Marie Kondo’s methods revisited: my thoughts on doing Kondo sustainably

I hope you agree that her show (Tidying up with Marie Kondo) has genuinely been one of the only entertaining aspects of this bleak January. In case you’ve been living under a rock, de-cluttering guru Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show consists of 8 families, 5 tidying categories (clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany) and sentimental items), and 1 tiny extra-joyful Japanese lady. Kondo’s method suggests working methodically around the home evaluating if items in the five categories spark joy (or in plain English, have some sort of actual utility). Reactions have been mixed: for some she’s been a catalyst to finally tackle their Monica closet. For others, Kondo and her upright folded shirts live in a complete fantasy land. If you haven’t seen the show yet, I really recommend it. If anything, watch it for the comedic value afforded by the bonkers American families and homes. I mean how many Christmas nutcrackers and rhinestone encrusted jackets can one lady own?! But also, it’s just heartwarming. The family that calls themselves the fab 4? Total family goals.

I’ve binge-watched the show once and am about to start again. And all of this sedentary activity has given me a bit of time to reflect. While it’s hard to fault her, I’ve come to the conclusion that Kondo’s methods could be slightly tweaked to make them more in line with sustainability principles. So in my last Feel Good Friday post in January, and before almost everyone’s interest in new year’s resolutions dissipates, I want to share some of these reflections. My hope is to catch the last few of you who haven’t Kondo’d yet and encourage you to think sustainably when you do. I’m making the case that if we can Kondo wisely, we can do our bit for the environment too. Boom, two resolutions in one! Here are the main ways I’m tweaking Marie Kondo’s methods:

Introducing sub-categories and seizing the opportunity to introduce new, more sustainable habits.

Does anyone else struggle with this idea of ‘komono’ or miscellany in the show? Let’s be real here. That category means ‘everything bloody else’. And that’s just not realistic to lump it all together. I think we should break this down further and get away from her categories a bit. For instance, it’s much easier to start with just the kitchen or just the bathroom and by breaking Kondo’s huge komono category into smaller chunks, success (i.e lasting change) is more likely. When you break this category down into smaller chunks, there is more of an opportunity to introduce more sustainable living choices. This month, I’ve turned my focus to the bathroom and have made most changes there while decluttering (amber bottles, anyone?) and next month I’ll move on to the kitchen. That way it’s not so many changes all at once and I feel they’re more likely to stick.

Discarding smarter.

One of the biggest issues I see, which has often been raised in critiques I’ve read about the show, is that Kondo doesn’t suggest where you should take the stuff you’ve decided to part with (at least on film). This may encourage people to throw their items into the waste stream. It may seem obvious, but don’t just throw your stuff in the bin! And this is not about just donating to charity either. My plan to is reuse, reuse, reuse. Old t-shirts? I’m cutting them up for cloths to clean my worktops with. Old nail polish? Thinning it out the gloopy ones to give them new life, and then putting the others in my craft box. The point is, I’m trying to approach my oldstuff with a little creativity and with an eye of keeping it out of the waste stream. Sometimes it is really neccesary to purge stuff from your home. But when you or your family can’t reuse, see if someone else can, via Freecycle. Only then should your stuff get donated to charity (mostly because they’re overloaded as it is).

Kondo your inbox

Kondo your inbox

Looking out for the root causes of overconsumption.

Ok let’s back up here and ‘unpack’ this a little bit. Overconsumption is not the same thing as maximalism. I’m a maximalist myself: I love to shop and bring new treasures home so much so that I’m known as the hunter-gatherer in our house. Hunting bargains and gathering decor (usually cushions). But if I understand Kondo well, there is no lower or upper limit of sparking joy. This means you can discard all you want, or you can keep all you want as well. Her method is not about the minimalism-maximalism tug of war. But her end goal does seem to be about confronting overconsumption. So yes we can still consume away, so long as we’re being totally honest about what really is bringing us happiness, which in theory should lead to less mindless (i.e. mindful) consumption. What Marie Kondo doesn’t seem to do is ask people to confront overconsumption at the root of the problem. In other words, to look at the factors that lead to overconsumption and to change those. I know, for example, my mindless consumption is fed by the comparison-itis I suffer due to my Instagram addiction. I’m not quite sure how to solve that one yet. But also, it’s partly down to things like the 14,637 e-newsletters I subscribed to so I could get 15% off, and have since remained subscribed to! Please tell me I’m not alone. Newsletter marketing is genius, it does its job well by alerting me to whatever happens to be on offer. But to be perfectly honest, this really does lead to mindless spending and consuming in my case. My solution to this is Kondo-chop my inbox! Overconsumption is a real problem for the environment, since most products we consume are made in far away places with non-renewable resources. So tackling this properly, and addressing the root causes of mindless consumption can really make a difference.


Ok I think I’ll leave it at that for now. Whether you’re inspired or annoyed by Marie Kondo, I hope these ramblings have given you a new perspective on the Kondo Kraze. Let me know if or how you’re planning to make a de-cluttering push this year, and how you’re doing it with sustainability in mind. Also, please do share this post if you found it useful or helpful!




Photo credit: RISE [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons