Mathew Arthur didn’t anticipate the loud pitter-patter of raindrops on his van’s steel roof the first night he slept in his new home.
He purchased a tarp the next day, one of the little adjustments he’s had to make as he embarks on living in his 45 square foot van for one year to explore the meaning of home in a city where many are priced out of the housing market.
“I can’t wait to have someone over and cook them dinner,” Arthur said after his first night, despite the major anxiety he had while falling asleep – “I thought, what the eff am I doing?”
The Vancouver-based designer is documenting his experience at blog.vanyear.com to explore how people define themselves through their living space in a culture of “more, more, more.” Hundreds have visited his blog daily since he started in late 2012.
Urban campers have sent Arthur tips on van living, including the best places to shower and park without getting the boot.
Their emails tell the story of those pushed out of conventional living spaces by skyrocketing housing costs, he said, though his project is more artistic than survival-based.
Just days into his project, Arthur realized it might comment on sustainability as well.
“You don’t have to have a house, a dishwasher, a two-car garage – it’s excess consumption,” he said, noting it took him no time at all to appreciate just how much water he uses for washing and preparing food.
His family helped convert the tiny space into a home complete with insulation, plywood floors, a burner, a pump sink, a folding table, mini fridge and, yes, a smell-proof container for bodily fluids. The total cost was $900, including the van, plus $250 per month to rent a parking space and power.
Arthur can’t stand up in the van so is taking extra care to have good posture when seated. Despite the challenges, he’s excited about his project so far.
“It already feels like home to me,” Arthur said.