— written November 29th, 2021 in SE Michigan —
I have literally LIVED inside my modified Dodge Caravan for most of the time since my sister gave it to me in May 2020. I sleep here. I work here. I eat here. I use my simple toilet, and change my clothes, and do other private things here. I have curtain-type things that I hang on the tinted windows, and across the front seats. I tell you MORE about living in a mini van near the end of my books, available at FranLaff.com/10-05.
However, LAST winter, when it was COLD, I was in TEXAS. AND I had my Mate’s camper to live inside of — before it became our storage space — so I didn’t really get too cold — or at least until our power went out during record-setting, sub-zero temperatures. Now, after writing my whiney little blog post this morning, I would like to describe a bit about what it is like to live inside a mini van when snow coats the ground and the “real feel” is in the teens, with the regular HIGH temperature ranging from 25 to 35 degrees outside.
First of all, I’d like to say that I stay quite cozy and warm while I am SLEEPING, for the most part. I have developed a system of wrapping my feet in about 5 layers of blankets and the rest of me in 2 very warm layers (in addition to 2+ layers of clothing). I cover my head in two longsleeve shirts, tucking them in around my face and leaving just a little opening below my nose, so I can still breathe fresh air. I do have a little 450 watt heater that is about 8 inches tall and about 6 inches wide — it takes the edge off the cold, but on a night when the power was out, I honestly didn’t notice all THAT much difference. That tiny heater is more for moral support than anything else, and most useful in moments like this, when I am awake inside my van, with the lil heater at my feet (it has to be up on the seat, while I am stretched out, sleeping).
Even now, as I type, I am bundled up in 3 layers of clothing and also have 2 blankets on me, with an extra sweatshirt looped around my feet. My butt is falling asleep because I have to sit in the same position… or else lay down (then I cannot type). My bad knee hurts unless I bundle some of the blanket up beneath it, for support. My little toilet bucket takes up half the room where my feet COULD go… which honestly causes all kinds of small inconveniences BUT which is necessary to allow me to stay put inside my van and be totally self-contained. I just have to change out my “poop bags” as I call them, a couple times each day… LOL.
The WORST part about living in a mini van in the cold is when I HAVE TO move about inside it — like using my little toilet bucket, or retrieving my laptop from the front seat, wrapped up in its own little special backpack.
Just going pee is an ordeal. First I have to set my laptop safely on the only empty seat, and turn off my mouse and balance it somewhere. Then I have to move all my blankets to one side, curling them up and out of the way. I remove my cold-blocker bundle that goes under my feet… scoot the heater back… remove the cover and lid off the bucket, put on the seat… do my business… and do it all over again, backwards. Doing this in the middle of the night IS a nightmare, because it takes a LOT to get cozy warm again.
My Mate made fun of me a few days ago, when I whined about the process I go through when I have been hanging out with him in his made-for-one, barely-fits-me camper space, and I have to go back to my van to pee. He can just whip it out and pee in a bottle, but I have to: take off my warm socks or slippers, put on my wet and cold boots along with warmer clothing for the “journey”… go out his door & quickly close it to conserve warmth (he has a 750 watt heater, but a larger space to heat), walk to my van and open the side door, kneeling on the seat while carefully removing my wet boots and putting them on a towel by the door, before I can close it… then I have the much simpler process of removing cover and lid, balancing toilet seat on bucket, etc… simpler, because I already have all my blankets pushed up against the back hatch, out of the way… then redressing and returning to my Mate, switching out cold and wet things for more dry and warm things, and settling into some semblance of moderate comfort with him in his tiny space.
ALL of this was MUCH simpler when it was not so darn COLD… and it has been taking a toll on me, as today’s blog post indicates. This poor little mini van seems to be dying… my brakes are bad, transmission getting bad, and a host of other little things I cannot afford to fix… and I honestly do NOT know how we will survive the coming months, because I am SOOOOOOOOOO burned out from working “in the public eye” that I don’t feel I can even FORCE myself to continue doing so, to support myself and my Mate and our homeless nomad lifestyle. Of course, there is always HOPE, and my JOY will return, probably within the hour. But for now, I’d just like to say, if this website or ANY of the things I have produced for the public in the last 2+ decades has helped YOU… will you please consider becoming a Patron, so I can eventually have options BESIDES living in a mini van in the COLD? LOL. THANK YOU. 😀