One simple question that ignited a tidying revolution: “Does it spark joy?” Marie Kondo, bestselling author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” and star of Netflix original series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” challenges us to question the value within each of our belongings. Inspired by the Shinto religion, which recognizes the divine spirit and energy within all things, the KonMari method revolves around collecting all of one’s belongings into one big mountain, going through each item one by one, and then only keeping those that “spark joy.” The items that will be discarded are then thanked for serving their purpose before being neatly folded away.
If the idea of something sparking joy seems like a foreign concept, you are not alone. The notion stems from the Japanese word, tokimeku, which means “to flutter, throb or palpitate.” For perspective, according to Kondo, joy feels something akin to wearing a favorite outfit or holding a puppy. It is a warm, positive feeling. While many people struggle to identify when something sparks joy, Kondo reassures that sensitivity to joy will be honed as one continues the tidying process, which follows a distinct organizational sequence of (1) clothes, (2) books, (3) paper, (4) miscellaneous items and (5) sentimental items. A paradox naturally occurs when one ponders how joy, a humanistic emotion, can be expressed in material items. Logic points out that a shirt is a shirt is a shirt. It can’t spontaneously come to life and tell jokes, or take us on a fabulous trip to Paris. So maybe a shirt is just a shirt. But then again, maybe a shirt is the shirt. The shirt you wore when you had your first kiss. The shirt you wore when you found out that you got accepted to your dream school. The shirt you wore when you hugged your grandmother for the last time. There are certain experiences tied within each item we own, and what the KonMari method teaches us is that while clinging to something can be comforting, letting go of it can be, too.
The KonMari method sparked a transformation in the fashion industry. Donations to thrift stores have skyrocketed since the premiere of her hit show, and her method also seems to have further bolstered people’s examination of what they put into their closets. The KonMari method inherently rejects wastefulness, which doesn’t help fast fashion brands since their sales have already been on the decline for months due to consumers’ growing interest in sustainability and human rights. What is fast fashion, you may ask? It is a term used by retailers to describe cheaply made clothing produced in response to the latest catwalk trends. They are designed to be replaced quickly, so they have real, negative repercussions on not only the exploited workers who make them but also the planet. According to two separate reports published by Global Labour Justice, more than 540 women working in Asian factories supplying fast fashion brands Gap and H&M have described incidents of verbal abuse and physical violence between the months of January and May in 2018. And if that wasn’t shocking enough, the Ellen McArthur Foundation recently published a study revealing that one garbage truck of textiles is wasted every second. Consumers are not blind to these destructive practices, and it’s affecting their decisions where to shop. For some brands such as Charlotte Russe, profit declines have gotten so bad that filing for bankruptcy was the only option. It is clear that millennials are increasingly becoming more interested in sustainable living, as seen in their readiness to adopt towards fewer, high-quality investment pieces and their conscious rejection of material excess. The KonMari method offers a simple mechanism to aid in this newfound cultural shift.
But while this shift is great, people should be aware of the greater message behind the KonMari method. It is not about minimalism, it is not about the capsule closet, and it is not about purging your entire closet and only keeping a fitted white tee, nice jeans, and a navy blazer. What the KonMari method truly preaches is mindfulness — mindfulness about what you keep, and mindfulness about what you purchase in the future. The fact of the matter is, in our privileged society, everyone has too much. Maybe you planned on having 10 statement pieces but ended up with 15, or maybe you planned on having 30 statement pieces but ended up with 45. The numerical amount of how much one “should” own is irrelevant because joy is not exclusive to minimalism. As long as one is conscious, joy can be present in a maximalist life as well. Because at the end of the day, what matters is what sparks joy in you.