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The Stuff of Family Life

How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives

Michelle Janning

Does putting your smartphone on the dinner table impact your relationships? How does where you place your TV in your home affect your family? The Stuff of Family Life takes readers inside the changing world of families through a unique examination of their stuff. From digital family photo albums to the growing popularity of “man caves,” author Michelle Janning looks at not only what large demographic studies say about family dynamics but also what our lives—and the stuff in them—say about how we relate to each other. The book takes readers through various phases of family life, including dating, marriage, parenting, divorce, and aging, while paying attention to how our choices about our spaces and objects impact our lives.

Janning has joked, “I'm not a social scientist who uses large national datasets to illustrate family life; I’m the social scientist who asks people to examine what’s in their underwear drawers to tell stories about their family life.” From underwear drawers to calendars,
The Stuff of Family Life offers an illuminating and entertaining look at the complexities of American families today.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 238Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-5479-4 • Hardback • May 2017 • $34.00 • (£23.95)
978-1-4422-5480-0 • eBook • May 2017 • $33.99 • (£23.95) (coming soon)
Michelle Janning is professor of sociology at Whitman College. As a board member of the Council on Contemporary Families, she specializes in family and gender studies and cultural sociology. Her work has been published in sources such as the Journal of Family Issues and the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, and she has been quoted in media such as Women’s Health and Real Simple.
Chapter 1:
Families, Home Spaces, and Objects: Welcome Mats and Plumbing Pipes

Chapter 2:
From Childhood to Adulthood: Stuffed Animals, Blankets, and Wall Posters

Chapter 3:
Couplehood: Love Letters and Beds

Chapter 4:
Parents and Children: Family Photo Albums and LEGO Bricks

Chapter 5:
Gender and Household Division of Labor: Tool Boxes and Spices

Chapter 6:
Home and Paid Work Intersections: Work Bags and Calendars

Chapter 7:
Separated Families: Sofabeds, Laptops, and Cell Phones

Chapter 8:
Beyond Single (Nuclear) Families: Dining Tables and Dishes

Chapter 9:
Families, Homes, and Social Change: Toilets and Showers

Spatial, Material, and Social Boundaries for Families: Fences and Pathways
In this remarkable book, Michelle Janning helps us understand the material objects of our lives and in our homes, as an anthropologist of the future might do. With her own and others' research, she illuminates the cultural meaning of our everyday household “things.” You’ll never look at your own home, or others', quite the same way again.
Barbara Risman, University of Illinois at Chicago, executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families

From the definition of home to the items we use every day from birth to death, The Stuff of Family Life covers the under-the-surface meaning of the placement of "stuff" in our homes. An asset to any professional organizer who wants to support their clients in de-cluttering, and to anyone else interested in the process. A must read!
Tammy Schotzko, certified professional organizer, We Love Messes

Stuff and space, and how we interact with and relate to them, are at the intersection of house and home—and at the heart of this wonderful book. They shape our most intimate interactions, and therefore our relationships, our families, and the larger social world that they reflect and create. Michelle Janning leads us on an enthralling sociological journey through the objects and spaces of home—from LEGO and love letters to tables and toilets—to illuminate the social life of families.
Philip N. Cohen, University of Maryland

With artful prose and imaginative analysis, Janning explores how the stuff in our homes can tell us about much more than you might think. From where we place our furniture to what we keep on our coffee tables, Janning has an uncanny ability to uncover just how much we can learn by looking deeply at the spaces in which we reside. Homes tell us about much more than the collections of people that reside within; they provide windows into the most pressing social issues of our time, if only you know what to look for. This book is devilishly intelligent, passionately and poignantly written. You’ll never see a home the same way again.
Tristan Bridges, The College at Brockport, SUNY

In The Stuff of Family Life, Michelle Janning brilliantly explains the implications of how our culture is visibly on display in our homes. For the last two decades in my career I have witnessed changes in households, and the families dwelling in them, and imagined the reasons behind these dramatic alterations. From the types of rooms to the objects in them, I have guessed answers to the questions Janning’s book provides in an easy-to-read voice. She shares valuable knowledge on how these changes are a reflection of the shifts in our society and family life. I am grateful to have my quest for answers satisfied in such a fun and interesting read!
Amy Bates, owner, Merry Maids of Oklahoma