Minimalism and OCD

I often get asked how I became a minimalist and how I came to live in a tiny house. I wish I had a more glamorous answer like I was inspired by Pinterest or it came to me during meditation. The truth is, I have OCD and both becoming a minimalist and living in a tiny house are a direct result of coping with it.

I have always been a minimalist. Not the extreme kind, with only 100 items to my name (even though I admire that). But, I am a person with less, a lot less than most. I need to have less, less to dust, less to move around, less to make look “perfect”. Tchochkes and knick-knacks cause me to obsess. It is easier to live without them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in a sterile environment. I tend to concentrate on color and texture rather than things. My house is colorful, and there are a few decorative items, but there is less…. of all of it. Not having stuff is easier than obsessing about it. I have only what I need, and my mind is not cluttered with the worry that extra things cause me.

Moving to a tiny house was also influenced by my OCD and it is changing my life in two specific ways with regards to coping.

For a start, it is a smaller space to obsess about. Instead of stewing over an entire house of rooms and their floors, I just have one room and a small bathroom. One of the many ways my OCD manifests itself is in the obsession of floors, specifically the cleaning of floors, vacuuming daily, sometimes multiple times and mopping. As if that alone weren’t enough, I also had to have the Roomba and the Scooba (don’t buy them, they both work like crap after a few weeks). I would clean the kitchen floor and then burst into tears because I would feel the obsession to do it again….and again. Sometimes cleaning it with bleach or rubbing alcohol. (Believe me, I know how bad that is on the floor and my lungs). Now I have one floor, I can clean it on my hands and knees in less than 10 minutes. For someone like me, that is a vast improvement. Even if I clean it twice a day, I have invested less than 20 minutes. Seriously, the relief that has provided is unmeasurable. Also, in the spirit of trying to live “greener” I have switched to using environmentally friendly products to clean.

Living in a tiny house is also changing my life in a second way. I find myself obsessing a little less every day. When I moved into Ginwitty (my tiny house), I made the deliberate decision to let my inner hippy rule to roost. After all, my OCD has suppressed that wild woman for a long time with respect to my house and decor. While I am a tattooed, colorful character, my house has always strived to be magazine perfect. As a push forward the first thing I did was paint my bathroom orange. I have never loved orange. It was an act of rebellion. No one in a “perfect” house would dare to paint their bathroom bright orange. I was thumbing my nose at my OCD. I also enlisted my best friend, a talented artist, to come over and “do her thing’. I did not give her any boundaries or guidelines. She knows me, and I trust her. That is where I left it. It was important that the work was free-spirited and not an attempt at perfection. If whatever she decided to do was trying to be perfect, I would obsess. Instead, her beautiful artwork would be a gift to me and actually force me to loosen my death grip on what my OCD told me was “perfect”. She painted a number of things in my tiny house. She painted the queen bunks bedrails, one with purples and blue paisleys, and the other in yellow with metallic paisleys. She painted the inside of the bathroom door like the Tardis from Doctor Who, (we are nerdy that way). And on the outside of the bathroom door, she painted a gorgeous art deco peacock. All of them wildly colorful and humanly imperfect and I love them. In some ways, Barbara set me free. I am able to look at them with wonder, amazement, and adoration. They are personal and remind me of all the things I love about her. If I had not moved to my tiny house, I might still be suffering under the weight of my obsessions. Instead, it’s a new start, an opportunity to set myself up for success. I have positioned myself to let go.

After a year in my tiny house, I am more at ease. I am reveling in “glamping” (think fancy camping). I am forced to be outside and engage with the community around me. I am learning to live with mud on my boots (as long as they stay on the doormat) and get my hands dirty. Like many, I am a work in progress. I am embracing the hippy I really am. My OCD is taking a back seat. Sure, sometimes it rears its ugly head, but overall, minimalism and tiny living have given me a reprieve, and after decades of struggling, I am grateful.

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