Giving up? That’s for Marie Kondo

And suddenly the news came out… Marie Kondo gives up… Now with three children she prefers to enjoy time with them rather than tidying up the house…

Not hard to understand but I read this and I thought, surely it is now when order is more necessary… Surely it is now when everything she has taught the world, she should practise with her children… Now when that organizational discipline that gave so much peace and harmony to her home is going to help the whole family.

And I thought I have to tell her about our latest research carried out with the ICWF/IESE in which it is very clear that facing the work of the home with a positive attitude brings enormous benefits not just to relationships at home but also at a professional level.

“It is necessary to activate the reticular system in a positive way”, as psychiatrist Marian Rojas says, “those who are prepared, those who are organized, those who know, perceive opportunities much better.” The positive pilot allows us to see the good in things, and to see the rewards of putting good habits in place.

I would like to think that Marie Kondo has made these statements to emphasize that her children are her new priority and that her work is not above them, but a person to whom order and planning has given so much and has been shared with the world in such a successful way, I do not think that she now has her home as a lion’s den because she dedicates time to play with her children.

I say that because all those people who have taken the opportunity to throw in the towel; all those people who were making a strenuous effort to try to demand order and now, according to the headlines in the press, the Japanese guru has “given up”, have found the excuse to say that it was not possible. Keeping going really works! Happy habits help to make everyone feel truly at home.


NEW RESEARCH with ICWF/IESE Conclusions and Recommendation

We have just launched the conclusions and recommendations of the study HRF has been conducting with the International Centre for Work and Family of the IESE Business School. We became an academic partnership in 2020 and a series of surveys were carried out in collaboration with the Schlesinger Group for which now we have the results.

What were we looking for with this project? To find out what impact the work of the home has on the family, on marriage and on professional well-being.


Family health improves and is more stable when the attitude towards housework is positive. And this is not insignificant, because housework is often seen as a burden that nobody wants to take care of and for which there is an attitude of resignation. “Since I have no other choice, I do it”.

It is true that this study reveals differences between men and women, and we can see that attitudes change with age.  Men show greater interest in housework from the age of 35 onwards, whereas women consider, for example, that cleanliness and tidiness are fundamental from the age of 20, an attitude that becomes more relaxed from the age of 50 onwards. (See infographics)

With regard to the cross-correlated variables that refer to well-being at work, it is interesting to see how a positive and committed attitude towards housework increases the levels of job satisfaction, work engagement, psychological empowerment and positive job crafting. (See infographics)
Finally, and although reading the press releases you can find out much more, the risk of Phubbing is striking, and of course, technology was also present in the study. Phubbing is ignoring others by being on your phone or electronic devices. A practice that not only serves as a negative example for children at home (lack of technological reference) but also causes social isolation and problems in relationships. (See infographics)

Phubbing stems from the perception that you have to be highly available for your company even when you have left work. In men it is almost 50% and in women 33%. This is why companies are advised to develop policies of disconnection with their employees. It is essential that the rule is not that the employee arrives home and is attentive to email or the mobile phone.

In Conversation with… Prof. Argandoña

Antonio Argandoña is a Professor Emeritus of Economics and Business Ethics at IESE Business School. He joined the Home Renaissance Foundation as a Director in 2015. We spoke to him about the Foundation.

“In today’s society, there is a need for an overall vision that places the home in a central position”

– How would you explain HRF?
HRF is an academic hub dedicated to the study and dissemination of household issues. There are many experts who study partial aspects of the home: the family – parents, children and relatives -, cohabitation between generations, the internal work of its members and external collaborators and work outside the home, housing, family economy, health, childhood and old age, mobility, children’s education, leisure, new technologies and the rest. What HRF tries to do is to offer an overview of these different studies, because the household is a unit, albeit a dynamic one.

– Why did you get involved in a project like this?
I have always been involved in economics and business, and I have seen that their problems cannot be fully understood if they are not related to those of society, politics, history, technology as I explained before. In other words, that an overall view is needed. When I was invited to an Experts Meeting of the HRF in London in November 2015, I realised the importance of this broad and dynamic vision, which places the home in a central position in our societies. I was invited to join the Board – and here I am.

– How do you think HRF has evolved and where are we today?
We have worked hard, calmly and perseveringly, organising expert meetings and international conferences, publishing books and reports and developing an extensive network of collaborators around the world. Internally, we now have a consolidated project, with the collaboration of a large number of experts from very different disciplines, who agree on the unitary vision of the problems related to the home; this gives us security and capacity. Outwardly, we want to intensify our presence in relevant national and international forums, to influence public policies and private initiatives in which the home is an important part.

– What social challenges do you think the home faces today?
The home operates in a very close framework; the problems are often very local. But there are also global challenges. One is the proliferation of policies that involve the household, but which are often drawn up behind its back: health, pensions, housing, education, technology. Another is related to the ideologies that are spreading worldwide, which involve significant changes in relations within families and with their environment. And yet another may be the economic uncertainty caused by inflation and recession, which impacts on the quality of life of many homes.

– Finally: a message for 2023.
The home has undergone many changes over the centuries and will continue to do so. This leads me to an optimistic view: as long as the home is a place to learn to live, a place where people are valued for who they are, not what they bring, and a place to which one always returns, there will be hope.

HELLO 2023!

We welcome 2023 with new content, new research, an Experts Meeting in September and presentations of our latest book in several countries. Looking back, we have realised that HRF is 17 years old this year. Not an insignificant number. Almost two decades dedicated to research and analysis of the impact of public policies on our homes.

For this reason, and because we do not want anything to be left out, we are going to offer you, on the one hand, the data and conclusions of our own research that we are carrying out with the ICWF/IESE and, on the other hand, we are going to release all the literature that we have been creating since 2006 with the collaboration of our experts.

The blog thus takes on a new dimension as a showcase for our academics with one article per month. We hope that you find it useful and enriching to read all these articles that we will prepare with enthusiasm from the work of Home Renaissance Foundation.

The HRF family is growing both in terms of experts and readers. More and more of you are academics who have dedicated your time to research the reality of homes from the perspective of your own disciplines. With your knowledge, you help us to put the home back in its place at the centre of public debate. That is why we also want you to share your concerns with us.

On the other hand, there are readers who are homemakers, who we address every week through our blog, the web or social networks to advance results, analysis, conclusions, recommendations and who, as you tell us in your emails, look forward to our reflections every Thursday. We also count on you to send us your concerns, because all proposals are welcome in order to defend and care for homes.
Until now, we were the ones who set the themes for our Experts Meetings, we were the ones who decided what approach to give to our Conferences according to the needs that were arising in society and also anticipating possible events, always trying to cover the home in its 360 degrees. But, lately, you are also knocking on our door to request specific research, to call on experts who have studied the home and ask them to carry out specific analyses.
For this reason, this year we will be holding gatherings and meetings to obtain reports focusing on issues that we have agreed with both the United Nations and Nottingham Trent University. We will keep you updated through our blog, website and social media. If you are specifically interested in any of these, please write to us for more details.
Let homes come first in 2023!

Happy Christmas!

Dear Homemaker,

As the year comes to an end we are grateful that although economically there is still a long way to go, 2022 has allowed us to get our lives back on track. We have seen each other’s faces again, we have been able to meet again, trust and renew connections.
Our Christmas newsletter is always a summary of the year, a time to look back and remember what we have achieved. We are grateful and pleased to report that as the activity of HRF is progressing, credibility is growing and we see daily the enormous interest and commitment shown towards our topic: HOME.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine is one which, of course, stays in our news and in our thoughts at this time. In September our Experts Meeting in Washington, ‘The Home and Displaced People’, was timely as it addressed a new topic for HRF: the migration crises and the impact of displacement. It proved a very enriching meeting that opened the doors to a new group of highly prestigious experts with whom we are already working on a future publication.

In addition, we have had the opportunity to reinforce earlier topics with the publication of ‘Happiness and Domestic Life’, which we have already presented in Argentina and Italy. Here you can learn more about our event at Roma Tre University. In the first quarter of 2023, there are plans for launches in the UK, Poland and Spain. At the same time our research on digital homes, the Communication Project ‘The Impact of Technology in the Home’ which has prompted 5,000 downloads, continues to leave its mark.

We are delighted that you find our work helpful, and it is good to see how many of you also consult our experts’ working papers published on the website. We are committed to providing new content and fresh approaches to the study of the work of the home. In this context, we shall be soon releasing details of the first tranche of research carried out in partnership with the International Centre for Work and Family at IESE Business School.

Before I end this newsletter, I would like to announce an agreement we have recently reached with NTU and the UN to investigate the impact of climate emergencies on homes and vice versa. We want to find out how homes and families can be great allies of public policies to curb climate impacts. The Experts Meeting is planned for late summer 2023, and we shall send more details soon for how to contribute to this work.

My thanks on behalf of us all at HRF to everyone we have had the pleasure and privilege of working with this year.  It only remains for me to wish you a very Happy Christmas and that 2023 will be full of good news for homes, which will mean a better future for everyone.

Bryan K. Sanderson CBE

The home, the cradle of happiness

Addressing happiness is always a difficult challenge. The experts who took part in our event last Thursday at the Roma Tre University were faced with the complexity of defining the term because it is ambiguous, broad, and often even paradoxical.

Professor Antonio Petagine (Università Roma Tre) said that we all want happiness, we all seek it, and we all long for it, but we do not always obtain it, and on many occasions, this impossibility of finding it is due to the fact that we fall into the error of giving it a hedonistic meaning, seeking our own satisfaction. But this attitude leaves an emptiness that rarely makes us happy.

Given the thousands of suicides and the high consumption of antidepressants, Professor Vinicio Busacchi (Università de Cagliari) suggested turning to philosophical reflection to discover those situations that make our lives unhappy and try to improve them. “Philosophy can help us understand the meaning of life and become a school of life,” said Busacchi, recalling the title of a famous essay by Lou Marinoff entitled “More Plato and less Prozac.”

And then, the concept of relational happiness came up, when Professor Nicola di Stefano (CNR Roma) explained that Aristotle said that, among other things, happiness depends on the number of friends one has and the quality of that friendship. Can our happiness depend on the environment around us? Is the home the first place to find happiness because it is the first place where we relate to others? The home is a test bed, a private place, where we feel protected, it is a nest,” Di Stefano stressed.

Ambassador Roberto Rossi, author of “Aristotele: l’arte di vivere. Fondamenti e pratica dell’etica aristotelica come via alla felicità” (FrancoAngeli, 2018), recalled that happiness is not a moment in life, but a constant state of the soul, a concatenation of actions that help us to find the ultimate goal of life, happiness. Aristotle insisted that happiness is identified with the good life, i.e. the virtuous life. The “recipe” is therefore to try to seek the best possible good in everything we do, unselfishly.

As the editor of the book ‘Happiness and Domestic Life‘, Professor and Philosopher Maria Teresa Russo, explained, the question we have to ask ourselves is: what home for what happiness? Because we can understand the home as a refuge or, conversely, as a place of conflict and happiness as well-being in a material sense. On the other hand, the home is that physical place where we live, think and love: where we guard our own intimacy and define our identity. A complex but unitary system, where happiness is taking care of each other, disinterestedly.

New opportunities 

Let me introduce you to SD. He is a young Senegalese man, 26 years old, who left his country four years ago in search of a better life in Europe. I would summarise his story by telling you that today he has a good job and has achieved what he dreamed of from his home in Dakar. But the reality is that, until he achieved it, he lived on the streets, slept with six people in the same room, worked for hours carrying more than 10 kilos on his back selling towels to earn his bread and, in addition, with the little he saved, he continued to help his family by sending money every month.

And all this on Spanish soil. Until he reached Chiclana de la Frontera, the town where he arrived by boat, he lived through hell. He crossed several countries on foot, crossed the desert and ran for days on end, fleeing from the police. In addition, he suffered the blackmail of the Moroccan mafias who profit by risking the lives of those who board the boats without knowing whether they will reach their destination or drown in the waters of the Mediterranean like SD’s friend, who did not survive the European adventure.

SD, as he well knows, is an exception among thousands. Although the goodness of people works wonders, not everyone is as lucky. And why SD and not others? Well, I don’t know. I, of course, was struck by his innocent look, his kind smile, his cheerful character. We met on a beach in Cataluña and as he didn’t speak Spanish, I spoke to him in English. But it could have been in French, Arabic or his own language, Wolof.

Today he speaks Spanish very well and works in an electricity company, because on that beach where we met, many other people noticed him and wanted to help him. Some brought him lunch; others brought him fruit. Others bought him water at the beach bar. Some bought him towels without needing them so he could eat. He made friends from many cities in Spain, and during the winter, he received help from Switzerland. It is clear that the boy is loved. It was always clear to him that no matter how extreme his situation was, he would never commit crime. Many people steal out of hunger. Parents, in order to feed their children, deal drugs. But at home, he had been taught to be good and to trust in God, and he could not disappoint his mother.

The integration of these people who arrive illegally is complex. For ordinary people, the unknown is frightening. In addition, language is a barrier. They live badly until the time stipulated by law has elapsed, giving rise to problematic situations. Then they get official documentation and if a company offers them a contract, the countdown to legalise their situation begins.

This story is repeated over and over again among the millions of migrants around the world, but some are lucky enough to access education and end up with fantastic ideas to support their compatriots in their countries of origin.

That was the idea of Ousman Umar, a young man from Ghana who lived exactly the same story as SD, but who was also able to study a degree and a master’s degree thanks to a person who adopted him.  Ousman has now started a foundation called  Nasco Feeding Minds, which collects, upgrades and reuses old computers and laptops, giving new tools to Ghanaian children to help decide their future. In addition, Nasco Feeding Minds generates social and economic impact in rural communities by providing development opportunities. A story of hope.

La felicità

I don’t know if it happens to you, but to me, everything sounds better in Italian. I only have to read or hear “felicità” and I immediately feel good. It takes me back to summers with my family, visiting, for example, Cinqueterre, those marvellous villages on the Mediterranean coast, with twisting roads, but which awaken all the senses because they are so beautiful. Or, I see myself enjoying ice cream in the streets of Venice among tourists from all over the world, or walking through the streets of Rome guided by the smell of pizza baking in an oven.
Happiness, on many occasions, is associated with immediacy, with the pleasure of the senses, with the fulfillment of our desires, when in reality, it is something much deeper that has more to do with the state of our soul or the health of our conscience. Happiness is being at peace. And what gives us peace and calm on a daily basis? What could we say, inwardly and on a deeper level, helps us to be happy on a daily basis?
What a question. It has certainly given rise to many volumes of philosophical debate. But if we resort to common sense, that which guides us without opening encyclopaedias from the bookshelves, what would we say makes us happy?
It is clear that this is a blog with a certain personal component, and the reader may not agree with the writer, but without wanting to convince you of anything, I am happy about somethings that may seem very simple, but that, at the same time, we must realise that it exists: the beauty of the little things that surround me.
For example: A sunrise. A blue sky. The smell of damp after a storm. A few sprigs of eucalyptus at the entrance of the house. A hot cup of tea before starting work. A tidy cupboard. A sandwich in good company. A what’s app with a “hello” from my husband at any time of the day. A snack with friends we haven’t seen for a long time. A meal with friends we see every day. Seeing a grandfather holding hands with his grandson in the street. Ironing. Reading a book in the sun. Even hanging a painting.
Little or none of what I have listed has a financial cost. But it all gives me peace. Valuing the nature that surrounds us and observing its beauty helps us realise how fortunate we are to live on a planet of astonishing grandeur. Parenthesis: I don’t know where you read me from but this weekend I visited a beautiful village 39 km from the city where I live and I had never been there before. I’m sure you too have many places to discover in your immediate surroundings that can bring “La felicità.”
Maybe you were surprised by the tidy wardrobe or the ironing. It gives me a lot of peace to open the wardrobe and see the order. I even find that aesthetically beautiful. And it shows attention to detail, and care, to look after things and keep them well and, above all, to find them both in their place and well ironed the day you look for them.
In short, all this and much more, in the context of the launch of HRF’s most recent book Happiness and Domestic Life, will be discussed in the land of “La felicità“, in Rome on Thursday 1 December at the Roma Tre University. Led by professor and philosopher Maria Teresa Russo, we will have a round table discussion in Italian on Felicità. We will be joined by Antonio Petagine, Università Roma Tre, Vinicio Busacchi, Università di Cagliari and Nicola Di Stefano, CNR Roma and moderated by Professor Cecilia Costa, Roma Tre Department of Training Science.
Please get in touch with me for more details  – we look forward to seeing you!

Together Here

The word displacement, like the word migration, although descriptive fails to capture what such a situation means for those who are displaced.

In our recent Expert Meeting: The Home and Displaced People, a major theme was the “make or break” role of the communities receiving the displaced. The people for whom the new unfamiliar place for migrants is their old familiar place: their home.

The question was put, how do you help someone feel at home? Not necessarily a migrant or refugee but anyone you want to feel “at home” with you. This is a subjective and complex question, of course, but some key thoughts emerged: being treated as a permanent guest does not make a person feel at home; being left alone with only people who are also new does not promote integration; not having access to the language of the new place makes it harder to feel a part of the new place.

These three insights have clear policy implications in terms of work, housing and education, but they also prompt us to look at the simple human responses of welcome and being a neighbour.

This is certainly what motivates those who are a part of Samen Hier (Together Here) in the Netherlands. Samen Hier is a community-based programme where “Welcome Groups” of five Dutch people make a connection with a newly arrived individual or family to their neighbourhood for a year.

Five points of contact means that the newcomers have a range of expertise and experience to draw on. It also means that contact responsibility does not just rest on one set of welcomers’ shoulders.  *A policy maker notes, ““I work a lot with new Dutch people and what strikes me again and again is that every newcomer longs for contact with the Dutch, but that it is very difficult to do.”  A newcomer agrees, “It is really difficult, a new country, new information, a new language…. Social networks can be so useful. For example, I found my current job via an employee at the primary school of the daughter of my friend’s neighbour!” Samen Hier helps to make it possible.

The benefits are not all one way. Newcomers offer their own hospitality, and by being made to feel a part of the new community are quick to share their own time and skills to make more thriving and integrated neighbourhoods.

The model for matching welcomers with newcomers, which was pioneered in Canada, is seen as an initiative which can become the basis for sustainable Dutch migration and integration policy. Although the programme has big aims and a strong international academic research base, its success is built on people being there for other people. National and local governments need to provide the policy frameworks and the funding for integration, but to feel at home it needs a person – or five people – to open the door.

*Material taken from The Hague Online –see link.

The Way Home to Happiness

No one is happy all the time. Even the most optimistic and glass-half-full person does not leap from bed every morning singing a merry tune. Life is not a breakfast cereal advert – we do not need this article to tell us that.

Given this though, there is disturbing evidence for many people –and many of them young – that feeling unhappy all or most of the time is a daily reality. Examining the studies that produce this data, reasons for this are not straightforward to untangle. For example, survey questions eliciting this response are often weighted in such a way that not being able to tick the “happy” box auto-ticks the “unhappy” box, when in fact a more nuanced experience is the case.

More detailed studies have focused on the impact of social media usage, loneliness, financial/housing insecurity, addiction and mental health factors on perceived happiness. Again exploring anything as subjective as a person’s sense of well-being with a set of uniform questions is hard to fully interpret. Where there are two people with superficially identical challenges – and both of whom respond honestly – one will report as being “happy most of the time” and another as “unhappy most of the time.” Having said all of this, there is a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction, discontent and unhappiness in our national discourse, as well as in wide-spread personal testimonies. (NB The focus in what follows is on this self-reported generalized unhappiness, not on those who are suffering from clinical depression and anxiety disorders.)

The reasons for this generalized unhappiness are also hard to untangle. Do we expect more from life than previous generations? Is it too easy now to compare ourselves with others and feel we are missing out? Is the focus on personal fulfilment above collective responsibility causing more of us to feel discontented? Do we live in genuinely more unhappy times? No answers to this here, but another question: Do we lose our way to happiness when we lose our way home? By this I mean have we lost our recourse to the people and places which offer us the potential for happiness, content and well-being for the times when we are not feeling those things ourselves?

The people and places are the homes, families and communities which nurtured us from birth and continue to offer care and respite throughout our lives – or can do. Two points about this to consider. The first is about literal recourse to home, that is being able to go back to a physical place and nurturing network of relationships for renewal and support.

Increasingly this is not an option as the demands and opportunities of work and study as well as other drivers mean that people move away from their birth communities. The loss of continuity of place can be an aspect of social isolation but there are many good reasons why actually “going home” is not viable or the real issue.

The second point, then, is more significant: the way in which early experiences of home build resilience and capacity for happiness that can be drawn upon throughout our lives. It is this sense of finding our way home that can offer us the resources to deal with the difficulties of life, including feelings of disassociation, disappointment and unhappiness.

Growing up in a stable and reliable home environment allows children to watch and learn how difficulties can be resolved and how those who are troubled can be supported. Not seeing life as a cereal advert, but being able to cope better with difficult days in the future based on good experiences of coping in the past.

As you will know from recent posts, HRF supported by STI has just published Happiness and Domestic Life, which lends academic weight to this argument.  If we have a place to go back to–physically or emotionally – where our well-being has been valued, we also have a way to find that place in ourselves. A Way Home to Happiness.