You may have caught up with the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo over your summer break or at least have seen the subsequent memes pop up on your facebook feed. However, if you have not, it is a self-help style show inspired by the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In the 40-minute episodes the delightful host, Marie Kondo, helps people tidy-up their homes. She does this through teaching them the ‘KonMari’ method.
The show and its tidying-up method have become a cultural phenomenon in the past few months. All over social media people have been posting about their efforts to KonMari their bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens and making memes saying things like “if your baby starts screaming, throw it away!” While this message is extreme, it satirizes one of the most prominent themes of Kondo’s method. That theme being the idea of having and maintaining a home where all of one’s possessions ‘spark joy’. The method has already received a lot of acclaim in popular culture as a great way to start off the 2019 year, but what about the environmental aspects of the method?
Firstly, I am a huge fan of many aspects tied into Marie Kondo’s philosophy of tidying up. She emphasises valuing your possessions and treating them with care. For example, the gratitude she teaches alongside the act of folding clothes instills a sense that we should be mindful of the way we treat our clothes to her audience. If we expand this, we can be inspired to wash our beloved clothes according to the label and put them away carefully. Through taking these steps, we can extend the longevity of the pieces, meaning that we will need to replace items less often and thus lower our ecological footprint.
Furthermore, if every piece in our wardrobe sparks joy, then we will want them to last and we will want to wear them. When clothes last a long time and are consistently worn it creates a cycle of slow fashion and stops the cravings to buy new clothes in a higher volume. Ideally, a person engaging with the
KonMari method will absorb the implications of only wanting things that truly make them happy. They will come away from the show questioning any new purchases they make, asking the questions “does this spark joy?” and “will I enjoy owning this in the long term?” Kondo’s method applies to all of our possessions and not just clothing, making it an effective way to improve sustainability across all facets of life.
Despite the environmental benefits the method does require some thought as one goes through the process of decluttering. This may sound a bit controversial but not everything in your house will spark joy for you, odds are your vacuum probably doesn’t spark joy but is probably something you should keep. When decluttering your possessions and considering “does this spark joy?” also feel encouraged to ask, “does this have a unique and important purpose in my house?”. Despite some perceptions, for the method to be effective it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to go on a shopping spree for new items that will spark joy while discarding perfectly useable products you already own i.e. towels, cleaning products, plastic bags.
If as a result of the KonMari method you do reach a point where you have realized, “oh, I need a new coat. I shouldn’t have thrown out that old one,” or you do wish to replace your current coat with something that sparks more joy, I implore you to search second-hand sellers before rushing to fast fashion stores for a replacement. Maybe a fellow KonMari enthusiast is selling their coat, hoping that it will spark joy in someone else’s (and potentially your) life.
The start of the university year is the perfect time for decluttering and organising our things. It is the perfect time for reevaluating what we value and what sparks joy in our lives. If we give this method a chance, it can also be the perfect time to create the perfect launching pad for an environmentally conscious year.