On the Konmari band wagon

Throwback Thursday – My take on minimalism.

There has been lots and lots (and lots and lots) of talk about the Konmari method of tidying. The Netflix series has  nearly broken the internet! Marie Knodo’s website IS an elegant, simple and beautiful place. She IS elegant and beautiful. In preparing for this post I got lost looking at her clips for folding socks and underwear. It’s very alluring!

I was out with friends recently who were talking about how its really helping them get tidy. I can see it’s appeal and how it’s a good starting point to get things organised in your home. Not everyone agrees that it’s simply a quest to be tidy and see a more disturbing side. This article in by Erin Stewart in Overland challenges the ideals offered by the konmari approach. Erin confronts the idea that the people who may have “messy” spaces as being lazy.

Rampant consumerism isn’t revolutionary, but nor is discarding things. What would be revolutionary is an aesthetic – and a society – where those who aren’t streamlined are kept; where we aren’t judged for how well we keep spaces, but spaces are judged for how well they cater for us.

Another view is that as non-Japanese people; white, western culture cannot really understand some of basic philosophy behind her finding of “joy” in objects because we don’t share the same spiritual beliefs. This lack of empathy or understanding have led to people being critical of Marie Kondo’s success through cruel memes and comments that ridicule her Shinto background.

Even though Kondo delivers her dictates in the gentlest ways possible (I watched her show with the subtitles on; they kept saying she cooed), the message was clear to me: White people are comfortable when a woman of color takes on a stereotypical service role, but they are uncomfortable when a woman of color deigns to upend our unspoken societal rules. Even if she gets a bunch of men, who’ve left all the emotional labor of managing the daily stuff of living to their wives, to actually pitch in — even if people have padded too much into their lives and she helps them enjoy what they have again — it’s not enough. Unconsciously or consciously, Kondo had struck a nerve.

It’s worth having a look both sides of the argument.

I’ve written about minimalism and my quest to live a more simple life previously but I must admit my skin still prickles a bit about this subject. I still think it’s something that only the more privileged in society can embrace. Being tidy is an option for everyone but getting rid of perfectly good things because they don’t bring you “joy” is a different matter. I haven’t read the book and only glanced at the website but I understand the basic idea is that you only keep items which bring you joy and discard, donate or sell any other items. In my mind minimalism and tidiness are two separate issues, although to be tidy you need less stuff than you have storage spaces.

I think it’s better to start off with the philosophy of not bringing things into your home in the first place and only replacing it when warranted. Rich people sitting on the floor because they have given away their furniture is just plain silly! Getting rid of the thirteen of the fourteen handbags you never use is a different story.  Not buying new towels (or whatever) every season is sensible.

two old cooking trays
They might be ugly but they still work!

The links below will take you to my previous posts.

Digital Ephemera and the cloud keepers: A fictional look at the future post-minimalism

Feeling sentimental: Dealing with sentimental items

Consuming interest: A report on my challenge to not buy anything new for a year.

Now… right now… I am going to go and make my t-shirts stand up!


This post is another occasional series I am starting. Throwback Thursday where I will link to my previous posts to current issues/ideas.

A consuming interest

At the start of the financial year[1] I set myself a challenging goal.

Not to buy anything NEW for a whole year. There are a few caveats around the goal:

  1. It does not include consumables such as food and cleaning products.
  2. If something essential breaks or wears out I can replace it, preferably with something second hand.
  3. It does not include experiences.

After six months in I am doing OK, I have not brought anything new into my home.

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I tried to argue with my accountability partner that magazines and books were experiences and not stuff, but she said they were stuff because I could borrow them from the library or read them online, so I cancelled the subscriptions I had.

Have I missed buying stuff? So far –  no. I have made do with what I have. The hardest thing so far was what to do about gifts. With the holiday season looming I was not sure what to do. For the most part I bought experiences or perishables or gave second hand stuff. As a last resort, I decided that since it was not coming into my home, a new book and essentials like socks were OK. (This may be cheating a little bit I think!)

Over these last six months people have asked me why?  Why would I set out not to buy anything new for a year? “That’s crazy” they’d say.

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It wasn’t about saving money – although I have. It’s not because I am a hoarder, although I do sometimes feel crowded in my little home. The real why emerges out of several interlocking events and ideas that have been with me for a few years and which all came together in a flash of realisation.

The interlocking events included

  • Growth coaching
  • Some workshops on mental health first aid and positive psychology
  • My discovery of the Minimalist podcast[2]
  • My only daughter’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism
  • The ABC TV show War on Waste[3].
  • The Story of Stuff[4].
  • Having lots of time to think and reflect

The interlocking events led to my quest for a richer, more meaningful life. In this post, I will only elaborate on one aspect of the jigsaw. Positive mental health.

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I previously talked about[5] the foundations for wellbeing.  These being

  • to give,
  • to connect,
  • to be active,
  • to take notice and
  • to keep learning.

I discovered these foundations when I attended some workshops about student and teacher wellbeing as part of my day job and much of it began to resonate with me personally.

Some other workshops suggested that there was a very strong connection between positive mental health, diet and exercise. While I initially began the research to help students and teachers at my school, I was able to apply what I found out to myself.

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A small part of one Christmas’ horde

I started investigating my diet and the link between gut microflora and mental health. I had already read some books about positive psychology such as Flourish by Martin Seligman. I disappeared down the google-search-vortex as one thing led to another. I eventually found a paper[6] called A Wonderful Life:  Experiential consumption and the pursuit of happiness.

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The abstract to this article states:

This research indicates that experiential purchases provide greater satisfaction and happiness because:

(1) Experiential purchases enhance social relations more readily and effectively than material goods;

(2) Experiential purchases form a bigger part of a person’s identity; and

(3) Experiential purchases are evaluated more on their own terms and evoke fewer social comparisons than material purchases.

It all boils down to the fact that money can buy happiness, as long as you buy experiences and not things (material goods) . Things give you short-lived happiness. You quickly tire of them and want something else. Something bigger. Something brighter. Something that needs to be stored when you grow tired of it. Experiences, on the other hand, give you memories. You can reflect back on them. They give you something to talk about. They put you in a social space with social beings that you can form connections with. They help you learn about yourself and other people. They help you learn about the world.  They hit on at least four of the five pillars of positive mental health. If you choose to experience the world by helping others you can hit on all five.

If you are waking up from a “stuff-hangover” now that Christmas is over maybe next year you can think of buying the things that make memories. The only place you need to store them, is in your (digital) photo album and your brain.

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[1] July 1 in Australia

[2]https://www.theminimalists.com/

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/ourfocus/waronwaste

[4] https://www.google.com.au/search?q=the+story+of+stuff+youtube&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b&gfe_rd=cr&dcr=0&ei=oQExWp7jOePDXpuwpJAF

[5] https://oldchookenterprises.com/2017/09/09/wellbeing-an-introduction/

[6] A proper peer reviewed one! Gilovich T, Kumar A and Jampol L Journal of Consumer Psychology 2014) available at: https://www.scribd.com/document/280715372/Gilovich-Kumar-Jampol-in-press-A-Wonderful-Life-JCP