Making My Home From a Shipping Container

This is a guest post by KR Prepper and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.

You all know that I like living frugal. There’s a certain power that comes from knowing that you don’t ‘have’ to spend money I used to run a recording studio. I saw the writing on the wall, that I wouldn’t be able to sustain my business long term (economy, local music market changes, burnout). I had been living in the office building that housed my recording studio, showering at the local gym.

I had recently read “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat, and Travel Trailer Homesteading under $5000” and begin praying about how to not be homeless.

After searching for land. I found a place north of my studio right at 4800. It was a half acre. Was the only place within my price range, so I met the guy. Him and his wife were very friendly. Set up a contract for deed at 220 a month for a couple of years.

[amazon asin=1581607474&template=*lrc ad (left)]Then I looked at several options. I’m not a handyman, so I knew a self-build would be out of the question. My next glance was prefab, but I knew that music gigs would keep me away from my place for stretches at a time. So anything that could be burned, or broken into easily couldn’t work.So chose a 8′x20′ shipping container and made it home.

Here’s my setup process…


My container came insulated, framed, and wired with lights with delivery for 3300 I could’ve done these things myself, but time being of the essence. This was the wisest option If you’re not near the coasts. I found that metal fabricators are the best place to get them, as they will customize them with doors, windows, and other stuff. Mine has a man door and 4 ventilation ducts and a metal floor. The metal floor is better, as off gassing of pesticides and other things are less of a problem.[amazon asin=B000TXOJQ4&template=*lrc ad (right)]

Prep: Before purchasing the container, I purchased everything that I needed inside FIRST. Because I knew I’d have a bill. I wanted to have all of my gear setup before I’d hunker down.


Buddy Heater / 40# Propane tank. I use this to simply heat up the cabin quickly in the morning while the fire is building 1920 Estate Woodstove: I found this piece at a consignment store around the corner from my studio for $100 bucks. Spent a couple bucks more on the stove pipe and done. 2 of my friends donated barbecue pits to me. One is gas with a burner, and one is charcoal/wood.


[amazon asin=B002G51BZU&template=*lrc ad (left)]Coleman Camping Toilet. I wasn’t planning on humanure composting, so I filled the flush tank with bleach/water to help kill odor. Ecotemp Portable On Demand Water Heater. I use this unit to provide running water Shurflo 3gpi RV pump (2) 55 gallon water tanks (4) 5 gallon water bottles this covers my water needs for a 2-3 months. I also have made it a habit to fill up my water cisterns every time I go into town for free. I hope to have a well drilled within the next year, but this saves money for now.

Lighting / Power: Sunforce 60w Solar Panel System with upgraded power controller, and inverter 2 deep cycle batteries, Coleman CPX lanterns with power supply. The lights recharge via a drill type battery, so I’d be covered as long as the batteries hold up.

Refrigeration: I bought a used propane refrigerator for $50. Honestly. During the winter I put my coolers outside. Minnesota IS the freezer.

Storage: I salvaged a set of Kitchen Cabinets and a countertop for free. Just the cost of Driving to get it.[amazon asin=B000CIADLG&template=*lrc ad (right)]

Cabin Setup: 1 I cleared a 10×25′ rectangle, and put cinder blocks/logs near where I wanted the cabin to be. My lot is narrow, so we had to take down trees to get everything in. Good. Free firewood.

Went to the distributor to pick from the containers that they had. This was in July. So I got to FEEL for myself the difference between the container that was insulated vs the one that was not. Without any fans, or AC the insulated container was bearable. The one that wasn’t felt like an oven.

I also had read up on some of the chemicals they put in them for travel. The ones with wood floors can pose health problems due to off-gassing. So mine was floored with metal. They had already installed a man door, lighting [amazon asin=B00339B0RC&template=*lrc ad (left)]and a power cable. (upon getting to my property. My system was insufficient to power them, no worries).

After purchasing the container.. I set up a date to have it delivered. It arrives on the back of a flatbed trailer. They had to cut more trees to get the truck in and trailer to clear. Great! more firewood. The first night I slept on the metal floor with packing blanket.. Was the best night of sleep in a long time.. It was cold and hard, but MINE.

2: Cutting the hole for the woodstove.. A drill and a sawzall.3: Getting a twin mattress from Menards.

There’s been several layers of improvements, but I believe this is one of the best ways to get cheap shelter.  Although I now longer live there full time… I miss this place so much. I’ll move back in a while.

Reprinted with permission from The Survivalist Blog.

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