In defense of maximalism

Last week I wrote about the joy of having only that which is joyful. But, for some, maybe that’s still more stuff than you could possibly house in an organized, minimalist way.

There’s a push back to maximalism even now, perhaps somewhat in response to having to shelter in place. According to Rebecca Jennings of Vox, the next big thing in home design is “overstuffed, garish, and glorious.

In yet another example of the odd synchronicity in my life (and everyone’s, if you’re paying close enough attention), I started reading this article from Vox after writing about how most of the items I own can be traced to the specific moment I received them and the feelings I was having, not only about them but also about life in general.

From Ms. Jennings: “To look at a maximalist home is to get a sense of what the inside of a person’s brain might look like — the places they’ve visited, their heritage, the random objects they’ve amassed over a lifetime.”

And this isn’t a singular perspective. During the pandemic, estimates for new-build home sizes have been increasing, bucking the trend towards less floorspace. Current data shows that homebuyers are requesting larger homes because “people want more space.

That’s space to set up an office, have a dedicated exercise area, or to have inside playroom for the children. What it’s sure to mean is more stuff that will end up occupying the space.

“Television shows like Hoarders, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, and now The Home Edit, in which a team of organization experts traipse through the pantries of celebrities and explain the importance of color-coding one’s nut butters, have captivated millions. 

And yet, ‘it has this sort of ‘I am declaring victory over my possessions’ [tone],’ Howard says. ‘But what an exhausting way to feel about your stuff.’ Millennial maximalism offers a different way of looking at things, one that recalls an approach more like Annika’s grandmother’s: that they can be a collection of joyful, personal, and perhaps complicated things that tell the story of one’s life.”

Of course, there isn’t one ‘right way’ and ‘wrong way’ to house your belongings. We’re all different animals, filling our homes (or keeping them empty) in the way that makes us the most joyful.

My recommendation is generally to forgo the cheaply-made brick-a-brac, instead opting for items that have value sentimentally and intrinsically. When your home is a testament to you are, you know that you’re on the right track.


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