Explore Mindful Maximalism

Written by: Casey Grace



Time to read 7 min

Five principles to guide the mindful maximalist.

What is Mindful Maximalism?

It is not a concept I invented but one I believe in wholeheartedly. It’s never fully become a movement or trend like “coastal grandma,” probably because it’s more of a theory. Thanks to Ideo and other design firms, we learned 30 years ago or more that all design should be a human-centered or client-focused practice. The rituals and requirements of the customer drive the solutions, primarily around utility and emotion.

Mindful Maximalism, as I see it, leads with the occupant's humanity, values, and soul. As an interior design concept, Maximalism, as a design concept on its own, encourages playfulness and embraces abundance, boldness, and eclectic combinations. It celebrates layers and layers of color, pattern, texture, and shape. More is more, with maximalism. If you design with deep intentionality or mindfulness, you can create vibrant, deep, personal stories with your space too. Maximalism is about putting the occupants center-stage, tapping into what they love who they are, and telling a story. The result should be a space that feels like you’re wearing your favorite outfit every single day!

The consumerism we all embody today is anything but mindful. We have fallen in love with fast delivery times and generous return policies. The waste we create by our choices is quite astronomical. Mindful Maximalism encourages a slower, thoughtful approach when making design choices and purchases. It may include maximizing or repurposing the items you already have instead of buying new.

The theory of Mindful Maximalism posits that we can enjoy the richness and diversity of maximalist aesthetics while cultivating mindfulness and purpose in our consumption and living habits. It encourages individuals to be thoughtful about the items they bring into their lives, ensuring that each serves a meaningful purpose or brings genuine joy. 

Five Fundamental Principles

1. Conscious Consumption

Rather than accumulating possessions for the sake of filling out a room, or convenience, mindful maximalists carefully consider each addition to their space, focusing on quality, utility, and personal significance. Note that utility is not just about physical function but also the emotions it triggers in you.

Have you ever avoided dealing with something broken or ripped in your home? For most, it usually causes anxiety. Conscious consumption should motivate the opposite. It should encourage you to fix whatever is broken so it's utility and meaning can bring you joy once again. The act of repairing vs. purchasing is much more satisfying than pushing that "buy now" button.

2. Intentional Curation

As a mindful maximalist you should curate your environments purposefully, choosing items that align with your values, interests, and aesthetic preferences. Nothing is included just to follow trends, instead it's about your connection to each item. Each object or vignette tells a story about the occupants and contributes to the overall ambiance. Being intentional about the emotional quality of a space has a significant impact on both occupants and guests. As a maximalist, don’t constrain yourself to what a design style dictates

Maximalism embraces collectibles and collections. For example, if you love vintage silver salt and pepper shakers, then show them off! I have a habit of purchasing urn shapes over and over. No matter their individual style, they work as a collection.

 Maximalist Home Decor, Reclaimed furniture, Custom painted furniture, Painted furniture, Upcycled furniture, Maximalism,Unique furniture, Maximalist décor, grandmillennial decor, Vintage furniture, Reclaimed, refurbished, lacquered furniture, lacquer fur

Color doesn't need to be a huge defining factor either. This style doesn’t require formality. Even if you love the era of matching upholstery and curtains patterns, go for it! 

3. Mindful Living Practices

Beyond material possessions, mindful maximalism extends to lifestyle choices and habits. This may involve incorporating mindfulness practices such as meditation, gratitude, or breathing exercises into daily routines. Those practices foster a deeper connection to your surrounding environment. 

Have you ever noticed feeling uncomfortable in a specific space or environment? We often brush by these feelings and look at more tangible things, such as not liking the color or the chair is in the wrong place. So often we default to functionality or aesthetics. Instead, start with the emotional quality of the space. What do you want to feel in the space? What do you want it to say about you, the homeowner?

I would encourage frequent reflection on how you want the space to function but also how you want to feel. Sometimes the things that might seem perfect, actually are not. It requires frequent check-ins. As you grow and evolve your needs and desires will also change.

In 2019 the Google Hardware group developed an exhibit for the Milan International Design Faire. They wanted to explore if consumers really did desire the things they said they did. In partnership with scientist, Susan Magsamen they designed three rooms using her neuroarts principles. Each room varied in design style, differentiated by curated art, furniture, colors, textiles, fragrance and sound.

Participants from the Faire were invited to tour the rooms, take their time and truly experience the space. During their tour they would wear a device to measure their biofeedback, heart rate, respiration, and temperature. 

At the end, each participant shared which room they felt most comfortable and calm in.
However, surprisingly their biofeedback report showed very different results! The body and perceptual mind were not in sync. 

This demonstrates the age -old saying (& best selling book), The Body Keeps The Score.

Ultimately, they were able to confirm that our bodies react before our thinking mind can have a perspective. Emotions are perceived by the limbic system; however, cognition happens in the prefrontal cortex and takes a bit of processing. So, essentially, our bodies are smarter than our heads! If you think about that, then all the things we purchase to complete a room or meet its intended function may not be what is best for us. 

After this event, Ivy Ross, the Executive from Google, and Susan Magsamen wrote the book Your Brain on Art. I highly recommend it!

 Maximalist Home Decor, Reclaimed furniture, Custom painted furniture, Painted furniture, Upcycled furniture, Maximalism,Unique furniture, Maximalist décor, grandmillennial decor, Vintage furniture, Reclaimed, refurbished, lacquered furniture, lacquer fur

4. Abundance with Gratitude

There is a difference between full and abundant. Maximalism celebrates abundance and diversity. Mindful maximalists approach this abundance with gratitude and appreciation (even for that weird vase your aunt gave you). Find joy in the richness of their surroundings without becoming overwhelmed or attached to a possession for the wrong reason. Abundance gives you permission to collect or purchase what you truly love without the constraints of a design scheme. Cultivating deep gratitude for all the items that are serving their purpose, despite whether you love them or not, can be quite meaningful and freeing.

Have you ever purchased a utilitarian item for your home that was hand-made by a less privileged community somewhere in the world? The joy I get from this beautiful hand-made tiny little broom and dustpan for my coffee station is so tangible. It brings me joy for multiple reasons, it’s small, functions really well is handmade, and supports a small business. All of those reasons speak to my values, so no matter its design aesthetic, I want that displayed prominently in my kitchen.

5. Sustainability and Ethical Considerations

Mindful maximalism emphasizes sustainability and ethical considerations in consumption, promoting conscious choices that minimize environmental impact and support fair labor practices.

I’m gonna go deep for a minute. 

Our entire US economy is built on the backs of countries with leaders that don’t afford their citizens fundamental human rights. It is a game we play with our ethics. Our country survives on buying cheap manufacturing from these countries so they can have healthy margins. Those countries also encourage more Western business in their countries. We all know they do not share financial success with the public nor protect them from unhealthy working conditions.

I do get the ethical challenge though. I once, was a very over-worked corporate executive that didn’t have the time to think about those things. I just needed to press a button and know it would arrive on my doorstep in a few days. A priviledge many do not have.

I have a very different outlook now. I think about it like the Farm-to-Fork movement. We love the idea of a meal made of local seasonal ingredients, ostensibly just over the bend. Our heart feels good supporting local hard-working farmers. Mass-produced home goods do not provide the same opportunity for gratitude. I now check where something is made before I decide to buy.

There was a time in my life when I was quite obsessed with designing every little detail of my first house. I was remodeling the entire thing, doing much of the work myself. I was a horrible conversationalist at any party because all I wanted to talk about was faucets, tile, and paint color! During those years, I'd receive home decor-related gifts on birthdays or holidays. Everyone tried hard to match my "style," some more successful than others. I'd cringe a little when something was WAY off the mark, feeling guilty, of course.

Eventually, I had this ah-ha: if I continued to avoid displaying the items that I didn't love, my space would feel really sterile and overly staged. It would look like some vanilla model home. Ugh...that's not what I was going for at all! So I pondered very intently on a few items that I didn't love aesthetically. I thought about different locations in the house or staging scenarios. Eventually, I found I could generate a loving feeling for the item through my love for the gift giver. If you've never had this conundrum at all, then you are blessed. Those of us with the obsessed design gene find it hard to manage early on. 

Today, I try to use and style whatever gift I am given. Looking back, I see that some of these items were vintage and landed with me after the passing of a grandparent. I think that was the beginning of my maximalist journey. Today, I cherish all the mismatched, quirky items that don't "fit." Design is meant to be personal and focused on enhancing the human experience contained in a specific space, celebrating desires, goals, and aspirations. 

So don't hold yourself back, my friends; embrace Mindful Maximalism! I promise you won't regret it!

Leave a comment