Tuesday, September 15, 2015

4 years full-timing with 7 years of lessons, mods, & changes

Amazing to us (as well as most other people), Jeff, Kira, Boots, TK, & I have lived fulltime VERY comfortably in our 17’ molded fiberglass egg for over four years constant now. If we’ve met, you’ve heard me say that our bed has wheels so that we can follow the weather that fits our clothes. That way, it’s easy to live outside where there’s a lot more space for each of us. Unfortunately, we have occasionally been stuck in uncomfortable weather due to family or working situations. We’ve survived -3° overnight temps during an ice storm before Christmas in MO, four days of rain in Poudre Canyon CO when the Thompson River south of us flooded horribly, 100+° days in Missouri when the humidity was just about as high as the temp, 5” of snow with -1° overnight during Christmas camped east of Albuquerque, & numerous days of wailing wind out west. In over seven years of Casita ownership, we’ve rarely been disappointed with it’s quality, weather-worthiness, versatility, & agility. Since molded fiberglass mean no seams, all those bad weather situations (rain, hail, freezing, wind, snow, ice, heat, & humidity) just don’t have that much affect on us inside. In addition, we could probably manage an earthquake well also -- not much different than some dirt trails we’ve traveled down. If there’s a fire or a flood, we hook up & boogey. However, tornados are the one bit of weather that scares the dickens out of me, so at some point, we hope to stay out of the Plains states during the worst of tornado season. . .unless we find an Ozark cave to park in.

Over 7 years of Casita ownership, we’ve made a plethora of mods (modifications) that enhance our day-to-day existence. Here is a summary of how we manage & how configurations evolved:

Front door – First we put a house-type peep hole above the door window & put a 3-way switch on the porch light. We also added plexi-glass over the top & bottom screens on the screen door so it’s more of a storm door (plus keeps pets from scratching thru the scree).  We got the double step installed that is almost always needed since we not only got the original high axle option, but have additionally installed 15” tires/wheels, plus an additional 2” lift. All this lifting is due in part to fatally bending out of shape the original double step.

Bathroom – Our 2008 Liberty came with a wire rack above the galley sink as well as one next to the toilet. I moved the kitchen rack to two large Command hooks on the wall above the one by the toilet. I store cough medicine, antiseptic spray, etc on the top rack for quick access, & my cosmetics/toiletries in the original rack. I strung a small bungee cord thru a roll of toilet paper & hung it at the bottom of each wire rack. Has worked perfectly all theses years. We have a semi dry bath (or semi-wet?) because I replaced the original flimsy shower curtain with a regular, clear shower curtain (trimming only a few inched off the bottom) & hang it next to the closet wall (instead of the other side of the door). I use velcro to attach the shower curtain in front of the toilet so that everything behind the toilet (including the toilet paper) stays dry during a shower. This also has worked great for years. Since our 4-day old original awning got demolished in an Orlando FL July thunderstorm, I used part of the awning to velcro a little skirt under the bathroom sink lip – it hides the drain pipe. I have a walmart sack hidden against the wall to hold spare paper towels. And recently, I realized the gap between the black tank vent up the side of the wall & the bathroom window was a perfect spot to wedge in spare rolls of toilet paper. They don’t move & I can easily see when we need to buy more. Also, from the start, I have two (of the three) bars with suction cups on the wall next to the closet to hang wash cloths. I finally had Jeff move the bathroom light switch from the light at the back of the bathroom to the vent hood over the burners because I really hated reaching around in the dark to find that light switch. If I could just get the bathroom window turned upside-down, I wouldn’t be concerned with anyone looking in the open window when I sit down on the toilet (it’s a girl thing). I have yet to come up with a good occasional curtain idea tho.

Galley – The other bar with suction cup ends is in front of the sink to hang a towel on. Early on, I ordered little clips that stick to the wall behind the sink to hold spice bottles. They’ve functioned well thru the years. We also quickly moved the paper towel hanger from inside the cabinet door above the sink to the side of the range hood – close but not in the way. We also installed a coffee filter dispenser under the top cabinet that still works well there. For years, I used a cake-cooling rack over the sink, but this past winter got a small section of white wire rack to sit over the sink. Love having additional counter space while still being able to use the faucet. Someday, somehow, I’d like a wider counter top, preferably with some sort of bullnose or edge on it so eggs & such don’t roll off. Because of the serious lack of counter space, we first had a sliding shelf over the sink that has been removed, & now just have one of the little plastic patio tables I’ve used for various things now sitting at the end of the counter for the coffee maker & cat food dispenser. Works well, is easily moved, & also has storage underneath. We don’t use ice cubes much, but I like ice in a soda. Finding room in the little Casita freezer for a full ice cube tray continued to be a problem. Then I saw a sealed ice cube tray on Amazon but could never find it locally. Didn’t want to order one at the time since we were traveling too much. Then I realized using the small “portion” cups provided by many cafes & restaurants could be filled with water & individually stuck in whatever small spaces are available in the freezer. It fits perfectly in my favorite mug, plus being sealed, it doesn’t water down my drink as it melts. For a waste basket, I re-purposed a narrow, rectangular plastic container by hooking a bungee cord on the sides & hook it onto two cup hooks screwed in at the bottom of the bathroom door mirror. A Walmart plastic bag fits perfectly in that container & makes collecting/removing trash easy. I bought a $1 dish towel & sewed the long sides together & one end, put a safety pin in the open end & hung it on a curtain hook next to the top of the bathroom door to stash plastic bags. I put a couple of suction cups on the frig door to hook safety pins on dish towels. A couple of years ago, I got tired of the clutter on my precious little counter, so I crocheted some fishnet-style sacks to hang on the wall to hold coffee creamer, & a larger one for coffee & a plastic glass for flatware. I made a much bigger sack then to hang on the microwave swing-down door to store fruit. It swings down in front of the frig door when the shelf is down. Can you tell I hate to waste any vertical real estate?

Closet – We hung up most of our clothes initially, but it didn’t hold enough. I am convinced rolling clothes takes up less space & prevents winkles better than hanging (can’t explain why), but we didn’t want the extra weight or considerable hassle of making shelves for the closet. What to do? Finally I decided to macramé two shelves that would adjust to the compound corners of the closet & hang conveniently on a plethora of curtain hooks stuck around in the carpet. Shoes & a few other assorted things just live on the floor. This arrangement has also worked amazingly well thru the years. We have two heavy-duty coat hooks on the outside of the closet door (& a couple more beside the mirror on the bathroom door) for hanging the assortment of jackets thru the seasons. And I finally got some very inexpensive push-to-turn-on LED lights hanging on curtain hooks beside each shelf for additional light.

Floor – The one original option I wish we’d ordered but didn’t is vinyl flooring. The first few years of weekend camping required throw rugs over the carpet. Once going full time tho, these rugs created tons of annoying work keeping them clean. Finally, we got a clear plastic hall runner with teeth on the bottom from Lowe’s to help shield the carpet from spills & rain – with rugs on top. Then we used some stick-on tiles we never used in our house on top of the plastic. That did pretty well for several years until the tiles started breaking due to the flex in the underlying plastic runner. A couple of years ago, we bite the bullet & just got a solid sheet of vinyl that we both liked & laid it loosely over the carpet. Since the wood plank flooring many people install can be affected by moisture between the planks, we wanted a solid vinyl sheet (due to spills & tracked in rain). However, that vinyl tended to walk forward as we traveled around, so I got just 18” of that same clear plastic runner with teeth & taped it to the far back underneath of the vinyl to grip the carpet at the far back wall. It’s held pretty darn good for over two years now. Last winter in Quartzsite, we got one of the new microfiber rugs for the entry that has worked out excellent. Oh, in case anyone really wants to know – the cats’ litter box is on the floor partially pushed under the bed so 20# Boots (a Maine Coon cat) has enough room to use the box. For years, the box lived under the closet door, but I got tired of sharing that small space with it. It sort of “hides” now.

Storage – When we first got the Casita, I folded two strips of denim in half & sewed “pockets” & button holes in to hang on curtain hooks on the soffit (that thin piece of real estate between the upper cabinets & the ceiling) to store medications, supplements, & vitamins (plus hang Jeff’s multiple pairs of cheater glasses). We hang a calendar above the microwave cabinet from hooks on the soffit. We use the soffit over the galley for a pair of scissors, can opener, & long-handled lighter, with the back cabinet soffits for a red glitter snowflake Christmas ornament, & a couple of dream catchers. I have a magazine display from Staples attached next to the upper cabinet over the sink to hold an assortment of stuff that otherwise just laid around. I have a plethora of clear or white plastic containers in cabinets, next to the toilet, & under the bed to corral lots more stuff. Since we have cats & end up with numerous cat little buckets, we’ve used them hold hoses/cords, canned food, & out-of-season clothing. We have three narrow stacking drawers next to the galley (under the patio table) for extra juice & soda (handy to place in the frig when one cold drink is removed). Before going full time, we traveled to Virginia to attend a wedding, so to keep our dress clothes from getting wrinkled hanging in the closet, I put an expanding curtain rod from side to side over the bed to hang them on. It was so handy, the rod has stayed all these years. It’s a good place to hang a wet bath towel to dry in the breeze thru the windows, or park my t-shirt & socks overnight. Early on, we also hung a wire rack above the back window from the upper cabinet to park laptops, coffee cup, cell phone, glasses, etc that I wouldn’t ever want to do without.

Art work – The first years of weekend camping, I taped enlargements of some of my  favorite photos on the upper cabinet doors, but that didn’t last too long. Now I’ve simply used a brown Sharpy to simulate Craftsman-style grooves on the doors. Cheap, easy, & better than plain. Decades ago, I learned to make stained glass projects, & would love to have something in our door. But not finding something I wanted to live with indefinitely, I played with using colored Sharpies on the inside of the glass. I created a design from a couple of Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass windows that I continue to enjoy. Unfortunately, the ink fades & I have to fill in the colors periodically.

Windows – It didn’t take too many camping weekends to become dis-enchanted with the original blinds. I wanted full nighttime coverage of the windows, so I customized some Wal-mart curtains that worked well for years. After getting locked out of the trailer (thankfully in our own driveway after a 2-week trip), we had to cut a screen to get in an unlocked window. We replaced screens after first installing window tinting. One of the best things we’ve done. It really helps keep out heat build up & provides quite a bit of privacy. We also installed the louvers at the back of both side windows that has been a lifesaver during hot, muggy rain storms. Then three years ago tho while strolling thru Home Depot, we noticed a sale on vertical shades. Hmmm, pretty expensive, so we checked at Lowe’s which gives a 10% discount to veterans. Same sale on the same shades. . .so we got an early Christmas present. Cherry colored double cellular vertical shades which are excellent at shutting out any outside light & insulating against cold & wind overnight (next best thing to double-pane windows). During our first winter visit to Quartzsite three years ago, we checked out having awnings installed on our windows. Because of the curve of the back of the Casita tho, awning brackets will not fit. While strolling around the RV tent later, we noticed large sun screens with suction cups meant for the front inside windows of Class A motorhomes. Ah-hah, with a little trimming to fit, those suction cups work perfect on the outside of the driver’s side & back windows. I even had enough left over to cover the bathroom window (remember that issue with the windows opening from the bottom right behind the toilet)! Between the tinting & screens, we keep out a lot of sunlight & heat plus doubles the privacy.

Walls – I know some people don’t like the Casita’s carpeted walls (affectionately called rat fur), but they really do a lot of insulating against sound & cold. Unfortunately, seems that once it gets warm in the trailer, it’s more difficult to cool it down than warming it up. Anyway, I put a roll of Reflectix along the walls from the windows to the top of the seats from the frig, all around the back, & to the end of the galley. I had enough left over then to put in both corners. I covered it with the best portions of previous favorite sheets – pinned into the carpeting with “T” pins. This extra layer of insulation probably contributes to our being cozy during freezing temperatures. Plus, we like the colors!

Bed – Ah, nearly half of our little 14’ studio cabin is taken up with the bed because the Liberty layout can be made up with either a King bed in the whole back half, a regular full bed side to side with room for two seats (& a table set up in the aisle) next to the galley & frig, or as twin bunks on either side with combination aisle & table between at the back. First, we slept side to side on a queen-sized air mattress (to replicate our house Sleep Number mattress) but the “seats” soon accumulated stuff. We also tried the other side to side, but it didn’t make any different. Finally we settled on the back to front on cushions & added foam padding for many years, putting our little plastic patio tables along one side to hide things under & give the cats a “shelf” to lay on. The problem with back to front tho was lack of even more floor space. So, it was back to using Queen space, driver’s side to passenger side finally. Although climbing over Jeff to get out of bed was good strength & flexibility exercise for me & more floor space than back to front sleeping, it was a major nuisance for him & his back problems. So I finally set up twin beds for each of us to sleep, nap, recline, or set whenever we wanted without disturbing the over person. I use an air mattress (& foam pad) while Jeff prefers the firmness of the original cushions. We have the original big table top still between the beds with pillows for Kira to sleep on at night & the cats to use during the day. When I’m under the covers, I’m in bed. If above the covers, I’m reclining – and a happy camper.

I don’t miss a table in this small space (just one large area for me to park more stuff so we couldn’t eat there anyway), & if I had more storage, I’d just FILL IT UP. This small space keeps me disciplined.

Television – Until we went full time in the Casita, we didn’t carry a TV. However, since we live in the trailer now & are not just getting away from life, we (mainly me) want a television available all the time. Our house in the country north of Kansas City MO did not have access to either cable TV nor DSL internet, so we had a satellite dish on the roof for each service for years. We replaced DISH with DirecTV within a few years & when the Hughes Internet modem finally died, we got a Verizon mi-fi. We’ve been outrageously happy with DirecTV & Verizon services for years now. Since we originally slept with our heads against the back wall for years,we couldn’t see the TV hanging in the back corner so we set up a single shelf (on three legs) against the frig to hold the DVR & then hung the TV from an articulating arm attached to the side of the frig cabinet. We extended the cables thru the upper cabinets from the back corner above the bed to next to the frig to hook up everything. This arrangement has worked perfectly for four years now, with no needs to change anything.

So this is how we manage in our “small space”. I’m afraid some people would call it cluttered though since there is very little unused wall space. But, it’s terribly efficient, easy to clean, cozy but open with the three big windows, & has a space for everything we need & use. We won’t have any overnight guests, & only “entertain” outside. I don’t think we could stay for long in a house if someone gave us one. We love escaping the worst of seasons, meeting new neighbors, & seeing jaw-dropping landscapes. Plus this full time RV lifestyle has no lawn maintenance, property taxes, or permanent annoying neighbors. 

We’ve mostly stayed at Compton Ridge Campground in Branson all summer & haven’t done any sightseeing nor even much visiting since returning to Missouri. in April I’m SO loving my new little Acer Aspire Switch 10 2-in-1 computer although I don’t turn it on too much. It’s like our Casita – little, cute, lightweight, & versatile. I’ll post a summary of our unexciting summer when we head back to Arizona for the winter.


  1. I can picture everything! Am working on my little egg now in preparation for winter company. It is so much fun! Enjoyed reading, gave me a couple of ideas.

  2. I miss our Casita from time to time....kudos for making it four years! I'm sure you're ready to get back to the desert...happy travels!

  3. Great Post with lots of good information! I like how you went through each"room"with details. Must have taken forever to write!
    Our thoughts are beginning to drift toward the desert....noticing the same with other blogs.
    Maybe everyone loves winter in the desert..

  4. Wow! Do you have photos of all of your homey improvements? You do discribe them well but nothing is like a photo.


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