Converting a Car to a Home in Four Steps

With everyone saying that living out of your van is absolutely bonkers, I figured I’d put the worriers at ease by saying screw the Van Life. It was time to show that the tiniest can be the mightiest by converting my two-door VW Golf into a cozy apartment for one. Considering my ineptitude at carpentry, I’m not too sure why I thought this would be an elegant process. A nearly severed thumb and a few reconstructions later, the car is now a home. So, here’s a peek into how this all managed to happen in about a week. (Please disregard all of the awkward photos of me working on the car. And yes, I’m wearing basically the same outfit in every picture because I wore those clothes for a straight week. Judge me.)

Step One: Marie Kondo like it’s your job

Throw everything out. Take out the seats, the four year old receipts in your side pockets, the trunk foam and the memories. Bring the car down to square one. It’s a new leaf, and this new leaf has a zero tolerance policy for baggage.

Removing the seats was actually easier than I thought it’d be. I didn’t need a single tool until I had to unscrew a bolt that I could’ve sworn was welded onto the floor of the car.

Step Two: don’t slice off your thumb

Not even two minutes into making a cardboard cutout of my car, my blade got stuck. I ripped it out of the cardboard without realizing it would snap back and lodge into my fatty thumb tissue. What a classic start to any sort of Cat project if I’m being honest (please don’t ask me about the time I accidentally cut myself on a mayonnaise jar). I rallied, mummified my finger and trudged on. Creating the cardboard cutout was wildly helpful. Having a way to visualize the space is key in deciding how to work with what you have.

Step Three: measure, measure, cut and cry

The next step was to cut all of the plywood and 2x4s to size, which I didn’t assume would be as treacherous as it was. My car floor is as flat as an ocean wave, and my unenthusiastic attitude toward measuring things in general led to a lot of nervous procrastination. After finally cutting everything, I had to cut the plywood down to size again because I was five inches off. How was I five inches off? I’m going to blame my bum thumb for sabotaging my ability to properly process numbers. I may or may not have laid on the floor for a half an hour when I realized the mistake.

With things finally cut and ready, I made the wood 2×4 frame and slapped some piano hinges on the plywood. BOOM. We have some boxes with working cabinets.

Testing out how much/little headspace I could live with.

Step Four: finesse, pack and primp

Here’s where you slap on the final touches: straps to open cabinets, tiny Target boxes I should’ve thrown away long ago to help organize and basic girl twinkle lights to make the whole thing a little more home-y. I honestly thought my backpacking gear wouldn’t fit considering I have two packs for work (a 36 L and a 70L) and a pack for personal backpacking (Waymark Gear Co. MILE 30 pack). I now have a set of heavy duty work gear and then attempting-to-be-UL gear. So, I did a happy dance that no one should ever see when everything fit like a glove.

If you think I should be sponsored by VW for showing the versatility of their tiny vehicles, please send them letters. You can also help by comforting my worried parents, letting me ship my Amazon orders to your house or telling me great places to park my car. Hit me up at @SeeBagsGo on Instagram to see all the excitement.