Is Cluttercore, a TikTok Home Decor Trend, Right For You?

TikTok's latest trend is all about expressing yourself through your home. Move over minimalism and Marie Kondo, cluttercore needs your space.

Since late 2021, a new aesthetic has taken root among home decor lovers on TikTok. Tastemakers @billiamthewadford, @cowboyrasputin and @gorgonglare, among others, cultivated a cousin of maximalism called “cluttercore.” Videos with the hashtag #cluttercore, showing off the homes of TikTok users, have received nearly 60 million views.

“Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of conversation about Marie Kondo and decluttering,” says Latoya Nelson Kamdang, director of New York operations for the architecture firm Moody Nolan. But during the pandemic, Nelson Kamdang says, people went in a different direction, taking up hobbies like plant collecting or art and crafts that increased clutter.

“Whatever collections people had or whatever hobbies they took up,” she says, “I think is a result of some of the clutter culture.”

What Is Cluttercore?

Noted author and maximalist Mary Randolph Carter, after viewing cluttercore TikToks herself, says she’s delighted to see people joining in the style that makes her feel joyful. “I’ve been living and writing about it since my first book in 1994, American Junk,” she says. “What goes around, comes around.”

Maximalism requires the pairing of unexpected patterns, colors and textiles with some artful restraint. Think of famed designers Tony Duquette, Kelly Wearstler and Justina Blakeney. But cluttercore goes one step further, into the more-is-more ethos. It’s organized chaos. Designers and practitioners include collections, mementos and tchotchkes with sentimental or nostalgic value.

To paraphrase Kondo: Maybe everything you own sparks joy.

“The pandemic has definitely had an impact, with so many of us living in our homes, working in our homes,” Carter says. “We’ve had to look around and reflect on the things that matter and that give us comfort in a world that hasn’t been too comfortable.

“I just think it’s given us permission to fill our homes, pulling out things we put in the closet — books, heirloom silver, blankets and textiles and knickknacks, things that people might call clutter. But, to me, I think [these] are key to the character in our homes.”

The Cluttercore Aesthetic

“Some people find comfort in a space that has more stuff in it,” says Nelson Kamdang. “You know it feels like these spaces are coming in and enclosing you, almost like a hug.

“For a minimalist, this probably does feel like hoarding. But I think the pandemic definitely impacted the way people collect and place stuff in their homes.” Learn the difference between clutter versus hoarding. And if you are a minimalist, you may be interested to know what the best cities for minimalist living are.

The cluttercore aesthetic is:

  • Mixing and matching design eras. No sycophantic adherence to any one trend.
  • Super-full gallery walls with art and other 3D objects.
  • Curio cabinets or shelving featuring collections, memorabilia, tchotchkes and souvenirs.
  • Eclectic prints, textures and color combinations.
  • Bold colors.
  • Cozy lighting: Lamps, fairy lights, etc.

The cluttercore aesthetic is not:

  • Overly messy or dirty. There’s a method to the madness, and it should be dusted and organized. “It can’t just be a minefield of stuff, or you won’t be comfortable,” Carter says. “You need a place on the table to set your coffee cup down.”
  • Cottagecore. It’s similar to grandma’s-cottage style that embraces more vintage pieces and knickknacks, but more chaotic and collection-heavy. And it’s certainly not the plant-inspired decor trend—forestcore.
  • Hoarding. “Clutter can be beautiful poetry in a home,” Carter says. “But is it free verse, or iambic pentameter, I’m not sure.”

The Cluttercore Bedroom

A bedroom is perhaps the best place to start with cluttercore. It should be your ideal sanctuary and a place you can rest and enjoy your favorite objects. It also should be the part of your home that feels most personal, with the colors, textures and pieces that feel like you.

Because cluttercore is deeply predicated upon your individual tastes, there’s no one set of products that might make you a TikTok cluttercore star. But there are important elements to consider and address.

The most important element: Your collections. Is it vintage dolls, perfume bottles, canoe oars, tennis shoes, framed butterfly wings, books and magazines? What evokes your sense of personal style or a warm wave of nostalgia? Start here and organize your room around the proper displays or storage pieces. Trinkets, toys, tea cozies — why not?

Then, also consider:

  • Color: Bold color abounds with cluttercore. Don’t be afraid to use a bold palette.
  • Textiles: Sheets, blankets, pillowcases, tapestries — this is an easy way to add depth and tactile elements. Color, pattern and texture all factor in here.
  • Window treatments: Swap out the cold sterility of shades or mini-blinds and add drama with sheers, curtains, drapes. Use bold color or texture (velvet!) to add the awe factor.
  • Lighting: Intricate fixtures and switch plates, lamps and fairy lights all help add detail and customize the light for the occasion. Coziness is a key part of cluttercore, so make sure you have warm-white light bulbs, dimmers and/or soft lighting options for glow.
  • Wall coverings: If there’s a chance you’ll see a layer of patterned wallpaper under your gallery walls, go for it! More is more, and layers add heft and visual interest. You could also consider wallpapering the backs of your bookshelves or curio cabinets.
  • Rugs: Cultivate cozy feels underfoot. Flokatis, Oriental rugs and other shaggy, patterned ones fit the bill here. Layered rugs work as well.

“Our house is kind of like a living scrapbook,” Carter says. “For me, it’s like sacred armor, sitting at my desk and looking at a funny yellow alarm clock or statue of George Washington I once gave my brother.

“These are things that, for me, are meaningful and give me great comfort. I’ve been a maximalist all my life because I feel a soul in things, and those things give my life some kind of shape or meaning. ”

You, too? Then it’s time to express it all with cluttercore.

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Katie Dohman
Katie Dohman is an award-winning freelance writer who has written about home, design, and lifestyle topics for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured in Artful Living, Midwest Home, Star Tribune, and Teen Vogue, among many others. She is currently living her own how-to story as she and her husband work through a complete gut remodel on their 1921 home—while parenting three tiny tots and dodging their dog and cat, who always seem to be underfoot.