Has Minimalism Had Its Moment?

photo by 2nd truth photography

In Marie Kondo’s best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, she describes “tidying” as a method of parting with anything that no longer “sparks joy” in one’s life. Many credit the Japanese organizing consultant and author with leading the charge of the minimalist-design movement, which seems to have taken over every magazine cover, advertising campaign, Instagram feed, and Pinterest board in sight.

Lately, I’m struck by how many images on these visual media follow the same formula: a precisely framed photo capturing a few thoughtfully arranged, modern-design items with cool tones and a whole lot of white space. And I’m not alone—a new Tumblr blog dubbed The Kinspiracy offers a biting critique of the strikingly similar Instagram feeds of Kinfolk magazine fans, who are clearly obsessed with the ubiquitous coffee cup with latte art.

And that’s just the beginning of the backlash. The New York Times recently published an essay about the crippling guilt and anxiety caused by having stuff in the face of countless magazine articles and entire books promoting the minimalist lifestyle.  

I’m no stranger to this guilt and anxiety. Over the past month, I’ve dedicated much of my free time to decluttering and organizing my apartment in anticipation of an upcoming move. In fact, every season, I go through every piece of my wardrobe and decide whether it’s worth keeping or not. It’s sometimes painful to part with my belongings—whether because something no longer fits or I’m out of storage space. To me, it’s always good to have options—many times I’ve lamented having given away a piece of clothing or accessory when I find myself wanting to wear it again.

The Times article suggested celebrating the art of clutter. I second that. Over the course of our lives, we collect little treasures. They bring to mind a memorable trip, help us remember a dear friend or family member, or simply are something that “sparks joy” at their sight. I still proudly display my 1920s decorative dolls (even though most would consider them more than a little creepy), my collection of fashion and design books, a hand-painted ceramic skull from a trip to Mexico, more pieces of delicate vintage glassware than necessary, and priceless paintings and curiosities by local artists.

For me, there is a happy medium somewhere between minimalism and maxed out. I may wrestle with my closet rack every time I try to jam in one more new piece, but that doesn’t mean I’m begging to be featured on an episode of Hoarders. I could look at empty walls, but I’d rather have them reflect my experiences, inspirations, and personality.