Maximum Pleasure, Minimal Footprint: How to be a sustainable maximalist

 

Words by Tamara Jacobs

I’m a maximalist, hear me roar!

Over the last decade or so minimalism has been all the rage. Clean lines and neutral fabrics have dominated our Instagram feeds, calming our psyches and making us feel at one with ourselves – because naturally, less stuff means a freer mind right? Less baggage means more spontaneity, less consumption means more connection…. 


Well, not necessarily. Those are all rather convenient associations if you ask me. You see, I live in a world where bolder is better, where clashing patterns relax me, where chaos cocoons me and where loud music sends me into a meditative trans. I am a maximalist, hear me roar! I reject the idea that there is only one way to free your mind and find space for your passions.


  • I am a maximalist and I too want to be liberated from mass consumerism.
  • I am a maximalist and I too want freedom from societal pressures to conform.
  • I am a maximalist and I too want to live a more conscious and intentional life.

So maybe, I’m not that different from a minimalist after all…


I ain’t no hoarder!

My possessions are not just unsentimental tat – please don’t confuse me with a hoarder my dear. No, my possessions are a reflection of who I am – my history, my interests, my travels, my beliefs. Every item I own has been carefully selected and curated, so that when you enter my home it’s much like entering my mind and my soul. Please don’t take that away from me and tell me it’s better for the planet.


We maximalists don’t just follow trends. We don’t ‘shop the high street’ and discard our purchases with the turn of every season, oh no! We’re all about using our space in the boldest way possible! Our walls are as wild as our hearts, we buy vintage and second-hand, we speak to store owners, learn the history of the items that inspire us and make careful decisions of what to take with us on our journeys. Everything has a purpose I assure you.


Is less really more?

Having less may be one way to reduce your footprint but only if the things you do have really are sustainable. Having more can be just as sustainable if you’re buying used objects, repurposing what you already own and love, or simply choosing louder colours and wilder prints instead of plain ones. If we want more people to fall in love with sustainable living, then we need to broaden the parameters in which they have to do that. Let’s make room for maximalism under the umbrella of sustainability because it’s here to stay!


Restraint, I challenge you!

Just as minimalism set flight after the 2008 market crash, maximalism, for many, has been a direct reaction to the pandemic and all the restrictions it has imposed on our lives – not only has it changed the way we relate to our homes, but it has ignited our desire for abundance. ”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.”


Gen Zs are maxing out!

For the climate-conscious Gen Z’s, maximalism means both affordability and utility. Buying second-hand or reusing items is far more economical than buying new, just as holding on to items opens up the possibility of reusing and repurposing them. What greater feeling is there than rummaging through your closet and pairing up items in entirely new ways – hello Sartorialist! Or what about rearranging your furniture so that that chair you were growing tired of now has the perfect new home next to your window – heck, you may even start reading more, just so you can sit in it! But if you had taken the minimalist route and thrown everything out, you wouldn’t be able to do any of this, which begs the question: have minimalists left out the ‘reuse and recycle’ from the holy trinity ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’? Maybe it’s us maximalists who should be teaching the world about circular living!


How to be a sustainable maximalist

So… what are some of the tried and tested ways to be a sustainable maximalist? Aside from repurposing your stuff and buying second-hand that is….


  • What about turning up the volume on your walls? They are all around you, just standing there, why not cover them in wallpaper prints that are as wild and wondrous as you are?!

  • Swapping plain for prints. Who says your couch needs to be grey when it could just as easily be leopard or fuchsia? Sheets don’t need to be white, loud curtains work just as well as wooden blinds. These are all essential items so why not make the most of them?!

  • Be mindful when you build and fill your space. Think about the types of environments that ignite creativity, happiness and a sense of freedom within you and then create them with intent.

  • Support small businesses and local makers – nothing could be more sustainable than that!

  • Track the footprints of your preferred brands – are they as green as they claim?

What makes a sustainable brand?

A LOT of companies are throwing around sustainable buzzwords these days, so it’s important as a consumer – whether you are a minimalist, maximalist or somewhere in between – that you do your due diligence and check into who you’re buying from and what they’re really about. Things to look out for include:


  • Do they use sustainable materials?
  • Are their processes designed to minimise waste?
  • Do they treat their makers well?
  • Are their products designed to last?
  • Do they have a green supply chain?

So…

For all of you mavericks out there, who like to march to the beat of your own loud and pounding drum, who celebrate disorder and challenge restraint, who see the world in a kaleidoscope of colour, you too can have a sustainable existence, just let your imaginations run wild (you’re good at that) and remember to curate with compassion.