Introduction: Urban Survival 101: How to Sleep in a Garage

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When you find yourself having to do what you have to do to make it from day to day, you may find that you'll need to adapt long term while the world and your life goes through changes you hadn't thought of. This is what I've done to get by.

Step 1: Build a Wall

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I push these recycling bins together and build a cheesy wall.

Step 2: Roll It Up

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The bottom layer is about 6 layers of flattened cardboard, the 1" foam is thrown out every year at the dorms. I just roll the pillows up into the balnkets and...

Step 3: Stuff It!

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Stuff it down into a newspaper recycling bin, cap it with more newspaper and place it in an unlikeley place and position for opening. Don't do the stupid and mess with their recycling schedules --- You've got to be around on the sidelines to make sure everything is sorted, acceptable and that your bedroll isn't being tossed in the dumpster, but that's another tale...

Step 4: The Homeless Doug Henning Thing

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"It's all an illusion!" One, final layer of cardboard on top of the foam and the spell is cast. It's like it just...DISAPPEARED!

Step 5: I Need More Boxes Over Here!

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Spread boxes liberally.

Step 6: Clean It Up

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Sweep the area and leave the evidence in a conspicuous place.

Step 7: Where'd It Go?

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Bed? What? Homeless? Where? I don't think so.

Step 8: What I've Done With the Time I've Been Given.

Picture of What I've Done With the Time I've Been Given.

The place where I sleep --- the people have stood up for me through some difficult times and I've tried to use the time I've been given to create this trilogy of movies (the 3rd one is being shot now). It's been over 3 years now and "Last of the Big Fat Homeless Berkeley Movies" Is slate for release with all the outtakes from all 3 movies.

There's a bigger instructable about what grattitude can open up for you. Remember, you've got to be around to sort the recycling.


milesnorth (author)2013-08-15

you look like you have got things down to a science. Some interesting observations and ideas. I live in Alaska and individuals who are homeless up here really struggle in the winter. I am trying to come up with some ideas to help.

zzoe (author)2011-02-28

Good work & good life!
I was (mostly) intentionally homeless on and off for a few years, and i most say i like your solutions.
For the skeptics about valuable gear - well, you keep it on you, and if you're discrete and not wasted, it's mostly safe (things are only ever MOSTLY save anyhow).
For whoever cares, I found one warm-weather sleeping arrangement that worked for me... i mostly stayed up nights, ate an early breakfast, and then went to a local park, where one can't sleep at night without being roused by the copofficers, but where, in the daytime, i was just another somebody who fell asleep reading. Worked like a charm - i was never bothered once.
Finally, there are few jobs more rewarding than dumpster diving, and the only reason i have a home now is that i am now a parent of two. We don't need as much as we are told we do.
Bravo, and good luck with the videos.

Randallmarr (author)2010-10-21

I will say your discipline and will to live how you want to live is definitely inspiring, but i was homeless for 4 months by choice. Ran away at 13 to Reno NV. and though it was a life changing experience(nothing compared to yours) i will not be doing that again if i can help it. The biggest thing i got out of my experience was value your life for what it is. Well, IDK. Good luck man. I really hope your life takes you where you want to go.

With sincerest regards and best wishes,

static (author)2010-05-11

Here one would have to build a small room in a garage. With power for a fan during the summer, a heater during the Winter.

madhops0620 (author)2008-06-17

if youre homeless, how the hell did you get access to a digital camera and the internet?

afreelife (author)madhops06202008-08-24

well the you can get internet access form just about any library in the US. You can also get a digital camera for 30-40 buck at walmart, or some other large department store. thou they are low quality its better then nothing.

jtmax24 (author)afreelife2009-01-14

Actually if you don't mind a lower quality pictures you can buy a keychain digital camera for about $10 at WalMart/Walgreens. Or a very cheap Camcorder for $30 which takes pretty good video IF you have a desktop tripod which can be bought a local dollar store of made very cheaply Thanx

I think there is a bigger question here. I got the first laptop with the last paycheck from my last "real" job just before I was fired. The first camera came from a homeless wingnut who got a huge settlement and was throwing money all over the place. Since then, the technology has crested and Pentium 4 laptops and camcorders are easy to get. This doesn't answer the bigger, implied question, "How can a homeless person conduct himself well enough to pull all this off?". The main reason is I'm not on drugs/alcohol. If you say to me, "Well, then why don't you get a job and be normal?" I'd have to say I tried that and it didn't work out. Now, my movies feed me and I provide jobs for other homeless people --- selling DVDs!

sideways (author)johnnyallenshaw2008-06-18

Good for you, making lemonade from lemons :-) It isn't good to be homeless, but you found a way to do something with it, rather than sit around in self-pity. I admire your ingenuity. I'm sure I could learn a lot from you. To those who question homeless people owning gadgets....older technology is so worthless to most people they are willing to throw it out or give it away. I know, because I am typing this on an 8-year old desktop from somebody's trash, lol. I have another newer one (4 years old) ready to replace it, also from a dumpster. I have an older laptop a friend gave me -- he found it in somebody's trash and got it working. Many places have free wireless net access. My local public library does, as well as a number of bars, restaurants and motels in the area.

Grey_Wolfe (author)sideways2008-06-18

If you live near a university, that is a great place to get techno-crap that is fixable or still functional from the trash, especially around december and june, when classes get out. You might be surprised how many college students leave behind or toss perfectly good stuff when they leave. Sometime not even out of the packages. It pays to get into apartment clean-up in places like that. Allows first didbs on the left-behinds. My father-in-law has yet to have a 'new' computer since I've known him, always gets one or more from the dorms each year. He's a maintainence man.

sideways (author)Grey_Wolfe2008-06-18

Sadly, I don't live near a uni area, but after all the stories I've heard (including yours) I wish I did. I have no problem with picking thru other people's cast-offs. Apartment complexes are awesome sources of perfectly usuable cast-offs. I sometimes wonder if there is a connection between the financial wastefulness of many apartment dwellers, and the reason they are apartment dwellers in the first place. (not meaning to impugn ALL apartment dwellers, ok?) Your father-in-law is being smart, rather then being a victim of what I call "upgrade-itis". Good for him :-)

Grey_Wolfe (author)sideways2008-07-16

I think, at least for some, that the wastefulness of apartment dwellers (excluding U students) is in part due to hasty exit without a place to put all their stuff, so they tend to give up what they need/want least. As for U students, I think they just take things for granted, and don't appreaciate what they have. Not all of them, mind you. But those who don't have to work and earn each possession.

lemonshark10 (author)sideways2008-07-01

I'm typing on a brand new toshiba satellite laptop that my family won for $20 dollars at a raffle. Apparently its worth $950. I'll take $930 off any day. It was just luck but i'm really happy with it.

the closest i have to a new computer is a refubished on from a site like tiger direct i cant recall the name of the site though and i dident even buy it it was a gift lol

also, how do you keep your stuff safe and secure? It seems like if there was a computer or digital camera just laying around in the street that someone would take it.

A good name (author)madhops06202008-06-18

Yeah, I sort of agree. And where did you use the Wi-fi?

Sounds like some people are having credibility issues about how I live. So did the reporter from the East Bay Express when I was the cover story, but after digging in and seeing for himself, there was no more question. Here's the link:

Sorry that I doubted it, I just prefer to make sure things are true before I believe them.

madhops0620 (author)A good name2008-06-19

honestly i didn't really doubt it i was just surprised and a little curious

but where did you get Wifi though?

madhops0620 (author)A good name2008-06-19

he said he got it from the local library

WOW. I just read the article that you gave the link for and i have to say it was very interesting. It was also very inspirational and reading some of the stuff you had to go through and how you still managed to come out on top. I admire you and I think that many people could learn from you. Also, is there a way that I could buy that movie? And what is the website that the reporter referenced in the article?

stasterisk (author)madhops06202008-07-07

Favelas (slums) in Brazil tend to feature bucket toilets and no running water but _EVERYONE_ has a phone, a computer, and internet, because it's easy to find/steal/pirate those services.

dhawktx (author)2008-06-26

One more thing you can do as a technomad... has an entire computer's worth of open source apps that are configured to run FROM A THUMBDRIVE! I am a confirmed Windoze slave, so finding open source that was configured to play nicely together and also plug-n-play, so to speak, was quite thrilling! The full suite can easily run from as small as a 512 Kb thumbdrive, but 1 Gb are as low as $5 - 7 and give ample space. For those who are willingly without a house and techno-able, they could use the public library computers and have all of their contacts, email, etc (it includes the Mozilla suite in a portable format) as well as compose the next Great American Novel (Open Office Suite included - you can download just a word processor if your drive is small). I was thinking about making up some to give away to peeps (as funds allow), but don't know how to distribute them. Any suggestions?

taraist (author)dhawktx2008-10-03

Why be a slave when you could put Puppy Linux on a thumb drive too?!

The Spindrifter (author)2008-06-18

The trick to getting good stuff from apartment complex trash is to 1) hit a lot of places with high turnover, especially in low-rent areas, and 2) get in good with the maintenance crew. Sometimes they will give you a heads-up on when an apartment or two are getting evicted/cleaned out, and may even leave the goods at your own door! While the pickings feel like feast or famine, I have seen countless pieces of slightly damaged furniture go out, a near endless supply of wood, big TV's, stereos, a child's electric "car", too many rescuable bicycles to count, and yes... perfectly functioning Pentium IV computer towers, sans a working hard disk drive. I personally rescued a $1,000 bird (parrot) cage that someone had been using for guinea pigs! My cockateils love it, and all it needed was a lot of bleach and elbow grease to make it safe and usable. I hate that so many Americans see the world as their trash can, but there is always a silver lining if you are at the right place, at the right time. Working TV's are going to the curb/dumpster in record numbers, now that flat panel, plasma, and HD TV is the big new thing. "Ghetto Rich" people will throw away the strangest things! Good luck, and happy dumpster diving.

membrane (author)The Spindrifter2008-08-11

A lot of TVs are likely being thrown out because of the digital tv switch over. Another place one can sometimes find stuff cheap is at auctions esp estate auctions and yard sales. I once got a working riding lawnmower for $35 because it was buried under some junk in a barn and they were selling all the junk in said barn to clean it out. So I loaded up the junk and the mower in my truck and a trailer. Fixed the mower it needed only a few simple repairs and new front tires. I then took the random scrap to a recycler and got $170 for it. Pretty much ended up getting everything I bought that day for free.

Sadly, we Americans, as a whole, are incredibly wasteful. 6% of the worlds population, and we use and waste 60% of it's resources.

membrane (author)2008-08-11

It's an interesting and offbeat read .

nappy-rash-cream (author)2008-07-28

i think we need more tips like this!

Audey (author)2008-06-20

I like this, combine this with some dumpster diving and this could be a really great way to live.

YummyPancakes (author)2008-06-18

Cool! I already have a mini-fridge packed with soda, this was all I needed for me to live my full life in the garage!

lucinity (author)2008-06-18

I'm glad you put this up, I feel no pity to people who don't keep trying. Keep up the good work brother.

jakee117 (author)2008-06-18

way to go! great way to up your spirits and get going

davethescubarock (author)2008-06-17

im moving into my garage!!!

linkmaster03 (author)2008-06-17


About This Instructable



Bio: I left home at 14 and hitchhiked cross country for years, but I turned back, started going to school and became that cool guy I ... More »
More by johnnyallenshaw:Urban Survival 101: Journal to Save Your LifeUrban Survival 101: Mobile Computing on the FringeUrban Survival 101: How to Sleep in a Garage
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