The coupled protagonists of Georges Perec’s materialist parable Things, Jerome and Sylvie, are 24 and 22 years old, both conductors of marketing interviews. Their dearest dream is to live in a Parisian apartment with a successfully bourgeois interior—charmingly untidy with floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, worn black leather sofa, roll-top desk—while in reality they inhabit a tiny, low-ceilinged space that they can’t bring themselves to do anything about. “They would have liked to give themselves to something, to feel in themselves some powerful need that they would have called a vocation,” Perec wrote. “But they possessed, alas, but a single passion, the passion for a higher standard of living, and it exhausted them.”
Jerome and Sylvie would have made perfect participants for a slew of new reality television shows focused chiefly on the anxieties of domestic space in late capitalism, when our identities are even more wrapped up in our possessions and the quality of rooms than when Perec wrote his story in 1965. Our rented apartments in gentrifying urban neighborhoods must be evacuated of old possessions, repopulated with upscale generic start-up furniture, and then temporarily sublet to pay the rising rent. It’s exhausting.
In Tidying Up, the pixieish Japanese cleaning celebrity Marie Kondo might help you find new organizational strategies while breaking your dependence on all the junk that doesn’t “spark joy.” The Australian Instant Hotel and British Stay Here both turn Airbnb into a competitive art form. The latter sees a pair of designers renovate participants’ properties into ideal listings for the platform while the former sets loose a raucous group of Australian couples who all stay in and evaluate each other’s home rentals. Like HGTV without the concept of total home ownership, the