Gettin’ her ready!

(by Danny)

Danny headshot

One of the things we’ve known for sure about the year of discovery is that if we are going to try to move from our 3-bedroom house in Petworth, DC into a VW Westphalia Van (a.k.a. ‘Red’), then we better figure out how to make her livable.  Not an easy challenge, but certainly one that we have embraced with a measure of intention and liberation.


During our 8 years living in DC, we have accumulated a house-full of stuff.  Kind of a natural process when you are rooted for a while.  While it is normal, this has definitely not been the norm for Alys and I in our lives.  We are both accustomed to fitting the bulk of our possessions in a suitcase or two, so it has felt freeing to begin a process of shedding and contemplating how we could possibly move our family of 4 into Red.

First things first, Nico and I embarked on a measuring project to understand just how much space we have for storage in Red without having bags and things crammed in all around us.  The main constraint has been that we want to just bring what we can fit inside the van.  We had considered roof racks, trailer racks and the such, but agreed that we’d rather keep it simple and only use the storage space inside the van.  So Nico and I grabbed some measuring tape and got to it.

We found 4 main storage spaces that could be in play for our journey.  We found about 1.15 cubic feet of unused space between the two front seats, ideal for a few storage compartments and our medicine cabinet.

We found an additional 1.6 cubic feet of space between the 2 rear-facing captain’s chairs, which sit right behind the front seats.  This seemed like a good spot for our lil green cooler that we have toted all over the place for the past several years.

We then realized that if we removed the captain’s chair right behind the front passenger seat, we could potentially reclaim an additional 10.4 cubic feet of storage space.  That was a big find.  The challenge would be to figure out how best to utilize that space.

The last main storage area was the most obvious – the area behind and beneath the back seats.  After measuring the various spaces that make up this area, we came up with about an additional 51 cubic feet of storage space!  Woohoo, now that’s a big number:)  So there you have it – our transition would take us from an 1,800 square foot house, with endless amounts of storage space, to about a 40 square foot van, with around 64 cubic feet of storage space.  Ahh, can’t you hear the sweet sound of freedom ring:)

So, what in the world do we consider to be most necessary to bring with us that would fit in 64 cubic feet of space.  Well, first things first, we have to eat, drink, and put on some clothes from time to time…the basic necessities of life they say.  So let’s start there…and depending on how that goes…maybe end there?

Eat: We need our two burner stove and fuel tanks to make it burn.  We need pots, pans, cooking utensils, cooking oil and spices, measuring cups, mixing bowls, plates, bowls, eating utensils, cups, and a cutting board.  Am I forgetting anything?  I hope not, cuz we might not have space for it:)  We will also need a space to store food – both dry storage and ideally some cold storage space.  I forgot to mention, Red comes with a .8 cubic foot cold storage box under the remaining captain’s chair behind the front seat.  This storage box is powered by a second car battery, which is also used to power the internal lighting in the van, which comes in handy when the car is off at night.  We’ll be able to use that cold storage box and our lil green cooler (about 1.6 cubic feet) to store some essentials, like milk and yogurt and anything else we want to keep cool.

Drink: We need space to store water and at least a little space to store some adult drinky drinkys, because again, we are talking necessities of life here.  What about the kombucha Alys has been brewing you may ask?  That is a tough one.  We haven’t figured out how to keep brewing in the van, so that may be on hold for now…unless you have any ideas!!

Clothes: For clothes and shoes, we are going to take all we can fit in the fancy duffle bags that my parents bought for us for Christmas.  Alys and my duffle have a storage space of about 3.4 cubic feet and the boys each have a duffle that has storage space of about 1.6 cubic feet.  You can see who is going to be living large in the clothing area and who will not:)

Sleeping/camping: We will need our four sleeping bags and pillows.  Much of the time that we will be on the road we will sleep all 4 of us in the van.  The boys will sleep in the pop top sleep space and Alys and I will sleep in the cabin on the seats that slide into a bed.  We will also bring a 4-person tent to either store our things in when we are sleeping in the van, or for some combination of us to sleep in.  We will need some sleeping pads, a hammock (definitely a must!), and at least a couple of hiking backpacks in case we want to hike in anywhere and camp (like in Glacier National Park for example:))

So what else are we considering necessary:  Well, we definitely need to fit in a guitar for Alys.  That’s music to our ears (though a challenge in terms of storage) and therefore, that’s a necessity.  We also hope to acquire a couple of small hand drums along the way, so that a few of us can accompany Alys in the music department.  We will need some basic school supplies to assist us with road schooling the boys. We will need some electronics, like a phone (or maybe two), an ipad, a laptop, a kindle, and some headphones. We will need some games!  We love board games and card games and will definitely need to figure out how to fit some of those in.  We’ll also bring along a couple of crazy creek camp chairs and some other basic camping necessities, like biodegradable dish soap, a wash basin, a solar lantern, toiletries to maintain top flight hygiene, etc.

So now where does this leave us?  So far, the space and the necessities are matching up pretty well.  Not an overabundance, but could be just about right.  While we have begun to line up necessities with appropriate storage spaces, we don’t have it all lined up yet, so if there is something that you think we’re missing, feel free to mention it as it would be better to remember that now than when we are in the woods in Maine:)





  1. Might Alys consider trading the guitar in for a “mini” guitar. Or a ukulele? Harmonica? That way you wouldn’t hit Danny in the face every time she turns around to sing to the kids.


  2. Danny…Good luck with everything. It has been a pleasure working with you, playing football with you, and becoming VW brothers. Would have loved to get the families together for a convoy but definitely when you come back. Keep me updated on how she is running.


    • Danny & Family,

      I am looking forward to following your blog. What a terrific adventure! Best of luck.


      AJ, Kathleen & Emma Lear


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