If You Like Stuff, then This New TikTok and Instagram Trend Is Perfect for You… but It Might Be Marie Kondo’s Nightmare

published Apr 6, 2021
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Credit: Viv Yapp

One of the first times my partner came over to my apartment, after getting the very brief tour (this was in NYC, so he basically just had to spin in a circle), he remarked very candidly and very earnestly, “I like all the things you have.” To anyone else, it could have been an insult — one more check box in the negative column for app dating and maybe the small nag they needed to purge some excess coffee mugs or something. For me though, it was basically a one-way invitation to the altar (kidding… though we did eventually get married). 

I’ve always loved being surrounded by my stuff. Even as a child, I was a mini magpie, always collecting things and dotting my bedroom with them, from my brief obsession with music boxes to a “Harriet the Spy” phase that found me roaming my suburban neighborhood, collecting “treasures” and filling a mottled notebook with (captivating, obviously) observations.

Credit: Minette Hand

My penchant for sentimental clutter evolved as I did, with travel souvenirs (I’m a sucker for a ceramic vessel) and heartfelt mementos (like my maternal grandfather’s military dog tags) taking the place of the music boxes. I’m not a messy person by nature; in fact, much of my clutter is confined to a piece of furniture I lovingly call my cabinet of curiosities. I just think, however, that your home’s design should be reflective of the life you lead and love, and what better way to do that than by surrounding yourself with things that make you happy? It’s a dichotomy that has long been in dialogue with my desire for a stylish, sophisticated home, which, for a while, had meant one thing in the eyes of the design world: streamlined, serene, and minimal

Well, not anymore, as it turns out. Maximalist decorating is on the rise again in the design world (think: bold colors, pattern-on-pattern mixing, unique furniture shapes, and standout accessories — all in one room!). And its social media-ready close cousin, #Cluttercore (which has almost 6,000 Instagram tags and counting), is making waves with its lived-in look. Picture messy beds and cushy sofas, all the plants, and tabletop surfaces flush with stuff, from miniature collections to a stack of favorite records or books. This probably goes without saying, but I. Am. On. Board. 

I think part of the clutter renaissance can be attributed to the pandemic. More people are spending time at home, and many are turning inward in reflection on what their spaces mean to them and how they want them to represent and fuel their lives going forward. For a lot of people, that means a return to functionality and fun at once — a shedding of the “should-haves” and “must-haves” the home design world often introduces and in place of that personal objects and effects that bring soul into a space and make our homes feel alive.

Sure, there’s a fine line between lived-in clutter and a full-blown mess, and yes, the patron saint of tidiness, Marie Kondo, would probably cringe at some of these spaces. Yet, this trend gets at the core of what a home should represent at its best — a “you do you” attitude that paves the way for self-expression and uniqueness. I think everyone could use a little clutter in their life, and I am thrilled at the prospect of (eventually) walking back into the homes of my friends and family to see them truly reflected by the things they surround themselves with, too. Yes, I’m also low-key happy to be able to say that my love of well-place clutter doesn’t make me a packrat — it makes me ~*trEnDy,*~ but I’d be into this look all the same if that weren’t the case. This isn’t messy without a cause; it’s lived-in with a purpose.

These days, with the exception of my beloved cabinet of curiosities, our home is taken up with clutter of a different kind: baby stuff (guys, babies have so much stuff!). While you best believe we’re going to teach our son the importance of cleaning up after himself and respecting his space, we’re also pretty okay if he wants to collect rocks (or books, or music boxes), too.