Look at the way many people are protective of their cars, apologetic about any kind of rubbish sitting on the floor, dirty windows, etc. It sounds very much like a slightly crazed housewife receiving unexpected guests that her husband has brought along. What would she say? “Excuse the mess.” Even though everything is perfectly in order. What does this tell us? Well, to many people a car is really an extension of their home, and it comes with personalised items, shiny gadgets and feelings of ownership pride.
The detachable nature makes this extra room to your home a very particular one: since it is constantly on the move, you would want to take the comforts of home with you, of course. So you end up having stuff that is only ever used in the car itself: extra sets of blankets, hot drinks cup, CDs or iPod that never leave the car. If you are in the habit of waiting in the car regularly, there might even be newspapers, magazines or books. If you have kids there surely will be several ‘emergency’ toys, and food supplies will always be around somewhere if you find yourself driving long distance regularly. And those are just the things you could even start to consider useful to whoever is in the car.
If you have an allotment somewhere, you will likely keep some planting stuff or tools in your car. Yes, at first you were all about building a shed and storing things there, but miraculously some of the trowels and bags will end up as constant passengers in your trunk anyway.
Let’s consider the function of the car again, specifically the passage “… to carry passengers…” Is that really all it does? Of course not: quite besides the idea of ownership pride and ease of movement, cars are routinely used to transport things between places. While moving house is a relatively rare occasion, it usually needs a special van to be rented. But what about moving donations to the charity shop, rubbish to the dumping ground, returning that set of Tupperware to mom: how long do these things actually sit in the trunk of your car before they get taken out – if they are not forgotten for a long time, that is? Sometimes cars turn out to be handy dumping grounds for things you no longer want or need in your house, too.
What happens when you start thinking of a car as an extension of your home? For one thing, you’ll invariably end up having to buy things to have all the ‘necessary’ stuff with you, because you get tired of constantly moving things from the house to the car and vice versa. Even if it starts with only a small number of items like a pair of scissors, pens, paper and other emergency supplies, I promise you that it will accumulate into more stuff. I know only a very few people who make it a point to NOT personalise their car and remove everything from it after returning home. In a way, this is how people on a car-sharing scheme would act, and this is also one of the major reasons why there is a general unease about car-sharing: you have to follow a strict “take out everything you bring in” policy, and that feels wrong to most people when dealing with a car.
When it comes to clearing clutter from a car, be it unnecessary stuff or pure rubbish, cars are even worse than rooms in a house. While we tend to be protective of our cars, we may not be quite as picky with cleaning and decluttering as we might be with our homes. After all, it’s just a “vehicle designed to carry passengers”, right? Besides, cleaning a car is much more work than cleaning a room. It’s a space that has been designed for optimum user experience in terms of entering, storing, driving and sitting, and due to its limited size had to compromise on other levels. Therefore the inside of cars are full of nooks and crannies that allow for things to get lost in. Much of the furniture and covers are movable or hollow, so even more places are hard to get to. Once the passengers are seated, things are perfectly okay, but moving around inside the car is usually a bit taxing, and that is without a large vacuum or brush in your hands…
Having seen a lot of other people’s cars, I believe they are often nothing more than moving clutter boxes, and, more precisely, forgotten areas of clutter. The next time you go to your car, take a good look around and consider some of the thoughts above. You might just find that there is a lot of clutter in your car that you could easily do without. Give it a go!
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.