What are you doing with all the stuff from your Marie Kondo cleanse?
So it’s the Summer holidays here in Australia and whilst going to the beach and enjoying the outdoors is what most choose to do in their time off work - I like to catch up with shows and movies I’ve been too busy to watch throughout the year. Given Summer here in the southern hemisphere falls from December - February, we welcome a New year in this time too - an opportunity to stop, pause, reflect and reassess intentions for the year ahead. It’s also a time that people often use to ‘start fresh’ or use terms like, ‘new year, new me’. Whilst I think any internal work toward self growth is important, we don’t necessarily need a New Year to give us permission to live more truthfully - we can choose to do this any time of year.
On that note, I found it quite interesting that the timing of Marie Kondo’s new Netflix series: tidying up aired right smack bang in the New Year, when - majority speaking - we want to purge, be the purest form of ourselves and start the year off on the ‘the right foot’ so to speak.
Now, whilst I ultimately liked the show and what it stands for - which is the art of tidying up, not the getting rid of everything you own and throwing it straight in the dumpster - there are some things I became a little concerned about after having watched all of SEASON 1.
1: I actually still can not believe how much ‘stuff’ people own and invite into their homes.
2: Why was so much of people’s unwanted belongings going straight into the bin?!
3: After this clean up - will these people actually consider that it’s their consumption habits that got them into this strife to begin with, and will they; ‘buy less, choose well and make it last’, as Vivienne Westwood famously says?
4: Does everything we own really need to spark joy?
Now, I’ll get back to these concerns, but before I do, I want to share the things I found most inspiring and informative about the show and the KonMari technique that I went ahead and applied to my own small, rental apartment here in the Inner West suburb of, Enmore.
1. Putting all your clothes in one pile:
I have to preface by saying I’ve not read Marie’s book, but as a stylist, I know that if you really want to take stock of what you own, you need to see it all at once. This is important because I think it really puts into perspective how much we really do consume as a society — it also makes you realise how easy it is to hide more of this ‘stuff’ away in our homes and it hones in on this self talk myth we have of, ‘I don’t have anything to wear’.
2. Questioning whether each item sparks joy:
I ultimately think this is a good technique because you really assess the ‘why’ behind every item you own and its purpose. When I was watching the show, I had a fleeting thought from the inner cynic in me, asking, ‘well, do things that are necessities HAVE to spark joy?!’. So I put my negative inner monologue to the test and thought of something that I consider a necessity, a staple - toilet paper for example. And when I thought about this item that I definitely DO NEED, I realised it actually DOES spark joy for me — and I’ll tell you why. About over a year ago now we switched up our plastic wrapped toilet paper to a more purpose driven brand called, Who Gives A Crap, whose packaging is plastic free, made without trees and on top of that, 50% of profits are donated to help build toilets. I have immense joy when I receive my bulk box of Who Gives A Crap toilet paper at my doorstep and it really DOES spark joy for me when I get to take out one roll at a time and colour code the brightly coloured individual rolls in my bathroom basket. It makes something that was once quite annoying and embarrassing to have to lug around from the supermarket, along the busy city roads of where I live, a lot less burdensome - and I’d go as far as to say, I’m quite proud that I can use my dollars to support a worthy cause.
When I continued on this train of thought, I started to think about all the other items we own in our home. And I realised that most of what I owned did spark joy because I consciously thought about its purpose, and purchased with this in mind. Don’t get me wrong, I still have things floating around our kitchen utensil drawers like the next person - like rubber bands from tied up vegetables, old batteries etc. But, I can safely say that almost everything that has been brought into out home over the last 5-8 years has been a conscious decision - with people and the planet front and centre.
3. Tidy by category:
I have to say, I’ve never really been an organised person when it comes to knowing how to group things together in the home - I blame this on the fact that I’ve had to live in small rental spaces for the last 10 years without adequate storage, so our stuff has lived out in the open. One of the best things I learnt from watching the show is to group like things together. I tackled my kitchen cupboards with this in mind and now find myself walking over to them, just to admire the improvement. Now my kitchen actually makes sense - all the reusables are in one section - like our recycled glass jars, containers, bees wax wraps etc. Instead of going out and buying containers as Marie suggests in her the show, I made do with what I already owned. It seemed counter productive going out and buying more stuff, like plastic tubs, to declutter the home?! I used my recycled jars for storing things like hardware bits + bobs - nails, screws, hooks. Another glass jar for all the rubber bands I seem to have accumulated over the years, another jar of lighters + matches and so on. We seemed to have copious amounts of drinking glasses - when we are only two people, and a cat — so anything I felt was taking up space and no longer served a purpose, I put aside into a cardboard box. All of this stuff went outside our apartment block with a sign saying, ‘FREE’ and it was gone within a couple of hours. Living in a community that recycles, reuses and repurposes is so heart warming - so much of our hard furniture in our home has come from things people have put out on the street. So I always know our things will find a new home before considering the donating option, which I’ll touch on.
So, I guess one of my biggest concerns when watching the Netflix series was - where is all of this stuff going?! In one episode the unwanted belongings were donated to a thrift store, but in all other episodes most of it was stuffed into plastic garbage bags destined for ‘landfill’.
‘We estimated 150 bags of trash have left this house’, said couple Wendy and Ron Akiyama in the second episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
There were bags and bags lined up in the driveway of the couples home, destined for the bin, and my heart sank to the floor - “more ‘stuff’ in landfill”, I thought. The place where someone else deals with our rubbish. Even on a micro scale, here in Sydney, my local SWOP store has been inundated with people wanting to sell their clothes for cash, a direct result from the series premiere says Bethany the owner over casual chat when I poppd in to ‘SWOP’ some of my pieces.
The ABC’s war on waste which aired last year revealed that Australians are currently disposing 6,000 kilograms of fashion and textile waste every 10 minutes. Op-shops here in Australia have come forth this week to declare they are no longer accepting donations, as they have been inundated with items since the January season premiere of the show. Before the show even premiered, Australian charities were spending $13 million per year to send 60,000 tonnes of unusable donations to landfill.
So what are we driving home here?! Your ‘stuff’ comes at a cost. What can we do? How can we do better?
If you have watched the show, or plan to watch the show, before you get into a throwing frenzy and question whether every item you owns ‘sparks joy’, perhaps add another question/s onto that:
Can I repurpose/repair /reuse this? Some ideas include using old clothes to sew up some make-up pads. Take old towels to animal shelters. Get the bottoms of your favourite pair of shoes re-soled.
Can I regift this?
Can I do a swap with a friend? Host a clothes swap and make a night out of sharing clothes and shopping one anothers wardrobe.
Can this be recycled responsibly? Make sure you recycle what can, instead of throwing these items straight in the trash. Also, a tip, when it comes to foods or spices that you haven’t used and have expired because they’ve been sitting in your pantry — be flexible with expiry dates. Items usually last much longer then they say they do, but whatever you’re no longer using, you can offer up to your local food shelter, or even ask neighbours if they want the items. My pantry had things like fish sauce and oyster sauce — and since I’ve gone vegan in the last year, I sent them off to live in the pantry of a neighbour.
But even before this stage, one of the most important things we need to address when it comes to waste and unwanted goods, is — how did we get into this mess to begin with?! We need to start at the root of the problem, which is our consumer habits. Given our opshops are bursting at the seams, this is evidence that we just don’t need more stuff! As a society we own a lot of things! Coffs harbour councillor, Sally Townley recently told ABC news that,
"In Coffs Harbour, the waste that we are generating each year has quadrupled in the last decade. So people are buying more, using more, throwing more things away. We're basically drowning in our own waste”.
Here’s some things to consider if you have to buy items:
Ask yourself if you really do need it - If it is something you do need - make sure you shop ethical and/or sustainable products. Research brands and find our where the items were made, who made them and what they’re made from. Traditionally speaking these items will last longer, you’ll treasure them more and you won’t have to - or want to - discard them for years to come.
Consider buying second, vintage, used and pre-loved first. Because we are drowning in an era of over production and over consumption, let’s lighten the load on our scarce, virgin materials and use what already exists in the world. Try sites like; Facebook marketplace, Gumtree, Ebay, Etsy for clothes, homewares, electricals and everything in between.
Think about the ‘why’ when you are shopping - if you are going through a transformative stage when it comes to your body and health, this sometimes isn’t the most ideal time to shop for new clothes. The average person buys about 60% more clothing than they did 15 years ago, keeps them for half as long and about 40% of clothes are rarely worn. So be mindful when it comes to investing into any items.
Change your mentality about shopping as a sport or social activity - many people make poor purchasing decisions or buy for the sake of buying when they are with groups of people. I’ve had first hand experience with this as a stylist and working the front line in retail. Don’t be pressured to buy something you don’t like because a friend, sales assistant or partner told you to. And don’t shop on a whim or for ‘retail therapy’. If you’re not feeling great I suggest spending time in nature or journalling instead of consuming more pointless stuff that will not only clog your house, but your mind too.
If you are privileged enough to have disposable income, use your dollar to make a statement where it counts. Be intentional and mindful with your money and use its power to support local, small, WOC and female driven businesses.
If you’d like to learn more about how to consume with integrity, what to look for when purchasing and the future of fashion come along to the LifeInstyle retail trade event on Thursday 21st Feb to listen in on me speak about conscious consumerism as part of their education series. Click here to book your tickets. So hope to see you there!
meet the author of this article
This article was written by Natalie Shehata the founder, editor + eco-stylist of tommie magazine. You can learn more about her here.
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