Are these two roads to the same goal?
This week, I finally finished reading Marie (KonMari) Kondo’s sensational book, the life-changing magic of tidying up.
As I finished it, and throughout the book, I found myself saying that the author and I would probably not get along. She was a shy child, and kept to herself. She enjoyed tidying since childhood and admits going overboard with tidying her family’s things.Even they were unhappy with her tendencies to tidy when she threw out their things. She seems very intense. No wiggle room – if it doesn’t fit, throw it out. I suppose that is why people call her, to be severe with their things so that they don’t backslide. From what I can tell, she gets a job done.
I’m an artist and I like to reuse found materials in my art. I find it hard to throw things away once they’ve lost their original function, because I see the potential for these items to find a new, bright function and I’m frequently rewarded when an old item finds a new purpose. There is a harmony and a balance in this. I do, however, dislike dirt and clutter and would also love a clean, bright, neat living space.
It is difficult for very creative people to contain the “mess” that, inclusive of just the right combination of factors at the right time, is ripe for a beautiful creation to arise from the once-ruins. Not having a studio space is an issue, especially when one’s studio erupts in the same living room where people come to tea, or where I would like to lounge for a while in an unobstructed place. My husband would agree.
Today it occurred to me that one of the tenets of the Kon Mari method of tidying is discarding – throwing out bags and bags of garbage and unnecessary items that do not “spark joy” – that very same creed that launched Kondo into her second book by that name. The image of piles of black garbage bags, stuffed with items pitted against an image of a growing landfill strike me as discordant. It seems that what could be a very positive effort to de-clutter ends up feeding a great trash monster. Not a good sight.
I see some of the magic of tidying logic. In order to have a simpler, minimalist, non-materialistic lifestyle that helps one to be mindful and make directed choices, there needs to be some sort of baseline where content and clutter do not overtake the essentials in a home. Kondo suggests tidying to be a special event, and not a daily chore. After a big bout of tidying (read: getting rid of almost everything), then it’s all easier from there – just maintain by making conscious choices about everything that you bring into your home, from clothes, to storage items, to information-containing papers and books. There is an appeal to that. I organized a kitchen cupboard and wrote about it before too.
I suppose where I take issue now is that personal tidying can contribute to a larger, global issue. You can see through many articles that there is a massive, worldwide waste problem. People may feel like a personal load has been taken off when they gleefully and relievedly cart bags of old clothes away that they either have worn to the threads or else changed their mind about, but when these clothes end up in the landfill they’re just not often recyclable and there they sit forever and ever, amen. Fast fashion is one of the dirtiest industries, and it isn’t often on the headlines.
Making your space feel better through a thoughtful exercise of approaching every object and considering if it belongs in your life is great. But, at the expense of causing so much waste in one go? Kondo’s principles are often good – they help frame questions that people can consider. Yes, not having a certain item that you got rid of and realizing that life DOES still go on is helpful. There is a helpful order to use in organization, and certain items fit better in certain spaces. She even suggests using shoeboxes to organize things in drawers in the bedroom as well as kitchen, which means she subscribes to my general school of thought in reusing items.
But the consciousness, or lack of consciousness of waste bothers me, especially in this hyper-consumeristic society.
I don’t think I could be a zero-waste person and stop buying toothpaste and make my own just to stop using plastic – I couldn’t keep all my plastic waste to a single mason jar like she could. But, I do make a big effort to recycle everything that can be recycled. I bring my own grocery bags. I’m not casual about it. It is part of living thoughtfully, just a little bit more and being conscious that all the personal actions I make (such as getting rid of things in my home) aren’t necessarily as simple as opening the trash can and letting go. The concerns will still be around – just not in my home. Is that okay? Is it my problem once it leaves my house? I think that everyone could stand to take a moment to consider how they feel about this. Maybe you’ll make some changes. Maybe not. Regardless, I hope this thought piece will lead you to live thoughtfully in a new way.
I’d like to foster a community here where you all are welcome to discuss and interact in the comments – what do you think of living a no-waste lifestyle? Have any of you read the life-changing magic of tidying up? Did you implement her practices? What was the experience like of either reading or organizing? Let’s discuss!