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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How to Divide an Estate Fairly Between Heirs

The challenge of dividing belongings (especially valuables) is that whether they’re worth more in cash, memories or both, many items are often wanted by more than one person.

In an ideal world, a parent already gave items to those they wanted to have them or made a list of items going to specific people, along with an explanation of why they made the choices they did. But that doesn’t usually happen. What’s more common is when foggy elderly people verbally promise one item to more than one person, resulting in conflict between heirs, sooner or later.

If you’re dealing with a living estate and want to eliminate future conflicts, you may be tempted to ask your parent to assign items to their heirs now and explain their choices. But that might be too much pressure for them, or they may no longer be mentally capable of doing so.

Whether it’s a living or inherited estate, when dividing your parent’s belongings, you’ll need to at least try to prevent fights among heirs.  While it’s not always possible to be perfectly fair, everyone should try to keep everything above board and to aim for fairness.

Here are 14 methods for dividing estates that have worked for other families. Choose whichever ones fit your situation best:

You Bought It, You Take It Back

Let everyone take back anything they gave to your parent. This includes birthday, anniversary and holiday gifts, plus anything they made for them. If they don’t want it back, it becomes part of the estate that others may want, or it can later be sold.

Take Turns

Heirs take turns choosing one item each until everyone has at least a few things they want. Order of choice can be based on birth order, by drawing straws or by throwing dice. This works especially well if the estate contains items that have more sentimental value than monetary value.

Take a Chance

Each time two or more heirs want an item, settle it by drawing cards (high card wins) or by throwing dice (highest total wins).

(Discover 11 more methods in my book, How to Clean Out Your Parents’ House (Without Filling Up Your Own), just 99 cents right now.)

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Disappearing Comments

I haven’t been here at WordPress.com for all that long, and I don’t think I’ll stick around.

I’ve found that when I comment at someone else’s blog, my comment disappears. This has happened several times, and it’s very disheartening, because I like to respond to thoughtful prose with thoughtful comments, and it’s hard to recreate what I commented after it disappears.

I checked to see if this happens to other people, and apparently it does. But as you can see here and here and (quite cleverly) here, no one has a solution.

It’s too bad, because I like the rest of WP.com. But I’m no techie, so I think I will look into other options before long, because blogging is no fun when you can’t form community with others.