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Cluttercore: Can organised Chaos Benefit Your Mental Health?

The maximalist mandate: How lockdowns have shifted our view on the relationship between clutter and mental health.

the relationship between mental health and clutter

The ‘clear space, clear mind’ mentality of minimalism has had an overriding association with wellness, and the beginning of the pandemic saw rise to anti-clutter mentors such as Marie Kondo, who encouraged us to take the opportunity to get rid of the things that did not provide purpose and 'spark joy'. However as the pandemic persisted and the novelty of a spring clean seemed to wear off, we saw a rise in maximalist experimentation as many turned to play to subsidise their boredom with the mundanity of lockdowns and the mental health struggles that came with it.

Mental health charity Mind states that over 67% of young people and over 50% of the adults in their study had seen their mental states worsen in line with lockdown restrictions, with some of the key contributors to poor mental health being loneliness and boredom. This is where the new wave of maximalism coined ‘clutter-core’ comes into play. With the previous wave taking place in the 1950s as a hopeful response to the dullness of war, it makes sense we would respond to the uneventful and tedious nature of the pandemic similarly, as we got back in touch with the very human need to create.

Make way for clutter-core

Lockdowns and tiktok gave birth to the new wave of chaotic good known as clutter-core, with the hashtag accumulating over 93.5 million views on the platform over the last few years. Scrolling through the tag, you quickly get sucked into a sea of busy bedroom walls, surfaces adorned with trinkets and collections of houseplants big enough to fill out your local garden centre; Within the organised chaos of the environments, you find expression and individuality. But how to define #Cluttercore? Contributing writer to Hunker Magazine, Stephanie Waldek states:

"In a nutshell, cluttercore is a maximalist design style that centres on displays of large collections of items, typically ones that have some sort of emotional or nostalgic value to their owners."

Here are just a few of the reasons why 'clutter' can have a positive impact on your mental health:

a clutter core bedroom: allowing personality and character through visual display of objects.

1. Creating a comfortable physical space to improve your headspace

Despite what minimalists and Marie Kondo may tell you, there is no harm in holding onto objects of the past even if they no longer serve a current purpose aside from maintaining a memory; sentimental objects can have a huge part to play in providing a sense of familiarity and comfort in a person's life. The links between nostalgia and mental health are undeniably strong, and particularly throughout the pandemic, nostalgia became a crux many would rely on to cope with restriction. According to Psychcentral and Dr. Clay Routledge, Associate Professor of Psychology at North Dakota State University, creating a space that fosters a collection of memories has endless benefits on a person's mental state:

"nostalgia increases positive mood, self-esteem, feelings of social connectedness, optimism about the future, and perceptions of meaning in life."

2. Maximalism sparks creativity

Minimalism as a movement often encourages these things of sentimental value to be stored away to make way for clean walls; cluttercore argues the opposite.

Surrounding yourself with visual stimulants and, what some may describe as 'organised chaos', can benefit the mind and lead to daily inspiration. Perhaps you will wake up one day and see a concert ticket on your wall that will remind you to listen to your favourite band? Perhaps you will see a photo and feel inclined to reach out to the people in it? Perhaps you will feel the urge to get up and make something?

3. It nurtures the inner child

Surrounding yourself with an array of objects, colours, patterns and more reignites this childish idea of experimentation and taps into the carefree inner child. Creating an environment that balances play, feelings of sanctuary and comfort is paramount to your mental well-being. to have a space to go back to that truly allows you to unwind and feel connected and collected. Being at peace in a space that connects you to this childlike comfortability has extensive benefits - as BetterHelp states well it can allow you to further connect to your imagination and a greater sense of creativity.

Curated chaos

Now what we’re NOT saying is hold onto every minuscule thing, The line between maximalism and hoarding is fine and it can be a slippery slope once crossed! Ask yourself if the items you are holding onto bring comfort and add to your space's identity - a piece of crumpled paper from 10 years ago making its home in the bottom of a junk draw isn’t going to benefit your space or your well-being (and that's definitely not me projecting). Taking control of your environment by curating an identity and safe space for creativity and nostalgia to flourish within is vital to improving mental health in times of loneliness and boredom. For those who align with it, the mental benefits of finding sparks of joy within organised chaos are something we are all the more starting to understand and embrace post-lockdown.


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