A bestselling book and hit show on Netflix later, the KonMari Method is taking over the mainstream. Come 2019, it is as though we have all decided to take a step back from consuming and are asking ourselves if not these things, then what?
Enter Marie Kondo and the KonMari Method™. This method not only encourages tidying, but brings attention to the concept of only keeping things that speak to the heart and then discarding items that no longer spark joy. You thank your things for their service – then you let them go.
The concept is great. Owning fewer possessions that we actually use and truly love is conducive to less attachment to inanimate objects. The only problem with this method, is that once we've thanked these belongings for their service and let them go, where are they going?
It might sound silly, but seeing the popularity of the KonMari method explode over the past few weeks made me feel uneasy. It isn't the increase in people adopting this way of living that made me feel on edge because I do want everyone to let go of their attachment to material possessions.
What made me uneasy is that, if we aren't conscious of how we're letting things go, we will just be letting things go from our homes and relocating them elsewhere. In this case, elsewhere might be straight to the landfill, but sadly, it could just as easily end up in our forests, fields, lakes, rivers and ultimately, oceans.
Letting things go to a better home, not the landfill
We mustn't toss our belongings into plastic bags and then toss those to the curb - we're better than that! We can donate. But, we can (and must) do better than attempt to streamline everything we own to one single charity organization. These organizations can quickly become overrun by donations (especially at a time like this!), and might let our things go straight to the landfill, too.
To maximize the positive impact of our things on our local communities and minimize the negative, there are a few things to keep in mind. I'm starting this as does Marie, beginning with clothes then moving on to books! I don't currently have an urge or need to declutter my papers, komono (miscellaneous items), or sentimental items, so will start at the top.
Cleaning out our closets, for better
For everyday clothing, the best way to give your clothes the most impactful second life is to give them to a local charity or group. The ones to look for are 1) those that will give them to a person with a specific need, or 2) that will sell the clothing and donate the proceeds or or use them to provide a service (counselling, training, etc) for those in need.
For clothing with more specific uses, there are a variety of charity organizations that can make the best use of them. So, before bringing your clothes to second hand stores or thrift shops, check what you have!
If you have warm clothing: winter jackets, wool sweaters, scarves, socks, hats or mitts: donate them to a homeless shelter or mission. Regardless of the climate in your city, people who spend the majority of their days and nights outside will make daily use of warm clothes.
If you have business or formal clothes: Consider donating them to organizations such as Dress for Success, or ClothingWorks with Goodwill that provide professional and formal attire for women and men. These organizations aren't as common and don't have a spread that is nationwide like charities such as St Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army or Goodwill, so it might require some digging!
For pieces that aren't in condition to be worn anymore, consider bringing them to H&M or Zara, as both collect clothes and repurpose the fabric. Nike also does the same for running shoes!
Shelving Books where they'll be read
This one is easier because there are a variety of places where books can be donated! Libraries, community centres, used book stores, and certain churches and schools take used and gently used books. The Salvation Army and Goodwill are also two more obvious options for used books, while places like Big Brothers and Sisters take gently used books to gift to children and families in need.
Ask the teachers in your life what they might need for their classroom or school. Their school library might take in used books, and if not, there might be students that could use a few books to take home.
It is liberating to discover how little we need, and empowering to realize how big a difference we can make.