Has Your Area Been KonMari'd?
What does that mean for sustainability?
Minimalist ideas and cleaning purges have been sparking joy for all of January, with the new Netflix Show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo being a smash hit. Marie’s “Konmari” method of reorganizing started with her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and now with her show out she has become a culture force and the subject of quite a few memes. So what does this mean for the people out there looking to support sustainability and sustainably minded businesses? Let's find out.
The most obvious point to talk about is thrift shopping. The idea that a Netflix show could cause a decluttering and donation run might sound funny, but there is a very serious surge in donations happening across the country. This is of course fantastic news for sustainable shoppers, who’ve probably been hitting the second-hand stores as soon as they heard the phrase spark joy.
There is a bit more to the story however. The thing is that second-hand stores are overloaded already with fast fashion. It seems logical to think that second-hand stores just simply wash whatever good items you donate to them and stick them on the shelves, but quite a lot of donated clothing is sold in bales to people in underdeveloped nations overseas, who in turn sell the items individually on a micro level. This is obviously better than going to the landfill but this still leaves problems. First of all, in some countries these sellers are undercutting the local economy, and the jobs created by the donated clothing doesn’t offset the social cost of the clothing makers no longer able to support themselves. Second, if they don’t sell from these micro businesses, they’ll end up in the trash or being burned anyway. Finally, because of the recent push for cheaper and cheaper materials, new clothes are starting to become price competitive with used clothing while at the same time even gently used clothing is starting to break down too fast to be wearable. Now, I don’t say all of this to hate on donating, but rather that we need to think of donating like recycling. It’s better than simply throwing out the items but not a long term solution. [Tweet that quote]
For building towards that long-term solution, we need to understand where KonMari fits in with the larger sustainable picture. Ultimately the KonMari method is not about getting rid of stuff, but about understanding, developing, and building your connection to your home and the things in it. You get out of the habit of compulsive collection that’s been taught by fast-paced consumerist lifestyle and learn to really live with a smaller amount of items. And so for the sustainably-minded person, this means that the KonMari method can be great for building a sustainable home if it is paired with environmental ideas.
Marie’s method is quite flexible at letting people figure out for themselves what sparks joy and what doesn’t, so while you are taking the time to understand your relationship to your items also make it the time to understand how to take care of those items. Learn how to darn socks, patch clothing, learn how to maintain your handbag, sew buttons, and so on. And then when you do need to replace those beloved items, make sure that when you look for sustainable stuff to spark joy. Items that are upcycled, or second hand, or have some other way of positively impacting the environment, as well as being durable and quality enough that they won't simply break down on you in a minute. We’ve heard of some Rust & Fray fans going on a “fast-fashion social media cleanse,” meaning they make sure that they only follow a company that practices sustainability and unfollow the rest. Ideas like this will make sure only sustainable items will spark joy.
As fast-fashion and other elements of disposability culture press down on us, the KonMari method is a fantastic tool for pushing back and improving our mental health. But in order for it to become sustainable, it needs to be paired with sustainable shopping methods as well, and we promise you, they fit like that glove that sparks joy.
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