There’s an interesting paradox which often applies to many of us, with regards to how we treat and think about our homes and belongings.
On the one hand, we recognise that our homes – and to a lesser extent our most valued possessions – play a vital role in our overall well-being. A home, after all, isn’t just a place you sleep, but also the environment you probably spend the majority of your time – or, at least, a very significant chunk of it.
For that reason, your home, and the things you have in your home, can have a dramatic effect on your overall sense of well-being, among other things.
On the other hand, however, it’s also very common for us to end up making decisions about our homes and our belongings from a more or less completely utilitarian perspective. In other words, we treat our homes and belongings just as tools, and are always looking for the right gadget or addition to help achieve a particular function.
In his highly acclaimed book, “The Master and His Emissary,” the psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist looks at some very compelling evidence that there are actually two ways to view and interact with the world – which are rooted in the two hemispheres of the brain.
One way of looking at the world is rationalistically, and involves looking at things in terms of utility. It sees tools first and foremost.
The other way of looking at the world is intuitively and holistically, and involves looking at things in terms of relationships and connections first and foremost.
Here are just a few reasons why you should think about the relationship you have with your home and belongings.
Because there really is a reciprocal relationship with lots of things in life
It may seem kind of weird to think about the “relationship” you have with your home, never mind with a particular belonging of yours. After all, aren’t these things just inanimate objects?
The interesting thing is that there really is a reciprocal relationship, of sorts, with a lot of different things in life – including lots of “inanimate objects.” Meaning that even if thinking about things in this way is purely metaphorical, it still gets at some important underlying truths.
Here’s an example:
Your home has an issue with condensation. You notice that condensation is forming in places where it shouldn’t, and is causing mould to grow, while simultaneously discolouring your walls, damaging your grouting, and all sorts of other things.
At this point, you could think about your home as being “sick,” or even “neglected.” Getting this issue sorted out and having proper condensation control mechanisms put into place is the right thing to do in this situation.
But there’s more to the picture than that. Because, if your home does accumulate mould due to condensation, there can be very significant negative health effects for you, and the other people who inhabited home – ranging from things like asthma and allergies, to more serious conditions that can dramatically undermine your overall quality of life.
This is just one example of how “taking care of your home” results in your home “taking care of you.
Because life will seem much richer and deeper if you think about “relationships” rather than “tools”
Looking at the world purely in terms of tools, functionality, and the optimisation of different metrics, just doesn’t lead to a very fulfilling, uplifting, or engaging experience of everyday life.
In fact, according to various researchers including Iain McGilchrist, certain serious psychological disorders are defined primarily by this way of deceiving things. In other words, by viewing everything as strictly mechanical and utilitarian – even people.
It’s interesting to remember that ancient cultures from all around the world have, at one time or another, subscribed to belief systems which can be defined as “animistic,” and which view everything in the world as “alive” in one sense or another.
Even in modern Japan, the traditional Shinto religion is based around the notion that there are “gods,” or “spirits” in all sorts of seemingly inanimate objects.
In fact, the internationally famous Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo is a big believer in this idea, and even apparently greets her home every day when she returns from work.
If nothing else, life is likely to seem much richer and deepen if you think about things in terms of “relationships” rather than in terms of “tools.”
Because viewing things in this way can help you to see the bigger picture
When we look at things in purely functional and utilitarian terms, we typically end up looking at them through a very narrow lens, which can exclude a lot of meaningful context, and can in fact cause us to miss some quite important details, as well.
Viewing things in terms of “relationships,” however, can help you to see the bigger picture by naturally putting things in a more holistic context.
Just as having a relationship with a person implies that you view them in a dynamic and complex way, so too does thinking about the relationship you have with your home, for example, lead you to consider and reflect on things that you might miss otherwise.
Does your home “feel” right? Is there something that’s missing, or that you’d like to do differently, even if you can’t exactly identify a clear reason why?
Because this approach to life can put you more in touch with your own inner feelings and intuitions
We all have an entire inner world of complex feelings and intuitions, but these feelings and intuitions often have to take a backseat over the course of everyday life. Or, at least, that’s how it seems.
Relationships naturally involve those feelings and intuitions, rather than ignoring them.
Think about the relationships you have with your home and personal belongings can, in a strange way, how to get you more in touch with your own feelings and intuitions, and can maybe even make you feel more creative and imaginative.