Van Organization: Pockets, Clips, Hangers, and Holders

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A few days ago I promised I wasn’t going to tell folks how to organize their vans. I’ll keep that promise because I know that what works for me may not work for somebody else. I’m a huge believer in folks working with what they have and what they can get free or cheap.

Recently on a Facebook groups I belong to, someone posted a video (that I didn’t watch) about how a person could do a van build for only $384 (or whatever), which is all well and good if that’s what someone’s into. But when I got my first van, I was homeless and had just enough money to purchase the van, buy insurance, pay for license and registration, and eat for a few days. I did not have not have $384 (or $38.40) to make any improvements to the van. I had a sleeping bag to throw onto the bench seat folded down into a bed. A friend gave me a shallow plastic tub that slid under the bed and that’s where I stored my clothes. I slowly added items (such as a stove, a cast iron skillet, curtains) to my home as I could afford them. Usually I shopped at thrift stores.

All this to say a wad of cash isn’t necessary for the beginning van dweller. (I know, a wad of cash is often useful. I won’t argue that. But “useful” and “necessary” are two different things.)

I think one of my most useful skills is the ability to figure out how to use what I have, what I’m given, and what I can get for cheap. I’ve used this skill to organize my van.

Last year, the Lady of the House gave me a big piece of cloth with three pockets on it. (I think it was intended to go over the arm of a couch or recliner and hold the remote control, the TV Guide, and other items useful to a couch potato.) She thought I could maybe use it in the van to hold things. I thought it was a great idea, but didn’t know where to put it. At first I rigged it so it hung from an 18 gallon plastic tub, but whenever I took the lid off the tub, my organization quite literally crashed to the floor. Then one day I was looking at the decorative pieces of wood on one of the van’s side doors and realized I could hang the pockets there and hold them to the wood with binder clips.

In these three pockets, I keep things I use regularly. Tape, scissors, soap, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, lighters, and pocket knives are all within easy reach.

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Pockets are held onto decorative wooden pieces by binder clips. In the pocket attached to the bottom of the door, I keep rags handy, as well as the curtain I hang over my side windows at night.

(To read about how I used another set of pockets, go here:http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/01/25/the-free-pile-at-the-rtr/, and scroll to the bottom of the post.)

On the other side door, I’ve used binder clips to attach a dry erase board and a pad of sticky notes. The decorative wooden pieces also hold pens so I can always find something to write with. IMG_5636

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This photo shows binder clips holding up a curtain.

I thought to use binder clips because I already had them around. I somehow (I don’t remember how or when) came up with the idea to use binder clips to hang curtains in the van. Large binder clips are the perfect size to hold curtains to the pieces of wood around my windows.

I could say that  binder clips are the answer to problems with organization and everyone should attach thin, flat pieces of wood to their van and use binder clips to hang things there. But that would be silly and maybe expensive. Instead, think about what you want to hang. Then look around your van and figure out where you could hang things using inexpensive, easy to find items.

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This photo shows shower curtain hooks holding a shopping bag (on the far left, barely in the photo), carabiners, a hobo bag style purse, necklaces,and a camping mirror.

Another common household item I use to hang things in the van is shower curtain hooks. The top of the hooks fit remarkably well between the decorative wood and the wall. (My van is full of decorative wood, I am realizing as I write this.) From the bottom of the hooks I hang my mirror, jewelry, carabiners, and lots and lots of shopping bags. (I have a shopping bag holding my towel and toiletries. I have two shopping bags holding yarn and my round hat-making looms. I have three shopping bags holding dirty laundry. I have a hobo bag style purse I can grab when I need to tote around lots of stuff. All of these bags are hanging from shower curtain hooks next to the walls of the van.)

I want to brag a little about my paper towel holder. For the longest time, there was no good place to put paper towels in my van. A new roll of paper towels is fat and difficult to store. I usually just tossed rolls on top of a tub, which typically meant they were soon on the floor. But I hated to use paper towels that had been on the dirty floor. Yuck!

At the 2015 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) (read about it here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/21/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1-2/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/24/rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-2-2/), I had a discussion with other van dwelling women about paper towel storage. Using a bungee cord was suggested, and that sort of worked. Eventually (and sometimes it didn’t take long at all), the bungee cord would come unhooked, and I’d find the paper towels once again on the floor.

I got so of my paper towels falling down, I marched into a Stuff-Mart, determined to buy a paper towel holder. Much to my astonishment, I couldn’t find one in the store. I’d been looking at thrift stores too, but no luck. Apparently people with paper towel holder don’t part with them.

A couple of days ago, I stopped at a thrift store which was closed when it should have been open. To console myself, I poked around in the free box in front of the store. In the bottom of the box, I found a metal paper towel holder, complete with screws taped to the back. Yippie!

I tried to put the screws into the decorative wood above my plastic drawers. The wood was just a little too hard. I had to postpone my project for a couple of days, but finally, finally, I borrowed a cordless drill from a neighbor and got that holder hung. I hope taking this step finally keeps the paper towels off the floor.

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I took all of the photos in this post.

 

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

12 Responses »

  1. Nicely evolved organization Blaze!
    My approach has been to be so stealth that when someone looks inside my vehicle it just looks like am hauling something rather then sleeping or being in my vehicle long term. For that I have everything in black bags, nothing hangs. I have fun findng cheap backpacks, purses,laptop cases and odd bags at garage sales and thrift stores. I find I can organize perfectly in a bag, and have lots of flexibility where to store the bags. Its gotten easy to gab the bag I need and know just whats in it. Its a personal aesthetc maybe but for a lot of reasons I don’t care for plastic bins and drawers. Also, they usualy take up more space then bags.

    • Yes, bags can fit into nooks and crannies where plastic bins and tubs could never fit. Sounds like using bags for organization works really well for you. I congratulate you on finding what works.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, David.

    • Thank you for saying this!!

      I’ve been using reusable shopping bags since I became an RV dweller, for lack of better ‘solution’. Since switching to the van I’m now in, I’ve grown accustomed to this type of rearrangeable storage – I totally know which bags contain what!

      In hopes of it looking more homey, I’ve been looking for a set of drawers. I just don’t like the look of plastic, and wood is weight (physical and visual) that I just don’t feel like adding.

      So I’m going to upgrade my bags/suitcases over time, through thrifting, and keep my surroundings eclectic, colorful and fun – instead of static and sterile 🙂

      • Mads, thanks for sharing your organizational strategy. I am glad the bags are working out for you. Each of us should work what works best for us!

        Thanks for reading.

  2. I like your ingenuity. Great solutions free or for pennies. BTW, got the Ian Fleming adventure quote collage – I love it. Sassy

    • Sassy, so glad the adventure quote collage arrived, and I am so so so glad you love it. I appreciate your support.

    • Jenn, I’m glad it seems like my ideas will be helpful to you. I hope you enjoy your new life as a van dweller.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting too.

  3. I don’t have a photo but I use a wire clothes hanger for my paper towel holder. I cut about three inches out of the middle of the bottom wire. Then I slide first one side onto the wire thru the space created by the piece of wire cut out, then slide the other half on. The space cut out is just big enough to fit the roll onto the wire without it coming loose. I then took the hook at the top and turned it so it was pointing back so that when I hung it off the edge of the lip of the shelf. Or don’t turn the hook and just hang it on a cupboard handle. I did need to close the hook a bit so it could hold on better and no more paper towels rolling all over the van floor!

    • Thanks for sharing your paper towel holder technique, Krisaundra. If I hadn’t already found that holder in the free box and mounted it above my drawers, I’d be looking for a wire coat hanger.

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