90,000 Miles to Me

10 Ways to Prepare for Van Life Long Before Moving In

As soon as I decided to move in to a van, I started watching videos on Youtube, reading the van dwelling section on Reddit, and learning everything I could.

But there are some less obvious ways that I prepared, or wish I had. Here is what I recommend:

      1. Learn how to cook all over again
        • No matter what form of cooking you choose to use, many things will be different from how you cook in a house or apartment. I suggest using your new cooking appliances for a while before having to rely on them.
      2. Pre-pack the kitchen
        • I put all the kitchen stuff that I planned on taking in my van—food, pots and pans, utensils, plates and cups, everything—on the dining room table for a couple months and made myself use just those to get used to having limited availability, and traded out what I kept wanting to use and what I never bothered with, so I could pack the van more appropriately.
      3. Start purging stuff early
        • Especially if you intend to sell any of it on Craigslist, eBay, or however, it will take a while to make all the contacts, meet up with people, mail things, hold yard sales, whatever, and it is easier if you don’t have to do all this while deep in the heart of the construction phase or running up against a moving deadline.
      4. Eat up the cupboard
        • Save some grocery money and purge the kitchen at the same time by eating up all the accumulated random foodstuffs in the pantry and freezer. These were some interesting meals, but hey, free food.
      5. Plan several versions of your van layout long before you actually have to install anything
        • I cut paper to scale based on my van living area and drew several potential layouts. The first time, I drew the van on a whole sheet of paper and it fooled my brain into thinking I had more space than I actually did. When I cut it to size once, I was startled that it seemed so long and narrow. After that, I cut them all so that I couldn’t cheat and think I had more room.
      6. In planning your van layout, clarify early on what is most important to you
        • Many of the decisions you make—what products to buy, what materials to use, even where to get them—will stem from this, but if you just pick a good tutorial and follow what someone else did, it may end up frustrating you because they had other priorities.
        • For example, using non-toxic and environmentally as-friendly-as-possible materials was very important to me, and there were times when I was willing to pay more for that. But you might place more importance on keeping costs as low as possible, or having a certain look or style, or ease of cooking, or something else.
      7. Measure out your van space and put everything in there that you will take
        • Even if this means a masking tape outline in the garage, put everything in it and see how it feels. Can you really live in that space for months or years? I happen to like small spaces, but some people can’t stand them. And it may be smaller than you are imagining, especially once it is filled up with stuff.
      8. Sleep in the same space as you will in the van
        • I measured out the width I would have in the van to within an inch, rearranged the furniture to block off that space, and put my mattress on the floor in there so I couldn’t cheat and extend a leg when stretching—the back of the couch was in the way. The couch was now in the middle of the room, creating my virtual van area behind it, with my bed and everything I would take with me in my “van.” If I couldn’t deal with it there, it wouldn’t miraculously get better in the van.
      9. Practice how to squat
        • Seriously. And start early. Most of us in this country are so used to chairs that we’re not able to squat comfortably and without wobbling. Depending on how you set up your bathroom facilities, you may find yourself really needing this skill. Even if not for evacuations, it has been useful in the small quarters. Here is the tutorial that helped me. And its follow-up.
      10. Get used to temperature changes
        • Save some money and get used to van-realistic temperature changes by turning your thermostat down in winter and up in summer, so the heat and cooling don’t kick in until it is really cold or hot. Get used to putting on a sweater or opening a window instead of reaching for the thermostat.


What did you do to prepare, or wish you had done? Comment below.