Cluttercore Is the Trend Many Parents Need Right Now

Think you should get rid of all the stuff in your home? The trending aesthetic of cluttercore says parents can celebrate the chaos instead.

A kitchen full of decorations and memorabilia

Ed Freeman / Getty Images

In Roxy Strickland's living room, the décor is stratified: home accessories that tickle the grown-ups' fancy live up top, and kids' stuff is lower to the ground. Adult visitors can lock eyes uneasily with a Westworld character who, in a framed poster, has flesh falling away from its robotic skeleton. Pinhead, the prickly-faced character from the Hellraiser franchise, shares the same upper shelf space with Superman and a motley crew of other figurines. Below their vivarium, where a Chinese water dragon named Lovey lives, Teletubbies stand guard next to a Buzz Lightyear toy poised to take flight.

The Los Angeles home is loaded with memorabilia and collectibles that reflect the Strickland family's passion for horror and science fiction TV shows and movies. Their pièce de résistance is their DVD collection—a library filled with shelves of neatly arranged discs that evoke the Gen X feels of a good old video store. The home Strickland and her husband, Lon, built together with their two school-age children is a love letter to the media and entertainment industry. They've always curated their space this way, surrounded by all the things they love proudly on display. 

Now their style has a name: cluttercore.

Cluttercore, like other monikers with "-core" suffix, is an aesthetic trend born out of social media. On TikTok, the #cluttercore hashtag has been used more than 80 million times alongside videos of highly-curated rooms dominated with tchotchkes, plants, and yes, posters. The design trend gives a name to a child-like aesthetic most parents already have in their homes—the gorgeous chaos of trinkets, bits, and baubles, like the pages of an I Spy book come to life. Cluttercore is the celebration of things. For parents who battle the explosion of stuff that babies and kids can bring into the house, the design trend is like a dream come true because it means your clutter is trendy now.

After hearing about cluttercore on—where else—social media, Strickland, a director of inventory for a motion picture and television prop house, felt a rush of relief.

"I felt both seen and accepted," she says. "I didn't know someone had come up with a name for my way of keeping house."

Roxy and Lon Strickland met in film school and share a passion for TV and movies that they proudly display in their Los Angeles home.

Courtesy of Roxy and Lon Strickland

Kids Are the Purveyors of Cluttercore

Cluttercore is new by name only. The collection and display of sentimental things is always trending with kids. Collecting knick-knacks like rocks and sticks (and making grown-ups hold them until pockets overflow) is a developmentally appropriate type of play, and a healthy way for kids to develop relationships with objects and themselves, says Sandra Espinoza, Psy.D., LMFT, an associate professor at Alliant International University and Los Angeles-based licensed marriage and family therapist.

For my 7-year-old daughter, her collection of (mostly broken) seashells is a treasure, she said one day while defending it from the threat of a trash bag. She likes to feel the shells' bumps and grooves. She traced their shapes and broke them—just to see what happened. Mostly, they make her feel happy, she insists, because they tell stories of a joyful family beach vacation.

Cluttercore, at its essence, is the childlike display of cherished things, and parents like Tina Bousu are here for it. "Things don't have to be 'clutter' but a collection of beloved pieces that evoke memories and just make people feel happy," says Bousu, a mom of four and an interior designer from Loveland, Colorado.

Maybe the kids are right. And cluttercore may be the trend parents need right now.

Change the Narrative Around a Messy House

Pre-pandemic, home décor was all about minimalism, with an emphasis on decluttering—and let's be honest, sometimes rage cleaning—to conform to restrictive ideas of what living spaces should look like. For families with children, living in a minimalist house can feel like waging a war with waves of stuff. In The New One, a one-man Broadway show and now Netflix special, a mountain of toys and gears drops from the ceiling and onto the stage as comedian and storyteller Mike Birbiglia demonstrates what it feels like to have a new baby. "People send you all this crap," he yells while wading through the stuff. "This is the chair that shakes the baby!"

Parent culture and retailers often encourage the accumulation of kid stuff, then decluttering gurus and services tell parents they can help them get rid of the stuff. It's a vicious cycle from which cluttercore could offer a way out.

"I do think that it is a positive way to change the narrative around a 'messy home,'" says Dr. Espinoza. "Cluttercore can relieve families of the pressure to keep an immaculate living space, especially when that expectation is made impossible by small children. By allowing parents to embrace the messiness of their lives, they can spend less time worrying about tidying up and more time living in the moment and connecting with their children and partner."

By allowing parents to embrace the messiness of their lives, they can spend less time worrying about tidying up and more time living in the moment and connecting with their children and partner.

Take Jacoba Charles, who lives in a small home that once functioned as a one-room school in Petaluma, California, so storage space is minimal. "And then there's the fact that living with a young kid is living with an agent of chaos," says Charles, a science writer and environmental consultant, about her 7-year-old daughter. In her sightline are mismatched socks, abandoned rain boots, puzzles, and tiny scraps of paper debris—evidence of a crafting project. Look a little deeper and the stuff is proof of life and love. Maybe cluttercore is the excuse parents need to stop the rage cleaning cycle.

"What mom can stay sane trying to keep her house looking like no children are there, like why?" says Bousu. "We have enough to deal with. Let the house have stuff in it."

With her design company, Bousu helps clients get in touch with their inner cluttercore enthusiasts. "I have always been a big believer that your home should reflect who you are and make you feel all the goodness that comes from being surrounded by things you love and enjoy," she says. In her own home, she has a gallery wall of her kids' artwork, unique sculptures, and a life-size wooden baby elephant affectionately named Herman.

"Do these things have a purpose?" asks Bousu. "No. But boy, do we get a kick out of them."

Cluttercore Lets You Work With What You Have

Most parents already have an inner cluttercore enthusiast. Just think back to childhood bedrooms: were your walls filled with favorite band posters or pop culture icon magazine tear-outs? If so, cluttercore was your aesthetic before there was a name for it.

"Definitely childhood me was a foreshadowing of mom me," says Charles. 

But somewhere along the path to adulthood, many of us started decorating for other people. "As we age, some of our values change—and that's OK," says Keisha Henry, MSW, LCSW, a psychotherapist in Boca Raton, Florida. For Henry, the defense of clutter is highly individualized. "I think the question should be, 'How is the stuff helping you psychologically—emotionally, mentally, and spiritually?"

In Strickland's house, cluttercore is a way of life. She always admired minimalist design from afar. Every time they moved to a new place, she flirted with the idea of keeping the walls bare and things hidden in drawers. But then the posters go up and Pinhead comes out.

"Our children will grow up knowing exactly who their parents are and what brings us happiness and they will be encouraged to explore their own interests and share them openly with us," says Strickland.

Like most things on social media, cluttercore content on TikTok and Instagram is highly curated, with rooms artfully filled with stuff that, even if thrifted, costs money. In that way, cluttercore may seem inaccessible, but enthusiasts say the essence of cluttercore is to work with what you have, especially if it's a life-size wooden baby elephant.

"Cluttercore is about embracing the here and now and the things that make you happy," explains Dr. Espinoza. "I think if parents can just stay with that essence, of embracing their homes the way that they are, they can redirect that energy to connecting with their family."

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