Peter E. Earl and Ti-Ching Peng INTRODUCTION Home improvement activities tend to be seen by government statisticians as a form of production, not as part of leisure. However, a recurrent theme in ethnographic work on do-it-yourself (DIY) activities (for example, Shove et al., 2007; Watson and Shove, 2008) is the satisfaction people get from self-expression arising from all the hard work that goes into upgrading their homes. The amount of time people spend on home improvement activities is difficult to determine because surveys of time use tend to include this area within, for example, ‘repairs and gardening’ (Lader et al., 2006) or ‘core non-market work’ (Aguiar and Hurst, 2007). It is tempting to infer that declining hours spent by men in market-based work have, to some degree, been offset by increased time spent on home improvements, thus contributing to the sense of ‘harried leisure’ in modern society identified by Linder (1970). Impressions of women spending more time in home improvement activities would be difficult to confirm from US data, since the pattern is for sharply deceasing time in non-market work as women have increasingly taken paid work (Aguiar and Hurst, 2007, p. 976). What is clear, however, is that expenditure on repairs and home improvements represents a major growth area that, by 2002, was approaching $200 billion annually in the US (Baker and Kaul, 2002), with the UK DIY industry worth over £20 billion annually by 2004 (Williams, 2008, p. 312). Associated with this has been the increasing dominance of...
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