Living In A Self-Made Container Home On A Shoestring Budget


Living In A Self-Made Container Home On A Shoestring Budget



A single mom’s struggle with poverty to provide alternative housing for her family



Living in a container house today has become a social trend in this day and age. The high cost of conventional housing and exorbitant rental space has given rise to alternative homes such as mobile trailers (RVs), cargo homes (containers) and tiny houses. A Californian woman has given new meaning to the term DIY homes with her personal reimagining of a container residence. Reinventing the definition of a home ultimately drives her to create such a home. With a mere budget of USD 4,000 at hand, she sets out to salvage old stuff and recycled materials for her pet project. With just 160 square feet of living space to spare, she embarked on a mission to build her own house from scratch. Everything she could find from the nearby junkyard or garbage dump was put to good use to construct her home.


Lulu is a single mother who needed to find a place to live for her four children. She had scarce financial resources to begin with since working full-time job alone could not possibly support her family let alone build her dream home. Existing household funds were only sufficient to cover her daily needs. Requirements to build a house had to come from other means, and donations from well-wishers. With limited funds, she obtained a container box which she got for a bargain from a local shipping company. Acquiring the rest of the building materials was just a matter of scavenging around the site for used parts and second-hand accessories. It is somewhat amazing or incredible what you could actually find at a dumpsite. Most of the so-called garbage, trash or scraps lying around are actually usable or applicable, including unwanted construction material still in reasonable condition.


Although Lulu’s story sounds a little extreme, she is literally one of many low-income Americans struggling to deal with rising costs, and to make ends meet. More and more would-be homeowners have resorted to renting and other living alternatives in the wake of the housing crisis or conundrum. Incidentally, cases of homelessness in America are also on the rise. She was hardly discouraged by the fact that she had no prior training, building know-how or construction experience; even her funds were also limited. Coming from a poor residential neighbourhood in her homeland of Argentina, her so-called poverty lifestyle is quite an enigma or ambiguity indeed. Some might even depict it as akin to “living a life of poverty in style”. As a comparative analogy, a container house like this back in her home country would be regarded as a luxury home of sorts. With that effect, she duly christened her container home “Wabi-sabi”, which originates from a Japanese term referring to the principle of embracing imperfection (flaws) and appreciating all that is transient or temporary (i.e. in a state of flux, or constant change).


Renovating the newly-found container initially involves laborious hard work to make the container spaces more livable. After almost two years of painstaking renovation, she finally finished her home – complete with thermal insulation, winter heating and sanitary water. She had also converted a flatbed trailer into an open-air bedroom from which she can watch the sunset and the moonrise whilst asleep. Though it may appear somewhat daunting and claustrophobic to her family initially, but getting the container for free was a godsend indeed. The raw materials for windows, doors, cabinets, closets, couch, beds, bathtub, toilet, sinks and stove are either recycled, refurbished or reconditioned. For the floors and ceiling, she incorporated Styrofoam insulation. She also performed some simple plumbing works to get running water via the kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen itself is equipped with a propane-fueled camp stove, and a portable propane-powered water heater. In the upcoming future, she plans to add a greenhouse, and connecting the trailer bedroom to the rest of the home. It is truly one of the most innovative uses of a shipping container – just like living in a penthouse shed!