Storage and clutter: Discourses and practices of order in the domestic world

  • Cwerner S
  • Metcalfe A
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Abstract

This article examines discourses and practices of storage and clutter in relation to the social construction of the home in contemporary Britain. The role of storage practices has been overlooked in much of the literature on consumption, material culture, design and the home. And yet, especially since the 1990s, there has been an explosion in popular cultural forms of discussions and representations of the home. While much of this has explored the domestic worlds of design, decoration and DIY more generally, a large number of books have focused specifically on storage as the antidote to what is perceived as the growing problem of clutter in the contemporary home. Through an analysis of these storage texts we show that even though they wrap up their ideas in a popular psychology of personal therapy, they do provide some insights useful for discussions of issues related to consumption, material culture and domestic design. More fundamentally, they reveal that the home needs to be conceptualized not simply as a place for living, but also as a set of spaces, channels and flows, as objects and people find their way into, through, and sometimes out of, the home. We argue that at the heart of these discourses is a limited conceptualization of time and space and a desire to make spaces and objects present and manageable. We then contrast these discourses with everyday practices of storage and clutter in the home. Based on original research data, we argue that time and space need to be analysed as multiple and layered, as objects are subject to various practices of dispersal, divestment and displacement in the gaps between consumption as acquisition, use and their eventual disposal. As a result, clutter needs to be understood not merely as the underside of storage, but also as part of an iterative spatio-temporal ordering of home and identity that follows the traces left behind by the dynamic of storage.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Clutter
  • Consumption
  • Domestic space
  • Interior design
  • Storage

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Authors

  • Saulo B. Cwerner

  • Alan Metcalfe

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