Unless you live under a very large rock, Marie Kondo’s Method of decluttering and tidying has made it onto your radar.
Who doesn’t like a New Year’s Resolution kickstarter? Cleanse your surroundings, clear out the mess and find what makes you happy – KonMari’s got it all.
The latest Netflix sensation builds on the success of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. For the uninitiated, in a nutshell The KonMari Method involves decluttering your home by discarding things that don’t ‘spark joy’ for you and then sorting what’s left into very tidy areas.
Great. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this and people discard things for a variety of valid reasons (a partner passes away, a couple move in together, the kids move out). But we can’t help wondering where this decluttering is headed, and where all the ‘clutter’ is going?
On one hand, contemplating a big pile of unloved goods might be just the wake-up call one needs to create a positive change. But on the other hand, it’s just too easy to replace ‘consumables’ – cheap things that don’t last, fast fashion and today’s interior design must-haves. What is left, and paradoxically continues to grow, is the pile of stuff to be discarded that the KonMari Method feeds into beautifully.
Without throwing out the baby with the bathwater we’ve added a few points to The KonMari Method for today’s conscious consumers. Here’s how to ‘spark joy’ beyond your own four walls while decluttering to your heart’s content.
1. Don’t donate stuff you wouldn’t give to a friend
If you’re thinking of giving something to a charity ask yourself the question: “Would you give this to a friend?”. If not, charities don’t want it either.
Australian charities are paying $13 million a year to send unusable items to landfill. That’s money they’re diverting from their core work and services. And in the post-Christmas decluttering frenzy of 2019 they’ve been completely inundated: For example, right now, about half of all Lifeline stores aren’t accepting donations due to lack of storage capacity.
The quality of donations matters, so reconsider dumping your crumby stuff in charity bins.
2. Have a ‘mend it’ pile.
Your torn clothes and broken kettle that are now, apparently, useless to you, are no good to anyone else either. Most of us will blindly dispose of these things, without consideration of where they end up or of to mending them for reuse by ourselves or someone else.
The old art of mending isn’t dead, it’s just frequently forgotten.
As you’re working through your piles of things a la KonMari style (keep the thing or discard the thing piles), create a ‘mend it’ pile to avoid sending yet more stuff to landfill.
If you can’t mend it yourself, Repair Cafes will tackle mending your broken items for free. Joyfully, they’re popping up at an increasing number of locations and you can search for one near you here.
3. Rehome things right
The Netflix series shows people proudly stating the number of rubbish bags they’re getting rid of. But what if they were equally proud of where the rehomed stuff goes, so that it’s not just buried in a big pile, to waste away slowly over the next 1000 years?
If you’re unsure where to take your unwanted Atari console/teapot/filing cabinet, Planet Ark can probably tell you. Visit their website where you can search by your location and product category.
Another favourite destination is The Conscious Closet. This social enterprise accepts women’s fashion and accessories with all proceeds given to support women who have experienced disadvantage to find employment.
4. Don’t just thank the item before discarding it, thank all the inputs.
KonMari asks us to thank each item for what it’s given us before discarding it. It’s a gentle alternative to just shoving that old junk into a bag.
But while you’re thanking the item, consider also thanking the planet for the resources it’s made available and the workers who have toiled to create it.
For example your clothes each begin as fibres, either plant, animal or crude oil based. Whatever the source, the process to create the fibres is energy-intensive and polluting.
The fibres are then spun into yarn which is turned, woven or knitted into fabric. At this stage, it’s likely bleached and/or dyed too. And then finally the fabric is turned into the clothes we buy.
Each of these stages typically happens in a different factory and often a different country.
Add air miles to your item, water required to wash the material and the chemicals used at each stage and you are suddenly faced with a whole lot to be thankful for.
5. Buy things that do good, not just things that do less evil.
If you’re already sold on the idea of thinking about what you purchase, then you’re probably already swapping out products for less harmful options; and there’s a big opportunity to up the ante on your purchases and buy things that actually create good instead of things that minimise harm.
Take one example, the humble toothbrush. Many new alternatives to traditional fossil fuel made ones (plastic) are now available and they’re bristling with reasons to buy. With a little digging, you can find a bamboo toothbrush that will protect far more than your teeth and gums. How about one that also funds health programs for indigenous Australians.
Big Little Brush sell these toothbrushes and they’re just one example of how effectively a social enterprise operates. You can find over a hundred different social enterprises, providing a range of products right here.
6. Compost differently – cotton, cardboard and paper can all go into the compost bin.
If your pile of things to discard includes cotton, paper and other natural fibres, think about introducing them to your compost bin or worm farm instead of the bin. Worms and other small critters will be sparking with joy all year long, as they turn your old cotton shirt, dusty uni notes and kids’ craft projects into lovely, luscious, regenerative soil.
You’ll need to pace these out though, and layer them in over time as they compost more slowly than the veggie scraps and garden waste.
7. Borrow don’t buy
It’s too late once you’ve already bought stuff, but next time, consider borrowing instead of buying. There are dozens of options from kids’ toys, cars, gardening tools and more here.
It’s easy to discard things that no longer give you joy when you’ve simply borrowed them. Just give them back.
8. Does this spark joy? Ask this KonMari question BEFORE you buy.
Marie asks us to hold each of our possessions and ask ‘does this spark joy?’. What if we took that same considered approach when shopping for new things? And while we’re at it, ask these two simple questions:
Do I really need this?
Then ask, do you really need this today?
Chances are, we’d end up buying less, with less to throw away and no need to fill our precious downtime watching TV programs about decluttering. What joy.