Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

July 20, 2011

Computer and desk work in the van

Working in the van.  Table open.
I worked hard last spring getting things set up for my particular needs and uses.  Among those needs was a functional desk for my computers and some office type activities.  I needed a place to put my printer that didn't need constant access, a place to efficiently store various office supplies like stamps, envelopes, tape, scissors, pens, etc.  I also needed a place to sit and use my laptops.  I have a little volunteer activity that involves logging a bunch of envelopes, sorting them and sending them off to another volunteer each week.  In addition, I like to keep detailed track of all my expenditures and personal finance things using the computer.  In the middle of my summer trips, I have experience using my design and setup.

Using table in folded position.
Drawer with printer  is below
I made a pullout drawer big enough to put the printer into the rear of it and the full depth of 2 feet of the bench area in the rear of my van.  There is enough room in front of the printer to stow my 2 laptops while not using them.  Eye screws and mini bungee cords keep them secured while in transit.  I made a shelf to go on top of it for a little desk.  It is a bit low to use as a desk, tho, so I'm using the folding table I made on the lagun pedestal to place my computer and various items I need while working.  The folding table is working out pretty well.  When just using the laptop, all I need is the small folded table.  But when I need to have some papers about, I can make it 20"x30".

Office boxes stowed in cabinet
above TV &  Desk

Boxes placed on bed for use
with little boxes inside
Small boxes showing office supplies 
For the little things I need to complete my office, I found pretty boxes at Michaels craft store that are working out well.  I use two large boxes, one bigger than the other to place in the overhead cabinet above the desk area.  Into them are an assortment of smaller boxes which contain my office supplies like pens, letter opener, envelopes, stamps, note pads, sticky pads, glue sticks, tape, stapler, etc.  This keeps my things well organized so I can find them easily yet it is also easy to close the box and put it back into the cabinet.  I also have a small file box (found at WalMart) I keep under the bed in the aisle for those things I need to store (like the vet records for my pets).  These boxes are made of cardboard covered in pretty paper.  A plastic container holds the various laptop accessories like USB disks, power cords/transformers, etc.

When I want to use my little office, here's what I have to do to set it all up:

  • Put the lagun table into its pedestal.  It is stowed behind the driver's seat, folded up.
  • Pull the laptop(s) out of the drawer and place on the table (folded or unfolded)
  • Get the power cords and plug in (when on shore power or genny)
  • Pull my two office boxes out of the cabinet and place onto the bed next to the table.
  • Get whatever I'm working on out and go to work sitting in the bench across the aisle from the table.

If I want to use the printer, I might need to pull it out so I can access the set up to find the wifi network and log it on like I'm doing at my sister's house.  That only needs to be done once in any single place.  Otherwise, the paper loading is in front as is the printed paper eject so it can be accessed easily.

I found the set up very usable.  When the table is folded and pushed against the cat crate on top of the drawer unit, I can move past it without too much trouble.  When the leaves are open, it is a lot harder but can be done.  When I have my office boxes on the bed, they are easy to put back into the cabinet to clear the bed because everything stays right in them.  The laptops can be closed and placed easily while plugged into the outlet either on top of the crate or in the drawer.  

This setup would be better without the crate since that would give me a nice desk area but I need to be able to separate my two cat enemies.  As soon as I think they are ok, something happens to prove me wrong.

For this use in the van, I got a Kodak all in one printer because it is small (17"x12"x7"), the ink is significantly cheaper than most others, and I still get a color printer, copier, and scanner.  I also got a big, powerful notebook desktop replacement computer so my regular computer setup can travel with me.  Not everyone needs or wants the powerful computers, but I do.  I also have my smaller, older laptop for when I need a lighter, more portable computer.

I got a wifi card with an antenna to bring in weaker signals when needed.  I set it up and it works fine.  At first, I put the antenna near the window closest to my sister's house and got 3 bars - the same as the on board wifi.  I moved it to the top of the crate to get it out of the way and discovered it enhanced the signal to 5 bars!  I have no idea why it is better there, but I'll take it.


  1. That looks like a pretty efficient set up! Once again, i am in awe of your DIY abilities!

    LifeHacker had a cool idea for a work space, similar to yours http://lifehacker.com/5821395/the-suspended-hidden-workspace

    I sure wish your blog would show up on my reading list :( blogger, with all it's glitches, lately, is killing me

    Cyndi & Stumpy @ RVly Ever After


We love comments. Thanks for giving us your thoughts.