I looked at the photo of the woman perched in front of ceiling-high columns of proudly displayed shoes and felt smug. "At least I don’t have that problem!" Even so, there was something about the idea of cluttercore, the subject of The Minimalists Podcast Episode 376, that struck a chord. So, over the next week, I dug a little deeper. I found that cluttercore seems to be about creating a space furnished with a permanent exhibition of the owner's prized possessions. In some cases, the items on display are of a type, while others revel in covering every flat surface, vertical and horizontal, with a mismatched array of cherished knick knacks.
Scoff as I might, I could see why this trend became popular during a pandemic, a time of uncertainty when we sought comfort and security at home. It also struck me that the process wasn’t about giving in to the clutter, but rather intentional curation. During the pandemic, when our homes became far more multifunctional, many of us had to hone our curatorial skills in order to manage the additional inventory we needed to do our jobs, school the kids and generally stay in good mental and physical health.
And there it was, the lightbulb moment, when I realized that cluttercore had snuck into my life. Not in the form of shelves of shoes or artfully arranged kitsch pottery, but rather stationery. As the first lockdown loomed, I’d made sure I had enough pens, highlighters, envelopes, notebooks, sticky notes and staplers to keep me going, all justifiable as "essential for doing my job." And yet, here we are, a year out of lockdown and a corner of my living room still looks like a supermarket back-to-school display. Given that I’m back in the office and have unfettered access to the stationery cupboard, I no longer need these office supplies, and yet there they are, proudly displayed and carefully curated in a way that would warm the heart of a cluttercore devotee.
It needed to go, but in this digital age, where could I find people who shared my fondness for paper and pen? Of course! I work in a large hot-desking office, and out of the hundred plus people sharing the space, there are bound to be some kindred spirits. Three weeks ago, I left a box of stationery in a communal area at work with a "help yourself" note. Since then, I’ve been able to top it up several times, to the tune of around 400 items, and I’m beginning to feel the relief as I clear out the clutter.
As someone on an intentional-living journey, it is easy to dismiss cluttercore as a design trend for those wanting to rationalize, and even celebrate, the act of clinging to their stuff. I don’t have walls filled with patchworks of pictures or surfaces covered with treasures, but trying to understand cluttercore helped me see that I too have been rationalizing the act of clinging. The cluttercore lens brought it into focus, and now that I can see it, I can do something about it.