May 08, 2023

Keeping Order at Home

Corneilia mayrBy Cornelia Mayr

There is no place like home. But what makes a home? Some of you might say a home is a place that gives you a feeling of comfort, safety, and familiarity; it is a place where your heart belongs, and the self can thrive. It is a welcoming sanctuary where you find a treasure chest of living. But above all, home is where everything should be in order.

When we enter different homes with a sociological perspective, we can immediately experience a unique statement about the inhabitants’ tastes, lifestyle, and identity. At the same time, we can see how everything is put and kept in its place. Have you ever noticed how ordering things in the home might bring you a sense of wellbeing and comfort, but looking around a messy home can be overwhelming? The domestic space is, thus, a good place where we can study our relationship to objects and its connection with social order.

For the anthropologist Mary Douglas (1991, p. 289), the home is a “localizable idea” that “starts by bringing some space under control.” In this sense, a place like home acquires its meaning through home-making practices; and as such, it becomes part of processes of the creation of domestic order. Put differently, order is sustained and things go smoothly so long as they are being kept in the proper place within the home.

Most likely, we may store our stuff in the spaces where we most commonly use the objects. So, the rationale for keeping things at the places to which we think they belong might probably be more pragmatic than symbolic. However, putting things in places where they “just belong” are, according to Douglas, well arranged spatial manifestations of underlying rules and values.

A disruption of order at home relates, for example, to what Douglas views as “dirt;” where a thing in the wrong place, or too much stuff, violates norms, values and interests. Douglas brings up some examples by drawing our attention to “[…] bathroom equipment in the drawing room; clothing lying on chairs; out-door things in-doors” (1966, p. 37). Or imagine finding cutlery in your bedside table. While those things are not dirty in themselves, they may become “dirty” by placing them where they are out of context.

In this sense, each object belongs to a particular place,  and the concept of “dirt” defies this place. So, by assigning things to their suitable areas, we also create a non-place; a location where things do not belong and become “dirty” or “a matter out of place.” Whether our things are put in or out of place, there are cultural rules which tell us which objects can be combined and placed with others and the anxiety, repulsion or disgust that arises if these rules are transgressed.

Most often, however, people may not reflect consciously on their stuff unless the objects are put out of context; unless we classify them as “dirty.” Just think of how quickly everything in your home can, at the turn of events, suddenly end up deliberately hidden behind closed doors. How quickly do you put away clutter that has been stashed in your living room when unexpected visitors arrive? How deliberately do you hide intimate objects from plain sight? A disruption usually prompts action, followed by an ad hoc spatial re-organization.

But where does the idea of a proper place for our stuff come from? Do we organize our home from an innate aesthetic sense or is our concept of order and “dirt” shaped by cultural values, symbolic meanings and social trends?

Pierre Bourdieu’s work could explain us how people maintain a sense of domestic order through the display of taste and distinction. When we select places for our stuff to rest, Bourdieu might say that we will place it according to our likes and dislikes. In doing so, we not only represent parts of our lifestyle. We simultaneously symbolize boundaries between purity and pollution, private and public, inside and outside at home.

Just as we put our material things within this complex system of classification and segregation, we may also see how domestic divisions play a role in the organization of our home. Structural factors, such as age, income, occupational stability, neighborhood and living conditions, as well as social change can make people feel more or less concerned with keeping things in order (more on housing insecurity). A sense of order at home is therefore reflected and recreated by a socially constructed, yet meaningful vision of the home as a place of belonging, safety,  as well as of private and public expression.

Now, with that in mind, is the way we organize our stuff a matter of choice, obligation or structure? Take a look around you and see for yourself. Wherever you keep your things in (dis)order, you can witness individually meaningful, yet socially constructed phenomena at place. What gives you the feeling of home might therefore extend well beyond a sense of homeliness, and may well be a reification of social concepts, values, and norms. These inherent social rules do not stop at our doorstep. At home, we also try to re-create order by putting everything in place.


a good blog to know!

Coming from someone who is very OCD when it comes to my home and the way I like things in place, I can totally relate to this article. I have been to different homes and seen how other homes are unorganized, while this may work for them, it does not work for me. Everything has a place and is kept organized. This helps me to function better. This may not be how others do things but not everyone has the same style.

I have been to a variety of houses and seen how other people keep their spaces disorganized; although this may work for some people, I have found that it does not work for me.

The piece by Mayr makes me think about the value of good housekeeping habits and the function that order plays in producing a cozy and peaceful living environment.

I can relate to this article. The I organize my room compared to some people are very different and some methods just don't work for me. A very minimal and decluttered room is what brings me comfort, whereas some people like a lot of color or a lot of artwork on their walls.

The arrangement and organization of items in a home, or the lack thereof, can offer insights into the social order and the relationship individuals have with their possessions.

The article I read was truly captivating. It spoke about the significance of organizing every item in your home, a concept I wholeheartedly agree with. As someone who takes pride in maintaining order in my living space, I can attest that sometimes things can get out of hand, but I always make sure to tidy up. Although I prefer doing it myself, I often wish I had some assistance as it can become overwhelming at times. However, I am quite particular about how things are arranged, and I have a bit of an obsessive-compulsive disorder when it comes to tidying up.

I found it interesting that sociology plays a role in home decor. My home has a country and western-style, and I'm sure many people find this style appealing. It's fascinating to think that the style of our homes can reveal much about our personalities and preferences. On the other hand, I have been to people's homes that are cluttered and disorganized, and I cannot help but think about how they can live in such a state. However, I also understand that people go through difficult times, and tidying up may not be their priority.

What sets this article apart from news reports is that it delves into a topic that is not often discussed in the media. I have never come across anything like it before, and it was refreshing to read about something that affects our daily lives but does not receive much attention.

Something regarding the icon style.
Icon styles vary greatly depending on the context and intent. Icons may be designed in a variety of styles, including flat, skeuomorphic, minimalism, line art, and more. Each style has distinct traits and may communicate various emotions or thoughts.

Maintaining order at home involves creating a balanced and organized environment that contributes to overall well-being and productivity.

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