Let’s get one thing straight for starters. There is a big difference between clutter and cluttercore. Clutter is the collective term for redundant or misplaced possessions that quickly become a crippling mess. Think of it as the invasive kind of interiors. Not good.
Luttercore, on the other hand, is an internet aesthetic characterized by bright colors, clashing patterns, and lots and lots of objects. It’s borderline messy, but it takes a lot of skill to get it right. With 22,067 posts on Instagram and 41 million views on TikTok, #cluttercore emerged in the context of its country sisters #cottagecore and #cabincore and their moody cousin #darkacademia.
Unlike most interior styles, which are dictated by fashion and commerce, all four aesthetics are driven by imagination. Cluttercore in particular refers to an emotional connection to objects and the way we depict them. It can also have broader benefits. There are still many studies on the correlation between neurodiversity and cluttercore, but there is evidence that some people whose brains function differently may find the aesthetic both energizing and calming.
In February, Eleanor Noyce wrote in the British publication stylist on how her ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) diagnosis helped her understand her affinity for decorative excess. ADHD brains are believed to have lower levels of the “feel good” hormone dopamine.
Many people with ADHD find that viewing lots of objects, bright colors, and clashing patterns gives them a little dopamine boost. Noyce also describes how she struggles with object permanence, “the ability to understand that objects exist when they are not visible”. Seeing her possessions on display helps her calm down.
“The way I design my home is the way I have always designed my home,” says Kath Hitchings. “I want to decorate the house in a way that I find calming and I have a strong equating of color and joy. It took me years to curate!”
During the lockdown, Hitchings posted photos of her bright and eclectic home to Instagram. Think orange walls, a turquoise fridge, a bird-printed table, a toadstool chandelier, plants on steroids, a sugar-pink microwave, lots of knitwear, and lots of different bunting.
Hitchings, who also runs the art department at a special needs school in Cranleigh, England, is a very organized person. “The way I plan and furnish my home is incredibly well thought out. There is balance and counterbalance. If you study art history, you learn all that.”
Hitchings first points out the importance of distinguishing cluttercore from hoarding, which is often an issue that needs to be addressed. “I like nothing better than a big declutter,” she says. “I would like to throw away my husband’s things. My own is a bit more difficult.” She is speaking to me from a bedroom with a bright orange refrigerator in the corner of the room.
“This got a lot of love on Insta but then it stopped working so I got my husband and son to put it up there. It works fine as a closet but I forgot the freezer still works and I froze the panties.” I show a number of interesting ships above the lintel.
“These are cans of a fizzy drink. Sainsbury’s had them for 25p. I bought lots of them, cut off the tops and put plants in them. I love supermarket kitsch,” she says. “There are always interesting things. You just have to have the eyes to see them.”
One of the best things about Cluttercore is its accessibility. “My aesthetic is all about making things cheap,” Hitchings explains. “My aunts taught me to knit when I was 13 after a traumatic event and it became a woolly lifeline! I knit flea market yarn and we have a sofa that cost 50p. And I don’t buy plants anymore. They only spread. There is beauty and wonder everywhere, but not everyone has the ability to put color together.”
One of the pitfalls of Cluttercore is the desire for instant results. “People want a more colorful style, but they’re struggling to get out of the starting block. They think they can have it all right away, but it takes years to set up and the poor loved ones probably don’t even know what a flea market is!”
The key to cluttercore, she notes, is that it has to be practical. You have to be able to find things. “My husband is color blind, which is wonderful. I once painted the whole ceiling with colorful dots and he didn’t notice it for days. With Cluttercore, the biggest issue is who you live with, and my good fortune is that I ended up with someone who really doesn’t care as long as they can find their socks.”
I think of the famous saying that was first applied to interiors in the Isabella Beeton The Book of Housekeeping (1861): “A place for everything and everything in its place.” It has become the slogan of the decluttering movement, but oddly enough it may also apply to Hitching’s home.
If you want to see cluttercore in action, check out Joanne Mooney’s room set at the Ideal Home Show, taking place April 1-3 on RDS. This is one room in a series created by designers in collaboration with DFS.
“For me, it’s all about bringing your personality into your home,” explains Mooney. “It’s an eclectic mix of everything.”
Like Hitchings, Mooney is a fan of handwork. “I’m obsessed with wool!” she says. “I make die-cut textile art from my own designs. It’s very therapeutic. You put down your cell phone and lose yourself in it. When hitting, all the frustration is vented on the fabric.”
See @knitchings, dfs.ie, idealhome.ie, joannemooney.ie.
https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/interiors/welcome-to-cluttercore-organised-chaos-bold-colours-and-a-multitude-of-accessories-41483832.html Welcome to Cluttercore – organized chaos, bold colors and a variety of accessories