Moderatism – Better than Minimalism

I used to say that I was an aspiring minimalist. Meaning, that my inner minimalist was struggling to make her way to the surface, but that someday, when I got my act together, she would find her way out! But after years of struggling, wondering if I’d ever live up to this standard, I very recently realized that not only was this pretty unrealistic for me right now, but that I didn’t actually aspire to be a minimalist at all! I like stuff. Well, at least a little : )
First, let’s acknowledge that there is definitely a case to be made for breaking the cycle of accumulating more and more and more stuff.  We buy stuff thinking it will make us happy, but that happiness is fleeting, so we buy again. When looking up resources for decluttering I came across titles such as “Stuffocated”, “The Clutter Culture”, and “Buried Alive”.  You get the picture!  Check out this garage/storage room/play area (wait, are there kids in there?!) :
(I confess that my bedroom closet currently looks disturbingly similar to this picture… minus the children crammed inside!)  Clutter in the home has been linked to increased stress and anxiety (especially in women) and even to depression.  It makes sense.  Just seeing all of the chores that need to be done, all of the unfinished projects, papers that need to be sorted, and all the chaos, drains of us of our energy and makes us feel overwhelmed.  (Photo and facts are from a study done by UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families .) 
At the opposite extreme of this “Maximalist” lifestyle, there is Minimalism.  When I think of minimalism, I think of bare surfaces, white or beige walls, and empty spaces.
(photo from
Some of you may breath a sigh of relief and calm when looking at this space.  But I would feel like I was being punished or institutionalized if asked to spend much time in this room!  This doesn’t work for me. I’ve been in spaces like this, and they make me feel uncomfortable. Like anything I touch or use, or even just being in the space, is somehow messing it up.  It feels cold and uptight to me.  And then there is the fact that even if I wanted my space to look like this, I’m probably not going to get to it this week with my full-time job, two kids, having a social life, teaching yoga, blogging, cooking, and… did I mention I’m studying bass guitar? The list goes on!
What I’ve realized is that I like spaces that feel lived-in, warm, and beautiful. And this (for me) requires colors, and some stuff. Things like books, plants, cushions, candles, and photographs. These all make a space feel alive.  When I walk into a person’s house, I want to see clues of their personality and lifestyle. I love looking around and seeing their favorite colors, their hobbies, musical instruments, and photographs of friends, and family. I like seeing the keepsakes from important life events and worldly travels, such as my puppets, in the featured image above, which I bought with my kids in Chang Mai, Thailand.  Do I use these puppets?  No.  Do I need these puppets?  Absolutely not.  But I love them!  They make me smile every time I look at them.
Somewhere in between the starkness of Minimalism, and the burden of Maximalism, there is Moderatism, the middle way.  I was really excited when this word came to mind, and thought I had invented it! But no, it’s a real thing, it’s in the dictionary.  Maybe someday, when my kids are off in college, I will do things like scan all my photographs and negatives, their artwork, and all my important papers.  And I’ll certainly have more time in general to stay on top of the constant accumulation “stuff.”  But I am a mom, and an artist, and a world traveler, with lots of hobbies.  And I don’t see a future for myself with white walls and bare surfaces.  Not ever!
Photo details:  This photo was taken at my house.  These are puppets that I purchased in Chang Mai, Thailand.  My kids and I were there in 2010.