I have been living in my car and traveling around the country. I want to share some tips with you so you don't make the same mistakes I did!
Welcome to My "Home"
My fiancee Dan and I have been living in our Ford Escape for several months now, traveling around the entire country.
Living in a car can be extremely frustrating at times, but frustration adds to the adventure! It teaches you how little you really need to live and makes you appreciate everything that you do have. It not only gives you an attitude of gratitude, but it also encourages creativity as you come up with new solutions and ideas to the daily problems you will inevitably face while living in your car! Hopefully the tips I share with you will help transform your car into "home sweet home."
Where Do I Store All My Stuff?!
First, there is much more storage space in a car than you even realized when you were only utilizing your car to get you from point A to point B. When you are planning on living in a car for an extended period of time, you really start to notice and take advantage of every nook and cranny the car has to offer.
For example, every door of the car has its own storage compartment. I have found that it's best to use the front door's storage compartment as a convenient way to store and easily access items you may need often. I like to store hygiene items and items I am using frequently in this compartment, including face wash, mouthwash, toothbrush and toothpaste, and medications. This also makes it convenient to easily access these items on a whim when driving or as a passenger. We also attached small fanny packs or zippered bags to the door handles to add extra storage. We even utilize the small gap underneath the front seats to store items we do not need right away.
Keep in mind, living in a car is not the most convenient in terms of being able to easily access items, so embrace the disorganized chaos that it may become! Eventually, you will find random places for everyday items, like on the dashboard or floor of the car!
DIY Car Modifications are a Must!
In addition to utilizing the space your car already offers, making modifications to the car is the best way to customize your car to your comfort level. It isn't easy living in such a small space and with such few amenities. Everybody has different needs, and the best way to address this is to do some DIY car alterations.
A Bed with Storage
Although everyone has different needs, one of the things we all need is a good night's sleep! To get the best night's sleep we could while living in a car AND maximize our storage space at the same time, we built a customized bed out of plywood. This bed replaced the back seats which were really just a waste of space. It wasn't easy to rip the back seats out of our Escape; they aren't ment to be easily taken out like those in a Jeep or Minivan. We had to remove MANY bolts. We used 2x4s to build the bed frame and a 1/2-inch sheet of plywood for the top, along with six legs to support the bed like a table.
We created the car bed like a table so that there is enough room for storage underneath it. We have two storage bins underneath the car bed near the trunk; these act as our "kitchen" where we store nonperishable food items. The empty space underneath the car bed, where the back seats used to be, we utilize as our "closet" in which we have three bins to put clothing in as well as other important miscellaneous items.
At first we used outdoor seat cushions as the "mattress" for the car bed, and that was really comfortable; however they did not leave a lot of head room when we were sleeping in the bed. We also tried using yoga mats and camping pads as a mattress, and although they were not as comfortable as the cushions, they provided a decent amount of comfort and more head room so we didn't clonk our heads on the roof anymore.
Getting Ready for the Night
Blocking Out Light and Noise
A small tip to ensuring a good night's sleep is to bring a sleeping mask and ear plugs. Often times living in a car means that you are car camping at rest stops, campgrounds, or public recreational land, in which case you may be exposed to unwanted noises or lights! Combine these items with a car windshield and window shades and you not only have privacy, but you block out a lot of unwanted light.
Finding Flat Ground
Also, make sure you are conscious of where you park for the night. When you usually pull into a parking spot, the last thing you may think is "is the ground here level and even?" But this should be one of the first questions you ask yourself before plopping your head down on your pillow. Often the ground in campsites and even rest stops, is uneven, bumpy, or slanted. It is very uncomfortable trying to sleep when your head is facing slightly downward if you park on a slant, as the blood rushes to your head, gives you a massive headache, crushes your neck, and keeps you up the entire night (trust me on this one!) Or, if you are living in the car with your partner and you park where the ground is slanted slightly toward one side of the car, your partner will end up sliding into you periodically throughout the night as the car becomes a mini-slide —resulting in you being pinned up against the window with no room and making it impossible to sleep. It's best to find the flattest ground possible and try to park in such a way that your body will be as level as possible.
Susan Smith on June 22, 2020:
Great information! Thank you for sharing Sarah!