Thursday, August 28, 2014

Home Improvements

Hard to believe that Millie and I have now been full-time RVers for 1 whole week!  I’m still at the lovely county park campground on the outskirts of Chicago enjoying a large campsite overlooking an oak savannah prairie, and soaking up some great sunrises and sunsets.

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While I’ve been spending most days working away at the remaining 20 boxes to be eBay’d, Craigslisted, scanned, or garaged sale’d from the storage garage, Millie has continued to be absolutely no help at all Smile--  She spends her days lounging in the cool grass, or when the sun’s too hot, she crawls under the motorhome to a favorite shady spot.

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On the rolling home front, I’ve been enjoying some new home improvements for TV watching, photo editing, vacuuming, storage, and lighting.

Perhaps the biggest improvement is the new ultra-lightweight, ultra-energy-efficient 27” Dell U2713HM Monitor.  A few months ago, I posted about my new “Apple Smart TV” solution.    Now that I’m full-time in the RV, I’m using my Mac Mini as my main TV DVR (with the excellent Elgato EyeTV 3 software), as well as my main photo editing workstation.  As much as I loved my old NEC 26’' LCD Monitor, it just was not going to work well for RV use—it weighed nearly 30 lbs, and consumed 100 watts of power!

So, after some research, I discovered the Dell monitor.  It’s an IPS monitor that had perfectly calibrated color right out of the box.  But best of all, it weighs less than 13 lbs, and consumes less than 1/3rd of the power that the NEC did.  With this Dell and my Mac Mini running, it consumes only about 36 watts of power—that’s even less than the 24” Jensen over-the-door TV that came with the rig (which I have since removed)!   So, I’m really loving this setup so far, and love being able to use the tiny Apple Remote to control EyeTV and change channels, volume, etc. from the reclining front seats.

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Right now, to hide cord clutter (and elevate the Mac Mini high enough to use the remote with it), I’ve got the Mini and external Samsung DVD player sitting on 3 plastic woven baskets (bought from Office Max).  Inside these baskets, I store my printer, scanner, external hard drives, and Mac Mini product box while also hiding the power strip everything plugs into.

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When packing up for travel, I flip the baskets over, stow all the items in them, and put them under the dinette bench.  There’s even an Ergotron quick release bracket on the HP/Ergotron monitor arm so the Dell monitor can be removed and stowed under the dinette bench too!

I’m still trying to figure out how to better manage dust with this setup.  So far, it’s not a problem here in the Midwest, but once I get to the desert later this year, it likely will be.  If anyone has ideas for a clear cover/case for the Mac Mini— let me know!

When using the setup in “computer” mode, I’ve been loving my new illuminated rechargeable Logitech Bluetooth keyboard, and Apple Wireless Magic Trackpad for cord-free control of the Mac Mini.

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And still loving my “office chair” that makes the dinette bench actually tolerable to sit on—the Backjoy Relief seat.

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One handy new addition to my desktop computing setup is this Anker USB 3.0 Hub.  I can connect my external hard drives without having to fiddle around with the back of the Mac Mini, and there’s also enough ports to charge my phone and cellular modem too.

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Now for the non-tech home improvements—this little Ivation dimmable LED rechargeable lantern (that Technomadia posted about a few months ago) has been a fantastic addition!  No more hot, power-sucking halogen reading lights to fool with over the bed.  This light gives nice, even soft lighting that can be reflected off the ceiling, or hung upside down for direct lighting.

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I found some stainless steel over-the-door hooks when cleaning out my house closets, and these have been working great to solve a few problems (such as how to hang the lantern over the bed above), and how to hang bananas in the very small kitchen!

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The double hook also makes a great holder for Millie’s retractable dog leash, so I can keep it easily accessible and yet out of the way over the door.

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Now that we’re in the RV 24/7, it’s critical to keep Millie’s dog hair under control.  I had been using a Bissell corded hand vac that was strong, but really didn’t keep the carpet “fluffed” enough as it lacked a roller attachment.  It also required bending over a lot or kneeling to reach all the spots of the RV.  So, I decided to splurge on a refurbished cordless Dyson DC35 and have been thrilled with how functional it is and how small it can break down for stowing in the RV.

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I stow the vac and all its attachments in my 5 gallon wash bucket in the shower. 

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I can leave the vac plugged in all the time thanks again to that handy AC outlet next to the toilet (that I never thought I’d ever have a need for and now it does this as well as runs my spin dryer!).

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I brought the included long Dyson pole along, but have yet to need it.  The roller attached directly to the vacuum head gives me enough height to do the small bit of carpet.

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My unit also came with the add-on Flexi Crevice Tool attachment which has been my favorite tool of all!  When extended, I can vac without bending over and it easily reaches all the far corners of the Winnie.  With the little brush added, it even dusts the window shades and dashboard.   Finally a tool to rival Millie’s millions of hairs!!!

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My final improvement was to make the overhead dinette pantry cabinets more organized and functional.  I was using plastic tubs before, but radically over filling them making it hard to find anything, and also making a “contents may have shifted during flight” all but all but certain whenever I first opened the cabinets after traveling.

But the addition of 2 Seville Classics expandable shelves have made all the difference.  Contents now stay put and everything is “find-able!”

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So, all in all, we’re off to a great start in our very comfortable full-time rolling home!

20 comments:

  1. Thank you for doing all this research for me. With your mini mac, that looks like a better situation than buying a new mac air. With your set up I can still use my Apple 27" monitor and transfer my iMac info to the Mini Mac drive. You have a lot of great ideas that I will eventually implement. I was going to take my Dyson with me but looks like I need to downsize that to the DC35.

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    1. If you'll be boondocking a lot, you'll want to check your Apple 27" monitor's power consumption (especially if you'll be using it "double-duty" as a TV and having it on many hours a day). That was the killer for my NEC monitor-- 100 watts x 4 to 6 hrs = 40 to 60 amp hours a day from my batteries. Considering I didn't want to draw more than 80-100 total amp hours per day (i.e. 50% of my battery capacity), the NEC was just not going to work.

      So, now with the Dell sipping only 30 watts, that equates to only 12-18 amp hours for 4-6 hours of use. Much more do-able for boondocking!

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    2. BTW, I use a little device called a "Kill-A-Watt" to measure wattage consumption of all my items with a household electric plug (see my Gear We Love page and go to the RV Electrical section). Very handy for planning your inverter and boondocking power needs!

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  2. Looks like the life is liking you as much as you are liking it. Nice to hear.

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  3. I also have a Dyson in our motorhome and cant praise it enough. Dont know what I would do without it!!!

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    1. I really like that the wide range of accessories, and easily removeable/cleanable components (like the filter and roller brush). I only wish it had some kind of lock for the power switch! But, a good workout for index fingers I guess!

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  4. I love all of your ideas, the hooks, the storage in the cabinets, but since I do not have a TV, I just use my laptop, That "office chair" is a good idea. How do you get the Amazon links in your paragraphs? I have tried and just get error messages. I am not good with "techy" stuff.

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    1. I put all my favorite, recommended items on the Gear We Love page first (see tab on the top of my home page). Then I just copy the product URL into my blog post via my blog authoring tool (Microsoft LiveWriter or Blogger).

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    2. Thanks, I will make a page for Amazon stuff and try this.

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  5. Looking great! I'm so glad to see another rver using the new Dyson cordless. I have a traditional Dyson, but it will be too big to bring on the road. I passed by the shiny new slims at Target the other day and it was love at first sight. Can't wait to get our hands on one! Congrats on your full-time weekaversary!

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    1. Thanks Kate! The Slims (dc35) are great for an RV, but I struggled with it at home as the battery only lasts about 15 minutes, and suction was not as good as my full-sized home corded bagless vac on area rugs. But in my little View, I can vacuum the whole rig in about 5 minutes, so battery power is not an issue!

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  6. Hi Lynne and Mille,
    You don't know me from Adam, obviously, but I have to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. Your writing style is entertaining and very informative! I, too, am considering full timing in 2-3 years. I would also be "solo" and have concerns about "could I or couldn't I". Sharing your adventures has helped me with my hesitations. Please, keep writing and I will keep "learning". Thank you, thank you!
    Jane

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    1. Jane-- you just made my day! Thanks for the kind words and feel free to email any specific questions as you get closer to your transition. I never would have made it to this point without the A LOT of help and support from other RVers who had gone before me, particularly solo full-timers!

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  7. Sounds like you are taking the full timing at the right speed:)

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    1. oh yes, I could easily sit parked on this prairie for a month if this park didn't have a 14-day stay limit!

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  8. You sure are making the best out of your space. when I had my class c I also used the wire wrack and plastic containers to keep things from flying around and you can see what is in them.
    Sounds like it will all work quite well for full timing.

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    1. Much better than a zillion spices, cans, and boxes all piled in a heap ready to fly out of the overhead every time the door is opened!

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  9. So many great suggestions--thank you! Millie looks a little uncertain about the vac--she's so sweet! And your outdoor photos are stunning--if you hadn't said where you were I'd never have guessed you were in the Chicago area!

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    1. Millie hates vacuum cleaners-- at the house, she always used to run upstairs or outside. With the Dyson, she's a bit more tolerant, but she still can't understand why I don't love all the little blonde hair "presents" she leaves around the rig every day!

      This campground is on the far-edge of Chicago's metro area (in Elgin). Nice open prairies with "big skies" but still only 10 minutes away from big box stores and strip malls of every kind! It's also less than 2 miles from a commuter train station that can take you to downtown Chicago. A great place to camp whenever you wish to visit Chicago!

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