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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Clutter as a Protective Device

When someone has too much clutter, they need to consider why they keep so much stuff when it bothers them.

Usually, the clutter is protecting them from something. It may be keeping them from having to make decisions. As long as you ignore all your clutter, you don’t have to decide what to do with it all. Many people with too much clutter are also perfectionists; they think that their stuff needs to go to just the right places. The thought of making all those decisions of where to send each thing becomes overwhelming, so it’s easier to just postpone the whole effort and keep tripping on the clutter.

Another thought: your clutter might be a distraction from yourself. If you didn’t have all these someday projects lying around, you might have to focus on yourself and your life instead of all that other stuff waiting for you to do something with it.

Or perhaps the clutter serves as a buffer between you and the outside world. You keep people out because you don’t want them to see what a mess you live in. It’s a handy dandy excuse for not having people over.

There may be other reasons, but one thing is for sure: the clutter is serving some kind of purpose for you. Otherwise you would get rid of it, since it bothers you. Figure out why you keep it, and you’ll be one step closer to getting rid of it.

One Way to Overcome High Housing Costs and Low Pay

As the economy gets harder to live with in some areas, people are coming up with unique ways to survive financially. School buses are often the choice of those who want to work with their hands to make a portable home for their family, so that they can go where the work is without leaving their family behind.

I think we will see more of this as long as incomes fail to keep up with living expenses.