Did you know that in 2009 consumers in the US spent nearly $12 billion on home organization and storage products? A decade earlier we were only spending a fraction of that amount.I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on America's obsession with getting organized. I asked: what happened that we feel that organizing our homes is the only way to get a grip on life? The popularity of organization advice literature indicates that Americans are heavily invested in expressing themselves through ideally organized spaces like the efficient office nook, the well-organized garage, or the color-coded closet. Far from being just another cleaning “to-do,” home organization now makes up an entire “containo-industrial complex.”*
My research and theoretical framework came from the fields of design history (including, industrial, interiors, and graphic design), Post-Fordism/neoliberal theory, American Studies, and consumer culture studies. My methods included ethnographic interviews, participant observation, news/media analysis, census data, and close reading of pop culture texts.
After I finished my dissertation, I was interviewed on a design radio show/podcast to talk about my research on the culture of organization in the US. The show is called "Paperweight Radio" (Ep. 2. Sept 12, 2013) and the theme was "light" (I'm at the 15:53 mark). The show corresponds with the excellent publication Paperweight Newspaper of Visual and Material Culture.
*not my term! I found it in an article by Mike Wilson in the St. Petersburg Times from 1999.