Why the KonMari Method is NOT Sparking Joy for the Earth
January 29, 2019 • 4 min read
The entire world has been caught renewed in the Marie Kondo craze. In the wake of her immensely popular book, the new Netflix show Tidying Up, has everyone wondering if their possessions spark joy. So many people are all too excited to adopt minimalism, with clothing, toys and household items being chucked out faster than ever. While we greatly believe in the benefits of minimalism, both for your home and mental well-being, we have to think about how this practice of a swift removal of clutter is affecting the environment. Here’s why the KonMari method is not sparking joy for the earth.
Charity and donation centres worldwide are stuffed beyond belief, and are pleading with people to stop donating – they simply have no more room. Eager minimalist-converts are dumping their bags of rejected possessions outside of the overflowing bins and collection boxes, which is problematic in itself. The belief that thrift stores and donation centres repurpose all your unwanted items is unfounded, as only 25% of clothing collected in thrift shops actually sells in the stores.
The rest of your donated clothing is diverted off to other (usually developing) countries. These items of clothing are sold off as rags for industrial use, or recycled into insulation or car-seat filling, all of which are recycling methods we’re on board with. The problem comes in with the remaining clothing. We might believe that the clothing that is sent off to developing countries is given out to people in need, and while that might be a tiny piece of it, the reality isn’t such a heartwarming sight.
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Kenya, imported close to $21 million in worn clothing from Canada in 2017, according to Statistics Canada, with the total amount of used clothing exported worldwide from Canada reaching a staggering $173 million. Sending off our clothing to Africa doesn’t get rid of the problem, as much as we like to think that everyone there is excited to wear our old university hoodies and beer-branded t-shirts. Moving clothing to the developing world doesn’t just stuff their landfills instead of ours, but it also renders the local textile industry obsolete. The effects are dreadful.
Kenya’s own garment industry is virtually non-existent due to the mass amounts of imports coming in. This affects local production, innovation and artisanal craft in the country. The driving point here though, is that our trash is NOT someone else’s treasure. It’s just too much. We overconsume, wear our clothing for mere minutes, and then presume that we are doing a charitable act by giving away our unwanted items to someone in need. The intention is mostly always good-spirited, but the underlying fact is that overconsumption is the problem. No one wants our junk.
Fast fashion is largely to blame, as clever marketing and cheap clothing have conditioned us to believe that we need new clothes every 2 weeks. The quality of clothing is so sub-par that we require replacements often, and are constantly trying to keep up with the ever-changing trends. H&M has admitted that they are currently sitting on an unimaginable $4.3 billion of unsold clothing.While they’ve installed used clothing collection bins in their stores to help off-set the effects of overproduction, the change has to occur from the source. Fast fashion companies have to take responsibility for their production from the start.
When it comes to the KonMari method and paring down our possessions, the main points here are about overconsumption and disposal. We love the movement she’s created in helping people to switch their mentalities into honouring their possessions (giving gratitude for clothing no longer wanted), into recognizing how over-buying adds up, and for prioritizing sentimental and meaningful objects (taking photographs out of storage and making your house a home). But what we’re not thrilled about is the failure to address how to properly dispose of the items no longer loved. Giving thanks for them is in good practice, but trashing them is just adding to the landfill problem we have as a global society.
If you are interested in implementing the Marie Kondo method, keep these points in mind:
1. Don’t buy what you don’t need – moving forward, become conscious of your spending habits. Chucking out what doesn’t spark joy today isn’t going to change your habits long term. You will soon find yourself in the same position if you don’t change the way you consume, rather than just your organizational method.
2. Invest in a capsule wardrobe, where you buy less, but better-quality pieces. As each season approaches, bring out your capsule for that season. Each season has a set of around 10-20 pieces that are worn continually, in different ways. The point is to choose layering pieces, basics, and items that can be interchanged to create multiple looks. Trends are a construct, designed to make you buy more – resist the status quo and reuse and re-wear as often as possible.
3. Understand just how detrimental overconsumption is for the world, and how your need to buy more, becomes a global problem.
4. Don’t go out and buy new storage bins (unless you have none). Use what you have, and remember that finding storage solutions is not the point, but rather editing what you currently have and paring down is.
The KonMari method encourages you to practice “tokimeku” which is a Japanese word for “flutter, throb, palpitate”. What this means is identifying which items you own that cause this reaction. Anything else should be thrown away. While we do think that your home should be an oasis and place of calm, the disposal needs to be addressed.
1. Ensure you are disposing of your items correctly – do not throw things into the trash that can be repurposed or reused. Do some research and take note of proper recycling facilities and textile recyclers in your neighbourhood.
Some ideas for proper disposal include:
- Textile recyclers
- Thrift stores that are accepting donations
- Clothing swaps with friends
- Recycling of items that can be recycled (not trashing)
- Taking your old electronics to an electronic recycler
2. Before you rush to throw things away, think about the item – can you repurpose it or reuse it in your own home?
- Biodegradable clothing can be used as garden mulch
- Old t-shirts that can be made into cleaning rags
- The yarn from a wool sweater can be repurposed into a dryer ball, or for arts and crafts
- Old bags and purses can be filled up with sanitary items, shampoo, lotion, a toothbrush etc., and donated it to a homeless shelter or to a person in need on the streets.
- Old dresses and fancy clothing can be donated to centres that rent out clothing for events or that provide evening wear for proms, weddings and corporate events. Business-wear can be sent to centres that give out professional clothing to people seeking employment.
If your aim is to spark joy, ensure that you are not solely doing this for yourself, but for the planet and the other humans you live here with.
*This post is referring to the show, Tidying Up, not Marie Kondo’s books*
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