Cluttercore Is Where Sentimentality and Organized Chaos Meet

This more-is-more approach to decorating celebrates collections and meaningful possessions—and is easier to do at home than you might think.

With more than 83 million views on TikTok and 30,000 tags on Instagram, #cluttercore is just the latest design trend sweeping the internet. Popularized by Gen Z as an extension of cottagecore, cluttercore is all about filling your space with things that make you happy—even if it means your room looks a little, well, cluttered. An organized mess of sentimental objects, artwork, and collections, if you will. While this bold aesthetic may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s taking off among those who love a more is more approach to design and are looking to make their homes feel more cozy and comforting.

Brie Williams
bedroom with teal walls botanical gallery wall
David A. Land

The Foundation of Cluttercore Style

Most design experts agree—cluttercore is a direct response to years of minimalism and the less is more design aesthetic, coupled with the pandemic, which changed our relationships with our homes. With people spending more time at home over the past few years, the desire for a space that is cozy and also highly personal became more prevalent.

“Surrounding ourselves with special objects that have meaning can [bring] a large sense of comfort. … After years of uncertainty and tension brought on by a pandemic, it makes sense that people would gravitate towards elements that feel like an emotional security blanket in a sense,” says Amber Dunford, design psychologist and style director at Overstock.

And although the word clutter would send Marie Kondo running for the hills, in the context of cluttercore, clutter really just means more” Cluttercore is all about artfully displaying the things you love and already own, rather than filling a room with random stuff in order to achieve a design aesthetic. The only condition? You need to have a lot of it.

white built-in bookshelves close-up
Helen Norman

Cluttercore vs. Maximalism

If the design principles of cluttercore are sounding familiar, that’s because this design trend shares some similarities with another popular aesthetic—maximalism. Maximalism is a term that was first coined in the 1970s and arose as a response to years of minimalist. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a resurgence in the popularity of maximalism as people increasingly shirk the minimalism movement once again. 

So what’s the difference between these two trending styles? Compared to maximalism, cluttercore has more of a vintage, collected vibe, says design expert Beth Martin.

“Maximalism is a movement that asks for over the top, and this is often achieved in bold colors, mixing lots of styles, and any sort of grand gesture you can fit into the space,” she says. “Cluttercore, instead, is more about showing off your massive curated collections.”

Cluttercore is an aesthetic that is focused on individuality and creating a space that tells a story, and unlike maximalism, cluttercore does not rely on themes in order to bring a space together. Rather, evoking a personal sense of joy is the driving factor. Think childhood momentos, thrifted finds, meaningful souvenirs from travels around the world, collectible figurines or trinkets, or anything else that is particularly meaningful to you.

staiway gallery nature pictures
Werner Straube

How to Achieve the Cluttercore Aesthetic

Despite its name, cluttercore is not about a space feeling messy or cluttered. Rather, it’s about displaying the objects that you love and creating personal meaning in your home. A few basic design principles will help you achieve the cluttercore aesthetic while keeping your space from looking messy.

1. Keep it sentimental.

Sentimentality is at the heart of cluttercore. Avoid filling your space with items just for the sake of achieving the cluttercore style. Instead, display items that are meaningful and bring joy and comfort to your space.

2. Stay organized.

Yes, cluttercore is all about putting your life on display, but everything should still have its place—organized chaos, if you will. Finding the line between cluttercore and messy can be tricky, but organizing your momentos and artwork is a great place to start.

“If you can tell that items belong in a particular place and everything has a home, you have achieved cluttercore,” Martin says. “It doesn't matter how many things you can fit onto your shelf if there is a method to the madness, and really, the more, the better!”

3. Keep scale in mind.

Regardless of your style, scale is a universal design principal. Keep scale in mind when you are decorating shelves, layering prints and textures, and more.

“For example, if you have a printed headboard and you want to introduce more prints via textiles, look for print options that are either larger or smaller in scale to your headboard so they don’t compete with one other,” Dunford says.

music room wood shelves piano plants
Annie Schlechter

4. Create space for the eyes to rest.

To prevent a busy space from becoming visually overwhelming, it’s important to create areas for the eyes to rest as you decorate, Dunford says. This can be achieved through creating layers and negative space

 “A simple formula might be to lean a taller piece of art, layer a medium one in front, and then place a smaller element in front, such as a plant or a cool found object from an antique shop,” she says.

5. Don’t be afraid to start small.

Let’s face it: Achieving a cluttercore aesthetic can be time consuming and expensive if you are starting from scratch, even if you are shopping second-hand. Don’t be afraid to start small before you jump head-first into cluttercore. For example, create a few isolated spaces in your home that embrace cluttercore—like a large bookcase or gallery wall—to try it out and see if you like it.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles