Posts tagged "Truck Tips"

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Source: An amalgamation of this trash icon from Ozark, Alabama and this truck icon from Clker

In a world where everything is prepackaged, replaceable, and easily disposable, trash is tragically an unavoidable by-product of living. Whether it's paper towels, tissues, plastic packaging, cleaning products, cardboard containers, clothing tags, receipts, pretty much every transaction you make is going to generate some type of waste. And waste is, like, generally bad, right? It takes up space, serves no real purpose, wastes resources and energy, and most importantly for truck folk, there's really no good place to put it.

If you live in a house, you probably put your trash on the curb once a week and the trash fairy comes and takes it away. You either pay the town or a contractor to send this fairy to your house. If you live in an apartment building or complex, chances are there's a communal trash heap/chute that you dump your undesirables into. As far as I'm aware, there's no truck-to-truck trash removal service, and quite frankly it would be pretty weird if there was. My strategy for managing waste was non-existent up until recently, and that was definitively a Bad ThingTM.

Minimizing Waste

You're going to have to deal with some amount of trash, it's inevitable. However, the raw magnitude of refuse you generate will vary dramatically with how proactive you are in controlling it. Here are some of the things that help me minimize what I'm throwing away:

  1. Buy less disposables. This one makes sense. Instead of going for paper towels, go for cloths instead. Instead of cleaning wipes, buy cleaning solution and some quality sponges. The whole "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" mentality works wonders here.
  2. Buy the more expensive items used. Most of the time, when you buy something used, it's not going to have the original packaging, which (in my experience) accounts for most of what you have to throw away. It's always extra packaging: bubble wrap, cardboard, packing slips, instruction manuals etc. Buying used stuff eliminates that step, especially if you pick it up in person instead of having it shipped. This was my main antagonist, the Ikea packaging was ~50% of all the trash I had built up.
  3. Just buy less stuff. A bit of reiterating what I was talking about in this post. Ask yourself, "Do I really need this? Does this actually improve my life in any articulable, perceptible way?" If the answer is no, great! You've just saved yourself money, space, and the burden of having more trash to toss out.

Managing Waste

Like I said, it all started with a trip to Ikea. I had successfully (and painfully) assembled the dresser, and I was left with a huge mass of cardboard and plastic wrap and all the other various fixings of the packaging. I did what seemed like the reasonable thing to do at the time: I took all of the trash, threw it in a big bag, and dumped the bag in a corner of the truck. This would have been fine and all, except that the bag was still there three months later. And every time I cleaned anything, or bought anything, or did pretty much anything other than sleep, there would always be some new piece of trash. Naturally, I threw it into that ever-growing black hole of bad decisions and didn't think any more of it.

It probably doesn't sound all that bad, it just sounds like a trash bag. Except that at this point in the story, it's filled with who knows how many random house-cleaning chemicals, discarded shampoo bottles, and random other waste that I've accumulated by being alive. Not only was I sleeping within a few feet of this near-definite biohazard, but if I've learned anything, it's that bugs will eat pretty much anything. And I had a whole lot of anything and everything in that bag. I wouldn't be entirely shocked if that's what was attracting all of my bug buddies.

And I'd still have that same mystery bag in my truck, had a friend not needed some help moving. Luckily they did though, unintentionally giving me the perfect opportunity to quietly rid myself of 20-ish pounds of God knows what into a dumpster in their apartment complex. But clearly that's not a sustainable solution; I'm not going to be consistently helping friends move. That said, I'm sure my friends enjoy knowing someone in possession of a moving truck. But still, if I can't rely on throwing trash in friends' dumpsters, what are my options?

Uhh, a landfill?

This is a pretty obvious option. You have trash, you need to get rid of it, you take it to the landfill. Simple and easy. The first problem is that most landfills don't like to take random trash. They'd prefer if you sorted it, placed it in separate bags, and other completely reasonable requests that I had no interest in complying with. Not a huge deal, I'm sure I could travel 50 or so miles and find one that would take my wad of trash in all of its unadulterated glory. In the grand scheme of things, a 50 mile drive actually isn't all that bad. It's inefficient for sure, and I'm not big on rampant inefficiency, but that's manageable since I would only be doing it every few months. But once I get there, I still have to pay for it, and on top of that, I'm dumping it straight from the box to their facilities, meaning some garbage guys and gals are going to be all up in my house. Like I've said before, I don't mind people seeing my situation, but I'd prefer not baring all to some complete strangers. Finally, I still have the aforementioned problem of building up trash for weeks or months at a time, an all-you-can-eat buffet for pests. Certainly not ideal.

Just toss it somewhere?

Definitely not. Aside from being straight up illegal to dump your trash in unauthorized dumpsters, it's also just incredibly rude and not my thing. I'm not trying to be the homeless guy creeping around foreign apartment complexes looking for a place to dump my trash under the cover of night. That's beyond weird. I'm also not going to ask my friends if I can dump my discards in their trash, because that's just as strange. In the same vein, it's also not their responsibility in the slightest. I'm the one who signed up to live in a truck, they shouldn't be responsible for any of the side effects or consequences.


The more I thought about it, the more I realized the main issue was one of quantity. It's easy to throw away a piece of trash, you just toss it in one of the million receptacles blending into the background of your day-to-day activities. If you let it accumulate though, it quickly becomes a cumbersome blob, an entity all its own. So the solution I went with was a simple one: buy some small, biodegradable trash bags, and every time you generate trash, throw it in one of those bags, then toss it out the next time you're out and about. Tossing a small bag into a public trash can isn't a burden to anyone, and it saves me from building a trash stockpile in the same place I sleep. Combine this with the above practices for minimizing trash in the first place, and you have a reasonable, low-cost, sustainable system. I've found that I only really generate trash one or two nights a week now that I'm all settled in, and it's usually just a tissue or old cloth while cleaning or exterminating the occasional bug who wanders into my crosshairs.

So that's that. Take a little bit of planning, add some small bags, develop a process that takes up no more than 2 minutes and you have a solid recipe for keeping your truck home free of trash.

Source: Me looking professional at work. Just kidding, this is from Ryder

I enjoy living in a truck. It's simple and efficient, it's a choice I made and intend to stand by. I wouldn't necessarily say I'm proud of living a truck, but I certainly don't have a problem telling people about it (as evident by the fact that this blog exists). When I meet new people, it normally comes up as a matter of course, and I'm more than happy to talk about it and all the quirky things that come with it. That said, this installment of Tips from the Truck is concerned with knowing when truck talk is not appropriate, namely in the workplace.

Very few (read: two) of my coworkers know that I live in a truck. For the most part, if housing comes up in discussion, as far as they're concerned I live in a small apartment in a nondescript part of the Bay Area. I don't encourage lying to your coworkers as part of a healthy daily regimen of deceit, but my argument here is this: These people are colleagues and coworkers first and foremost, I'm interacting with them on a daily basis exchanging ideas and sending code back and forth. For that to work smoothly and efficiently, my workplace peers need to see me as a competent, contributing member of the team who they feel comfortable collaborating with. Being the dude who lives out back like some sort of trailer park reject MacGyver-ing the workplace to suit his needs is not a great way to foster teamwork and cooperation. I'm sure they'd be more than accepting of the situation if I explained it to them; the vast majority of people I talk to about it are very receptive and understanding, but I'd hate for a personal detail to poison any coworker relationships in the event someone didn't approve. So, now that we know there's a ruse to uphold, how do we keep with it, without expending too much effort?

I've said in the past that if you're going to live in a truck, hygiene needs to be a top priority. Seriously. This means having floss, deodorant, toothpaste, a razor, and Q-tips® in your gym bag on a daily basis, and using them. No skimping: gym, shower, shave, and get ready for the day, everyday, without fail. You need to go into work looking clean and well-composed, not aloof and sloppy (this is just generally good advice). This also means doing laundry as frequently as necessary to make sure you're never wearing dirty clothes (again, generally reasonable). Being in Silicon Valley and an engineer means you probably don't have a dress code at work (unless you're at HP), but you should still try to wear a collared shirt every now and then.

This poses another problem though, because what's the point of wearing a collared shirt if it's going to be wrinkled and unsightly. After all, you live in a truck and I hope you don't have an iron in there, that seems like a bad idea. But you still want to have fresh, wrinkle-free clothes, right? My strategy for this has been to use fabric softener and "wrinkle-free" dry cycles, and then watch the dryer like a paranoid hawk, grabbing and folding the clothes before they cool down all wrinkled and unpleasant-looking. Once you get back to your truck, hang up all your dress shirts if you have the room.*

One final tip: seeing as you don't have running water, it can be tricky to clean things like shoes and water bottles. For my shoes, I like to take a damp, post-shower towel and run it around the outsole a few times a week to keep them fresh-looking, and I wash out my water bottle in the office kitchen.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! You're a prim and proper pickup truck plutocrat. Now go out into the real world smelling fresh and looking way less crazy than you actually are.

*Note: This may cause issues with moths. I will attempt to address clothing storage and insect control in future posts.

A big part of truck life is managing the limited amount of space you have available to you. Depending on what sort of vehicle you're living in, you may have more or less space available to you, but generally, unless you live in a full on tractor trailer, you're going to have less than 200 ft2 of space, so you need to be smart about how and where you keep your belongings. As you can see from the picture above, I was able to increase the overall contiguous space available to me (useful, for example, for a truckwarming party).

Efficiently rearranging your living situation requires a little bit of forethought. For me, the following process worked really well:

  1. Make a list. Check it twice, find out who's naughty and who's nice. Just kidding. But you do want to make a list of all the large objects you have in your truck. Generally, this list will include anything stationary (beds, storage, furniture, etc), and anything that takes up a reasonable amount of space, even if it can be moved around pretty easily (like a broom or suitcase, for example). For me, the list included my bed, dresser, and coat rack, as well as a small box of tools.
  2. Measure everything. Once you've made your list, measure the length and width of each item on it, and write these dimensions down on your list. Then measure the dimensions of the overall living space. I just looked up the dimensions for the twin bed and the Ikea dresser I built (detailed here), and measured the depth and length of the coat rack (build detailed here). I also looked up the dimensions of the box to confirm my rough measurements.
  3. Sketch it out. Now that you know everything you need to place, and the space you have to place it, start figuring out arrangements that make sense. My strategy was to put everything at the back, leaving all of the open space in the front. Since I was trying to maximize the amount of free space I had, I decided to put the bed sideways across the truck, leaving enough room for my box of tools at the foot of the bed. It made sense to move the coat rack there too, because that way, accelerating and braking wouldn't cause my clothes to move all over the place, and it meant I could put in a larger rack. Make sure to take into consideration the extra space you'll need for opening and closing drawers, hanging clothes, and just maneuvering around in general. As for the actual sketching part, you can use a normal piece of graph paper, or make a diagram online, like the one I made and included above.
  4. Start shuffling things around. Now that you've planned it out, get to moving! Remove all securements you may have built to keep everything safe, and play your own truck-sized version of Tetris. You might want to make sure it won't be too hot out on the day you plan on moving: hard labor in a hot box is far from the most pleasant of experiences.
  5. Secure it back down. As detailed in my previous Tips from the Truck post, you'll want to make sure to properly re-secure everything once you're satisfied with the new arrangement. Maybe take a lap around the block as a trial run before you resume your normal driving.

And voila! Enjoy your new and improved, more spacious, Feng shui living arrangements.

Source: Google

I'm not talking about securing in the sense of safety and making something inaccessible, but rather in making sure something stays static relative to its container.

When you're setting up your room or a new piece of furniture, generally the last thing on your mind is making sure it stays in place. It's basically just a given that your various belongings aren't going to wander around when you aren't in the room. I knew from the start that I'd have to be careful about driving with everything in the back, and one of the first things I did was secure the bed with some rope. Even with proper securement at the forefront of my mind , estimating the stability and safety of various restraints is apparently not my strong suit, and I'd still occasionally find things fallen over after a trip to the post office. So without further ado, here are some things to remember when securing your very own truck-house.

The Little Things

When you're building furniture for the truck, you've probably already thought of what it's going to be screwed into, and so it generally isn't the big stuff that gets you, it's the little things that you leave around. An e-book reader, a battery-powered light, the broom, it's usually the most mundane things you'll forget to secure or put away. And nothing is worse than taking that first turn and hearing all your various belongings crash to the floor, and then proceed to roll around for the remainder of your trip. Not pleasant, and easily avoidable.

Check it or Wreck it

Sometimes I won't have driven the truck for 3 or 4 days, and I'll forget that I've left a bunch of things sitting on top of my dresser. Oops. Luckily, this is a super easily-remedied problem: Even if you're very on top of putting the little things away, take a quick look in the back before you leave. If there's anything loose back there, put it in a drawer, hang it up, or put it under the covers.

Velcro is not your friend

I built a dresser for my clothes and tools early on, and very quickly found out that low-friction rollers do not stay put on their own in the back of a moving truck. I've since developed an acute fear of left turns, which caused all the drawers to fly out and careen across the truck, uniformly showering the ground in my belongings. My brilliant solution to the problem was to secure the drawers with Velcro, which as it turns out doesn't have nearly the holding strength necessary for my purposes. The takeaway here is that you should be using rope or screws to hold everything in place, don't trust Velcro or most adhesives, which weaken with time and temperature.

Source: MTV

Tips from the Truck is a new series I'm starting now, where I talk about the various little things you can do to make truck life easier.

I briefly mentioned in this post that eating out all the time can quickly cut into your truck savings. Why would you be eating out all the time, you ask? Because you can never, under any circumstances, keep food in your truck. Even non-perishables, you don't want to keep any vaguely organic, edible substances within like a 100-foot radius of your abode. You might be saying to yourself, "Brandon, doesn't that seem a little excessive? What if I get hungry at night and want a Clif Bar or something?" To which I say, Too BadTM.

As I've mentioned before, my place of work extends many benefits to me, one of them being free meals. While certainly helpful, free meals are not a requirement for living in a truck. Aside from the benefits of being physically removed from the possibility of late-night eating, there's a much more practical reason I don't keep food in the truck: lions, tigers, and bears.oh my! Okay, maybe not actually those three animals in particular, but the literal last thing you want to deal with is an infestation/intrusion of any kind. I keep nothing even remotely edible in the truck, aside from maybe a small, tightly-sealed bag of protein powder. The remainder of truck-residing items include a bed and a Velcroed-shut dresser full of clothes and various cleaning products.

And you know what? Despite not having anything for bugs or animals to eat, I still occasionally have to deal with bugs. I reluctantly disposed of two HUGE* spiders yesterday, and became acquainted with more than a few moths while washing my sheets. I'm sure it's mainly due to my door setup, which I'll without a doubt discuss in a future "Home Improvement" post, but basically I keep my door slightly open at night for fresh air and so that nobody can lock me in here and subject me to a pretty embarrassing death. Back on topic, I can only imagine what critters I'd find myself face-to-face with if I actually had something enticing for them. I saw a stray cat walk by a few nights ago, who's to say it wouldn't have decided to move in if I had some sweet treats just laying around? And it's hard enough to clean things in here, with limited access to waste disposal, you want to generate as little trash as possible, the absolute last thing you want is a raccoon rummaging through your things because you threw a candy bar wrapper away three weeks ago. The main, and really only, takeaway from this is that if your setup is even remotely like mine, or you plan on having a setup even remotely like mine, don't bring food in it, the results may take away your appetite.

*They weren't actually huge, in fact, they were tiny. But they looked super menacing in the sub-standard truck-lighting.

Final Note: I added a Question box to the site, so if you have any burning questions, you can anonymously submit them, and I'll do my best to answer them in future posts.


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