When Ariel sang, “Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?” in The Little Mermaid, I felt that. Deeply. I took it to heart and made it my whole personality. I’ve been a collector of all sorts of gadgets and gizmos since the ‘90s. It started with small stuffed animals (the first being a seal named Sealena), mystery stickers from vending machines, Tea Bunnies, and bracelet charms, and has evolved over the decades to be mostly things that look like other things. My apartment, car, and thrift store baskets overfloweth with realistic food accents (candles, vintage serveware, bejeweled fruit, tchotchkes galore, and more), funky and colorful decor, and other things that make my home feel like a fun house — minus the clowns.
A new friend came over for the first time recently, and after the tour of my interactive museum (aka my one-bedroom apartment in LA), he asked how I described my style. “Maximalist Marie Kondo” is what I’ve coined myself, because everything sparks joy, or at least very many things spark joy. Okay, he got that, but had to ask: “So … what is maximalism?” I cracked my knuckles, made him sit down, and explained in two words: curated chaos. There’s a lot of stuff to take in at first glance, but it’s all intentionally styled by categories, color, or whatever I think goes well together. Things aren’t just thrown together, stacked, or cluttered. There’s a specific way that I space pieces on my mantel, shelves, walls, and every possible surface area.
Of course, defining maximalism is subjective and unique, just like the people who identify as maximalists. But for me, collecting is my thing. It’s a gift and a curse, because I know if something is me right away. “That’s so Alyse,” friends will tell me they said aloud when spotting a strawberry napkin ring, a three-tiered colorful lazy Susan, or a giant stuffed avocado in the wild (I actually own two of the three). I consider it a gift from the Thrift Gods or Estate Sale Sanderson Sisters when I find a missing piece from a very specific Japanese 3D-textured blue fruit tea set at one thrift store in New York, the others at an estate sale in Los Angeles, and yet another outside of Palm Springs.
It may just be luck or chance. But I’d like to think that these things find me, and they’re meant to be carefully arranged together on my already-packed coffee table — that has a platter of realistic ceramic crackers and a wedge of cheese, a basket of a pink monochromatic bouquet that holds literal pastries in it (from Colibri Garden, a BIPOC-owned local LA florist I love), and a vintage wooden lazy Susan that kind of looks like a castle balcony with a giant iridescent glass goblet full of leftover holiday candy. And that’s not even everything … but it still can fit four cups of coffee if people want to rest their drinks, and if I’m hosting, I can clear it off without minimizing the maximalism at all.
And as for living my life like Ariel? “Wouldn’t you say my collection’s complete?” is a question that will forever remain unanswered. The limit does not exist for this maximalist Marie Kondo.