Discover more from Your House Machine
This is a hobby.
A dorky one at that -- so let's all stop comparing ourselves.
I’d been thinking about this idea for a couple weeks now (also reflected in this Burnt Toast substack and the strugglecare Instagram post below).
Since I assume most of my readers are fellow home organization lovers, this could be a liberating revelation for you as well.
In short: Organizing our homes? The thing we love doing, the thing that makes our less-organized friends envious, the seemingly superhuman skill we get pats on the head for?
It’s a HOBBY, my friends.
Instead of knitting or practicing karate or painting, my hobby is organizing my house. Does this make me feel like a dorkus of epic proportions? Yes. But does it reframe this thing I do in a way that takes away any sense of moral superiority? Also yes.
Of course, there is some basic level of functioning a home needs to do, and this does usually require some amount of tidying and order. But at the end of the day, if your house serves your needs then mission accomplished. You’re done!
(And if your house isn’t serving your needs and you feel overwhelmed…call up your organizing hobbyist friend who I’m telling you will love NOTHING more than to speed over to help you organize. We live for this stuff, I promise.)
Framing home organizing as a hobby means that if you *don’t* happen to pursue this hobby, there is nothing wrong with you for not having color-coded, Kondo-folded dresser drawers. You’re not failing, you’re not falling behind. You just have other interests. Totally fine.
I love that at age 40 I’m still having revelations about The Way I Am (another big one was learning I’m Highly Sensitive) — you’re never done learning.
Another dimension to all this is that organizing can be a self-soothing mechanism for dealing with anxiety. I got into a long comment thread on this post about hobbies, and it was cool to see how many people resonate with this. For me, when life feels overwhelming, the best antidote is to carve out some alone time to organize something in my house. Or if a friend needs help organizing, that will do the trick too.
It’s a control thing, apparently.
There was a TikTok video a while ago I can no longer find where the woman talked about hassling her husband for weeks to take the kids and go somewhere—anywhere—and leave her home alone. He finally did, only to come home to find her scrubbing the tile grout with a toothbrush. THIS is what she wanted to do so badly she banished her family from the house?
If you find yourself yearning to scrub tile with a toothbrush, you’ve found your people — subscribe and join us!
I relate so hard to this, and when I mentioned it to a close friend she lit up. “It’s about having autonomy over your space,” she told me. When you live with other people, you don’t get to have your space the way you want it, so it’s really soothing to finally get control. Bingo!
I have a feeling this is also why as a kid I’d stay up late rearranging furniture in my room. Kids have so little control over their lives, and this was my way of dealing with an overwhelming environment (see High Sensitivity above).
All this is to say, when people in my life feel embarrassed about their home not being totally dialed in, I just want to tell them that if anything it’s ME who should be embarrassed that my medicine cabinet is so anal retentively organized I could open a store. It’s just something I have to do to feel ok, and it in no way makes me superior to someone who pursues a different hobby. In fact, having my anxiety so clearly on display (if you know what to look for) is uncomfortably revealing sometimes.
When my postpartum anxiety spiraled out of control after having my first child, my psychiatrist would use my organizing behavior as a measure of how well my medication was working. “How much organizing did you do this week?” she’d start our sessions by asking. One day, I impulsively sold our couch because I decided it was too big for the room. My point is, even this seemingly “virtuous” hobby can have a darker side.
I’ll leave you with the caption from the strugglecare Instagram post above, a great summary:
Laundry is a functional task and its function is to provide you, a person who deserves to be clean and comfortable, with clean clothes. That's it. You do not need aesthetic laundry rooms and chic glass containers to have a valid laundry process. Is there anything wrong with being someone that likes that? Of course not! But let's call it what it is: a hobby. And it's a fine hobby to have. Decorating and home organization can be a really fun hobby. But no one's hobbies make them better than anyone else.
So let’s enjoy our little hobbies (whatever they are) in our little lives and not worry about what things look like so much, eh? Everyone is doing their best.