I had a roommate in college who would spend days at the library studying for finals. She would stop home briefly to shower and change as needed, but for the larger part of a week would dwell elsewhere. Once all of her finals were complete, she would return home in full force, immersing herself in the space she had forsaken for the demands of school. She would thoroughly clean our apartment with celebratory relief, cook piles of food to share with friends, and generally reconnect with her home
When the stresses and challenges that are an undeniable part of daily life pull our physical and mental energies in one direction (or many, simultaneously), we often experience a counterbalancing urge to return to our “home base.” There are innate connections between humans and home. While home can take many forms depending on location, available resources, and cultural traditions, all homes serve a few universal purposes.
The most basic function of a home is to provide us with shelter. Animals and insects large and small construct shelter as well, but human homes are unique not only in their variety of appearance, but in their ability to reflect layers of personal and cultural meaning. In his book A Prehistory of Home , anthropologist Jerry Moore offers an expansive look at human homes, from ancient settlements to contemporary suburbs. Moore points out that home has always been a human “project” – our homes reflect many decisions and choices about our constraints, values, and identity, and they change as we change over time.
We craft our homes as we craft ourselves. Some approaches to this craft are based in long-standing cultural practices: The Eastern traditions of Feng Shui and mandalas are used to connect spatial order at various scales with a greater cosmological order. More of-the-moment approaches are catalogued in countless do-it-yourself magazines, each proclaiming to be the missing link in our search for a well-ordered home. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has sold more than six million copies and has been published in more than forty languages. The desire to improve the spaces around us is a deeply rooted and powerful instinct.
The relationship between home and self –between our surroundings and our psyche –is one of exchange and interconnection. The way we feel influences how we interact with our homes. Our homes in turn shape how we feel and how we see ourselves. We start and end each day at home, and it is within our abilities to create homes that bridge the gap between what we need from the world and what we get. A home like this does not wall out the world and separate us from each other. It mends the parts of the soul that need the most care so we can continue to find our place in the world.
We’ll be continuing this discussion of home over the next couple of weeks, and we’d love to hear from you on this topic. What aspects of your home help you recharge? What activities do you like to celebrate? What is missing from your home that would make it a more restorative environment?
 Jerry D. Moore, A Prehistory of Home (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 3.
Photo credit: Peter Rimar, Wikimedia Commons