This is the story of how Marsha Turned This Short School Bus Into Her ‘Motor-Cottage’.
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Living Tiny In A Skoolie Short Bus Conversion
Images © Marsha Cowan
I lived in it for 6 months but had to sell it because my car would not pull it. So I built another one called “The Nest”, a tiny 6’x6′ camper with a storage loft. It was green with a stained door. I lived in this one for 7 months, then because I was making plans to work in AZ in a contract position, and would be going back and forth from AZ to NC so much, I sold that tiny house and bought a tiny bus. And I love it! Below are some pics of my bus right after its first coat of paint, rough framing, and the screen windows I installed in the back (none of the side windows would work, so I pushed them all up from the outside and locked them securely, and let them be). I put a screen window in the driver’s side window so I could get the breeze without the bugs until I could take off the bus door and install a wooden door with a screen at the top which I am still working on.
Images © Marsha Cowan
We have had a lot of rain lately which has slowed down the process. I have been living in this bus on the street in front of my oldest son’s house. I have a composting toilet, 5-gallon water storage bucket underneath the counter, water drain bucket, and solar lights and charger for cell phone and this iPad. Enjoy!
It was originally yellow with lots of stick on daisies and letters; used to belong to a daycare. I love the constant breezes that come through these screens. I have covers that go over them for traveling. Used a lot of plywood and fencing to frame these panels that divided the bus into areas.
Images © Marsha Cowan
The desk area with my clothes hanging storage underneath one end. You can see one if the solar lights hanging just below the middle of the shelf. I decided to use several smaller solar set ups instead of one large one.
I have a 7.5 watt Nature Power portable charger that does these two lights and charges my phone and iPad. I have a trickle charger for my bus battery so I can plug my DC fan into the cigarette lighter during the day and stay cool, and at night it plugs into a battery pack that uses D cell batteries which I keep charged ahead with a solar charger that charges 3 different sized batteries.
Finally, I have two solar lanterns I use in the “bedroom”, each of which has its own small panel for charging, but they stay charged for weeks as little as I need them. The 71/2 foot sofa is also the very comfortable bed. I actually slept in it and moved around in it in the dark until the curtains went up! But I was able to use my son’s house for bathing and such. When I go to AZ, I will be staying in an RV court with no bathhouse, so I will be taking pan baths again, but that is how I grew up on the farm, so it is old hat for me.
Solar panels rest securely on the dashboard and don’t have to be moved for traveling, in fact, nothing has to be accommodated for traveling. I used that rubbery shelf liner under everything and between dishes, etc., so that nothing moves or turns over during travel. Buckets are bungeed under the cabinets. Even the pictures stay put. You can see the DC fan in this shot. It is held up by a strong magnet and can be moved around.
Images © Marsha Cowan
I like having two side tables/night stands at the back. The picture is held on by magnets as are other things. I also used Velcro to hold the curtains on the window and suspension rods for the lower curtains. Two of the “pillows” are actually extra blankets and sheets stuffed into a sham for storage. In fact, there is so much storage, I am able to keep all my building tools, cooler, suitcase, tennis racket, books, albums, filing storage, fishing gear, etc., etc., with me all the time. Everything I own is in this tiny bus. It is officially home.
The curtain behind the driver’s seat pulls all the way across and completely blocks the view at night while still leaving a large opening at the top for breezes to draw through. Screen in driver’s window. I keep it in all the time because I can still roll the window up and down. Pots and lids hang under the counter. I have a single burner butane stove which I keep tucked away under the counter when I am not cooking.
At this point, I cook outside, but with all the ventilation I have in this truck now ( I have installed my wooden door with a large screen, too), I should be able to cook some inside on a rainy day. Speaking of rain, I built a metal rain guard “bonnet” over the back windows so it does not get rain inside, and have a removable metal rain guard that fits the curve in the driver’s door that I can put up on rainy days when I am not going anywhere so I can keep the driver’s window open, too.
The kitchen photos were taken in the early morning. The pitcher pump draws from the bucket. I fill the bucket about once every 5 or 6 days. Kitchen with my main foods in the jars. Again, I was still painting windows during some of these photos. The sink drains into a 5-gallon bucket under the sink. I hung curtains on all the bottom cabinets to keep weight down for traveling and gas mileage. I love waking up in this bus!
Hi Alex,Wow! This past year in Arizona just flew by! I lived in my tiny red bus in a wonderful RV court in Globe the whole time and loved it! About a month ago, I purchased a tent shower and ran a hose to it so I could see if I liked it. Yes! I definitely recommend the tent shower for warm weather. I used a 35′ hose instead of a solar bag because the water got plenty hot in the hose and would warm up every minute as I turned the sprayer on and off, so it worked beautifully for me. When I left the 3rd of this month to go back to North Carolina, I donated the shower to the campground to use in their tent area as I would have plenty showers back home with my kids houses, but I am going to build a portable one in which I can attach a propane heater to set up when I go back.I did some remodeling (am still doing some) on the tiny bus, so when it is done, I will send some pictures and a short synopsis of what it is like living like a dry camper in an RV court. I loved every minute! I used the port-a-john which was always clean, and until about a month ago when I got the tent shower, bathed in a sink inside the bus, and brought in my water in two blue speckled coffee pots that held a couple of gallons each, so I had plenty of water all the time. My sink emptied into a 5 gallon bucket which I emptied every day, but because I drank a lot of the water, there was seldom more than 3 gallons to empty, and the owner wanted me to empty it into the plants nearby as AZ can get pretty dry. So everything worked beautifully and simply for me and I was able to live on around $300 per month and eat well and buy new clothes periodically as I lost 5 sizes from walking everywhere I went every day! Yes! I went from size 14/16 to 6/8. Yeh!Gotta’ go now…will send pics later. Thanks!
By the way, Alex, I meant to explain that I take advantage of the port-a-john toilet at my RV court as opposed to using my composting toilet (stays in storage under my counter for emergencies), and that I use a 2 gallon pump type sprayer (like you use with weed killer) in the shower as I can sit it in the sun while I am at work, and have warm water when I get back. On rainy days, I heat water on the butane stovetop. If I need more water, I just sit my coffee pot in the sun, too, and can add it to the sprayer when it gets empty. I really love that outdoor shower! So convenient.
This has been a guest post by Marsha Cowan. Thank you, Marsha, for sharing your lovely and inspiring tiny school bus cottage with us!
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