Instagram minimalism makes me feel bad about my stuff

I love to decorate, and I love it more when it’s difficult. Small spaces, strange corners, storing six pairs of socks inside a boot so it looks nice on a shelf —- sign me up. I love it all.

To make the most of living in a small apartment, I often consult the internet for decorating tips. A particularly good resource is Instagram, which is full of professionally staged homes as well as personal shots. I prefer to look at the latter, though. Since I have a real home, I want to see what someone’s real home looks like.

So where the hell is everyone’s stuff?

Look, I get why people aren’t leaving their dirty socks in the corners of their ‘grams. Clutter makes for less serene, less “aesthetically pleasing” images. And yes, I have certainly moved my plastic cup and used napkin out of an otherwise Insta-ready food shot. 

But I also have beauty products that I must store on a shelf, and bags of coffee that are just going to be on the kitchen counter because that’s where I make coffee, and a bathrobe to hang behind my bedroom door, and a bag of flour that I have no interest in replacing with a glass canister of flour. These things aren’t inherently bad. In fact, they’re as much as a part of my life as a cute succulent or a jute rug would be. On Instagram, though, they’re often nowhere to be found.

On my weekly forays into the home décor Google chasm, I often come across variations on this quote: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” A textile designer, writer, and socialist thinker named William Morris said this, and it makes a lot of sense!

A post shared by Kate Arends (@witanddelight_) on

The issue, though, is that on the internet, this sentiment has somehow morphed into “everything in your home must be both useful and beautiful.” Thus, average-looking things that we actually use — plastic spritz bottles for our plants, puzzles, travel knick-knacks, hot water bottles — are hidden away, leaving only the delicate taupe blankets and pink slipper chairs in the frame. The blankets and chairs are beautiful, yes, but they’re not the only things you see around you every day. They star in a home you look at, not a home you live in.

I want to see your ugly stuff!

Say you have a stapler. It is plastic and a garish red, but it is a useful stapler, and you staple things with it all the time. Then, at the store, you discover another stapler. This one is also a functional stapler, but it is gold. It matches some other belongings that you have. You buy the new stapler. The old stapler goes into a drawer. The new stapler appears in a photograph. Now you effectively only have one stapler, but you technically possess double the staplers. William Morris would be annoyed with you, probably! And I am, too. 

I want to see the stupid red stapler. I want to see your ugly stuff!

And that brings me to the most obnoxious reason I want décor Instagram to change: good-natured voyeurism. It is simply less fun to look at homes that do not have personal affects in them. Would you rather watch a Raymour & Flanigan commercial or a Sweet Digs video on Refinery29? I rest my case.

I am certainly not excusing myself from my role in perpetuating ultra-matchy, minimalist Instagram. (The stapler story is semi-autobiographical.) And I am not saying I want to see your used napkins! Please continue to Instagram your well-lit plants to your heart’s content, even if it means making some temporary for-the-‘gram rearrangements.

But it would be nice to see images that don’t make me feel bad for possessing things that are only useful — images that aren’t perfectly curated, but that still look good. A lot of people don’t have the space, the time, or the stapler budget to make their homes go full KonMari, but that doesn’t mean their homes can’t look good. Exposed microwaves and all.

After all, possessing only beautiful and useful things isn’t necessarily inspiring. But living a life? That is pretty cool!

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