am doing what I love and I realize that, by writing here, and writing about rats, and I’ve never realized really that writing is what I love to do until I lost everything that was distracting me from seeing what I really love. Who I really love.

I feel like my imagination and my mind are waking up after a long sleep. I could have a garden in large pots. (I can’t dig up my lot). I could have a pallet garden. I can hang wind chimes. I can paint a scene on my camper…I can do some seriously cool interior design in my vintage camper--my mind is working out possibilities.

Why do we think we need to do what is expected of us? Go to school, graduate, go to college, get married, buy a house, pop out 2.2 kids, get old, retire, THEN go RVing? We think if we fail to achieve this illusory American dream we are somehow failures. I know I went through that for a long time as my finances didn’t seem to pick up at all and I felt I was underemployed in comparison to how highly educated I am. What if we are trained to believe if we don’t follow that line, don’t achieve what we are “supposed” to==what if we are TRAINED to believe we are failures?

Oh my darlings. You are not failures if you don’t have the house with the white picket fence and retirement enough to go to Florida and live in a condo. Don’t fail to live. Reducing my circumstances (which let us not forget I was FORCED into), has slowly started to mean a better quality of life, which seems counter-intuitive in a way. Money really doesn’t buy you happiness. Quality of life is what brings you happiness and you do NOT have to be rich to live well.. Trust me. It’s a myth. The money you can save by simplifying your life…well, already it’s astounding to me. Doesn’t take a lot to live well.

It is a myth we will bust together if you want to come with me and follow my adventures. I plan to write day by day the struggles, the problems I encounter, and the innovative ways I find to solve them. I will share my joys, what I learn in terms of big ideas and profound thoughts, and what I learn to make life easier in a tiny vintage house. Who am I? I’m just a teacher without a classroom, because finding a job that pays well has really been difficult–I’m just an English teaching, Emerson and Thoreau spouting woman who loves nature, reading books, writing journals and blogs, loves art, swimming in Lake Superior, and clearing away the clutter to find out who I really am. Who are you?

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Measure twice cut once

One improvement a day. Oh my God. What have I gotten myself into? It turns out all of the studs in the entire back end were rotten along with the fiberglass insulation and I had a job cleaning it all out. The more I tore out the worse it seemed to get in terms of the rotten studs I was finding. There was nothing to sister my new 2 x 2’s into. I gutted the end down to the aluminum walls. Now I have to frame a new bench so I can have a couch and a bed. I think it won’t be hard. I just need a tape measure. Here are the before shots:

I’ve said it before and ill say it again—THANK GOD FOR MY SHOPVAC. The wood studs disintegrated in my hands. There were wood chips everywhere. There were also acorns as if generations of squirrels had made their home in the back of my camper before I got it. There was a lot of dirt. I tore it all out and swept and Shopvac’d it all out.

Afterward, covered in fiberglass and dirt and sweat, I took a bath in Lake Superior scrubbing myself with sand (no soap). My skin is so soft and I feel so clean! It was a treat after the work I put in today.

Big storm coming in off the lake. My tiny house rocks to and fro like a covered cradle. I feel good for what I accomplished today. I got the insulation so after I frame up that bench I can insulate and cover with new paneling.

I won’t quit.

The night before camper day!

Ok. I’m still living in my car. After the initial shame and guilt and shock of it which I went into here, I find that there is no shame in sleeping in my car any longer. It is not a marker of failure. It is simply a different kind of shelter. I don’t know how that mind shift happened but my perceptions are different. I am no longer focused inwardly or selfishly. I am focused outwardly.

I’m so excited. It’s the night before I get my tiny home. I have been planning for two weeks how I’d fix it up and make it mine, but today I felt quiet, and peaceful and I went to the beach on Wisconsin Point. I was alone out there. I love being alone out there. There are just the gulls, the wind blowing off of the lake, and the sound of the waves breaking on the sand. There are lake-smooth round rocks of every color, black, red, white quartz, (and Lake Superior agates if you are really lucky), black and red rocks, all tossed and rolled by the world’s largest rock tumbler, my wonderful lake. I saw a bald eagle fly overhead yesterday. I sit on a driftwood log and let the wind play through my long hair; the sound of the wind and the waves breaking on the beach, and all of the kinks in my nerves get smoothed out; the anxiety breaks up and disappears, and all becomes right in my world.

I speak to The One Who is Greater Than Me who is known by many names and many religions. Wakan Tanka or Tunkashila to the Lakota people who I spent six years with teaching in the public school on the rez. I speak to Spirit often. I feel that there is something larger than me. I cherish that.

What a circuitous route I have taken coming home. I travelled the world and many states, and went through so much growth and expansion spiritually and mentally. Home is meant to be a rest for me, but it seems Whoever is In Charge thinks that I need to keep growing, hence living in the car the last little while. Hence being pushed into a different lifestyle with the tiny camper–but now I wonder when it went from being pushed into the camper to becoming a conscious choice to live this way and not bow down to the rents and landlords and feel as so many do that they have no choice but to conform and pay up.

Not everyone can buy a camper. Here I got blessed. There are tons of used campers for sale for any price really because in this country, everyone camps and fishes. I got lucky with mine being so inexpensive. It was a Gift.

It took losing a lot to uncover the important things and the real friends who are few but true. We know life isn’t about “who dies with the most toys.” We yearn for more and we seek more –hence explorers and pastors abound. Some of us travel to find ourselves. Like that book “Wild” about the woman who up and hiked the Pacific Coast Trail to come back to who she was, the woman her mother thought she was. Or the Eat Pray Love lady.

My journey was outward and now it is inward. It is in contemplation of the lake and birds and wind, and the space between extravagance and poverty.

This is what I am thinking as I spend the last night in my car. Tomorrow will be the start of a different and simpler kind of life.

I have more to unload. I still need to lighten up. More on that later.

Good night dear readers. Have you felt the call to simplify or have you been unceremoniously pushed into the worst that could happen only to discover that maybe the worst thing is turning out to be the best?

Freedom

Today is the first day of utter independence on anyone other than myself. I have a camper. In my last entry I was a little disgusted with the economic conditions that put me in a camper. I was a little scared about living full time in a camper particularly in the wintertime. The encouragement I received in the comments helped clarify my mixed thoughts and I realize now I have been handed what people say they want but find so difficult to have because they are chained to a mortgage or a job they hate or five thousand other reasons why they cannot live in a freer, more minimalist manner.

I have been planning how to fix up my camper and decorate it, and it definitely needs a few things.

1. A good coat of paint on the outside.

2. Foam blown insulation just to make sure I don’t turn into a frozen corpse this winter.

3. A couple panels replaced for cosmetic reasons.

4. A mini refrigerator.

I have unloaded a lot of things and my storage is not full, but I do have insurance in the form of some very nice furniture I got fairly inexpensively that I can sell if I need more money. I have a good enough job. So this is what I have done.

1. I created a budget that allows for some wiggle room but not much.

2. I donate plasma for a little savings and it makes me feel good to help people too.

3. I write on a weekly basis for a rat trap blog called the British Rat Trap Company. Most of the blog entries on there I have written. You guessed it. The owner sells Fenn traps from England. He is from England originally. It is great fun for me to write and a good little side income. It is different but part of a plan to do what I love and I love to write.

4. I made a short list of supplies I would need to fix my camper. I’m so glad the exterior is tight and waterproofed.

5. Today I went swimming in my lake to celebrate my new lifestyle. (Lake Superior if you are new to my blog). I spent 25 years longing for this place I call home, and now I am here. This is the best benefit of all. I can go to the lakeshore anytime for free. People spend thousands to come stay here for a summer and I can be here for free.

I realize I have also been given a great opportunity, a gift as you will as a writer, to share my adventures in my caravan with all of you so I will take you through my year to come living this way and hopefully see the blessings in what I call “tiny living.”