Sustainable Decluttering: What to Do With the Stuff You Don’t Want

Sustainable DeclutteringIf you haven’t heard of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you’ve either been living off-the-grid in a yurt or you’ve sworn off the Internet.

In the four years since it hit the shelves, Marie Kondo’s best-selling book has spawned a movement.

It’s no longer enough to declutter your home, now you KonMari the shit out of it.

Not really.

KonMari might sound like a martial art —and in a way it is, since you’re attacking the clutter— but Sensei Kondo is nothing like her Kung Fu fighting counterparts.

Sweet, diminutive and extremely spiritual in her approach to letting go, Marie Kondo seems genuinely excited to help people organise their stuff.

Who knows, maybe her demure demeanour belies the ability to deliver a perfectly executed roundhouse kick.

Even though I’d heard all about the magic and joy spreading across the interwebs, I’d never taken the time to familiarise myself with Marie Kondo’s work.

Why would I? It’s not as if Sporty and I need help organising the seven things we own.

But then I found myself with two KonMari-related articles to write. I might thumbsuck and embellish on Mostly Mindful, but for clients I’m required to actually research the topic.

They’re very demanding.

I was left with no choice but to find out more about the method that’s left millions clutter-free and over the moon. I’m pleased to say I gleaned a lot from the YouTube video I watched. 

What I Learnt from Researching the Konmari Method

I went into the task with the assumption that it would be more of the same. Yawn. I wasn’t entirely wrong. Marie Kondo would also like you to get rid of most of your stuff.

But that’s where the similarities end. 

The KonMari method has two distinct differences. The first is that you declutter by category and not by room. Which makes more sense when you think about it.

The second difference is key. There’s a spiritual aspect to it that gets most folks’ panties in a twist. But if you can get past your hangups, it will have you regarding stuff in a whole new way.

More on that in a bit.

Sustainable Decluttering

I’ve always fancied myself quite mindful when it comes to disposing of unwanted items. Sporty and I recycle, donate whenever possible, and we don’t shop unnecessarily. We even compost our kitchen waste.

Model citizens, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The first thing I realised while delving into all things KonMari is that we need to think more carefully about what we do with the stuff we no longer need or want.

Our new apartment —yip, we moved recently— required a lot of elbow grease to make it habitable.

Helpfully, the previous tenant left her cleaning equipment (broom, mop, window cleaner, etc.) behind. Unhelpfully, it was just as grubby as the apartment.

Keen to see the back of it, Sporty and I unceremoniously bagged the offending items and left them next to the garbage bins downstairs.

In retrospect, those things could easily have been saved by a good scrub. They’d seen better days, sure, but if I’d made the effort they maybe could have gone another round or two.

Nobody tell Sporty, the thought alone will be enough to make her brain itch.

Instead, we made our stuff someone else’s problem by dumping it in the trash. Who knows how long it will take to biodegrade. Probably longer than it takes clothes to decompose.

How you declutter is super important, but what I’ve since come to realise is that we’re all very quick to toss something because it appears to be past its sell-by date.

This is not an excuse to hoard, mind you. I’m simply suggesting that you think carefully before trashing something. Can it be upcycled, for example? Perhaps all it needs is a good clean?

These three articles will give you more insight into what sustainable decluttering entails and how best to go about it. (The first one is written by me, so you’ll obviously want to start there.)

Read This Before You KonMari Your House // Care.2

How to Downsize/Declutter/Purge Responsibly // Wasteland Rebel

8 Steps to Green Decluttering // Unconventional Sustainability

Practice Extreme Gratitude

Back to the spiritual aspect I alluded to earlier. It turns out our declutter Sensei is an advocate of animism. Broadly defined, animism is the belief that everything has a spirit: trees, birds, rainstorms, rocks. Socks, even.

Here’s where the KonMari method derails for a lot of people. We’re all for purging and tidying, but telling our old vacuum cleaner thanks before putting it on the curb?

Erm, sure, and why don’t I throw salt and burn some sage while I’m at it?

But why not express gratitude to your belongings? Why not be grateful for the purpose they served?

“If you are letting go of an item, giving thanks is also a way of properly saying goodbye, so that you can mark the end of your relationship with the item and release it without guilt. It’s a way to recognize your relationship with your possessions.” —Marie Kondo

It’s an out there concept from our western perspective, but I think it’s exactly what we need to help us break the relentless cycle of acquiring new stuff.

Sporty and I had our own cleaning paraphernalia, but if we hadn’t I’m embarrassed to admit we’d have gone out and bought more.

Very not green of us.

These articles provide insight into the KonMari method as well as Marie Kondo herself. They’re all interesting, but if you’re intrigued by the notion that we have a relationship with our stuff, the first one is a must read.

Marie Kondo Wants Us To Thank Our Belongings. // HuffPost

The Origin of Marie Kondo’s Decluttering Empire // The New Yorker

I Really Thought This Marie Kondo Rule Was Ridiculous // Pop Sugar

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