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Home and interiors

Cluttercore: how the maximalist aesthetic taking over TikTok is helping women with ADHD

Cluttercore is more than just the latest interior trend filling our feeds; for many women with ADHD, the messy, maximalist aesthetic is helping them live their day-to-day lives more easily. Eleanor Noyce investigates. 

I love bright, clashing colours. Anything goes, from stripes with leopard print to pink with red, and when I moved into my first flat in London, I wanted to curate a haven that really represented my identity.

My space may be limited, but no element of my flat is boring: I have vivid prints, walls full of eye-popping, contrasting colours and bundles of houseplants and trinkets in every corner. I even covered my industrial brown fire door in a rose gold tinsel curtain.

But, it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with ADHD at 23 that I finally understood why I was obsessed with excess. 

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ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, “impacts the parts of the brain that help us plan, focus on and execute tasks”. It’s thought that ADHD brains have different, often lower, levels of dopamine, which is the quick-acting “feel good” hormone and neurotransmitter that provides instantaneous stimulation.

Dopamine is released when your brain is expecting pleasure or a reward, this can be through sugary foods, social contact, shopping or, more unsuspectingly, flamboyant interior design.

My ADHD diagnosis changed my life. For years I struggled with time management, mental hyperactivity and depressive episodes. I also wrestled with object permanence. This is the “ability to understand that objects exist when they are out of sight”, which means I like to put every item I hold dear out on display so I can truly cherish it.

Recently, I realised I wasn’t alone in my attraction to excess. A growing community of women with ADHD have begun showing off their colourful rooms packed full of objects on TikTok using the hashtag #Cluttercore to explain how they are intrinsically drawn to excessive interior design.

Cluttercore, which has over 33 million views on TikTok, is maximalism for the 21st century. The antithesis of minimalism, the aesthetic celebrates ‘stuff’ and is all about bringing together objects in a chaotic but organised way so your home truly reflects you.

It’s an aesthetic that operates on a “more is more” ethos. It’s a borderline excessive approach to interior design, platforming abundance through bright colours, busy patterns and heavy decoration. However, unlike traditional definitions of clutter, more decoration doesn’t mean the objects become less meaningful. Instead, each object is displayed because it is meaningful. 

Women with ADHD have taken to TikTok to explain how cluttercore feels like another vivid personality trait of ADHD. While other women in the cluttercore community offer advice on how to transform a home into an ADHD-friendly space, for example incorporating interior accessories with reflective surfaces to increase object permanence and dopamine or using storage with glass doors so important objects are always visible.

As users with ADHD share pictures of their expertly cluttered rooms, each one wonderfully unique and personal to them, the TikTok cluttercore community is proving it’s OK to be a little untidy. In fact, it’s a normal and beautiful part of ADHD.

For Betty, a lifestyle blogger based in Scotland who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2021, the TikTok cluttercore community has given her self-confidence and meaning. “Each room in my flat has a different theme and I collect things that give me joy,” Betty tells Stylist. “My living room is green and I find that so grounding. My office is orange and I can’t help but feel happy and productive when I’m in it.”

“Creating collections of objects is such a unique thing to each person with ADHD,” she adds. “I am so thankful to TikTok – it helped me push forwards and find a reason for how I live in my home.”

Examining the relationship between ADHD and characteristics typical of hoarding, one study published in the peer-reviewed Depression And Anxiety medical journal, found people with ADHD were more likely to prioritise excess in their homes. According to the paper, 41.9% of ADHD participants exhibited hoarding behaviours or a preference for clutter, compared to just 29.2% of participants without ADHD.

“Women with ADHD are more likely to experience anxiety and depressive symptoms, so bright colours, lightboxes and evocative decorations can be hugely beneficial, providing an outlet for stress and aiding with clearer thinking,” Dr Tom MacLaren, consultant psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health tells Stylist. “Galaxy lights, evocative wallpaper, ornaments and a varied colour palette can provide stimulation.”

Indeed, adaptations to an interior setting can vastly improve the ADHD experience. Leanne Maskell, ADHD coach and author of ADHD: An A To Z, who was diagnosed aged 25, recommends that people should “figure out what their needs are and adapt their environment to suit them”.

“Have washing baskets in every room, designated places for your objects and visual reminders like wall clocks,” says Maskell. “I have a hammock for novelty, a SAD lamp and fairy lights to help me through winter darkness and a weighted blanket to help me sleep.” 

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All in all, my flat is a collage of my life; a collection of my experiences. Gazing around my home gives me an instantaneous happy feeling: this space is me and it’s mine.

My ADHD diagnosis has given me clarity, so now I’m free to understand why I think the way I do, decorate the way I do and live the way I do. So, I’ll continue to collect those little sources of dopamine and place them, lovingly, in my home.

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