Van Home Improvement Project – Privacy Curtain

You have no idea how many people look in your vehicles.  It didn’t even occur to us how exposed our life was until when, on our last seasonal job, other staff members regularly asked us about things we had going on in our van.  That’s just human nature.  And we do live a strange lifestyle, even among other seasonal employees.  I can’t blame them for being curious.  Not that there’s anything to hide, but when you’re living in your van, that’s like having people regularly peeping inside your home’s windows.  While there are always trouble makers out there looking for things they can take, I don’t think that most of the folks looking in your vehicle are malicious, just curious.  Still, it feels a bit invasive and uncomfortable.

Van Privacy Curtain 6

Finished Van Privacy Curtain, View from Front of Van

So, our simple van home improvement project:  Add a privacy curtain behind the driver/passenger seats.

This project was so easy and inexpensive.  Of course, you can go more upscale, but our cheap solution suits us just fine.  We’re choosing to live simply and frugally.  We don’t need fancy new things.  We don’t need them to be perfect.  We just need them to be reasonably attractive and functional.  This fits the bill.

I used:

  •   1 set (2 panels) curtains from local thrift store     $4
  •   2 small eyelet screws (approx. $1)
  •   clothesline (I already had some extra, so just cut piece to size)
  •   additional:
    • thread*
    • measuring tape
    • sewing pins
    • sewing needle
    • ironing board
    • iron
    • electric screwdriver & small bit
    • screwdriver

Note:  I do keep a sewing kit, but didn’t have brown thread.  At the fabric store, spools of sewing thread were fairly expensive.  Since I didn’t need much thread for this project, I decided to go with embroidery thread (you can get a skein of it for around 50 cents).

Here’s what you do:

  1. Figure out where you want the curtain to hang.  Try to picture it finished and in place first.  Is it going to be in the way of anything where you want to put it?   (Also, make sure you have the seats in the positions you usually keep them, or else you’ll end up accidentally putting the curtains where they bug you by bumping your head).
  2. Mark the spot that you want to place the eyelets.  We put immediately behind the driver’s seat (at the top of the vehicle’s interior), and one behind the passenger’s seat.  Try to get them at the same height, if possible.  (Measure the distance to the ceiling for each one, and make them exactly the same).
  3. Our old van is a conversion van, so it has nice solid wooden trim.  We anchored the eyelets to the trim.  In the trim,  we drilled a small hole in each place marked in step 2.  (These holes should be smaller than the width of the eyelet screw that you’ll be using).  This makes it so much easier to screw the eyelet in, vs. if you didn’t do a “starter hole” first.
  4. Screw the eyelets in.  You may find it easier to thread a screwdriver through the eyelet hole, and turn the screwdriver.  (This is a little more cumbersome than just using your hand to screw it in, but it is much easier on your hands.)
  5. Measure the length that you’d like the curtains to be. (Chances are the ones you bought are too long, and need shortened.)
  6. Hem your curtains.  I don’t have a sewing machine these days, so I sewed them by hand.  But admittedly, I
  7. was a bit lazy in my approach.  I didn’t cut the curtains to size.  Instead, I just folded the bottom up until it was the right length.  Then ironed and measured them to make sure the fold was even.  Then pinned the fold in place.  Then did a basic running stitch to secure the hem (see this for how to do a running stitch).
    Van Privacy Curtain 4Finished View of Curtain Hem (Front)

    Van Privacy Curtain 5

    Finished View of Curtain Back – My lazy fold over version

  8. Since my hand sewing isn’t as strong of a stitch as machine stitching, I did a 2nd row of running stitch to reinforce the hem.
  9. Attach the clothesline securely to one of the eyelets.
    Van Privacy Curtain3
  10. Thread your clothesline through the curtain loops.
  11. Pull the clothesline as taught as you can make it, and attach the loose end to the other eyelet. (Your curtains will sag some, no matter what you do. But try to get as much slack out of the line as you can, or they’ll really sag.  You don’t want any slack in the line, or your curtains will sag too much).
    Van Privacy Curtain2
  12. viola! You’re done.

Van Privacy Curtain1

Too bland for you?  Pick brighter curtains! Or embellish plain ones to suit you… tie dye them, embroider them, sew patches on them, whatever you heart desires! (I’ll probably embellish these later, but for now, just wanted them in place.)

Gypsy Living – Not So Radical After All

I’ve always suspected that there are more people living like gypsies and nomads than is recognized.  It must be fairly common if the Wall Street Journal has it on Page 1 of their “Wealth Management” section in today’s paper:

In Praise of A Nomadic Life – Andrew Blackman

Hubby and I are now 7 months into our gypsy living adventure.  Like the author in the article above, we sold or donated nearly all of our earthly belongings.  We travel from seasonal job to seasonal job, picking places that we want to see.  In between jobs, we camp in our old van.  Andrew and his wife are a bit braver than we are… (so far).  They’re enjoying gypsy living in Europe.  We have our hands full just trying to figure out this gypsy lifestyle here in the States.

He’s right, in that like everything in life, there’s a trade-off.  We’re just starting this gypsy living journey, so I’m sure the list will change and grow.  But, here’s my list of pro’s and con’s so far (in no particular order):

Pros (Benefits) of Gypsy Living

  1. Sense of freedom
  2. Variety in scenery
  3. Variety in work
  4. Much less stressful (work and home)
  5. Helps you focus on the things that are important, without the noise of modern life interfering
  6. Less worry and more peace of mind
  7. Sense of independence
  8. Social – it’s a vey social lifestyle.  There are always new friends to meet and old friends and family to catch up with

Cons (Rather, I’d say “Challenges”) of Gypsy Living:

  1. Difficult to figure out how to mange things like how to vote, where to send your mail, how to manage healthcare across state lines, or even what state to call your residence.
  2. Financial uncertainty of not knowing how a new job (and living space) is going to work out (if you’re working seasonal employment with housing provided).*
  3. Possibly burning a bridge with your past career work, as you’re likely shooting holes in your resume (if you’re doing seasonal work).*
  4. Car trouble is doubly challenging, as it’s also your place to live.
  5. As you’re always moving, finding things that we often take for granted like good auto mechanics or hairstylists is a bit challenging.
  6. Even living small, it is still very easy to accumulate things.  This means that you’re always having to pick what stays and what goes.  There’s very limited space with this lifestyle, and it’s hard (but not impossible) to break the pattern of consumerism that we’re all used to.

*If you’re lucky enough to have either a guaranteed income (social security, pension, disability) or else employment that’s portable, you don’t have to worry about these challenges.  I suspect that your challenge then becomes how to  manage your travel schedule to meet your work deadlines.

All in all, it’s just nice to know that there are others out there trying to live the same way, and seeking similar goals.