Monday, July 8, 2024

Minimalism vs. maximalism

I've always had an interest in interior design. This is hilarious, of course, since I have absolutely no talent for it whatsoever. Nonetheless I have many coffee-table-sized books on various interior aesthetics. It started with a book on Shaker style I purchased in high school and, most recently, a copy of "The Not So Big House" purchased in a used-book store a couple years ago. In my younger days, I even subscribed to Architectural Digest, though the vast majority of each issue is nothing but advertisements and the rest are high falutin' design styles that do nothing for me.

Of all the possible design styles out there, I've always been most attracted to minimalism. While I don't care for bare stark white rooms, I admire the aesthetic of clean spaces with lots of wood trim (I think the term is "warm minimalism").

Which is why, ironically, my own personal decorating style (if you can call it that) leans more toward what is called "maximalism." How embarrassing.

Maximalism, according to Wikipedia, is "an aesthetic of excess. The philosophy can be summarized as "more is more," contrasting with the minimalist motto "less is more."

The interior decorating trend appears to be geared toward "curated collections," whether artwork or books or glassware or whatever floats your boat. Colors and patterns are embraced, not rejected. The entire goal is to be comforting and welcoming. It's described as a "space that tells your story" and "a happy interior style."

What appears to tip us away from anything even remotely resembling minimalism is our book collection. Maximalism, is seems, is just made for book collectors. In a minimalistic lifestyle, books you've read in the past have no place in a home (with few exceptions) because they represent both physical and visual clutter. Minimalism favors library books, audio books, ebooks, or other temporary or non-tangible options. Me, I like books. Heavy, paper, physical books.

I've been saving favorite books since my high school days. There's no way I'm ever going to get rid of them. In fact, despite the capacious shelves Don built when we moved into our house in late 2020, the shelves are overflowing ... which is my fault entirely. (Don has a collection of literally thousands of books, but they're on his computer.)

Another factor putting us squarely in the maximalism camp is our house size. We downsized to a home well under one-third the size of our old place (not counting Older Daughter's side of the house, our living space is 1,000 square feet), so certain things (such as jigsaw puzzles and photo albums) are by default on display rather than stored in distant corners. We trimmed and pared down on things we no longer needed or wanted, and "curated" (that seems to be an important word) the things we wanted to keep. When we had our massive yard sale last summer, it was in part to get rid of things we no longer wanted or needed. Nonetheless, space in our home is at a premium, closets (except for small ones in the bedroom) are nonexistent, and we must make do with visually displaying and living among the things we choose to keep.

That said, there seems to be a camp which is a blend between minimalism and maximalism into which we fall. Maximalism doesn't mean you go out and buy "stuff" for the sole purpose of displaying it. Rather, it seems to be the opportunity to display objects or collections you've inherited, thrifted, assembled, or otherwise acquired through frugal means.The lines of a home's interior d├ęcor can still be clean and, yes, minimal. But the resident is comforted by the presence of comfortable and cherished furnishings.

Despite having a "maximalistic" style, I still like clean surfaces, uncluttered countertops in the kitchen, and other expressions of order.

What I try not to do is cross the line into clutter. "Cluttercore," as the name implies, is embracing one's inner collector and having spaces filled so with many objects that it's often difficult to clean and (to me) visually unappealing. In some cases it may even bear some resemblance with borderline hoarding.

I still admire the heck out of minimalism ... but I'm afraid it's not me.


  1. I love puzzles and have hundreds, I've found the best way to store them to save space is to ditch the box and keep them in quart or gallon size bags with the description written on the bag, then cut off the small side pictures for reference and toss them in the bag. I store them in a mouse-proof shed in plastic tubs by size and when I want any I just grab a few and bring them inside. We're a family of 4 in an old farm house a little under 1000 square feet so also deal with lack of space. For those with huge CD or DVD collections, the big DVD wallet/binders they sell are great for consolidating those, we have our DVDs sorted by type and use a different colored binder for each genre, they are cheap on Amazon and have all sizes and colors, works for video games too if people play them.

  2. I was having trouble posting this comment so I hope you don’t get duplicates.

    Like my clothing choices, I prefer the things in my home to be practical, as opposed to pretty or decorative. There is a smidgen of decorative, though. After two moves in seven years, with the buyers of both houses wanting all our furniture, and because I dislike shopping of any kind, we have been sort of forced into a minimalistic style I call “eclectic zen”.

    That book, The Not So Big House, has some very good ideas. Another interesting book, blog, web site is by the architect, Paula Baker-Laporte, Eco Nest Architecture, who specializes in building non-toxic, healthy homes. Doing a whole home in this style is beyond our budget, but probably some ideas could be incorporated.

  3. I find looking at minimalist rooms soothing to the eye. But I like my books (only read e-books if that’s the only way I can get a title), and my treasures. Keeping the clutter down to a dull roar is another thing entirely.

  4. I really like that first picture a lot. It works. It would work well in a tiny house ( less than 500 sq ft) or a cottage. One of the best things about it are the glassed in cases along the wall. So much storage and so sleek. I'd fill it with books, quilting fabics, and yarns, and rest easy. Living in the country is dusty and I have a neverending war with mice. Those cabinets look possibly mouse proof. Anyway, it looks easy to get comfortable in and keep clean.

    One thing about small homes is that temperature extremes can affect them, and those cases all along that wall also is a wise form of additional insulation.
    When we're young, minimalism and decor are much easier to do. But time just multiplies books!, fabric hoarding, and yarns, ( I love textiles), and cherished things passed down from loved ones no longer here.
    And back to books, most libraries are simply inadequate. You need copies of written words that feed your soul almost like you need a Bible.

  5. Obviously the people inventing this stuff (interior designers?) don't know anything about homesteading! I'm sure my "style" would be frowned upon as "cluttered" but it's all stuff we need and use: tools, canning jars, food preservation equipment, cheese making stuff, beekeeping equipment, bowls, pots, and pans to make real food from scratch (but no microwave), hand tool backups for the convenience tools we use, livestock paraphernalia, firewood, kindling, and of course jars and jars of canned and dehydrated foodstuffs. And then there's my "hobby" with it's loom as big as a room, spinning wheels, sewing machine, drawers of accompanying equipment, and boxes and shelves of yarns, fabrics, and fibers. And lets not forget the books. All physical paper books (that no one can delete without my permission) and mostly non-fiction practical resources.

    Now, if I simply bought what I needed at the grocery or take-out store very day, I wouldn't need all this stuff. I could even live in a tiny house with one change of clothes and be entirely dependent on the system. My lifestyle would allow for minimalist and I could make a hobby of virtue signaling about other people being hoarders. :o

    Sorry about that, I'm getting carried away, lol. It's just that some lifestyles don't fit categories like this. Truth be told, I'm actually anti-maximalist, because more stuff out means more dusting! In the end, I don't have time to think about trends in interior decor. In fact, I need to go out right now to check water buckets and pick some green beans.

  6. Heh. Book-loving person here, and husband has old tools displayed everywhere. We are definitely not minimalists. I admire the look, but I need my art supplies and carving tools. He needs all his fancy/schmancy modern tools and antiques.