the psychology of building dollhouses: one case study, me

I don’t have any active social media accounts. If I did, I might have handled COVID better because I think misery really does love company. If I interacted daily, albeit virtually, with large crowds of friends, acquaintances, and those random individuals who pass through one’s Internet community, I might have felt less “stressy” when the pandemic hit.

Although I never had COVID, I did feel its effects, most notably, a debilitating case of Tension Myositis Syndrome (AKA Tension Myoneural Syndrome). For those who are unfamiliar, the elevator pitch is suppressed psychological stressors manifest themselves in physical pain, most often chronic back issues, which I have, but this time, a deep, burning sensation in my hip and leg that severely limited my ability to walk. My doctor diagnosed it as sciatica; the physical therapist identified some other random condition, but as time passed, I began to suspect it was really just my brain doing its best to distract me from this dreadful new reality.

It was around this time I concluded I needed a more agreeable [read: “less painful”] distraction. That’s when the idea of building a dollhouse came to mind. It was a hobby I briefly enjoyed in my early 20s. I bought a front-open townhouse-style kit at a quaint shop in Occoquan, Virginia. After the initial build, I abandoned it to a thrift shop and didn’t think about the hobby again for nearly four decades.

This time around, I forwent practicality and chose a beachside bungalow-style kit. The obvious reason for this choice was I’d love to own a beach house in real life, but that’s not in the cards, Southern California real estate prices and all. So, it was great, vicarious fun to build and decorate a home I could never actually afford.

But the other reason for this style home, and more to the point of this story, I craved an escape. The beachside bungalow was a wonderful, happy place where reality didn’t dare tread, especially pandemics. The only source of entertainment I added to the house was a record player; no television or computer or other source of news. I bought an ice chest, a boombox, a raft, and a bicycle, everything needed for a carefree day at the beach. And in my head, I moved in.

It was such a relief to focus on miniature homebuilding instead of that burning ache from my “COVID-induced, sciatica-adjacent syndrome.” So, the pain wasn’t for naught. It resulted in a little spot of happy as I rediscovered an old hobby. Oh, and the other bright spot? I really can afford that getaway at the beach. It’s just a little smaller than what I imagined.


  1. Phyllis says:

    Patti – these doll houses are amazing! What will you do with them?


    1. patti p says:

      Hey, Phyllis!! I have no idea what to do with them. I’m hoping post-COVID some children’s charity will be interested. I understand no one wants anything (except cash) for now! Thanks so much for visiting/commenting!!


  2. Sally says:

    Patti!! You are amazing! I want to move in! Elise thought I was looking at pictures of a real house! I love the decor and detail! Can’t wait to see your next house!


    1. patti p says:

      I wish Elise was a little closer–I need to find homes for these houses, so I have room for more!! Many thanks for the compliments, and hugs to all!!


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