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Van Life Blog 2 | Savvy Storage Solutions

Written by Emma Constantine | 7th June 2021

Answering more of your questions:

Where have you stashed all your materials for your projects?

Sadly, a lot of my materials have stayed at my parents’ house or I gave them to a textile recycling centre. I had nearly a whole spare room’s worth of old linen and curtains that people had given to me. After nearly a year I had hardly made a dent in it as there was so much. When it came to moving into the van, I had to be ruthless and give it away rather than having it taking up space in my parents’ house, especially as I don’t know when I’ll be back to use it up. I consider it better to be recycled or sent to dog shelters – to be used now rather than waiting in storage for me for an indefinite amount of time.

The week prior to moving in was a bit of a whirlwind because I had successfully secured two zero waste shops to stock my period pads and needed to fulfill the orders. This inspired me to continue making the pads on the road and I packed a box-full of the required material. When I run out of that, I’ll source materials from charity shops or other small business owners that work with fabric and who I might be passing by on our travels.

Some material stays in the roof box – read more about this in the next question – and some stays in the van with me. I try to work systematically so that I do a load of cutting out in one go; then the rest of the material can go back into the roof box. This means that in the van I have only what I am working with in that stage. There are lots of sewing stages to making the pads so it’s worth the time putting the material away until I need to cut more. In the mean time, I finish making the pads and the finished ones get stored away also until they are sold.

This reduction in what I make has probably meant that I am doing less making overall, but I knew that van-life would be a new season for us. I’m loving the balance of doing a bit of making, teaching and the rest of the time we can explore wherever we are – which is why we wanted to live this way in the first place. If I was making and sewing with all of my time, then we wouldn’t be benefiting from van life in the way that we wanted: seeing new places and getting to know the beauty of the UK.

Jup therefore will be looking a little different. Still passionate about living low waste of course, this may be the content that you see more of rather than upcycling with fabric. See for example my homemade dry shampoo and low waste skin care routine videos. I’d also love to build a supportive online craft community. Get in touch if that sounds like something you’d be interested in and make sure you’re signed up to my newsletter to stay in the loop.

How do you store any tools and repair equipment? We have a whole shelf under the stairs for this stuff!

Tools and repairing is Chinaka’s department and he did find it difficult to know exactly what to take. A month in and he’s only had to borrow one tool and buy one small pair of pliers so I think he did a good job of choosing!

He made himself two handy little cupboards that are stuffed full of repair equipment. The bigger items and tools he uses less often are stored in the roof box; I guess this is the equivalent of a cupboard under the stairs! Chinaka built the roof box himself; it was an idea he got from another van-lifer and it has enabled us to take so much more with us.

Is storage a challenge?

Without the roof box, I think it would be. As well as storing larger tools and a spare tyre, it also holds our winter and occasion clothes and shoes. With this great weather and summer fast approaching, we will soon need to do a re-jig of items in the roof: store away the blankets and bring the summer clothes out!

Inside the van, every nook and cranny is used for something. Have you seen where we found an accidental but very handy place to put the umbrella for example? We have also added hanging baskets and wall net baskets – we are still working out where things have their home.

When we buy new items (for example we recently bought camping chairs), we had to rearrange some storage and be ruthless about putting some items in the roof box to make space for the chairs, which we want to access more frequently.

However, some things were thought of ahead of time. For example, Chinaka built the desk area so that my sewing machine would fit perfectly underneath without rattling about. For things like our clothing, we decided how much to take based on the storage that we had. I’ll write another blog about that though as someone has specifically asked about how we downsized our life and what my van life wardrobe is!

We are constantly having conversations about where to put some things but I’m confident that with time, we will both be happy with the organization of the van. It definitely makes you more aware of what you have and to be more careful and considerate about new purchases. Even if you don’t live in a van, I think it’s great to ask yourself these questions anyway: do I really need this? Can I live without it and still be happy? Do I have something already like it that is just as good? Honest answers to these questions I’m sure will have you buying less.

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