The Activities of a Home

The Activities of a Home

Exploring home life's essence, from the vital roles of sleep and eating to the significance of work, personal space, and family bonds. A journey through the multifaceted functions of our homes.


Americans spend around 17 hours a day at home. That’s a lot of hours. 

While the meaning of home is deeply personal and unique, what we do at home – the collection of activities we perform at home – is strikingly similar. Whether we live in a small city home or a large country home, we all have human lives and human needs.

Nonetheless, the way we speak about our spaces can differ dramatically. Start with rooms. My co-founder, Dane Hurtubise, does not have a “living room,” a “kitchen,” or a “dining room.” He has a space that acts as all three. Yes, he makes an effort to make the spaces feel distinct. But he would never say to his girlfriend, “Let’s hang out in the living room!”.

Rather than think about the rooms of a home or other more complicated ideas, I’ve started to think about the function of the home. It’s verbs. This is where I eat. This is where I sleep. I find this more helpful for finding a common language precisely because it emphasizes how universal our home activities are.

What, then, do we do with all 17 of those hours at home.

Sleep is the First Function of the Home

We all must sleep and sleep a lot. For many people, sleep will be the thing they do at home more than anything else.  Many Americans will spend nearly half of those 17 hours asleep. So it is today, and so it has always been.

Sleep was the first function of the home. It is notable that rats deprived of sleep die in 2-3 weeks. Meanwhile, rats deprived of food but allowed to sleep normally died several weeks later.

Sleep is costly. Predators can eat us in our sleep. We must be relatively warm and dry to sleep. Nonetheless, the need to sleep has persisted for our species and all animals since our inception. And therefore, so have bedrooms.

The first human shelters were built to provide a safe place to sleep. Across time and culture, the sleeping area remains essential, central, and sacred. The Sioux teepee had the sleeping area at its core. Zulu huts have a central raised sleeping area. 

The place where we sleep is functional and symbolic. The symbolism evolves with culture. During the Renaissance, sleeping quarters became status symbols, and noble’s bedrooms were often public spaces for courtly activities. The Great Bed of Ware – an ornate, renaissance-era four-poster bed – might be the most famous piece of furniture in modern history. 

Sleep has recently returned as a status symbol – now not for the wealth implied by the bed itself but for the wealth implied by the quality of the sleep. Multi-millionaire Bryan Johnson touts his sleep scores. Regardless of symbolism, the central function of the home remains to sleep.

Eating at Home Nourishes the Soul

When people are not asleep, everyone seems to end up in the kitchen. 

Eating is the prime industry of the home. Sleep is passive, and so requires little work outside of building and maintaining the shelter. Not so for eating. Before you can eat, you must prepare food and all that this entails. You must gather the food (or have money to pay for it), you must know or learn how to cook it, and you must serve it. All before opening your mouth to eat it. 

This is a lot of work. This is why many families lean into a division of labor and designate one primary meal preparer. While this is not true for all families, the point remains that families have to figure out, among themselves, who to do the work – who, how, and when it gets done.

In most of the world, most meals are homemade. They take place in a home. Most are made by families eating for themselves or with others. And thank goodness, because eating this way nourishes the soul in a way eating takeout or at a fancy restaurant does not. 

If sleep nourishes the individual, cooking and eating meals together nourishes the group. Eating together is an act of trust. Around ancient fires, our ancestors shared their bounties. Eating together was not just about sustenance; it was essential for social bonds, storytelling, and the earliest cultural norms. 

Eating together is also a shared experience. In my family, we talk about our days, a trip we might go on, and what’s been hard for us. We nourish our bodies and our souls. I think it is this soul-nourishing that draws people into the kitchen.

Home is a Sanctuary for Bathing and Self-care

Humans like to be clean. And certainly, most other people in our lives prefer we’re clean. The natural place to clean oneself consistently is the home. 

Rituals of self-cleaning and pruning extend beyond bathing. Since the advent of modern plumbing, our homes have also often removed our waste, which is essential to keep them clean. My good friend has a nightly ritual of applying a moisturizing cream. Sometimes, I put in hair oil. Others use makeup. Some opt for a sauna, others for a cold plunge, etc. 

The Fluid Boundary Between Home and Work

We must pay for the house, the food, and the utilities that make the house livable. After COVID-19, many homes became partial offices, even though not all homes make for good offices. 

Even if you do not have an explicit place to work in the home, you still may “take work home” in the form of a salient emotional moment from the day. Boundaries between home and work may be fluid in that you might invite work friends over to eat.

It would seem fair to say that in 2024, many of us are still figuring out how much work should take place at home. 

Home Fosters Togetherness

Families bond at home – often over meals, though sometimes over games, movie night, or some other ritual. Then some homes are community gathering places – for extended families of birth or families of choice.

I love to have people over. And I love to go over to other peoples’ homes. Sharing the space someone calls home is an intimate act. I learn much about others by visiting their homes. I’m sure others learn much about me when visiting mine. For example, my dining room table is my great-grandmother's. Family life centered around this table in her life, and now for my family.

Home Harbors Solitude

Even if you live with a large, chaotic family, you likely have one place, some of the time, you can be alone, and this space is likely special to you. Of course, you might be alone bathing, working, or getting ready for bed. This is a relatively modern though nonetheless significant phenomenon.

You also might spend most of your time alone in your home, whether you wish to or not. In this case, making a home that feels good for you to be alone in seems all the more important.

Home Knows Arrivals and Departures

My 2yo daughter taught me to say goodbye to our home when we leave it. It’s an emotionally pregnant moment. We leave the safety of “our” space out into the world. 

Similarly, we like to greet our home when we return. Again, pregnant with meaning because we are returning to safety, like a family of birds to their nest. 

Homes Contain Multitudes

I left out activities you likely do. I’d offer many of those activities that might fit into those I’ve outlined. Watching movies with family is being together. Playing video games in your room might be being alone or together (digitally connected). 

It’s also important to note that these activities are the functions of life itself. Even if you don’t have a physical home, you still do these activities *somewhere*. 

Even though we can separate the activities we do at home into similar-looking buckets, the way your hours are allocated across these buckets will be a reflection of your own unique life. Leaving aside how you allocate your hours at home, I’d like to simply offer that it follows that a well-functioning home supports these activities and does so for all of the home’s inhabitants. 

The Home as a Set of Verbs

This is a lot of activity. Even for a house of 3 like my own, we must all eat several times a day, all find time to work (my 2-year-old’s work is play), all shower or bathe, all find time and space to be together and be alone, and all have a place to sleep.

While it might seem overwhelming to consider trying to have a small space where you do all of these activities, there is a lucky phenomenon, which is that there is great virtue in making all of these things work in a small space.

Thinking of verbs rather than “rooms” in a home helps clarify for me what is important. Where do I eat alone? Where do I eat when we are together? Is the place where I sleep set up for good sleep? How do I feel when I return home? How do I want to feel when I return home?

Understanding what happens at home helps me better understand what I want in a home before I get overwhelmed by all the things I must consider when making a home. Do I like “modern” or “traditional”? What goes in a living room, anyway? 

The more intentionally you shape your home, the more you can also clarify which furniture you actually want versus what other people tell you you need. This is one of the reasons we started this site: so that you can figure out what you want with less noise.


Geoff Abraham

Co-founder & President of Spoken

Geoff is the co-founder and President of Spoken. He is a Dad. He holds a BA from UT Austin (Plan II) and an MBA from Stanford. Geoff has built several successful businesses, including a bicycle taxi business in San Francisco which he ran for 10 years with his wife, Mimosa. He is an executive coach, and he actively invests in seed-stage startups via The Explorer Fund.

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