“Recluttering” Is the Celebration of Stuff You Need Right Now

published Nov 14, 2023
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Recluttering is a celebration of your stuff — stuff that you just want to hold on to, stuff that makes you happy, stuff that makes you feel nostalgic for a moment, a memory, or a loved one. We’re sharing stories from people about their collections, heirlooms, and more. Head here to read them all!

Laura Evans’ collection of vintage makeup is so much more than just “stuff.” 

It’s a reminder of all the time she spent scouring antique stores with her boyfriend and her best friend — and the thrill of finding a beautiful compact or retro lipstick tube among all the other odds and ends. It’s an acknowledgement that someone else once cherished and valued a particular beauty product, and that she now has a responsibility to take care of it. And it’s a direct tie to her own family, passed-down pieces from her grandma and great-grandma.

Evans has shelves full of historic cosmetics, and yet, she’s always on the hunt for more. Why? Because these items bring her joy.

“There are layers that make those items meaningful to me,” says Evans, 28, who shares photos and videos of her collection on her popular social media channels. “I love to be surrounded by things that interest me or connect to history in some way.”

In this same spirit, it’s time to start celebrating your stuff — the sentimental clutter, the family heirlooms, the belongings you just can’t bear to part with while organizing your home. This philosophy goes by many different names — “dopamine decor,” maximalism, cluttercore, clustering, “girl mess” — but we’re dubbing it “recluttering.”

Whatever you want to call it, recluttering is all about honoring and showing off what’s in your space in ways that feel authentic to you. 

This isn’t a suggestion to declutter only to reclutter, though. (So if you recently completed our Decluttering Cure, or are still working your way through, don’t worry.) Instead, it’s an acknowledgement that certain belongings and collections can — and often do — transcend their intended purposes to become something much more meaningful. It’s embracing the fact that “stuff” is a big part of what makes you feel at home, in your own home.

“Having a home filled with items that make you smile or feel good is wonderful,” says Rachel Moore, lead designer for ​​Madison Modern Home in California. “It’s what connects us to our feelings of belonging and safety.” 

There’s no need to find the logic behind why the stuff that makes you happy makes you feel that way. For some people, it’s a Whitney Houston memorabilia collection. For others, it’s picking up matchbooks whenever you travel.

Some people prefer to be surrounded by just a handful of belongings with deep meaning, choosing a more minimalist approach to their home. Others prefer a more maximalist approach, and want to be surrounded by lots and lots of things that make them feel warm and connected to the experiences they’ve had.

Wherever you fall on that spectrum, you should strive to have items in your home that lift you up and help you feel inspired, says Moore. “Items with soul can imbue our homes with good vibes,” she adds.

However, recluttering shouldn’t just be a free-for-all. There are a few key tenets to keep in mind as you decide what to fill your home with.

It Should Make You Feel Good

This one may seem obvious, but it’s actually pretty nuanced. Brenda Scott, a professional home organizer and the owner and operator of Tidy My Space, says she loves the warm, connected feeling she gets when she looks at an antique clock that used to belong to her grandparents. But she finds the clock’s ticking and chiming to be annoying. As a compromise, she keeps it in her home, but just doesn’t wind it up.

Lauren Saltman, a professional organizer and the owner of Living. Simplified. agrees with the approach of holding onto items like family heirlooms in a way that really makes you happy. “It’s a wonderful feeling to know you are eating dinner on grandma’s beloved table or sitting in your uncle’s favorite chair,” she says. “The key to enjoying these family heirlooms is that you actually use them and enjoy them. If you don’t like the look of grandma’s table, consider refinishing it. The same with your uncle’s chair — new fabric can go a long way.”

Find the Balance

You don’t necessarily need to define yourself as a “minimalist” or a “maximalist” — or something else entirely to explain why you hold onto things. The trick is to surround yourself with as many meaningful belongings as feels comfortable to you — and recognize that your feelings toward those things might change over time.

“Finding the right balance that makes you happy in your home might be a lifelong pursuit for some of us,” says Saltman.

If you live with roommates or a significant other, it goes without saying that your favorite things shouldn’t detract from their experience of being in the space. Ideally, you’ll have enough room for everyone’s cherished belongings. For instance, while Evans has her stash of vintage makeup, her boyfriend, a chef, has a “pretty extensive” collection of vintage cookbooks, she says.

Reframe Your Approach 

Practically speaking, one way to go about recluttering your home is to incorporate it into your home organizing process, says Saltman. Reframe your approach by asking yourself, “What do I want to keep?” instead of, “What do I want to get rid of?” 

“It’s a subtle difference, but the result is significant,” she says “Your home will be filled with items that are meaningful and useful to you and your family.”

Especially when it comes to family heirlooms and gifts, you might feel a sense of guilt or pressure to hold onto something when it’s just not meaningful to you. These negative feelings tend to be amplified if the person who gave it to you has died, says Scott. 

If you’re struggling, consider taking a photo of the belonging for your memories, then donating it or passing it along to another family member. Or, if you’d really like to keep it, consider refurbishing or repurposing it, says Scott. 

Celebrate Your Stuff 

Above all else, surround yourself with belongings you love — and display them loudly and proudly in your space. Whatever those favorite items are — whether it’s a special collection that’s been passed down through your family for generations or just whimsical tchotchkes that make you smile — they’re sure to help boost your mood and make you feel ultra-comfortable at home. 

For Evans, her collection of vintage makeup never ceases to spark joy. “It’s important to surround yourself with what makes you happy and can help you express your individuality — especially if you’re someone who spends a lot of time at home,” says Evans.