Clutter has always had a negative reputation. It’s the single glove missing its counterpart you stuff in a closet before company comes; the random piles of mail and bills that over time become a part of your décor; the empty boxes you’re saving for later that get relocated to sit just outside the Zoom frame. Instagram-worthy? Clutter is not. That is, until recently. Thanks to TikTok, clutter is actually undergoing a massive rebrand.
The New York Times recently wrote about this fact: How messiness in the form of clutter now comes with “it-girl” qualities attached. It’s artful—intentional even. Countless TikToks (like this one and this one) even go so far as to romanticize clutter. To have it is to defy gender expectations. How dare anyone suggest that women maintain orderly domestic spaces? Per this report, clutter—but also chaos—is much more in vogue.
On the one hand, hear, hear. The picture-perfect aesthetic, long ordained on Instagram and Pinterest—and, let’s be real here, by women’s lifestyle content in general—sets an impossible and, frankly, unwelcome ideal. Those beige and clutter-free surfaces may photograph well, but they hardly ever show signs of the beautiful, messy lives we lead. Where’s the stack of unread catalogs? The build-up of kid toys? The random knickknacks—all treasures—that never seem to find a permanent resting spot? Conveniently out of frame, we’re guessing. (That’s clutter’s forever destiny, of course.)
Still, is the “messy girl” aesthetic just as contrived as the clutter-free surfaces it rails against? The stuff of youth and an existence that’s more carefree? It’s true that the pressure valve needs to be released here—it’s not sustainable for women to forever make their domestic existence perfectly presentable—but, in my opinion, total chaos is also a no-go.