Eco-Conscious Living

KonMari Decluttering: A Guide to Responsible Discarding

cluttered plates and bowls

The start of the new year brings many feelings to us all — a feeling of wanting to feel refreshed, reset, and basically, as if we have our stuff together, mentally and tangibly.

Addressing the tangible side of the spectrum comes Marie Kondo, otherwise known as the tidying guru behind the KonMari Method. At the beginning of 2019, Netflix aired her newest show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” based off of her book published back in 2015. And once the show came out, it blew up. People were tidying left and right. Plastered all over social media, the idea of ridding items that don’t bring you joy was all the media kept putting in our faces. If you weren’t tidying, were you really getting your life together?

Read More: What People Don’t Tell You About Decluttering

When I first heard of her show coming out, I can say I had feelings of both excitement and skepticism. Realistically speaking, I knew of the benefits of tidying up, as I went through the KonMari Method back in 2016, but I also was aware of the “trash” mentality it created unintentionally, which went against my environmental values. As with all trends, people would be curious to what this show is about and would want to try it out for themselves. I’m not saying that it’s bad people are decluttering their spaces — as a matter of fact, I’m glad people are because I’m a huge proponent of only allowing items of meaning and value in your life. However, I feel there isn’t enough information out there about what to do with your items after decluttering. The default decision was to trash items, and that simply shouldn’t be the case.

Our world has slowly become overridden with consumption and obsessed with the societal status that material items give us. America in particular, holding the idea of the American Dream, has shifted societal expectations into believing that a nice car, luxury items, a home of your own, and increasing amounts of stuff are what will make us happy. Ultimately, this mentality leads to our own mental destruction and leads up steps closer to the destruction of the planet we live on.

As an American, I want to share some statistics I’ve come across:

These statistics are outrageous, considering there are trillions of people in the world who leave their own carbon footprint during their lifetime. Regardless of the “balance” one could argue with, saying that people in third world countries do not consume as much as people in first world countries is ridiculous to say. Over consumption is over consumption. The mindset behind it isn’t rooted in consideration with the planet we have been blessed to live on, nor is it rooted in understanding our true selves, what makes us human beings alive, fulfilled, and content. I believe we can and should live in harmony with our world, as it has housed us, nourished us, and provided us with a place to call home as we live this chapter of our lives. To pay respect to our planet by taking the steps to declutter, look at our consumption habits, and move forward to do better in our lives is just the beginning. It’s a process we must go through and a mindset to cultivate.

With all of this in mind, I hope it makes sense why I had a skeptical view of the impact the KonMari would have on the world once it blew up. People tend to see it at face value, see it as a fun activity, and remove themselves from the journey an item takes prior, into, and after its time with you. If you have already decluttered and are about to rid of your items or if you have just discovered the KonMari method and are in the process of gathering items to rid of, read below for some guidelines in how you can be responsible in the disposal of your items.

  • Think of how to repurpose an item.
    • Maybe an item does not spark joy to you when you see it because its initial purpose in your life did not make you happy. Or the colour of the item does not suit you. This doesn’t mean buy more items to make this one work for you, but be resourceful. If you have washi tape or paint lying around, see if you can repurpose its look to match your aesthetic. If it’s a box, vase, or glass jar, see if you can use it as storage rather than ridding it all together.
  • Sell the items you do not want anymore, if they are in good condition but no longer have value in your life.
    • Electronics, clothes, furniture, or other items you find around your home can be sold in garage sales or even online via Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or apps such as Poshmark, Depop, Letgo, and more. The items may be sitting around for a while, but just ensure they have a home as they are waiting to be found by the right person.
  • Gift items you do not use, cannot sell, or no longer find value in.
    • This is huge because it opens up our heart to be more giving individuals. I believe that what you give out to the world will come back to you. So, in theory, if you are willing to give items that you once loved to other people who will love it now, then in return, the universe will provide you with the fulfillment you desired deep in your heart.
  • Recycle items in their proper place. Do your research according to the area you live in.
    • Separate paper, bottles/cans, glass, electronics, and other miscellaneous plastics. Make sure you go to local e-waste facilities to properly dispose of electronics. Best Buy has a program where they can take electronics you are no longer using. Nike has a program where they take your old athletic shoes to recycle and repurpose. Terracycle is a site where you can research places to recycle items you may not have even thought to recycle or repurpose their materials into something usable. It takes intention and effort to responsible dispose of items. And I know you are capable of caring to do the research. I believe in you.
  • Donate items to a local charity shop or find local non profit organisations that could find value in the items.
    • Once the show came out, op shops, charity shops, and thrift shops became overloaded with donated items. At some point, some of these shops began to reject donations because they could not handle the influx of items coming in. I know that it feels good to donate to these shops, but please make sure to try out the first 4 options I listed above, since there, you can ensure the item is still getting use or is properly disposed of rather than put into the trash. Most donations, believe it or not, are deemed unsellable and are put the trash anyhow, despite your best intentions to have it donated to their cause. This leads me to say that donating to non profit organisations that could use extra toothbrushes, shampoo, towels, hand rags, tshirts, etc is the better option compared to secondhand shops. But do your research and look around the area. Some areas may be more congested than others.
  • Trash what cannot be sold, donated or repurposed in any shape or form.
    • This is a last resort I suggest to you all because the life that the item you are ridding of is now over at this point. It cannot be used for something else, and it only adds to the ever growing trash dumps we have in our world. Though I do not prefer this option, I am realistic in knowing that sometimes, this is all that can be done. And that’s okay. Because if we are so uptight about where everything goes and hurt yourself in the process by saying we’re failures or will never be good enough in responsible disposal, then we missed the entire point of the decluttering process.

I say this again: It’s okay to put things in the trash. I know it isn’t your intention to ignore your environmental impact. It’s the lack of education on the topic and the lack of people speaking up. But now you know. And I hope you’ll spread the word of this topic for the sake of the greater good.

Please remember to not beat yourself up if you have already disposed of your decluttered items. Think of this as a moment to educate yourself, forgive, and know better for next time. This is a process after all, and I understand we are human and consistently are growing.

Responsible decluttering and disposal is a topic I wish for people to think more about when they stumble upon the KonMari method or even the Minimalism Documentary, which is also on Netflix. There are so many benefits to decluttering that I believe the world should experience, and I’m hoping that with time, resources like Marie Kondo’s show, and the advocacy efforts of people in the sustainable/low waste/eco-conscious community, our relationship with material items will shift away from the consumerist habits we live with today.

Read More: Benefits of Decluttering

Have you tried the KonMari method of tidying up? Have you decluttered anything before in the past or are you decluttering now? Let’s chat in the comments about your thoughts on the decluttering process and how disposal plays a huge role.

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