In the past two decades, our experience of home has been eclipsed by overwork, long hours commuting, the rising costs of housing and the stress of daily life. As a result, Americans are nostalgic for what home used to be — a place of intimacy and sanctuary.
In the 1940’s the Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung predicted that the modern world would hound us to distraction. Caring for the home, he said, anchors us in our senses and in rhythms of daily life. Equally important, it contributes to our regeneration and renewal.
An evolutionary psychologist, Jung believed that being a householder is what makes us human. We’re going to unpack that statement over the next few months, showing how home shapes every aspect of our lives. But first we want to make some bold predictions.
Home is about to become the buzzword of the decade, thanks to these important trends.
The Puritan work ethic has turned out to be the greatest enemy of home. As we edged toward double shifts and at 60-hour work week, Americans work harder then their peers in other developed countries — fast approaching the Japanese who coined a word (karoshi) for death by overwork. In the past few years we’ve spend more time at the office than we do in our own kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms. The result of our diminishing sense of home is a dramatic rise in anxiety and stress. Clearly we need more personal days, more parental leave, more time at home to safeguard our mental health.
Proponents of the four day work-week believe shorter hours will make us all a bit more sane and even close gender pay gap. In the past decade, we’ve also seen the rise of at-home businesses, contract work and artisan ventures. These new versions of the cottage industry will require different organizational skills, as well, as we manage family and friends, creativity and commerce, all in one place.
Now with the advent of Covid-19, working from home is the new normal—and we’ll be getting to know the contents of our rooms again. Appreciating that home is the source of commerce and creativity as well as a source of intimacy and self-renewal.
While robots in the workplace stoke our fears of depersonalization and displacement, we’ve welcomed AI into our homes with ease. Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant now set the timer for the roast, dim the lights and play the dinner music. We also have “life hacks” that tell us how to cook an omelet, swab a sink or mop the floor. Yet we’ve forgotten that household tasks have a larger evolutionary purpose.
Home is where we become “makers” and learn how to shape the world around us with our hands. The Slow Food movement reminds us what it’s like to have a deep relationship with our dinner–telling the story of our food from soil to plate. Now it’s time for a Slow Home movement to help us take a hands-on approach to our daily maintenance. To perform our housekeeping tasks with mindfulness, view polishing a table as an act of communion, and value time-honored crafts like mending a cushion, making a stone wall, or restoring a piece of furniture. We also propose a link between home-ec and home ecology: Teach a generation how to keep the house, and they will be better stewards of the family, the community and the natural world.
Last year, more people were uprooted by war and civil unrest than ever before. And thanks to climate change, more dwellings were destroyed by devastating fires and floods. These events require us to expand our notion of home and hospitality. Some questions we’ll be asking in the months ahead: How do we safeguard our homes against natural disaster? What is our responsibility as citizens and neighbors? How do we care for those who are displaced?
We’ll also interview visionary architects who are designing high-rise apartments called Vertical Forests and underwater habitats called Sea-scrapers, in an effort to create sustainable communities.
Reinventing Home will report on these big shifts—but we’ll also get up close and personal, examining the texture of our daily lives.
Reimagining Our Living Space
Here are some of the homely topics we cover with a Jungian twist, a nod to mindfulness, and a flash of whimsy:
- Order vs. Hoarder: What’s Behind Binge-purge Cycles in the Home?
- Homecoming from The Odyssey to The Wizard of Oz
- From Kondo to Community: Creative Ways to Pass on Your Possessions
- Renovating with a Shaman
- Home as the Backdrop for Intimacy and Bonding
- When Things Bite back—Why Appliances Rebel and How to Get on Better Terms with Them
- Men Care for the Home: Advice from Thomas Hardy to Dave Barry
- Aphrodite’s Feather-duster: The Mythology of Housekeeping
In our article and interviews, a wide range of experts offer novel suggestions on how to renew our love affair with home.
- Psychologists tell why home is our primary attachment—and sets the pattern for our experience of intimacy.
- Poets describe the soul of ordinary things, sharing odes they have written to bath soap and extension cords.
- Scientists explain how dust bunnies underneath the bed connect us to the Big Bang and the formation of the galaxy. (You’ll never look at those fuzzy particles the same way again.)
A Note from the Editor
For over thirty years, I’ve been writing about these cultural trends and I’ve also learned a lot about reinventing home. To date, I’ve lived in London and the Greek Islands, and nearly every neighborhood in Manhattan. My favorite homes include a 1790 stone farmhouse in the Hudson Valley (complete with family ghost), a loft in an old felt factory in Western Massachusetts, a Georgian apartment in San Francisco, and an artist’s studio nestled among the California redwoods.
Over time, I’ve come to view each relocation as a call to greater consciousness, an adaptation to a new and different stage of life. The question is, What is home to you?
Below are some musings on home by people whose work we admire. We hope they inspire you to think about your surroundings in a deeper way. Use them to jumpstart your own rich and fruitful dialogue with home.