I posted a book review eight months ago about Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It proposes a method by which you can purge your home of all things that don’t spark joy in you and your family. One done, the house feels great and your life does too! It sounds great and I’ve heard of great results from others. Since reading the book, I’ve attempted to embrace some of the philosophy of the KonMari method, which sounds simple, but it’s lots of work. The book advises you to “discard” all the things that don’t spark joy for the owner. In the U.S.A., that usually means selling used items on eBay or Craig’s list or throwing them away, recycling, free-cycling, or donating unwanted items to a charity such as Goodwill Industries, which can re-sell it.
My husband and I have primarily relied on the Goodwill method because it is fastest and easiest. Some things have no value to anyone and we throw them away. Sometimes we’ve found new owners for items of value by giving them away. That all sounds pretty good, but as I use this process, I sometimes find it clashing with my abiding dedication to the environment. For example, readers are encouraged to discard clothes missing a button or with a frayed collar under the premise that if you haven’t done it by now, you probably won’t, so get it out of your closet. I live in an area where people are environmentally sensitive and they wear things until they cannot be repaired any longer. They buy new buttons and sew them on. The idea is to use things until they no longer work, cannot be repaired, and there is no way to re-purpose them. This is good environmental stewardship because it reduces waste.
For example, I have a messenger bag that I use daily to take my lunch, hot tea, and my lunch/bus-time reading to work. It’s made of environmentally friendly fabric, is washable, and I’ve enjoyed it for probably seven years. It is getting a little frayed around the design embroidered on the flap, and it doesn’t “spark joy” for me like it did when I first bought it. But it has been a trusted friend and still has a few years left. It’s just worn enough that I doubt Goodwill would choose it for re-sale and it would end up in the landfill. I don’t feel like I am environmentally responsible if I throw it away and it has no value on Craig’s list or eBay. I can’t make myself discard it. I don’t require brand new things all the time, and I don’t feel the need to impress people with a trendy “look.” I often buy high-quality things and then use them until they fall apart. My messenger bag fits in this category, and I’m keeping it. This is an active way for me to demonstrate my dedication to the environment.
I’ve found some of the Ms. Kondo’s recommendations for folding and organizing clothes silly and unduly labor-intensive. I kind of like some of the recommendations and have implemented them. I take into account that I have generous closet space and adapt a bit. I’m not going to jump on any bandwagon unless it makes sense to me, and the KonMari method is the same way. A clean, healthy environment sparks joy for me, so I don’t see the reason to discard things that are still serviceable and meet my needs. When I need to look really professional, I’ll carry another bag. For my workhorse needs, it is still just perfect.
Others who’ve enjoyed the book changed their purchasing habits so that they buy less. After seeing the consequences of prior purchases, they vow only to buy what sparks joy (no more crap just to be shopping or for that therapeutic “high”). I feel like the KonMari method is good for the environment overall. If you are on this very popular bandwagon, go for it! Just find a way to remember your dedication to the environment as you purge. Recycle, repurpose and give away what you can. A clean planet sparks joy, too.