IMPORTANT – About My Home – Clutter Porn

Well, maybe not that important. Just a mini rant about the overuse of the word important, along with its close cousin, urgent, in communications and especially on mail items. They seems to be cluttering half of the envelopes that arrive in my mailbox, yet their contents are rarely important to anybody except the sender.

Why do mail marketers and others continue to use this tired old trick? I suppose that’s rhetorical — they use it because it works. After all, even though we know the odds are it isn’t important, and may be of no interest to us at all, we don’t dare throw it away unopened just in case it actually is important.

More Tricks

Sure, sometimes you can tell from the return address who it’s from, but sometimes there’s no name; just an address. Or worse yet, the return address is misleading. Bank Of America (or its “marketing partners” – euphemism for “companies we sold your name and address to”) sends all sorts of things in essentially identical envelopes, all with the bank’s return address. Usually it’s an offer for some sort of insurance, or trying to get me to apply for some sort of loan or another, but I am forced to open each and every one and give its contents at least a cursory glance, lest I discard my statement or other legitimate communication regarding my account.

OK, now that I have that mini-rant out  of my system, and just to show you my headline isn’t totally bogus, let’s move on to something that, while it might not be too important in the overall scheme of things, you might enjoy.

About My Home

With all that describing of different kinds of RVs in my last post, I didn’t even tell you what I live in. My home is a 1979  Georgie Boy Cruise Master  CM20RB. It is a 20-foot class C motorhome. Interior space  is 18 feet long by 7 feet wide, or 126 square feet.  Here’s the floor plan:

Here’s what it looks like on the inside…

…or at least what the one in this brochure did when it was new:

If you’d like to learn more, or are just into 70’s advertising or shag carpeting, you can click the brochure cover for an eight-page PDF.

Ahhh, but what does it look like now, 32 years later, you ask? Time for…

Clutter Porn!

I know that at least one of my readers (Hi Tanja!) has been patiently waiting for me to post some photos of my clutter. While I’m not quite ready to offer a full portfolio yet, I’ll dip my toe in the water with this small offering:

As you can see, I still have my work cut out for me. In my defense, pretty much everything I own is in here, in 126 square feet. I’m still plugging away at it, and I’ll get there eventually (and post more photos, too).

Oh, and here’s what the outside looks like:

Yeah, even the outside is cluttered, but the stuff on top of the table and the boxes and pile near the rear wheels are stuff to be sold or donated, so it’s not quite as bad as it looks. Why’s the hood open? Mechanical trouble? Naw, it’s just open to discourage the packrats (the 4-legged kind) from nesting in there. They’ll make a mess and chew through hoses and wires, too.

What Do You Think?

Are “important” and “urgent” overused? Is 126 square feet too big? too small? just right? Want more clutter porn? Comments are always open.

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31 responses to “IMPORTANT – About My Home – Clutter Porn

  1. Congratulations on having the courage to post the pictures of your clutter. I’ve never posted very many photos of any kind on my blog. I’m too private, I suppose. But I think it’s important (there’s that word) to document whatever progress you make.

    As one of the people who suggested that you tell us more about your situation, I find this all very fascinating. I don’t remember you mentioning where this is all parked, have you? I’m curious if it’s a piece of land you own or a spot in a park — and how you came to be there instead of somewhere else.

    I think we all have various reasons for wanting to peep into your life. Some just like to know how others live. Others of us like the idea of your lifestyle and are looking for encouragement or discouragement.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      I thought you didn’t use photos for the sake of simplicity, Gip. I didn’t really think of the privacy angle.

      Right now I live on a private property. I initially came here in answer to an ad for a summer caretaker. I needed a place to be that was close to Phoenix, and I was able to stay here for free in exchange for light caretaking and handyman type work. That was several years ago. I’ve stayed here for a few reasons. The location is good; far enough from the city to avoid its crime and pollution, but close enough for it to be a day trip when necessary. I live among fellow hams (amateur radio operators) and naturists, which means I can put up big antennas and don’t have to wear clothes; practices that tend to be frowned upon in most venues. The natural hot spring on the property makes for delightful soaking in the winter.

      I think you’re right about there being different reasons for people’s curiosity. I think most people have at least a little bit of voyeur in them. I’d also be willing to bet that most bloggers have a bit of exhibitionist, albeit verbal, in them.

  2. Another question: I’m also curious if you’re parked in a park whether there is the same sort of envy and indignation that people have in subdivisions and neighborhoods. Are some of the homes there much nicer than others? Or do you choose a location based on the type of home you have?

    I know that with mobile homes (the kind that are installed permanently on a property), single-wides usually aren’t allowed on larger properties where there are mostly nicer, more traditional-looking double wides, for example.

    The reporter in me is showing through today, I suppose.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      There is indeed a certain amount of, um, (what’s a polite word for ‘snobbery’?) exclusivity exercised by some RV parks/campgrounds. Some places have rules that exclude rigs over a certain age (usually 10 years). Rarely are restrictions based on style, though I’ve seen parks that won’t allow anything self-built, or at least doesn’t look like a facory-built RV. I figure if a place doesn’t want me based on what I drive and live in, then I probably wouldn’t be too happy there anyway. Not to mention that it is usually the “RV Resorts” who enforce such rules, and they’re probably out of my price range anyway.

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but I tend choose a place to stay based on location, available amenities that I’ll actually use, and when possible, who my neighbors will be. And price matters, too.

      Nothing wrong with the reporter style questions, Gip. Good questions help me give good answers.

  3. In my personal philosophy, nothing is ‘urgen’t unless there is blood. And ‘important’ is only applicable to government paperwork requirements with deadlines.

    Words I am tired of reading in blogs:

    – awesome — as in ‘awesome content’ — it never is. The Grand Canyon is awesome. Blog content is just some person’s (possibly and often interesting) mind dumpage.

    – tons — as in ‘tons of awesome content’ — it is never that much, sometimes none at all, and it is never awesome.

    – hey — as in ‘Hey, thanks for signing up for my newsletter’. Well, hey, you don’t know me and didn’t your mother teach you any manners? Or proper writing skills? All that ersatz casualness usually makes me instantly ununsubscribe. I hate fake.

    – super, fabulous, exciting, and great — hyperbole is taking over the blog world. Maybe when you are 28, everything is super, fabulous and exciting. At 68, not so much.

    I am enjoying your blog. But I have to say that words fail me in regard to your clutter. Are you making any progress?

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Oh yes. Awesome is definitely overused. I wonder if some of these people stop to think what the word means — inspiring awe. If something is not awe-inspiring, then it is not awesome.

      I’m making slow progress with the decluttering. It would be easier if I had enough space to designate a staging area, but that obviously isn’t going to happen. It’ll get there eventually; I’m hoping by this winter.

  4. Hi Mike,
    When I saw the first picture (before I realized it was a brochure photo) I thought, wow, so tidy and uncluttered…..then the REAL photos and I thought, HOLY SHIT! I gotta ask, is that a mattress on your windshield? Seriously, getting rid of the excess is a process and we all work through it at our own pace. It has to be hard in 126 sq. ft. I really like the floor plan of your Georgie Boy. Thanks for the pictures and I’m looking forward to seeing more. You’re a trip!

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Yes, that is a mattress. It makes a great sun shield and insulator to reduce heat gain through the windshield. Hopefully I’ll remember to remove it first next time I drive it. You may laugh, but I once had a sun shade that was printed on it “Please remove before driving vehicle.” Really?

      I love the floor plan. The L-shaped galley is almost like adding an extra two feet of length to the coach; makes it surprisingly spacious for a 20-footer.

  5. Thanks for answering a few questions for me.

    I do avoid photos because of simplicity, slow internet and other reasons. I also don’t think that stock photos are useful at all. Photos like you included that are part of the story are great, but something taken by someone the poster doesn’t know and placed on Flickr don’t really add to the presentation, in my opinion.

  6. I think the first thing I would do when faced with your clutter is scream (remember, I am a past master of batshit crazy). Then I wouldn’t sleep until each and every thing was either in its place or outta there (and yes I have strong control freakery issues). It would achieve brochure-worthy condition within 48 hours, or I would be tempted to torch it (batshit crazy again). Ok, there, now that’s out of my system ;D

    Wow, Mike, that’s an amazing project you’ve got going for yourself! I even venture to say it is AWESOME! All joking aside, it is great to know where you’re coming from and to know that you really are trying to walk the talk.

    I have occasionally posted photos of piles of stuff that needs to be dealt with, but not that many of my home, since I tend to write more about ideas than decluttering. I’m lucky that my husband is a photographer and everything he captures is either here at our house or quite close by.

    You can sign up to be removed from junk mail lists. See this post at Becoming Minimalist: http://www.becomingminimalist.com/2010/02/15/minimalize-your-junk-mail/comment-page-1/#comment-15890

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Hi Meg! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. And thanks for the junk mail link. Those opt-out sites mentioned in the article seem kinda creepy themselves. Very interesting was the one for opting out of credit offers and insurance offers — I’m not sure which I found more disconcerting: that insurance companies are using credit bureau data to target potential customers or that the credit bureaus are letting them (more like probably selling them the info, so that’s their motivation I guess).

  7. I have to admit that I would attack the clutter passionately like Meg would. I don’t think you live in too small of a space, but it will be a challenge to organize and limit yourself to what you actually need and use.

    I currently live in a 500-square foot 1-bedroom home with my daughter; she has the bedroom to herself (I sleep on a futon in the living room) so my usable space is probably less than 400 s.f. Could I do with less? If I lived alone, yes. Could I do it with the amount of stuff I currently own? No way in the world!

    I look forward to learning how you get things situated here. It is obvious you have lived there for a time so you have gotten used to the way it is. I applaud your cohones at posting this piece of your life to the world, and I am happy that I subscribed. Peace, Annie

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      I guess every stage of downsizing is significant. Of course the biggest downsize I did was moving from the 1200 square foot house to the 126 square foot RV. At least in terms of how much stuff I shed.

      Now after living this way for a while, I’m having to re-think things and rearrange my priorities. Where I used to ask myself “what can I carry?” I now find myself asking “what do I really need?”

      Thanks for subscribing, Annie, and for commenting, too!

  8. well. i’m sorry. i just can’t stop laughing.
    okay. now i guess i’m just smiling… so i can type.
    i agree first with everything you said about urgent, awesome, etc.
    it is stupid. bombardment of the worst kind.
    and now… on to what i had pictured of your life in the rv…
    and the reality…
    i’m sorry mikey, but i’m laughing again. and not even at you.
    i think i’m laughing in delight in knowing the real you.
    where do you sleep? where do you eat? where do you sit?
    can you cook without setting your rv on fire?
    you have to understand. i so love your lifestyle. and so admire you.
    i’m just a minimalist freak… and i think i’d be tempted to put everything
    i owned outside the rv. then i would ONLY put in it what i needed to
    eat, read, computer, clothes (or non.. as it were) and then i’d move
    my location a few feet, acres, yards, … whatever…. away.
    then i’d post a sale notice that say “loads of wonderful STUFF for sale.
    come and get it!” uh oh. sorry. i’ve written another @#$% book here!
    and i’m laughing again.
    love and hugs,
    tammy j

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      I’m glad I was able to give you a good laugh, Tammy.

      As for your questions, I sleep in my bed, over the cab. I like to think of it as a sleeping loft 🙂 While the sofa has become storage space for the time being, I have plenty of room to sit (and eat, write, etc.) at the dinette. Though you can’t see the actual seats in that photo, they are there and available for sitting. If I need more tabletop space, I can move the laptop. Also out of sight of this picture is the galley, which is reasonably clear of clutter and fully functional and safe. SO no worries about me starving or burning down my home.

      Thanks for the good idea about the sale. I’ve already dealt with most of the low-hanging fruit; it’s not such a trivial task to decide what stays and goes at this point.

  9. Hi Mike, I found you through Meg’s blog (thanks Meg). Holy Hell Mike, that’s a lot of clutter! Thanks for the courage to post the photos. I wish you lived closer because I LOVE to de-clutter for someone if it’s a contribution. I read (can’t recall the title of the book) that clutter begins with your perception and dealing with your fears around getting rid of things is a good place to start.

    I’d like to hear more about what has you hang on to what you’re hanging on to. A list of things that are cluttering your space and your fears/thoughts about why you can’t part with the thing (yet).

    After 21 years of living in a big house on 5 1/2 acres, we sold in 2009 and moved to a postage-stamp sized lot with a house less than half the size AND for the first time in 35 years, I’m (intentionally) renting. Moving was horrendous. I was less than graceful in my emotions and actions during the whole bloody event. That said, I had to unload a lifetime of stuff and it’s SO freeing!

    I’m not living in a trailer but when I was building my way-too-big house, I lived in a 29′ travel trailer for 4 years with my (ex) husband and three cats (my son was not yet born). I kept only essentials, no clutter. When I moved into the house I was overwhelmed with the space. It was a difficult adjustment but I soon filled up every room. It’s easy to say one is a ‘minimalist’ when you have 3,000 square feet and 5 1/2 acres to spread it around.

    You are a true ‘minimalist’ but it appears that you could use a bit of organization. Simplifying has been life-changing for me but it’s not come easy or as I said, gracefully. I think you’re handling things quite well. I’ll be anxious to read more.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Hi Darris! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree that letting go of a lifetime of stuff is very freeing. I did a huge chunk of that when I moved from the house to the RV. That said, there are a few reasons I don’t move along more quickly with it. I like to take the time to carefully consider things. I also try to dispose of things in a profitable or meaningful way. Unlike an episode of “Hoarders”, I’m not working on a 48-hour deadline and everything I’m not keeping myself doesn’t just get hauled off to the landfill. While my present living condition may not be optimal, neither is it dangerous. I can put up with the inconvenience while I continue to work on it.

      I like your idea of a list of things that I’m still on the fence about. It might make for a good post, and I imagine I’ll get helpful feedback from my readers. Thanks!

  10. Here’s my technique to cope with moving from a house to an RV: RubberMaid type bins from WalMart. Stuff everything into them and put them all outside. Every time you need an item, go find it and bring it inside. Eventually, you’ll stop going to the bins. Then sell, donate everything, or trash everything left including the bins.

    We once met a guy living in a RoadTrek who still had bins he carried inside when traveling but moved outside when parked. It let him keep stuff he didn’t have room for but wanted to keep. If you do that, I do recommend organizing the bins in a way that let’s you label them so you can find the items in them.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      I was doing the containers outside thing for a while, Linda. It helped me get rid of a lot of stuff. In fact, at a hamfest (picture a swapmeet for radio geeks) last year I got rid of several big containers of radio gear and other electronic miscellany. I decided which stuff wasn’t coming back with me; I sold a lot of it but still ended up with a big container full, which I set near the trash on the last afternoon. People were picking through it within minutes, and within a couple hours it was all gone, including the container. I’d bet half its contents were on other people’s tables at the next hamfest!

      A Road Trek is pretty small living. The containers would be almost a must unless you’re planning to get rid of everything but a single bowl and spoon. Maybe not that extreme, but close. While I think it would be neat to have something small enough to go anywhere and be my only vehicle, I think it would take more discipline than I have right now. Once I fit comfortably in this rig, who knows?

  11. All right Mike. Get ready for an awesome, urgent, important and epic comment to your post. 🙂

    I GASPED out loud when I saw your clutter porn shots. It was a loud gasp that resonated through the empty chamber of my tiny house. Just joking. I did gasp, but it didn’t resonate through an empty chamber. My place is a mess right now. We just hauled in the last of our stored boxes that we retrieved from the other coast and we are GASPING at the fact that we have too much stuff for our 200 square footer.

    What I love about this post: I GET you. I always did get you, but now I get you even more. You have done such an amazing, inspirational thing, going from a full-scale large house down to a hundred square feet. And the mess? Well, I totally relate. Some of those details in your shots look really familiar to me, so no surprises there!

    Did you know we once owned a lovely mini-van that had been handconverted by it’s previous owner into a popup camper? We called him Camper Van Beethoven and he had a sink, a bed, underbed storage space, blue carpeting and a sparkly blue ceiling (that I painted myself). He took us on our grand three month desert southwest tour during which time we lived in him. Later we lived in him again (uh… kind of stupid) during the tail end of winter in Arkansas when we were moving to our land for the first time. It was cold and we had a big tent for all of our auxillary supplies. Well, Camper Van was much smaller than your beauty and stuffed to the gills as well!!!

    Your rv looks like, well, ahem, like my 800 square foot cabin in Arkansas looked, including the outside shots. So you’ve managed to downsize magically compared to where I was at! Congratulations.

    O.K. So I’m sooo exuberantly excited about the massive epicness of your post 🙂 that I’m sending you a copy of my ebook. (It might assist, who knows!) I also want to do an interview if you’re up to it. I think it would be grand fun! Anyways, in the meantime, your bravery rocks and you keep going at your own pace. I know how important it is to spend time with each item making the decisions.

    p.s. How exciting that you shared the full monty with us.
    p.p.s. I just couldn’t resist that last little pun. 🙂

  12. Mike | HomelessOnWheels

    Hi Tanja! I hope all that GASPING didn’t wake the neighbors!

    Camper Van Beethoven sounds pretty small, but I guess you had a lot of fun. Did you make it to AZ on your trip? So after three months of tiny living, you went back to full-size, and now back to tiny again. Neat that having gone back and forth a couple times you’ve finally settled on small.

    Thank you SO much for the book! Just glancing through it I I can see that it’s chock full of tips and inspiration. An interview? Me? Sure, sounds like fun! Let’s get together over email.

    • Hey Mike,

      Luckily the neighbors are quite far away so they missed all the gasping. 🙂

      We spent over a month in Arizona. We fell in love with Sedona, and there was this great little free camp-spot about 15 miles south of Sedona. It was near a big lake (yeah, a free lake in the desert!) and there were a bunch of interesting, fun people hanging out there too. We tore ourselves away after about 3 weeks. We also spent time in Flagstaff camping around there… never made it south to Phoenix though!

      I’m working up some interview questions today. Looking forward to it. :0

      • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

        Sedona’s nice, though it’s gotten rather touristy and expensive. Nice climate and artsy community, too. If you were in Flagstaff, it must have been during the summer, else you were pretty cold!

        That’s one of the neat things about Arizona. You can experience a wide variety of terrains and climates, all within day-trip distance and without leaving the state.

  13. Mike | HomelessOnWheels

    Just for grins and giggles I tried googling “clutter porn” and would you believe this very post was the top result? Try it yourself!

  14. Thanks Mike!
    Finding your blog, and this entry, gives me a bit of relief.
    I am in a 91 Chieftain, about 150 sq ft, and have been living on owned land in this box for just over two years.
    Dealing with the downsizing still and it gives me mental cramps every time. Moving one item around, to get to item needed, to move out another item till I have time to give away to somewhere…
    Have cleaned out the basements several times and re-arranged, yet, alas, still more every month, and then each new season. Ye Gads!
    So… I feel now, that I have located a tribe member, and gee it is refreshing!
    Have a new dilemma now too; where can I get a mattress like thing of sorts to place on my front windows, and how the heck can I rig it up to stay on? Not asking, just mentioning my current ponder.. as I mentally go sorting through more stuff I have laying around that I might use…. mumble, mumble…

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      HI Victorymoon! I’m glad you found my blog and thanks for commenting.

      I’m very familiar with the shuffling around to get at things. Like one of those sliding tile puzzles. Just keep pecking away at it, and don’t bring in new stuff. It can be a real challenge sometimes.

      The mattress you see on my windshield is actually from my sofa (which is currently covered with plastic storage bins) and held in place by a tie-down strap attached to the mirrors on each side, running across the mattress.

  15. That was a funny post, with the gagline being your clutter pic. Seven months ago I sold everything or gave it away and ended up with a suitcase stored with a friend, and stepped on a plan to Asia with the rest of my stuff in a carryon (mostly clothes), a backpack (electronic gear: cameras, Jambox, Macbook, iPad with Kindle app), and a Scottevest. I stayed on a tropical island for 6 months and realized that I never used more than half of the stuff I carried. For me the idea was to become “location independent” which I accomplished by doing my work online. A liveable van or RV seems attractive and you are ahead of me there, but really, stuff is just stuff. If you’ve had no use for it for over a year you probably won’t miss it. Best of luck. Love the blog!

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Hi Vuilnis. I think I got at least a few people with that brochure photo followed by the actual one.

      I’ve learned a lot about what I really need, don’t need but want, and what I don’t even want anymore. I’ve found that downsizing is more of a journey than an event.

      I’m glad you like the blog – thanks for reading and commenting!

  16. I just spent about a year uncluttering my 1200 sq foot house (living here 17 years) to get it ready for sale. That was an adventure. Sorting, giving away, donations, yard sale, a big rental trash container…I still have too much. and although in person the house looks great now, pictures still make it look fuller than (I think it is). So my guess would be the actual “mess” people think they see isn’t what is there in reality. This does make me nervous about my ability to downsize even more though. I like stuff.

  17. (the “mess” people think they see in your pictures I mean isn’t what is actually there…)

  18. Too big, too small? I think it’s a personal choice, and sometimes having a roof of any size may be perfect. When I moved into a 230 sq. ft. “Studio” apartment with my son (6 ft +,) it was quite a challenge. The large bathroom allowed for xtra storage, but the kitchen area had a microwave only, and the lease prohibited any other cooking. I did sneak in the occasional crockpot meal.
    It had a balcony so I moved their little kitchen table out there and kept my large antique table as a desk combo. A couple of large, narrow dresser/cabinets were used to divide the living area for privacy. The double closet doors were taken out for his area to fit a long computer work station; he was a student, and I bought a good futon. With shelves and a storage unit it was tight but livable if we skip over the personalities issues. This was a move of desperately needing a place on the fly, otherwise not recommended.
    I moved back in with my old roommate to a large one bedroom, and since we aren’t a couple and he’s moving out of state, I’m looking at new digs.
    I am desperate for my personal space again and crave the company of others. I enjoy chatting with people out and about. So I am looking into trying to find a motor home myself. My car magically died after I decided not to move out if state, and being disabled on a fixed income it seems perfect. Homeless does not bode well with anyone, but I cannot even imagine it without a vehicle.
    I’m enjoying your blog. I am also researching a book and think traveling about to add some real life experiences is a must have for this project. Keep up the good work, if you are still doing it. The last post I have seen is 2011, but I’m barely into perusing it.

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