The Sociology of Professional Organising

Have you ever wondered about the philosophy and values behind decluttering and organising? Contemplating your world view might seem far removed from the more practical considerations of how to tidy a messy spare room, but they are more connected than you think. Any human endeavour has behind it assumptions about the nature of the world and an implicit value system, and that includes professional organising.

Research by sociologists Paul J Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson identified three distinct subcultures in American society, which have subsequently been identified in other western countries: Traditionals, Moderns, and Cultural Creatives. Their findings are outlined in their book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World.

Traditionals are people who tend to have more conservative values such as traditional gender roles for men and women, conservative religious traditions, and a strong emphasis on maintaining customs and traditions.

Moderns value wealth and financial success, social status, keeping up with current styles and innovations, and supporting economic and technological progress. Being the largest group the perspective of the moderns dominates mainstream media and tends to be regarded as “the norm” in modern industrial societies.

Cultural Creatives are a sub-group that has been emerging since the 1960s and are characterised by values such as environmentalism, social justice, and emerging ideas about spirituality and consciousness. They place less emphasis on material wealth or “making it” and are more concerned with quality of life. Cultural creatives can feel isolated and misunderstood because their values are not well represented in the mainstream media. They have begun to find each other through the power of the internet, particularly blogging and social media.

The distinctions between these three outlooks on life are very relevant when considering our attitudes to material possessions and the lifestyle choices we make. Professional organising has emerged as a consequence of the Modern culture, with its emphasis acquiring material possessions. We have become swamped with more stuff than we can manage, to the point that there is an industry dedicated to helping us organise ourselves. Some professional organising solutions also fit into the Modern paradigm. Approaches that emphasise purchasing organising products or storage systems to better accommodate up-to-date possessions align with a Modern world view. A cultural creative may be uncomfortable with an emphasis on decluttering that ignores the underlying problem of overconsumption or ecological implications of waste.

The approach that I am taking with To Live Light comes from the perspective of the Cultural Creative. In choosing to talk about ideas such as simplicity, lightness and flow I am looking to reconnect our relationship with stuff with our own natures, and the natural world. It is an approach that acknowledge the views of people who are concerned about the social, environmental, and spiritual impact of overconsumption and are looking for a more sustainable way of living and managing our belongings. Its also a perspective that is open to the idea that there is more to life than the material aspects of existence.

The objective is not that everyone adopt a minimalist existence or engage in a life of voluntary simplicity, but to promote a more conscious relationship with our possessions and greater freedom of choice in how to organise our lives. There are complex reasons why we have difficulty organising our time and possessions or letting go of things that are no longer serving us. This has led to my interest in ADHD and Hoarding which at first glance might seem to be at odds with an interest in a simpler way of life. However Living Light is a relative concept and includes anyone wanting to take a step in the direction of a lighter way of life, from wherever they are. Some people will find their own way to a lighter lifestyle, while others will appreciate encouragement and a helping hand.

So if you are thinking of working with a professional organiser, purchasing organising books or products, or even reading quick tips on decluttering in a magazine, take a moment to consider the underlying world view being put forward and whether they represent the world you want to live in.

For a detailed explanation of the culture and values of Cultural Creatives you can read the book or watch this interview with Paul J Ray. I am also gathering Youtube videos on Cultural Creatives.








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