Environmental Lessons from Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up”

Consumerism is very evident among Americans as we spend money on various items and accumulate a lot of stuff. I would argue that the majority of this stuff we don’t need and is therefore destined for the landfill or sits in our closet for years, both resulting in a waste of money and resources. In the U.S. we spend a total of $16 billion on Christmas gifts we don’t want. This consumer mindset also leads us to buy so many clothes in order to stay “in style” and keep up with the latest fashion trends. This results in the average American tossing out 81 pounds of clothing each year. The materialistic lives we lead and the Capitalist agenda is therefore causing Americans to accumulate so many things to try to buy happiness while in turn worsening their environmental impact.

In a sort of opposition to this, Marie Kondo is a tidying expert; you can call her the “Queen of Clean”. You may know her by the book you’ve been seeing everywhere, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, or her Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Marie Kondo uses the KonMari Method to help people clear their clutter and choose joy. Not only does she give you tips to help you make your home tidy for aesthetic purposes, but also how to do so in a way that brings joy to your life!

Marie Kondo tidying up. Source: https://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/home-garden/home/watch-declutter-your-home-and-life-the-marie-kondo-way-18863231

On the contrary to your typical home makeover show, Marie Kondo doesn’t simply tell you to throw away everything. Instead, she encourages people to think about their lifestyles and how tidying can allow them to experience more joy and content in their homes. The KonMari Method is her framework that explains it all. Here’s a breakdown of her method:

  1. Organize by category not by room focusing on one category at a time to keep you focused. The 6 categories in the KonMari Method are clothing, books, papers, Komono One, Komono Two, and Sentimental Items.
  2. Place your hands on everything you own, and ask yourself “Does this spark joy?”
  3. If it does, you put it into a “keep pile.” Plus, if it is a piece of clothing you fold it in the lovely Marie Kondo way into an aesthetically pleasing square. If it doesn’t spark joy, you thank it for its service and get rid of it so it can have another life.
  4. Now that you have only the items that spark joy, put it into a place where it is visible, accessible, and easy to put back.

So you may be asking yourself: “What does this have to do with environmentalism?” Well, I would argue that Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method encourages a less wasteful and consumer-driven lifestyle. Marie Kondo encourages people to examine their lives and think about the things we truly need to “spark joy.” This might mean thinking about the bazillion sweaters stuffed in your closet, and keeping only the 3 that you actually wear and enjoy. Or, looking at your pile of books and papers and realizing that there are only a few you need and care about. Marie Kondo inspires a simplistic lifestyle where we care for and respect the things we own. Although I do believe that less is more, the KonMari Method goes far beyond this. Rather than pushing people towards simply minimalist lifestyles, it encourages mindful ones.

A visualization of excess consumption. Source: https://steemkr.com/life/@arunava/do-you-have-a-compulsive-buying-disorder

The step in the process of thanking the things that do not spark joy before giving them away brings gratitude into tidying. Rather than holding onto items, the KonMari gives gratitude for the things we have by thanking them for their service in your life, but letting them go. This reduces the guilt one may feel when they give something away such as that old shirt you love that just doesn’t fit anymore. I believe this inspires a consciousness in our daily lives and the way we interact with the things we own. This goes against a consumer lifestyle that pushes people to shop mindlessly, and promotes a lifestyle where we are conscious and appreciative of the things in our lives that spark joy.

For me personally, watching the Netflix series had me in a full on ugly cry. Not only are the home transformations jaw-dropping, but the way you see peoples’ lives were changed by Marie Kondo is AMAZING! The show inspired me to be conscious of my lifestyle and not buy or take things simply because they were cute or free. It has encouraged me to be mindful of what I buy by purchasing only what “sparks joy” and getting rid of the things that don’t and only take up space.

Kaitlyn Lund

Kaitlyn Lund is a fourth year studying Conservation and Resource Studies with a focus on Environmental Policy and a minor in Public Policy. She is particularly interested in the intersections between climate and energy, environmental justice, policy, and city planning. Her hometown is San Diego, California where she loves the ocean, but also loves all the hiking and wonderful food and people that the Bay Area has to offer! Kaitlyn Lund covers campus sustainability.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *