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Cluttercore: the pandemic trend for celebrating stuff, mess and comfort | Life and style

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In the past few months, the pavement outside my flat has been taken over by stuff: baby baths, filing systems, books, stools. People leave them, others take them; no money exchanges hands. It’s a well-established, sustainable micro-economy – and, according to my neighbour, whose bedroom window opens on to this pavement, it’s becoming a problem. “You have to ask: where did this crap come from – and where’s it going to go?”

Clutter has emerged, dusty and triumphant, as a defining byproduct of the pandemic. Yet we are undecided on what to do with it. “Forced inside, some people have been decluttering, absolutely, but I’ve noticed others actively re-embracing their stuff,” says Jennifer Howard, author of Clutter: An Untidy History. “The pandemic has forced us to reevaluate what we have, make better use of objects and space … and also see their value, often for the first time.”

Howard, who works from home, has witnessed (among other things) what she calls a “renaissance” in encyclopedias used as laptop stands. In some corners of social media, such reappraisal of forgotten belongings goes by another name: cluttercore. On TikTok, videos hashtagged #cluttercore have almost 2m views. On Instagram, there are about 1,300 posts. Many of these feature beds piled up with clothes and walls papered with pictures. Other images have a cosier feel: clothes sandwiched neatly together, walls crammed with paintings and mantelpieces groaning under mementoes. The idea of cluttercore exists in loftier places, too: in the current online issue of Modern House, Alison Lloyd of Ally Capellino waxes fondly about the “organised clutter” of her decorated eggs, postcards and tasteful bric-a-brac.

Cluttercore devotee Amy-Louise Holton, 36, who lives in Brighton, East Sussex, makes and sells clothes on Etsy. She describes her clutter of fabrics and threads as “part of the creative process”. Irina Balog, a 32-year-old interior designer from Gothenburg in Sweden, agrees. She says cluttercore “is both an aesthetic and an emotion … I’ve basically done this since I was a teenager, so this is not new to me, even though the word is. The way I decorate my space is part of who I am.”

For a generation that rent rather than buy, clutter can be a lifeline. “I’ve accepted the fact that I won’t own a house so making [my home] joyful and cosy is really important,” says Holton.

Amy-Louise Holton’s home.



Amy-Louise Holton’s home. Photograph: Image supplied by Amy-Louise Holton

TikTok’s depiction of cluttercore is often bedroom-based, and advocates honesty over aspiration. The spaces tend to be cramped, intimate and lived in, and the commentary lighthearted. Clothes clash, angles are off. It’s the opposite of the broad, bland perfectionism pedalled by Instagram – more importantly, it’s inclusive.

Stuck inside during febrile times, our social lives much diminished, we may be more likely to fall prey to consumerism. But clutter can mean something other than the excess mess made by an accumulation of things we don’t really need. For some, clutter is being repurposed for pandemic life: the “living chair” in my bedroom moonlights as a laundry basket and folding pile, for example, and my ceramic pot now holds pens instead of plants. Cluttercore’s aesthetic is often hashtagged alongside #cottagecore, though the latter feels more like a lifestyle for which clutter (the cosy, country kind) has a walk-on role.

Joseph Ferrari, who studies the psychological impact of clutter at DePaul University in Chicago, describes home as a “situation for living” and a foundation for identity. Home is not simply a place, he says, “it is an extension of our selves, a living archive of memory”. It is now also an office, a nursery or any other number of things. It is something to be looked at, as well as lived in, a duality many of us have yet to accommodate six months on from the first lockdown. We may not be entertaining friends, but we are inviting colleagues in via Zoom. We have upended the role of our home entirely; it must function not only as a nest but as proof that we are holding it together.

Typically, an abundance of clutter has the power to undo that. It’s no surprise that critics of clutter, Ferrari included, tend to be homeowners. But what if we were able to reclaim it? Asked about his writing habits in 1967, the novelist Christopher Isherwood told the BBC that he “prefers to be around his own things”. He would often get up from his desk and open a book at random, “and just take a swig at it”. One artist friend told me that quarantine was her most productive period because she was forced to sketch things inside the home, many of which she hadn’t looked at for years.

Clutter as creative ... Francis Bacon in his studio.



Clutter as creative … Francis Bacon in his studio. Photograph: Graham Wood/ANL/REX/Shutterstock

Some of the greatest creative minds lived a cluttered life: Virginia Woolf, Francis Bacon, Iris Murdoch. In her essay Making Home, Rachel Cusk talks about Murdoch’s emphatic “rejection of domestic servitude” as gender-led, as if by “ceasing to care about our homes we could prove our lack of triviality, our busyness, our equality”.

Of course, one woman’s clutter is another woman’s trash, and how we view it depends entirely on how we define it. Derivations of the word point toward clot, but “to me, clutter is stuff that is no longer useful but gets in the way of living,” says Howard. Based in Washington DC, she was moved to write her book on clutter after clearing out her late mother’s house and unearthing “bags of bags, pickle jars, jars of pennies, jars of rubber bands, records … So much stuff!” Clutter, she agrees, is in the eye of the beholder.

It is crucial to point out the difference between clutter and hoarding. Hoarding is a mental disorder in which, as the NHS puts it, “someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner, usually resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter”. Howard agrees: “There is an idea of excess and abundance built into the word, but you don’t need a metric tonne of the stuff to call it clutter,” she says.

If maximalism, the embrace of excess, has emerged as a curated rejection of minimalism, a commercial sort of Zen that imagines a home free from the tyranny of its owner’s lifestyle, cluttercore is somewhere in the middle. There is a “comfort in things”, as the anthropologist Daniel Miller once argued. “Objects don’t talk. Or do they?”

An attachment to buying things can also be at play here, although it is easy to sympathise, as Howard does, with those who turned to shopping during the pandemic, since it “gives a sense of control”. We can’t find the cure to the virus, but we can streamline the bills with a tasteful filing cabinet.

Joanna Teplin and Clea Shearer in Get Organized With the Home Edit.



Joanna Teplin and Clea Shearer in Get Organized With the Home Edit. Photograph: Christopher Patey/Netflix

Naturally – this is capitalism, after all – new ways to profit from our clutter anxiety have also emerged. Marie Kondo just launched an e-course to help people declutter during the pandemic, while Netflix aired Get Organized With the Home Edit, which hopes to do for organising what Kondo did for disposal. Fronted by friends Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, each episode sees them transform the cluttered space of one celebrity and one non-celebrity with an armoury of containers, labelling and stamina. It is twee yet bewitching, a sort of ASMR-meets-Changing Rooms for the online generation. The show also advocates the “rainbowification” of objects – hair extensions and books included – a method of creating joy rather than – as Kondo recommends – waiting for it to spark (although book lovers might disagree).

As a concept, clutter was arguably invented during the Victorian period. In 1861, Mrs Beeton published her Book of Household Management, bearing the catchphrase “a place for everything and everything in its place”. The idea was that new systems of production required new systems of order, explains Howard in her book, meaning you get stuff and then get more stuff to deal with the stuff. “The internet hasn’t yet killed, if it ever will, the lingering Victorian habits of acquisition and display,” she writes. Back then, most things were relatively more expensive than today, so they were more highly valued – even if they were seaside knick-knacks or children’s toys.

“Now it is cheap to fill your home with stuff. Clutter has become political,” says the architect and academic Eddie Blake. “There’s a neurotic strain in interior design – unable to deal with the ambiguity of clutter, architects purge it, and I’ve spent a long time trying to get over this urge.” Blake’s taste sits somewhere between modernist and bohemian, valuing function over form. There is clutter, though, on the mantelpiece. “The conkers my son collected are imbued with a magical esoteric value.” He smiles: “I like stuff. It helps anchor you.”



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In troubled times, a ritual walk can clear the mind and soothe the soul | Walking

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Come autumn, as a way of defying the back-to-school doldrums brought on by a rapid shortening of the days, and to mark what feels like the true start of a year, I go on a pilgrimage. This year, more than ever, I crave the slow and steady rhythm of a walking pace, big skies, and cleansing wind and rain to shake off the cobwebs of a long confinement and to break the domestic routines of daily life. I want to connect to my own pumping heart and the natural world around me, re-oxygenate stale lungs and feel the muscles in my legs stretch and work.

Since I’m looking for uplift, there is nowhere for me that’s more rejuvenating and exhilarating than the uplands of Golden Cap in Dorset, the highest point on the south coast of England. In the rinsed light of early autumn, it glows, as if just-hatched, new-born. I have earmarked the little church of St Candida and the Holy Cross, behind these soaring coastal cliffs, tucked into the valleys of Marshwood Vale, a landscape that folds gently in on itself like ribbons of thickened cream. It is part of a medieval pilgrimage trail that connected Bridport to Axminster, containing one of only two shrines with relics of a saint still existing in England (the other being Edward the Confessor’s shrine at Westminster Abbey), somehow miraculously surviving the Reformation and the civil war. St Wite, martyred by marauding Viking hordes, attracts the hopeless and hopeful sick who journey to her quaint limestone shrine.

Pilgrimage as a cure, pilgrimage for healing: the concept is as old as these hills that were crisscrossed with wayfarer and pilgrimage trails almost since the beginning of our civilisation. But the past 50 years, in particular, have seen a global revival of interest in the idea of pilgrimage; the eternal search for spiritual and physical succour dovetailing with today’s urgent calling for holistic meaning. It satisfies our hankering for “slow” over instant gratification, and offers an alternative, drug-free route to emotional and physical wellbeing. No surprise then that numbers increase year on year at the famous Camino de Santiago de Compostela trail, almost 350,000 recorded pilgrims last year, while more than 2m went on the Hajj in 2019.

In early March, with the world spinning on its axis, I was instinctively drawn to the pagan, mysterious, breast-like form of Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, off the Ridgeway, the oldest pilgrimage route in England. The perfect curve of the mound rose high above the flooded plains and I scaled it, in the horizontal rain, wading through treacle mud, reflecting that endurance is part of life, as it is part of any pilgrimage. Making a day’s circuit of the Neolithic standing stones and pagan burial sanctuaries seemed a very symbolic and purposeful way of processing the seismic changes that were unfolding. It was as if the very unknowability of Silbury helped me to find mental clarity, providing guidance as the tumultuous turn of world events shifted my own sense of self.

“Sometimes when people look for a new inner direction in their lives the most sensible and simple approach is to be found in an outer direction,” says Dr Guy Hayward, of the British Pilgrimage Trust. “With pilgrimage you literally walk a physical path, have a clear goal – your destination – and have a means of reaching it: walking. The simplicity of this tangible endeavour may be the secret that many need to know in order to find that inner-direction that so many of us seek.”

With no more than a pair of sturdy boots and a sense of purpose, on a simple physical and psychological level, the very act of walking, the rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other, of matching your breathing to your pace, in the fresh air, is soothing.

A 2015 study by the American National Academy of Science summarised that a 90-minute walk in nature calms the psyche, eases depression and feeds creative juices. Walking has been further proven to reduce blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and improves concentration and energy. Unlike hiking, which is purely a physical challenge, the activity of a ritual walk, “the thinking footfall” as writer Robert Macfarlane describes it, encourages you to savour the moment and the resonance of each place. It’s finding pleasure and purpose in the act of “slow”.

So, after the easing of lockdown, I celebrated with a British Pilgrimage Trust route, via app, that guided me from the city of Wells, to the iconic pilgrimage landmark of Glastonbury Tor. I was drawn by their description of “ley lines, Green Men, leaping water, fire-breathing dragons and angels in high places”. I followed their counsel to pause, breathe and interact with the landscape; throwing stones into the holy wells, offering blessings at the foot of sacred trees, leaning into the branches and feeling the bark beneath my hands. My venture here felt like something quite separate from a ramble on a hill in my own backyard; a symbolic gesture of something meaningful and profound.

I recognise that my private pilgrimages, which bookended lockdown, were very personal and solitary quests for direction and a sense of wholeness and wellbeing in a fractured world. Yet it should not be forgotten that social interaction can be the most memorable source of influence in a pilgrimage. As a way of taking the pulse of place and its people, pilgrimage is a great way to travel. Traditionally, it has always been a true social leveller, as Chaucer has so vividly described.

On my various holy trails around the globe, the inevitable spontaneous mixing with strangers has been a singular takeaway. I have met down-and-outs and dreamers, strivers and shysters, hippies and Alpha achievers, and even a future lover, all as varied and as interesting as the swindling millers, virtuous martyrs and libidinous wives in the Canterbury Tales. Climbing Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka on New Year, and watching tantric ritual dances and seeking the head lama’s blessing at the Mani Rimdu festival in Nepal with its medieval atmosphere of beer, bribery and bride-bartering, the communality, and festival vibe is joyfully infectious, the social interaction uplifting.

A few years ago, I was wrung-out emotionally in the wake of my mother’s death and at a kind of crossroads in my life. Not knowing which way to take my career, unable to make any sane decision about the most trivial things, even what colour to paint the bedroom, I decided to join an organised pilgrimage in Shikoku, one of the less visited islands of Japan. The mythological landscape is part of a route made sacred by Kōbō-Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism in the 8th century. I hoped it would help me, not only get under the skin of this indomitable landscape and Japan’s rich, storied past, but also to find the something that was missing, the key that would reconnect me to myself. After all, extending one’s horizons is a fundamental human instinct, a fact that made lockdown so challenging.

I invited my sister and we piggybacked on to a jolly coachload of white robed henro, or pilgrims, for a few days, following the same slippery forest paths to our destination-shrines. We entered into the convivial spirit of their rituals: purifying at the water troughs, throwing a coin into a tray, lighting incense, ringing the giant bell, hitting the gong, chanting the Heart Sutra. Each step had its own resonance, like notes on a score sheet. They rose and fell.

Over tricky, stony, maple leaf-strewn paths, trodden down comfortingly over centuries by so many pilgrims before, the act of walking and talking out our grievances and problems among our uncomprehending fellow pilgrims, without having to maintain constant eye contact, was conducive. My sister and I successfully aired our hopes and fears, argued and cried, and came home, sore of foot, but with lighter hearts and soaring spirts.

We display the mementos of the journey – conical hats and staff, journals full of shrine stamps – with humour, but never underestimating that these are material symbols of the transformative power and healing trajectory of pilgrimage.

Contact British Pilgrimage Trust for organised pilgrimages in the UK (britishpilgrimage.org). Britain’s Pilgrimage Places by Nick Mayhew Smith and Guy Hayward is published by Lifestyle Press at £19.99


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5 healthy foods that don’t actually help with weight loss

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The internet is full of weight loss plans and each one of them claims to make you shed those extra kilos. While some of these plans work wonders, there are many that do not lead to any positive result.

So, before you plan to switch your black tea with green tea, here are a few things you should know. In this article, we will tell you about five such foods that are absolutely healthy but cannot help you fulfil your weight loss goals.


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10 simple make-up looks to try for Halloween

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If you’re looking for some last-minute Halloween look ideas, then we’ve got you covered. Experimenting with make-up is one of the easiest ways to pull off a Halloween look in a jiffy. From crazy clown to corpse bride, here’s how you can transform your look this Halloween 2020:

If you have some rhinestone bindis lying around, you can easily recreate this 3D Halloween look.

A statement eye make-up look with a spider web design is equal bits creepy and glam!

To pull off the Wednesday Adam’s Halloween look, all you need is a grey or black outfit and black lipstick to pull off this look.

This half angel and half devil eye make-up can be created with simple make-up products and will surely make a statement too!

If you’re in a mood for a bold make-up look, then this spider web eye make-up highlighted with rhinestones and black lipstick is perfect for you!

Freaky clown make-up can never get boring. Test your black liner and kohl for this look and try it on your lips too for some extra drama!

Another interesting way to use your black kohl is go for skull make-up. Try this look with an all-black outfit and slay your Halloween look.

Want to pull off a cute look? Then, turn to the classic cat make-up look. All you need to use is a black liner on the nose and cheeks to draw some whiskers.

Give your eye make-up a vibrant makeover white pumpkin-inspired eyeliner.

This corpse bride look is so creepy and can be recreated with simple clothes at home!


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