Children of divorced parents with shared custody develop an attitude to their physical surroundings that is rooted in acute awareness – a heightened perception to how their space makes them feel. Carting back and forth every two (or three) weeks between houses, hauling cardboard boxes, stuffed animals, books, favourite blankets, children of divorce lose faith in the notion of home. Solid ground and cemented bricks may be physical manifestations of home, but they hardly provide stability. The only constant that remains for these kids are their identities, what they choose to bring with them and, indeed, what they leave behind.
Eventually children of divorce grow up, but their habits remain clear indicators of their respective upbringings. Two childhood bedrooms as a shrine to self-fragmentation. As a child of divorce, I’ve observed that there are different approaches that those from divorced families take towards interior design and the decoration of the physical spaces that characterise us. There’s:
The minimalist will do anything to prevent feeling overstimulated, crowded, busy, or flooded with emotion.
I would put myself in this category. Growing up, I found that there was always too much and never enough space. Children of divorce learn from an early age not to get attached to places that they can’t guarantee will be there for very long. Instead, they carry a sense of home on their person like a keychain. follows them around wherever they go. But that’s just not sustainable, it’s too much stuff. But resolving the issue by purging their belongings doesn’t really solve the problem. We Depop and Vinted and Charity Shop away anything we can’t realistically see ourselves wearing or using. But what is realistic? We feel lighter by reducing the stacks of clothes and piles of trinkets that cover our rooms, but at the same time reduce the space we take up.
But we are minimalists, not robots. It’s all about the sleek, clean, palatable aesthetic. We disinfect obsessively and change our sheets more often than we’d like to admit because that crisp laundry smell is the same wherever we travel. We clean toothpaste specks off of our mirror with soapy water and a microfibre cloth. On the off chance that we indulge in a stack of books (because our shelves are too full), each one has to be parallel to the one beneath.
We pack light. We micromanage. We prioritise efficiency, good time management, and strict routine. We’re the parent of the group. Either that or the diva of the group, insisting on completing our 25 step skincare routine before going out anywhere. It’s an exhausting life but we don’t know how else to function. We develop a lifetime of quirky (read: neurotic) habits that we don’t mind being bullied over because the alternative is, well, mental collapse.
The Maximalist will do anything to prevent confronting the reality that they will never be as whole as their photo wall is filled.
Their home also follows them around (there’s a theme here), but instead of shedding what the Minimalist would consider ‘dead weight’, the Maximalist hoards it. ‘Stuff’ is their favourite word. They find comfort in things. They love the sensation of getting lost amidst a pile of feelings and memories and nostalgia. As a child, they lugged every teddy and every Sylvanian family member they owned from one location to the other lest they spend a night with enough room in their bed to remind them that they are an ever-changing being that will never feel as grounded as they hope they will.
The Patrick Bateman:
The Patrick Bateman will do anything to distract themselves from recognising the need to attach their identity to a physical location. Acknowledging their emotional side is not something they’re equipped to do.
The notion of home has proved utterly useless to them, so why should they dedicate any time or effort to their living space? Their bedroom is not an expression of their personality but rather an expression of their sterile, pragmatic approach to life. Their rooms are places that serve a practical function. They sleep there, get dressed there, and occasionally make use of the excess floorspace to do yoga (they carry the weight of the world on their backs, it gets sore after a while).
When you consider what it might be like to decorate a room from an entirely practical perspective, the enormity of the task becomes apparent. It’s actually quite difficult to do, but the Patrick Batemans do it because they’re too busy doing useful things that will glow on a CV to focus on which pillow is fluffier. What do you take them for?
The Constant Makeover:
The Constant Makeover will do anything to avoid recognising that they want to feel pure, clean, maintained, and perfectly managed because their home life never was.
They find it impossible to establish control over their daily space except in sporadic 3am bursts of productivity, so they fixate on their own appearance instead. At best, they sunbed frequently and work out obsessively. At worst, they inject melanin before sitting in the sun and supplement their leg day with a less than healthy dose of trenbolone. Preening, plucking, waxing, shaving, skin-fading – nothing is ever enough. They chase the thrill of looking and feeling their best … for 24 hours until the maintenance routine starts up again. If for some reason they can’t get to the salon for whatever treatment they feel empty without, they’ll gorge on toxic TikTok content about the importance of buccal fat removal and drinking through a straw to minimise smile lines.
The Total Mess:
The Total Mess will do anything to procrastinate tidying because they fear that somewhere amidst the piles of rubbish, their inadequacies will emerge.
They have completely given up on making their house a home. They did try, though. At the beginning of each month they decided to finally commit to a laundry and vacuuming routine. Once a week is manageable, right? But alas, the energy drink cans and sweet wrappers pile up, the clean underwear runs out, and the blinds stay down. The living space becomes a hub of depression and, if they’re lucky, their mothers will get so sick of the sight of it that they’ll clean it regularly enough to avoid having to legally declare it a health and safety violation.
No one said divorce was fun. It’s not. Somehow the now grown-up children of divorce will come to make their peace with the physical tumult of their upbringings. They might absorb and become their surroundings, they might reject them completely. They might decide to cut the process short and go to therapy. Until then, they continue to be wacky decorators, tortured artists of their interior worlds (no pun intended).