"In my house the more clutter, the better": When minimalist design just isn't for you

Forget decluttering - avid collector Ruth Forsyth loves nothing more than an afternoon flea market rummage and a decent snowglobe.

I confess I'm a (terrible) collector, and always have been. Since I was a child, I have liked things in duplicates and multiples. For me, it's the process of collecting that's more important than the collection itself. It's the hunting and gathering aspect that I take joy from. I physically can't walk past a charity shop without going in for a root around.

One of my first proper collections featured snowglobes - yes, those tacky touristy trinkets. I loved them. The collection got so out of hand, it could no longer be housed at home, and sadly now lives neatly boxed up, and labelled, in storage. Neatness and order is important, as collecting without order is simply hoarding. I am also a neat freak, and will freely admit to owning more than one labelling machine.

Ruth's eclectic Ballsbridge home, Photograph: Doreen Kilfeather

One of the things I love most about collecting is displaying - the possibilities are endless. I like to move things around and change the way I display things on a regular basis. I used to picture myself living in a chic minimalist home, and fantasise about how clear-minded and serene I would be. In reality, this would never work for me. I need colour, pattern, texture and change in my life. I crave a little chaos.

Much as I would love to be in a position to collect Picasso's early works, most of my collections are a little left of centre. For example, my husband and children have asked me to stop collecting child mannequins and body parts.

Though I'm quite sure the feeling of finding that special piece is the same, regardless of its monetary value. I believe that we should buy things we love, not just what we deem to be a valuable investment.

Photograph: Doreen Kilfeather

I find real joy in the company of my collections, as each item brings me back to a Sunday afternoon spent in the Dublin Flea Market with the kids or a wonderfully exotic holiday on the other side of the world with my husband. Each piece has a story to tell and a memory to jog. For me, the most beautiful homes are personal and individual, giving a real sense of those who live in them.


I'd love to update my home the way you might do with your seasonal wardrobe, but that's neither practical, sustainable, nor affordable. Instead, I keep the bones of my house quite simple and neutral, then add fun items of colour, texture and theme. The key to a strong interior is the same as a good wardrobe - careful editing.

To me, the KonMari method was just that - a con. Throw everything out? Are you mad? Again, wardrobe comparisons are relevant. Just as flares have come back in fashion, so too will my snowglobes. Mark my words.

Featured photograph by Doreen Kilfeather

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