Abandoning the Noble Pursuit of Minimalism

How I Learned To Embrace My Chaos

By Kady Ruth Ashcraft ·
Astronaut Images/ Getty

There’s a certain type of woman that can be found wandering around Brooklyn’s hip waterfront neighborhoods around 2pm on weekdays. She is wearing a clean, drapey linen dress, her hair is either neatly pulled back or carelessly piled on top of her head. Either way, there’s definitely no product involved in the style. It appears effortless, despite how much effort it might actually take. She’s a disciple of Marie Kondo, has perfect nail beds, and I’m nothing like her (despite all my efforts, which unlike her, are very apparent.)

As a Brooklyn creative (I know, I know) I’ve spent a lot of time trying to cultivate a look for myself. We all do this to an extent, plus as a performer I’m additionally conscious of how I present myself. For a long time I wanted my look to be what was in vogue: minimalist. You surely follow a minimalist on some form of social media. Everything they own is inexplicably white. They must not eat food, you think. Wrong! They've had a delightful looking brunch in bed on their breakfast tray. Who the hell has a breakfast tray? A minimalist who uses the tray to house her succulents when it's not holding avocado toast. 

There’s something very alluring about the minimalist aesthetic. The simplicity and neatness give the impression of authenticity. The minimalist woman isn’t bogged down by clutter. She can use all this extra space to write, create, practice yoga, make tea, and do other darling activities that usually make me sweat and smell bad. 

Minimalism isn't something that comes naturally to me. I keep matchbooks from restaurants I like and have an affinity for leopard print. I thought stripping my life down to just the essentials—keeping my desk clear, dressing in simple colors—was going to help me focus on becoming a better, closer-to-whole person. When you aren’t bogged down by unnecessary shit, you can blossom. Leopard print is a loud distraction from my pure inner artist. I bought the Marie Kondo book. I tried wearing impossibly thin midi rings. I even made a conscious effort to wear matching socks (not minimalist I know, but it’s hard to look austere in green and orange gym socks.)

These minimalist endeavors weren’t disasters. If they were, they’d make much better stories. But I never achieved the inner peace it seems those women I so admired had. Clearing off my desk didn’t clear my mind. Instead, I was just annoyed that I didn’t have as quick of access to my tape dispenser. Those midi rings that some women are able to stack delicately above their knuckles looked nice but hindered all the fidgeting and twiddling I’m so used to doing. They were annoying. My mind was so focused on being this more delicate, uncomplicated version of myself that I was feeling more unlike myself than I ever had. The promise of minimalism saving time was a complete lie when I spent so goddamn much of it tidying up. Not life-changing. Not magical. Stripping me of the stuff I liked surrounding myself with exposed only one thing: I like all of that stuff I keep around me.

So what does one do when they give up minimalism? You can’t re-appear those things you tossed because they didn’t give you joy. Except, if you’re me, you can. Because you were bad at Marie Kondo and never fully threw away those bags of clothes you were supposed to. Oops. My conversion from a wannabe minimalist to embracing the chaos of maximalism wasn’t an overnight shift. What I did stop doing immediately, though, was shaming myself for the clutter. There just isn’t a version of me that can wear a white cotton pant and not sit in ketchup within an hour.

And the opposite of minimalism isn’t just complete chaos, like I once wrongly thought it was. It’s indulgence and luxury and exaggeration, which I’ve realized I feel much more at home in. It'sequally powerful, if properly embraced. The leopard print throw blanket over my red quilt is gaudy and over the top. My walls are covered in friends' artwork and photographs and souvenirs. There's a stunning pile of paperwork and old mail gathering on my desk, right where I want it to be. And with the time I save by not constantly tidying up, I've got all this great free time during which I'm not constantly tidying up. 

Kady Ruth Ashcraft

Kady Ruth Ashcraft is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and Amtrak Princess. Follow her on twitter @kadyrabbit and tweet her pictures of your pets.

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