If you own a TV, engage with social media, or simply have other humans in your life that you interact with, chances are you've heard of the new Netflix series 'Tidying up with Marie Kondo'.
Every single person I know who has watched this series has started folding their t-shirts in a funny way and has finally parted ways with their long-term Beanie Kid collection.
I'm yet to watch an episode, but I know I'd love it. This kind of shit is right up my alley. I love a good productivity hack and I truly get off on maximising space in my teeny-tiny apartment. While I'm fairly confident that Kondo and I would gel, I'm hesitant to watch her show.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I love to collect things. The idea of having to truly take stock on whether or not my collection of soap bars spark joy within me makes me feel highly anxious*. And there's no way in hell I'm letting that tidy bitch touch the box of discarded grocery lists I collected from the streets (I'm going to turn them into a book one day, I swear). Due to my aforementioned penchant for all things life hack, I know I'd be mesmerised by her Kondoisms and would likely purge myself of all material possessions, only to be left with a pillow to rest my weary head upon and my box of assorted bars of soap to play with.
It was a strategic move from Netflix to release this series right at the time of the year when we're all desperate to better ourselves in any which way possible. Humans across the privileged portion of the globe are throwing out their crap en masse in an effort to lighten their consumerist consciences (I myself am about to benefit from such a purge by rifling through my friend's unwanted clothing) and this is the second reason why I'm not likely to engage with Kondo's clean cult any time soon: it's wasteful.
Kondo has become such a household name that, like Google, we've turned her into a verb. "I'm going to 'Kondo' my life tonight, then I'll get a burrito". Here's a video of Jennifer Garner showing us how to 'Kondo' your junk drawer. A "junk draw" is an extremely privileged white person thing to have in the first place; a drawer (or sometimes, entire room) dedicated to storing the stuff that we don't need yet continue to accumulate throughout our whole lifetime. What's that all about?
Well Made Clothes recently reported that some op-shops have actually stopped accepting donations of late, due to the mountain of clothing coming their way likely spurred on by the popularity of the series.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for donating second-hand clothing. Recycling our clothes is a great way to break the fast fashion trend. But if our Op-Shops are inundated, that means more and more of our stuff is getting dumped in landfill. Waste management experts have estimated that 20 million tonnes of garbage is dumped into landfill each year, that's 40% of all waste generated in Australia.
Last year, War on Waste put a visual to this number, opening our eyes to the fact that we're throwing out 6,000 kgs of clothing every ten minutes. With this in mind, it's definitely worth looking into a more sustainable option when practicing the KonMari method.
And it's not just the disastrous environmental effects that people are taking issue with. Reporter James Weir also pointed out an interesting contradiction to Kondo's work in his Sunday column. At the very same time that she's telling her clients to rid themselves of all their dust-collecting books, she's flogging her own titles, 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' and 'Spark Joy'; she's thought to have sold over 7 million copies.
"Kondo-mania is clearly a corporate pyramid scheme," says Weir.
"The more books about organisation she releases, the more clutter her devotees bring into their homes. Then, following KonMari law, they purge and throw everything out — including their saviour’s books. Ah, serenity. But it’s fleeting. Suddenly Kmart releases more junk in rose gold and Aldi starts selling an ugly chair and all of a sudden devotees’ homes are cluttered again. What to do? They need to repurchase Kondo’s bible. It’s a dangerous cycle."
Even the most well-intentioned amongst us are getting caught in Kondo's web, frantically ridding ourselves of anything that doesn't give us an inkling of good feels (when I inevitably catch the Kondo bug the first things I'll be getting rid of are my electricity bills and stretch marks – y'all do not spark joy).
One of my very favourite cleaning up anecdotes so far comes from cool Insta-Mum Annie Nolan. In her tidying up flurry she "accidentally" threw away one of her children's sporkies – that's a fork crossed with a spoon for those playing at home. The devastating news prompted her daughter, Cheska, to hold a funeral for this special utensil (check out the 'kids' section of Annie's saved Instagram posts to experience the heartfelt eulogy).
There's nothing wrong with the ideas behind the KonMari cleaning approach. In fact, I think she's coming from a good place, however capitalising monumentally while doing so. She's encouraging us to reconsider our relationship with stuff, and that's a good thing. The big companies are only producing more stuff because there's a demand for it. So we can take Kondo's approach, but with a twist.
Instead of sifting through your own belongings in a quest for something to spark joy, go through that process in the store before you buy it. Once it's yours, you have a responsibility to keep it in your corner of the world until you truly have no use for it anymore. Once you reach this point, consider taking a different Japanese cleaning approach called 'mottainai' which encourages thought around reusing, recycling, reducing and respecting.
* Who am I kidding? The only thing to bring me pure joy in this life is my soap collection.
Kate Neilson is the founding editor of Twenty Something Humans. She likes eating her morning toast in bed and feels awkward writing about herself in third person. Lurk her @katiepotatierose.