How to sustainably “Marie Kondo” your life

So, you watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and you want to Marie Kondo your life. Who wouldn’t want a decluttered space all and to fully appreciate what they have- but what are you going to do with all the stuff that doesn’t spark joy?

That question kept coming to me while I cleared my space using the KonMari Method. Marie Kondo’s considered, thoughtful approach to materialism is actually very green as i living by her principles post clean up. 

The KonMari Method

Marie Kondo’s show has been amazing for me to watch! I’ve recently been grappling with my attempt to be happy with fewer things- which means learning to want fewer things. As someone with a background in fashion, that’s difficult. The industry churns out ‘newness’ every two weeks through fast fashion. Understandably, it’s been a slow process. I find the less I focus on wanting something else, the happier I am. Practising gratitude has helped immensely. I think it takes a long time to get there- even this morning I was browsing stationary websites and looking for sustainable active wear and bikinis!

Watching Marie help people learn how to rethink their value system is fascinating. One husband and father even said he didn’t realise how much his wife was taking on. Another couple said they connect while doing dishes and cleaning up after dinner.  To read more how her method instils respect for each space and item, read this insightful piece by Margret Dilloway. The method has 6 steps and guides your through tidying category by category, not room-by-room, only keeping things that spark joy

The Six Steps

  • Commit yourself to tidying up
  • Imagine your ideal lifestyle
  • Finish discarding first
  • Tidying by category, not location
  • Follow the right order
  • Ask yourself if it sparks joy

Marie’s manner with people, her kindness and empathy, is so different to any organisation show I’ve watched before. There’s no judgement. She’s not prescriptive how much you keep and what you chose to keep is up to you. No, Marie didn’t say we should have 30 books- that’s how many she likes to keep. Everyone is responsible for tidying their own space. By asking people what they want from the process and space, they imagine their ideal lifestyle. I love her ritual of greeting the space before taking them through the right order to tidy by location. That order is Clothing, Books and Paper, Komono (kitchen, bathroom, living, miscellaneous) and lastly Sentimental Items.

If you’ve decided that items no longer spark joy, Marie asks you to thank the item for its role in your life. This is so important as we often take things for granted when they no longer serve us. It also acknowledges the life cycle of the item before it came to us. For example, who was involved in the production and where did it come from? I think asking these questions after you’ve said yes or no to whether it sparks joy is worth your time.

  • What did the mean to me when I bought or received it?
  • Where will it go next?
  • Will I fill the space with something else?

Asking why you own something is helpful if you’re looking to embrace decluttered living and minimalism. If more us asked “Where will this go?” before discarding anything, our landfills would be a lot less empty. Let’s avoid our mass clean out making landfills fuller. And lastly, will you truly keep the space decluttered by not replacing items that you don’t need, or aren’t joyful? 

What to do with items that no longer spark joy

Whether it’s clothing, shoes or accessories, books, furniture and items from your kitchen or bathroom that you don’t absolutely love anymore- they may be useful to someone else. 

  • Reuse it old stockings and t-shirts can simply be cut into square and used and cleaning or polishing cloths. Scrap paper or old prints out get used for blog drafts, weekly menu planners or shopping lists in my home. Store those papers for a second use, then recycle them. The web has tons of posts like this one,  filled with repurposing ideas. Not all of them may suit your aesthic, but maybe one or too will. 
  • Recycle it Treevolution have this amazing downloadable list of what can be recycled in this link and where to take things! If your area has a weekly Ronnie recycle pick up it makes the paper recycling easy, but for glass, plastic, tin and electronics this website is such a help. 
  • Give or swap with family or friends; half of my house is furnished with items from family members or friends -and it’s still good shit! I’ve given items of clothing to friends when they’ve said they do actually want it. I have a client who does regular wardrobe swaps with her PA- they are both stylish and the same dress size so it’s a fun way to update wardrobes without spending or adding a gazillion more items to their cupboards. 
  • Sell it OLX and Gumtree are great for selling things in good condition that are no longer serving you. I made R800 in a week from sneakers I’d hardly worn. 
  • Second Hand Stores Try all of the steps above before this as second hand stores are often inundated and may end up having to send items to landfills.
  • Donate it I’m all for sharing with those less fortunate but this should also be the last resort for the same reason as above. When you hear of a charity that needs something, do what you can to give that to the charity. But they often end up going through masses of unusable stuff that has not been separated from items that will help. This takes up valuable time for volunteers and staff. Take the extra time to sort first.

If you know of any local recycling centers, online selling apps, second hand stores or charities that you think others should know about please share them in the comments below! I use the recycling bank at the back of the Colony Center on Jan Smuts. For clothing Rags and Lace on Jan Smuts Avenue or the WITS Hospice Shop in Benmore are great. I often stop by Ry-ma-In in Linden for other items. Ry-ma-In provides jobs for disabled members of the community and what they can’t find a good home for, the recycle or sell on.  

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