“What is necessary for a house?”: Conflating Ideas of Home with Cleanliness

These thoughts are a bit delayed, but after reading over my notebook in search of blog post ideas, I was reminded that circling back always allows for more opportunities for reflection. During class last Friday, I was particularly intrigued by a comment Jes made during our discussion of the syllabus question “What is necessary for a house?” Jes detailed that she doesn’t call her apartment at school “home,” but rather reserves that for the house she shares with her family. I have noticed myself doing the same thing – referring to my apartment as “my place” or its nickname among my sorority, “The Coop” (pronounced like “coop” in “chicken coop”… origins unclear). Avoiding the word “home” seems to me an interesting phenomenon. I wonder what constitutes a place vs. a home, and for myself in particular.

While I refer to my apartment as “my place,” it is more to me than just a physical space that I habitually occupy. I feel comfortable and safe here, both from the elements and emotionally. My housemates are my best friends, and the amenities provide everything I could need, as well as everything I’d want. Besides the absence of my family members and a couple of unnecessary  luxury items like a dishwasher and cable, there aren’t many differences. However, there is one glaring difference that has prompted some self-checking and reflection on my part. My childhood home is clean, and that’s something I’ve since appreciated moving into a shared space with people from different upbringings. In contrast, my apartment is “well used” in that it is often a place of celebration on the weekends, and that usually comes with mess. Coupled with the differences among opinions on cleanliness among my housemates, it can get pretty gross sometimes, and admittedly that BOTHERS me. The state of our living room can even make me anxious.

Reflecting back on these feelings, I realize that among other things I may have subconsciously conflated my ideas of “home” with cleanliness. I not only had a place to call home growing up, but that place was clean – another layer of privilege that we’ve previously discussed in class. I subsequently had clean clothes and didn’t get sick too often, privileges that among other things permitted me to maintain (and make moves to) advance myself academically, socially, and economically. The opportunity to live in a sometimes-gross college apartment was made accessible to me because of these privileges.

I want to do a quick disclaimer here that I am not using the state of my college apartment as an example to be compared to the housing (or lack thereof) of others. Rather, I use it here as an example of differences in my housing environments and as a display of my conflation of cleanliness and home through a place of privilege. There are homes that are not “clean” to my standards that are still undoubtedly, homes. This seems to lend to the idea that our concepts of home are inherently personal. They are intertwined with what has been familiar. I think that’s why I associate cleanliness with home – because it is familiar, not because I inherently value it as a facet of what makes my home a home.

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