how to become a maximalist (and not max out the credit card)

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

Happy Sunday! Thanks so much for tuning in. Every week, I have oodles of ideas to write about but alas, due to the slow moving glacier that is my home touch up, I have no new content myself. However, as I sit here amongst all my stuff... every painting that needs to find a new wall to call home, every stick of furniture, every random "don't know what to do with it but I'll schlepp it with me everywhere I go" object still packed up in a box, I am hit with the question, "How did I get here? Was I a maximalist all along and I didn't know it?"

I have always been attracted to a multitude of different objects... I always wanted ALL the colors in the rainbow. There was a period when I denied myself these things due to the current trends of minimalism, but my maximalist lizard brain would not stop there. First of all, minimalism is so unforgiving. It eliminates any thing that does not "fit". It forces brutal choice and a lot of saying "no". And I like saying "yes." Let me reiterate, too, that I admire minimalists. They have a different way of looking at the world that is totally cool with me. That is not to say that maximalism means saying "yes" to everything, it just means saying it a lot more often. And as you know "yes" can sometimes be an expensive word, but it doesn't have to be.

dumpster diving in your own dumpster

The new big thing with organization is asking yourself "Does this give me joy?" The answer is "yes" way more often with a maximalist. I can look at anything in my treasure trove and trace it back to some story about how I found it in some little out-of-the-way antique shop or I drew it in high school when I was going through my Shakespeare phase. In fact, my favorite object over the years was something I never considered as "decor".

I had spent a few months in Florence in my college junior year, and would take weekend trips to different cities. On a lark and with no hotel room booked, my friends and I decided to go to Paris one day and we all hopped on a train. We stayed up all night, eating crepes and running through the Parisian streets, yelling "Boo-amente" trying to be the annoying American tourists everyone tried to avoid. I don't even think we were drunk, that's how young and free we were. Then we all saw it: a huge subway poster announcing a Radiohead concert that very same weekend. So what did we do? We ripped it down, of course! I took one half, another girl took the other. And then I folded it up and packed it my suitcase and there is stayed for YEARS. I don't think I ever unfolded it until a few weeks ago when I decided it was time. Time... to get that baby framed and up on my wall!

Even thinking about it now, I can't believe I have such an amazing story associated with an object I own and I didn't have to spend a dime to buy it. Do you have an object like that? It's an object that isn't readily categorized as "art", but packs a heavy punch in the nostalgia department? It can be anything: a note your significant other passed you in school, a toy you longed for as a child and finally got for your birthday, a tile that you found on a trip to Morocco. And of course, the number rule is if you have a collection of something -- anything -- you must display it. Did your grandmother leave you her set of artisanally crafted handkerchiefs? Frame those babies up! You can even use shadow boxes or acrylic frames to add an extra hint of cool. These things are all art in the maximalist playbook.

don't just buy big box store random art to fill a space

If you're like me, you look at spaces like this and wonder "How in the hell can I get that?????"

It may seem like becoming an "art forward" maximalist is a recipe for draining the bank, but it actually just requires patience. That's part of the fun, actually, and what checks off the "yes" option in the joy category. If a painting or an object costs a lot of money, chances are you can find something cheaper that also makes you happy. You don't want to just think of all the money you dropped on a piece of art every time you look at it.

First of all, get your sources for art lined up. Here are some of mine:

Film Art Gallery




Saatchi Art

As you notice, I spend a lot of time scouring the internet for things that make me smile. That does not mean that I buy them all (although I might "add them to my cart" just for safe keeping). The three most important things that I look for in an item are 1) do I think it's cool? 2) do I have a place for it? 3) does it fit my budget?

If the answer is yes to all three, it moves over the cart until I've gone through every single scenario in my head of where I would like to put it. Then, I wait. I wait until after the thrill of discovery wears off and if I'm still in love with it after a few days, it's on my way to my doorstep.

Another false pretense with maximalism is that we just buy art to fill a space. I mean, yes (there's that word again), I do buy art sometimes because I have a wall to fill, but I never -- let me repeat that NEVER -- buy based on a need. I must always WANT it. Sometimes I do enjoy getting the mass produced print, but those purchases are typically used to balance out the disparate elements of my collections and almost never cost any real money. So while it's not a hard and fast rule NOT to buy big box store art, here are the acceptable exceptions:

- must be cheap (not more than $75 framed)

- must be graphic or interesting in some way

- must not pretend to be an original piece or a copy of something famous, like the Mona Lisa.

Whenever I buy a print of any kind, I only buy prints of photographs, poster reproductions, or graphic art/illustrations or known prints.

The same goes with rugs, side tables, cabinets, pillows, etc. If you're buying big box, make sure it's interesting at least! Nothing is worse or more pathetic than a boring pillow.


As with any style, maximalism is about balance. It's a different kind of balance, but it's balance all the same. In fact, it's almost expected in the maximalism handbook that one plays with every part of the spectrum of the design world. That includes worthless chotchkies along with well-crafted one-of-a-kind art. It's the art of the layer, the art of valuing every object as if it were priceless because it means something special to the person who owns it. It is not the worship of things but simply the recognition that our lives are a collection of memories that make us who we are. However, let's be practical for a minute and chat about the realities of splurging vs. saving.

In my opinion, here are the things worth splurging on:

- sofa

- shelving

- hardware

- wallpaper

- lighting

It has been my experience that I can't skimp on any of these things if I want quality. Everything else is a luxury that I can either save up for or find a cheaper option. And that means... dunh dunh dunh... you can get creative and do some DIY! I have several DIY projects lined up in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

That's it for now, but I hope I helped you step a little bit closer to realizing your vivid maximalist dreams!

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