Van Dwellers on the Rise

In typical Daily Mail fashion, this article about a gathering of van dwellers includes a misleading headline and quite a few photos.

The insinuation is that a bunch of hippies that live in their vans formed a town in Oregon recently. The reality is that this was a weekend gathering, not the creation of permanent parking spots for a large number of people who live in their RVs.

That said, an increasing number of people in the U.S. are finding that they prefer living in a van or RV to spending their lives on the merry-go-round of working full-time for stagnating wages while trying to afford increasingly unaffordable housing. Some young people have decided that’s not the life they want, while some older people can no longer make the math work, especially if they can only find part-time jobs in their forced semi-retirement.

The result is a large and growing number of people who live in their vans. Some of them may have been at this gathering, but according to a couple of commenters on the article, many of those who were at this event just like to camp in their RVs on the weekends, and enjoy getting together with others who feel the same way.

Regardless, an increasing number of people have given up on renting or buying housing, and are living in their vans full-time. Some of these vans are quite nice; others not so much. Anyone who decides to do this will have to downsize by giving up most of their possessions after choosing which few are essential to daily living. This trend is no accident; until stagnating wages go up, bloated housing costs go down, or (ideally) both things happen, we will continue to see an increase in van dwellers.


Clutter and Claustrophobia

I have claustrophobia, I hate clutter, and I think there’s a link between those two facts.

Not that I’ve always lived clutter-free; quite the opposite, in fact. There were many years that I had a basement overwhelmed with clutter. That was where I put it to keep it out of our living areas. I just didn’t have time to deal with it then, but the fact of its existence drove me crazy.

I didn’t learn that I was claustrophobic until I was in my 40s. Now I understand why I refuse to fly (those planes are so darn tiny inside, and the seating is so close together!), why I prefer an aisle seat at church or the movie theater, and why I like lots of space between me and the car ahead of me.

No wonder I hate seeing piles of stuff, stuff all over the floor or stuff all over the counters. I’m at peace when my desk is clear, my floors are clear and my counters are clear. When messes start piling up, I get a little cranky. I begin to feel a little…trapped.

I like space and freedom. When my basement work area is cluttered with fabric, or the remains of some craft project, I’m not happy. When the project is over and the tables are clear, my basement goes back to having possibilities: we can have the family over to eat there, we can wrap Christmas presents there, or the tables can be taken down to make a big open space for the little ones to run around when they come over.

Clutter-free zones make my little house feel larger and make me feel at peace instead of claustrophobic. I wonder how many other claustrophobic declutterers there are; we should form a club!

Trading a Big House for a Tiny House

This story about a company in Missouri that builds tiny houses has an interesting lede: a family is selling their big house and moving into a tiny house even though they can afford the big house. The reason? The big house eats up so much money that they haven’t been able to go on a vacation in seven years. They’ve decided to live debt-free and be able make memories instead of spending all their cash on a big, impressive home.

I get it. I used to live in a big house. It was a great place to raise our large family, but it cost a lot in upkeep, utilities and (especially) property taxes. So I understand where the woman in the article is coming from. I imagine that no matter how much you love your house, when it begins to keep you from doing other things you want to do, you start to fall out of love with it.

I suspect this woman may find her new digs to be a little constrained. She might be better off buying something a bit larger than a tiny house, but more affordable than her current large home. In any case, we’re seeing more and more of this sort of thing as people try to stay afloat financially and enjoy life at the same time.

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