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Move over, Marie Kondo — maximalism has arrived

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Zoe Romanowsky - published on 11/18/21

Social media calls it #cluttercore and designers refer to it as "creative chaos" -- but for many of us it's simply permission to be ourselves.

Moms everywhere will be thrilled to hear that there’s a new trend in town when it comes to home decorating and organization. It goes by a few names — maximalism, creative chaos, and #cluttercore on social media.

But as a recent BBC article points out, the shift is not so much about being messy or disorganized, but about embracing patterns and textures, and loving what you already have. 

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For years, we’ve been told that minimalism is the bomb; that we needed to de-clutter, keep everything tidy, and refrain from having lots of items. Japanese organizing consultant and author Marie Kondo is minimalism’s most popular ambassador. She’s written four books on home organization using minimalist principles that have sold millions of copies world wide.

Many of us, however, could never quite make Kondo’s minimalism a reality. How many moms with kids can keep all their surfaces tidy? Who has the time or budget to get rid of everything and replace it with items they’d prefer? And what kind of home worth living in has only a small number of books (as some have said Kondo recommends)? Minimalists surely can’t be homeschoolers or bibliophiles.

In large part, we have the pandemic to thank for the arrival of #cluttercore. It’s changed the way we live and how we relate to our living spaces. Many of us now work at home, our kids may still be schooling at home, and our family routines have changed. Life will never return to exactly what it was — and in some respects that’s a good thing.

When it comes to the way we are at home now, Jennifer Howard, who wrote Clutter: An Untidy History, says the pandemic has cause a movement of “self-swaddling:” 

“We want to feel safe, we want to feel comfortable, we want to feel protected and taken care of – stuff can act like a literal cocoon,” she told the BBC

Familiar stuff is comforting and provides a feeling of protection and security. We value our family photos, the quilts grandma made, the rugs we brought back from a trip overseas, the crayon drawings of our kindergartner. For many of us, our “mess” has helped to give us a sense of normalcy and comfort through the pandemic.

Marie Kondo’s guiding principle to only keep what “sparks joy” is actually not that far off from the maximalism motto of surrounding yourself with items of meaning and arranging it all in an intentional way. The latter is just a whole lot more relaxed and doesn’t turn its nose down on putting things in storage.

#Cluttercore is arguably also a more Catholic way to live. The material world is a gift from God. We are embodied beings who experience goodness, truth and beauty through our senses. The items we surround ourselves with affect our mood, our energy, and our well-being. Our homes are meant to be places of nurture and formation, for creating memories, resting and healing, and offering hospitality to others.

So it’s worth thinking about how we can make our homes into havens that meet our family’s needs, and that reflect who we are and the values we hold dear. Our guiding principle is perhaps not merely what sparks joy, but also what nurtures our souls and allows us to love others.  

So if you prefer simpler interiors and uncluttered rooms, that’s great, but if you’ve got piles of papers on side tables, and rugs that don’t match your walls, the era of #cluttercore is your time to shine. 

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