Cluttercore and imperfect, “normal” homes are trending; A sign that we’re done chasing perfectly curated, aesthetic, and often unrealistic living spaces.
I’m not an organized person. In fact, according to astrologers, as a Cancer, I’m the messiest sign in the zodiac. I’ve always been a clutter bug, and whenever I finally DO take the time to deep clean my closet, bedroom, kitchen, cabinet, life (ha!), you name it, it’s chaos again the next day. I try, I really do. But with work, errands, two kids…three kids if I count my husband (!!), and daily life tasks, my home—even days after my cleaning crew leaves—is cluttered again. The irony is, I’m pretty good at tossing out or donating.
I’ve wondered if I would be neater if my house was grandiose. I live in a tiny house, and when we moved in two years ago we noticed the kitchen and windows hadn’t been remodeled since 1974. I love sleek, modern homes; I love when people renovate their homes, but look…budget-wise, a full-blown home reno is just not in the wallet for us. (Thanks, inflation.) So, my heavy wood cabinets and laminate countertops stay. I guess I can argue they’re…retro?
Home decor influencers on TikTok and Instagram seemly post their coiffed, modern, and chic homes with crisp cabinetry and a gleaming kitchen table. I find myself wondering—how do they all live in these amazing houses? I envision a butler like Geoffrey from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” living in their home, or Niles from “The Nanny,” who keeps everything squeaky clean.
When these influencers post an “unboxing” video of all the free goodies they get, how come their houses are all so…neat? I’m unsure if I’m jealous, baffled, or both. You never get sick, curl up on the couch, and just think, screw that pile of dishes? If so, show that to your social media followers instead!
There’s been a trend on TikTok to normalize old-fashioned, smaller homes. I like seeing your imperfect spaces, influencers! I can relate to you more, and maybe will actually buy that silk pillowcase you’re shilling if you just showed me your 5-day-old laundry pile!
Along the same lines (but definitely more extreme), Cluttercore is becoming popular among Gen Z, with nearly 100 million views on TikTok. They define this trend as “filling your space with things you love, even if that means things get a little cluttered; An organized mess.”
@cecilybauchmann Replying to @kristitimp we bought my husbands childhood home & it’s been fun making it our own#realistichometour #normalhomewithkids #momoffour #momlifeunfiltered #motherhoodunplugged #imperfectmom #notaperfectmom ♬ Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Take it from the pros
I asked two professional home organizers what their secrets are to maintaining order at home when things (aka—life) get, well, cluttered. They also weighed in on why influencers should consider normalizing their messy moments; without shame.
“I think we have become obsessed with being Instagram-perfect. Our bodies, fashion, and our homes…It is exhausting because it is impossible to keep up with,” says professional organizer Jane Stoller aka “Organized Jane.” “And that includes our spaces. It’s literally impossible to keep a perfectly organized home 100% of the time without being totally stressed or spending 100% of your time on it!”
Stoller points out that we want to spend our time enjoying our homes and making organizing routines and systems work for us. “Of course, sometimes we can clean up for guests, photos…but it does not have to be the norm.”
When celebs post their imperfect homes, which is a rarity, are they more relatable?
They can be! For example, actress Drew Barrymore recently went viral for posting her messy bedroom (and bathroom!) with a cluttered desk. (She then pulled a camera trick to show that same room neat and organized.)
Our internet bestie Alix Earle, a Miami college student, is often considered realistic because even though she leads a charmed life, she shows followers her messy bedroom piled with clothes, schoolwork, and take-out food boxes. Maybe she fueled the Cluttercore trend?
“Celebrities normalizing their messier spaces is a great start,” says Stoller. “In the ’90s celebrities began showing us their make-up-free faces, and this helped our self-esteem! The same goes for our self-esteem about home organizing. I’d love to see more celebrities show us the inside of their junk drawers as that is where real clutter lives!”
@drewbarrymoreShow me your room before and after you clean it… I’ll go first!♬ original sound – Drew Barrymore
Size doesn’t matter
“You should never feel like your home should be ‘perfect’ because perfect doesn’t exist, and that’s the truth,” says professional organizer Shantae Duckworth. “I always tell my busy clients to take everything day by day and if everything doesn’t get done in that day, that is really okay.”
According to Duckworth, the major key to being organized is to make your home feel like you live in it. “I always suggest to clients to put their treasured items on display; show off your children’s artwork. When it comes to any home, people want to see the charm of the people who live there. That is what makes your home really feel like home.”
And, if you have to close the laundry room because you are in the middle of washing, don’t sweat it. “We are all busy people, so give yourself some grace.”
Don’t be shy to ask for help
If you really feel overwhelmed by clutter and struggle to organize even one room in the house, consider calling in a professional for help. I once used a professional organizer, and she was great. Honestly, I just don’t have an “eye” for the flow of organization bins and baskets, etc.
I was hesitant to call the professional at first because I was embarrassed. It’s awkward to admit you need help keeping your home clean. But I was having a tough pregnancy, working a stressful 9 to 5, and feeling overwhelmed by a move to a new apartment in NYC. I just couldn’t deal with the moving boxes and storage bins…My husband started a new job the week we moved, so I couldn’t depend on him at that time to step in. I also knew once things were organized and in place, the clutter from our minds would feel at ease at well.
“Professional organizers have hours upon hours of experience with all people and all situations, from spaces that needed a lot of help, to clients with personal challenges,” says Duckworth. “Professional organizers can tailor your experience to you and your family’s needs. The organizer is a fresh set of ‘eyes’ that can help transform your space into a new vision. When we live in our personal spaces, we can’t see past that. Hiring an organizer can give you clarity.”
Adds Stoller: “Professional organizers can save you so much time sorting through items, creating unique storage solutions and making your life more efficient. And you can focus on spending more time on the things you love and or growing your business and or career!”
A professional can also keep you accountable. “Just like when we hire a personal trainer they help keep us on track, so does a professional organizer.”
Spruce and save
According to Stoller, if you are looking to spruce up your 70s-style home a bit, and jazz it up on a budget while still maintaining its vibes, consider this:
Paint the wood cabinets. “Also, check the inside as you may want to add some organization dividers or shelves. Consider changing the hardware as this can change the total look of the cabinet and make it much more modern.”
Cover the grout. I myself have done this, because my bathrooms have giant tiles on the floor, and the white grout separating each tile has turned dark brown. I used a few grout pens to freshen up the grout and it looks neater. “For bathroom tile, a quick fix could be re-grouting to give the tile grout a fresh look.” Just note that “tiles are hard to do anything with unless you want to fully replace them; which can also be a fun but tough DIY project.”
Update the lights. “Lighting can help both the cabinets and bathrooms. Under cabinet lighting is very trendy right now and can be a super cost-effective easy-to-install solution.”
Invest in some plants. According to Stoller, “adding some decorations or plants to these spaces can also add a quick update without having to renovate.”
Once your home is organized thanks to the professional you called in—or when you finally had some time and mental energy to tackle the main space—here are some additional tricks to keep clatter away:
If you’re a parent, when it comes to birthdays and holidays, tell family members to gift the kids experiences or money towards their college fund. “The material items come and go but the memories from experiences last forever,” says Duckworth. “Also, be intentional about what comes into the home. When going to children’s birthday parties, inspect the party favors and immediately throw away things you know your child will not play with.”
Duckworth’s best advice to keep clutter at bay is simple—whether kiddos live in your home, or not–don’t allow clutter into your home. “Simple, but effective! Also, go through your stuff often. I go through my wardrobe every season and let go of what I didn’t wear.”
According to Duckworth, this creates room for what she may want to purchase in the future. “I go through my pantry every 6 months and let go of expired goods and goods I have plenty of. This also helps me to create new meals with the ingredients I have on hand.”
Make clean your routine
Stoller agrees about the importance of decluttering gradually—it doesn’t have to be something you do in one day. Baby steps.
“Declutter regularly, and make it part of your routine! That way, you’ll have fewer items, less to clean and re-organize, and your home will feel neat instantly.”
When cleaning yourself, or if you have a cleaning person, Stoller stresses her preference for natural cleaning products. “This is not only less expensive but better for your health. Baking soda and vinegar can clean almost anything!”
Stoller acknowledges that decluttering can be a very emotional process.
Some of us can easily declutter and get rid of everything we don’t need immediately without giving it a second thought,” she explains. “But for most of us, decluttering is not that easy and goes much deeper into our emotional need for stuff due to our consumerist society.”
In fact, Stoller shared this statistic: “According to the Huffington Post, there are more storage facilities than McDonald’s restaurants in America. At the end of 2014, there were 48,500 self-storage facilities in America compared to 14,350 McDonald’s. This further proves that getting rid of items is so difficult for us that we’d rather pay to store them!”
If you struggle to toss or donate items because they hold sentimental value, or you wonder if you’ll need them or use them again someday, Stoller says don’t stress about being judged by others—or judge yourself. “I love embracing normal homes! We don’t have to be organized or decluttered to perfection. However, clutter can affect our minds, and stress levels, and also be hazardous for tripping and other expired products.”
Harp on the motivation
I know for me, I absolutely loathe cleaning out my fridge and pantry, and financially would rather my monthly crew focuses on the main rooms in the house. So, I tell myself this: I don’t want myself, my husband, or my youngest child who is only 5, to accidentally eat something in the fridge or cabinet that is expired, which can make someone physically ill. I would never forgive myself if my Kindergartener ate something expired from the cabinet, and then fell sick, because I didn’t take 10 minutes to clean out the pantry. She can’t tell if something is moldy or milk is two weeks expired.
So, adapting that mindset has given me a little motivation to clear my fridge and pantry every other month.
“Feeling proud of your home is not necessarily related to the grandiosity or how modern your space is. It’s more about how you create a comfortable and inviting space that reflects your personality and style,” adds Stoller. “The best advice I have is to start today. Start small and make it part of your everyday routine. You do not need to tackle the entire house at once. Make a donate/sell box and put it right in a visible spot in your home as a constant reminder. Or set a 10-minute declutter alarm on your phone daily. Start incorporating it into your life and turn it into a weekly activity the whole family can participate in.”