Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century

Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century

32 Families Open Their Doors

Book - 2013
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Winner of the 2014 John Collier Jr. Award Winner of the Jo Anne Stolaroff Cotsen Prize Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century cross-cuts the ranks of important books on social history, consumerism, contemporary culture, the meaning of material culture, domestic architecture, and household ethnoarchaeology. It is a distant cousin of Material World and Hungry Planet in content and style, but represents a blend of rigorous science and photography that these books can claim. Using archaeological approaches to human material culture, this volume offers unprecedented access to the middle-class American home through the kaleidoscopic lens of no-limits photography and many kinds of never-before acquired data about how people actually live their lives at home. Based on a rigorous, nine-year project at UCLA, this book has appeal not only to scientists but also to all people who share intense curiosity about what goes on at home in their neighborhoods. Many who read the book will see their own lives mirrored in these pages and can reflect on how other people cope with their mountains of possessions and other daily challenges. Readers abroad will be equally fascinated by the contrasts between their own kinds of materialism and the typical American experience. The book will interest a range of designers, builders, and architects as well as scholars and students who research various facets of U.S. and global consumerism, cultural history, and economic history.
Publisher: Los Angeles : Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, c2013.
ISBN: 9781931745611
Branch Call Number: 392.36 ARNOL
Characteristics: viii, 171 p. : ill., col.


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May 31, 2019

I discovered this book by reading several Pinterest-blog posts on decluttering that cited it. When I checked it out and discovered it was an ethnographic study of modern American materialism- specifically of two-income households with young children. Nothing could make me happier. With a background in Anthropology, it was refreshing to read an entire study written by anthropologists. But rather than being a dry academic piece, the book is fascinating in its analysis and provides succinct infographics to convey the statistics.

Such revelations as Americans only bear 3.1% of the world’s children and yet we purchase 40% of the produced toys. Makes you think twice about birthday and Christmas shopping. The study explores the psychological stress of clutter on families, explores how rooms are used and perceived, and how trends have shifted over the last decade. Another fact that I had observed personally, and discovered to be true through the study is that 80% of remodeling budgets are spent on the outdoor spaces but 97% of the parents in the study spent 0% outside. Another area that people spend a lot of money on is the master suite, yet it is a little used room.

The study also found a correlation between how many items are on the frig with how many items are in the public rooms. 80+ items on the frig will result in 1,300+ items in your living room. In light of other minimalist movements such as the 100-thing challenge, this sort of analysis really makes you stop and look around your space.

The study also notes how much money is spent on advertising and how many products are then transferred to landfills. It puts into perspective how you consume- the lifecycle of your own purchasing habits and how you are influenced by advertising.

With a plethora of photographs, succinct analysis, and infographics its a quick and easy read for anyone interested in material culture and reorienting themselves to clutter from a mental standpoint. Highly recommend.

Aug 20, 2015

This is a fascinating study documenting the homes and lifestyles of middle class Americans in the 21st century.

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