The dark side of decluttering

There is a slow but sure movement building up. It is not one-sided but multifaceted. You will hear people say the following:’I am a minimalist’. ‘I am a Marie Kondo convert’. ‘I hate clutter’. ‘I am starting a capsule wardrobe’.The above augurs well as people are gravitating towards a lifestyle where they let go of things they no longer need or want. Now we can also find Marie Kondo consultants – admittedly one of the strangest job titles I have come across. We surely live in a funny world.Resuming my argument, there are those who move house. When the latter happens, it is not unusual that masses of belongings are thrown out or disposed of. The question is, where do these things go?Preferably, they are donated or resold at a cheaper price. This is the best way forward and can be done with many things (eg. Clothes, other garments, toys, books, furniture). Generally there are 2 types of people who find themselves in this predicament: soneone who is not just moving house, but also leaving the country; or someone who converts to a new way of thinking and being.In the second scenario, one must proceed carefully – is it just a phase, a whim, or because it is trending? Is it an informed, personal choice?As an example, let us focus mostly on fashion, which we know is contributing to tonnes of waste and pollution, both in its generation and in its disposal.Before I started writing this, I came across this video on YouTube, one of many that show a former self-proclaimed serial shopper go Marie Kondo on her wardrobe, removing most of its contents. That is admirable, isn’t it, when someone professes that they have made the decision to live with the bare minimum of clothes, thereby getting rid of loads of others. Granted, if they are donated, then that means less waste. But how long is it until they go back to old ways? With new events come the need to wear something different. Who knows whether that person will go back to buying many more clothes eventually? After all, it is admittedly difficult to resist new stock, fresh cuts and designs, especially if one lives, breathes, and works with fashion.So how can we get round this contradictory situation – it is almost impossible to be a minimalist, but at the same time we do not want to contribute to more waste. How to achieve this?

  1. Shop wisely, consciously, and sparingly.
  2. Check materials – opt less for manmade fabrics like polyester and source for clothes made of modal, tencel, or lyocell. Even cotton can be harmful to the environment (many litres of water go into making a cotton T-shirt). Although it is preferred to polyester, the latter is now being recycled by brands. Yet when washing polyester, tiny harmful particles are released in the water, ending up in the oceans.
  3. Shop clothes that last so when you donate, they are still in good condition.
  4. Thrift shops are huge in the US but sadly the selection here in Malta is substandard. So I can only recommend buying good second hand clothes from such stores like Goodwill. Otherwise, bloggers often sell their clothes – some barely worn – on Depop.
  5. Stay away from cheap fast fashion sites. And stay away from YouTubers/ bloggers who promote them.
  6. Shop for the job you have not for some type of event you won’t really go to. Better to build a strong day-to-day wardrobe with classic, versatile pieces that are not too boring but also not over the top.
  7. Are you eyeing some garment that is such a standout piece that people will remember it? Or that has a recognisable print? Then chances are you won’t wear it much, at least not with the same crowd. However, you can get creative and repurpose it. Or else go ahead and wear it how many times you like anyway. Who said we should only wear something once? There was someone who I remember saying, ‘I do not want to be caught seen in the same dress twice’. It is exactly this mentality that leads to endless consumerism. After all, if Kate Middleton (aka) The Duchess of Cambridge wears something repeatedly, surely it is a message for us lesser mortals to wear out our garments more?
  8. Speaking of wearing out… Instead of going on a decluttering frenzy, we could choose what to keep on the basis of the condition something is in. Why throw out something that is still in good condition just because we do not like wearing it? Store it and maybe it comes back in style. I remember almost throwing out these winter knits, until I realized their material was much better than the more recent acquisitions. If, however, after a couple of seasons they are still not getting much use, proceed to donate.
  9. Bonus point: if we had to keep only the things that spark joy, then we would end up filling up all the bring-in sites. So do not take it too literally.

Decluttering is a healthy endeavor, because a clean workspace (eg a wardrobe or an entire house) enables us to live in more positive energy. Our headspace is also cleaner. However, we should not become that obsessed to the point where you take out the homely out of a home. I have seen images of rooms that have less personality than a door knob. It is too cold and clinical for my taste. But house decor is another topic for another day…To conclude, it is a laudable task when we declutter our wardrobes, but we must also think of the consequences of waste generation. We should not do it because it is a trend, and neither does decluttering mean throwing away things. Sometimes it is just reorganising your garments, or working with your home space. Surely anyone can do this, in small doses, from time to time, or from one season to another. And for this, you certainly don’t need a consultant.

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4 thoughts on “The dark side of decluttering

  1. As Malta’s only KonMari consultant in training (I guess Malta is also part of that funny world you mention!) I’m really happy to get together at some point and chat about what my profession really entails as there seem to be a few misapprehensions here.
    As an earth sciences graduate I have no problem in understanding the issue of landfill running out of space. The assumption that KonMari consultants merrily invite their clients to chuck 90% of their possessions straight into landfill is wildly inaccurate!
    Reach out to me if you fancy a chat about what the role of a KonMari consultant actually entails!
    Julia

    1. Dear Julia, first off, my post was in response to months of ‘research’ into what is happening internationally so in no way did I intend to offend anyone, so please don’t take it personally. Secondly, it is my take on the contradictions I come across on the daily online – the funny world I am referring to – such as a video on decluttering followed by a shopping haul. So my post is not about the Kondo world per se, but how to navigate the sometimes overwhelming world of fashion. And then I add some thoughts of how to dispose of things thoughtfully. Finally, I admire your courage in taking up this role. In Malta you will find many hoarders so I must say they surely need help 😉

      1. Thanks for your reply and your clarifications.

        The picture I’m getting from prospective and booked clients is that the tide is turning. People I speak to seem to have an increasing awareness that you can reach ‘peak stuff’ and that possessions can often be a very real cause of stress!

        We certainly have a long way to go in terms of changing our shopping and waste disposal habits as a community, as a nation, and as a planet, but what I’m seeing is that clients who genuinely felt ready to go through the KonMari process saw big changes in their consumption behaviour following our sessions – ‘relapse rate’ tends to be low, maybe because I’m careful only to work with clients who genuinely seem ready to sort through a life’s accumulation of possessions. The process is intensive and so it genuinely does seem to bring about a changed approach to how clients take and consume from the world around them.

        I’m not offended at all and guessed that you didn’t mean to knowingly cause any offence.

        KonMari is still a hot topic following her Netflix series and to be honest I spend a lot of time reassuring people that I don’t want to bag up their every item whether they like it or not, partly because of how she’s been portrayed by certain sites! That sort of negative or inaccurate portrayal obviously affects business for me in a very real way so I have an interest in setting the record straight, which I’m sure you can appreciate.

        All the best with your ongoing ventures, and you know where I am if you ever feel like that Tidying Marathon!

      2. I’m glad that your clients are benefiting from your approach. I did not purposefully focus on the KonMari method because it is not my aim to portray those efforts in any negative way. It is focused on what we watch online and how it might be interpreted. All the best with you work.

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