Ever since Tidying Up with Marie Kondo was released on Netflix, social media has been flooded with pictures of well-organised closets, rooms and drawers. Kondo, with her +15 years’ experience as a consultant in organising, helps Americans to declutter and organise their homes.
Kondo started a consultancy business when she was only 19 years old. Since then, she wrote two bestsellers on the topic of tidying up, and her work has been translated into 38 languages. Her strategy, called the KonMari Method, offers a roadmap to tidying up one’s home. Here, the house is divided into five categories; clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous), and sentimental items. As you go through all of the stuff that you own, you are supposed to hold each item and ask yourself if it sparks joy. Is the answer no? Then thank the item and throw it out. Once you have done this with all your stuff, you organise the things that are left in Marie Kondo’s signature style; stacking them in such a way that all products can be seen in one glance.
While many people love the KonMari Method and have re-organised and de-cluttered after watching the series, the new series has also sparked criticism.
Getting rid of stuff
After Marie Kondo helped the family go through all their stuff, tons of garbage bags and boxes full of discarded stuff are carried out of the house. Some stuff is thrown out as trash, some is sold, and other items are brought to second-hand shops as donations.
In episode two, the family Akiyama estimated that they threw away over 150 garbage bags filled with stuff. And at this point, they were nowhere near the end of their project. Did everyone ever wonder what happens to these trash bags?
Much of it will end up in a landfill, just as the other 2.12 billion tons of trash that the world discards each year. Here, this stuff will just hang around while the natures takes hundreds of years to get rid of it.
Other stuff is donated to secondhand shops and thrift stores. But while donating stuff might give a feeling of altruism, it is actually not that ideal. Unfortunately, thrift stores and secondhand shops are often used as a glorified trash bin. As we declutter their houses, we run into many items that we feel are too good to be thrown out, but are broken, out-dated, or personal. Think of broken electronics, VCR-tapes, or old furniture.
These items are then often donated to secondhand shops because we hope someone else can use it. As there is no demand for these products, thrift stores are not able to sell them and inevitably have to throw them out. Not only does this mean that these products end up in a landfill after all, but it also means that thirst shops have to spend money to get rid of these ‘donations’.
Moreover, while many people are under the impression that the clothes they donate end up with people in need within their communities, this is true for only a small part of donations. The vast majority of clothes are packed in plastic and shipped overseas to countries such as Pakistan and Malaysia. Here, these secondhand clothes tend to disrupt the local markets and undermine efforts to build a textile industry. Developing countries are getting tired of being a dumping ground for the Western world, and some African countries are now issuing a ban on secondhand clothing.
Do you still think donating your clutter to charity will ‘help out people in need’?
If anything, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo shows us the consequences of our addiction to consumption. Our houses are cluttered and disorganised because of our insatiable need for new stuff.
Somehow, stuff has simultaneously come to be worth extremely much and extremely little to us. It plays a major role in our
Marie Kondo asks participants to consider whether each item ‘sparks them joy’. Unfortunately, this concept does nothing to counter our consumerist society. While a shirt can spark joy this week, it might lose its spark only a week later. The short life span of the spark does not keep you from buying it. In fact, 99 per cent of the things we buy, end up in the trash within 6 months. And the problem is not just that our purchases pollute the earth after we are done using it. Resources are used to make and transport these products as well, thereby increasing our pressure on the world’s ecosystem.
The KonMari Method 2.0
Frankly, the capitalist system is designed in such a way that we will always want more and that the stuff we have will never suffice. While Marie Kondo advocates for organising our homes to increase our happiness, she fails to address the fact that we will never be fulfilled by our consumption addiction.
To ask yourself if an item sparks joy is a good start to appreciating our stuff and being nicer to nature, but it is far from the whole process. The key to successful tidying up is to be much more critical of our need for stuff and of the items that we buy. And then, when we inevitably have to get rid of stuff, to think about the best way to do so. It is time for the KonMari method 2.0; new and improved.
Chantal is from the Netherlands and has a background in human rights, social studies and public health. She has a broad interest in current affairs, varying from environmental problems to human rights issues.