Defining Maximalism: Giving Space to the Emotional

Maximalism is a celebration of the emotional, the vibrant, and the lush.

Minimalism is loosely defined as the deliberate design of products, experiences, and spaces in their most simple elements. Sparked in the 60s and 70s by young New York artists, minimalists were moved to work against the concept of excess. Nowadays, minimalism is the emblem of aesthetic excellence. It brings to mind images of bright white walls with thoughtfully placed accents, creating a philosophy of intention, clarity, and simplicity.

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As a philosophy, I understand and often practice the intention behind minimalism, the idea of letting go what isn't important to us, the joys that come with seeking simplicity. But I also have questions on the meaning minimalism carries. Who decides what looks clean? Who decides what looks too wild, too messy, or too much? What does it mean if we consider minimalism in the context of marginalized culture? For people and identities that for centuries have been told their way of living is something “dirty,” to be quieted, controlled, and shamed?

As a Black woman, I carry a constant fear of every part of identity, my voice, my hair, my clothing, as being too loud, too angry, and too much. There is a constant need to control my tone, my body, and my language, to not be cast as unprofessional, unintelligence, or someone whose voice should be ignored.

In the past year, I've practiced a concept of maximalism, a philosophy woven together from my love for the vibrant and deeply emotional. It's also inspired by my grandmother, who worked in the corporate world for over 25 years, known to walk into board rooms wearing towering headwraps, her fuchsia lipstick slicked smile beaming through a constellation of facial piercings.

Who decides what looks clean? Who decides what looks too wild, too messy, or too much?

I'm still understanding, practicing, and grounding myself in what I mean when I say I'm a maximalist. I see it as a philosophy that, like our identities and emotions, is constantly changing and in flux. As a woman, as someone who is Black, as someone who is queer, my voice and vibrancy is something that is often silenced, demonized, or told to quiet and swallow. Below, you'll my definition of maximalism, part poem, part manifesto, always a celebration of the vibrancy that erupts from the heavy, the wild, the mess, the color, the noise, and the lush.

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  • Maximalism is my love of carrying lush colors and heavy energy.

  • Maximalism is giving myself permission to be a loud and vibrant being - to run towards the noise.

  • Maximalism is daring to take up space with my color and emotional energy. It's giving myself permission to be emotional, as a Black woman that often works and lives in dominantly white spaces, where our ideas and voices are often cast as too wild, too messy, and too much.

  • Maximalism is my declaration to say yes my colors are my own. I can keep the secrets of the lushness behind my colors, my clothing, and my hair, created from exploring the rainbow of my grandmother's closet - digging through the jewelry racks on trips the Oakland flea market - or learning to wrap my braids - all to myself.

  • Maximalism is about giving myself agency to practice my lushness.

  • Maximalism is practicing and standing in the full grace of the joy and the storm that can come from my creativity and my emotions.

I would love to hear how you see and practice maximalism in your own life. Hit the share button, and tell me your thoughts.

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