“The mystery that holds my attention is that some houses have life—are home, are dwellings—and others don’t.”
Since 1970 the American home has grown 60 percent, from an average of 1,500 square feet to about 2,400 square feet today (and people still have to rent storage sheds). The 700-square-foot Colonial house of the 18th century is about the size of the two-car garage on a suburban “Colonial.”
Americans are suffocating in clutter. “Our houses have grown stuffy with stuff,” writes Mansfield.
The American obsession with home improvement is at a fever pitch. We have HGTV, shelter magazines, reality TV shows about hoarding, organizing experts who tell us that cleaning our closets will change our lives, and a thriving self-storage industry. (“That odd name, ‘self-storage,'” writes Howard, “is revealing: people aren’t just storing excess; this stuff is a part of their identity.”)
The urge to discuss “stuff” is strong, as Mansfield discovered during several recent radio appearances. “I’ve done several call-in NPR shows and listeners ask so often about clutter that I thought a few of the shows were going to become ‘Clutter Talk’ with me as the ‘Click and Clack’ of over-stuffed houses,” Mansfield jokes.