I can’t stop thinking about Arielle Bernstein’s recent Atlantic essay on clutter as a symbol of survival:
As Bernstein writes:
Kondo says that we can appreciate the objects we used to love deeply just by saying goodbye to them. But for families that have experienced giving their dearest possessions up unwillingly, “putting things in order” is never going to be as simple as throwing things away. Everything they manage to hold onto matters deeply. Everything is confirmation they survived.
But the paragraph that really stuck with me came earlier in the piece, when Bernstein proposes that the KonMari method is as much about consumerism as it is about minimalism:
It’s easy to see the items we own as oppressive when we can so easily buy new ones. That we can only guess at the things we’ll need in the future and that we don’t always know how deeply we love something until it’s gone.
Of course you can get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy if you’re confident that you can buy another one as soon as you need it.
There’s been a lot written about how KonMari can be used to save money—or, more specifically, to earn money by selling the items that no longer bring you joy. I explored that topic last year for The Penny Hoarder, and you’ll find plenty of people writing about how much cash they made off their decluttering haul.
But now I’m curious if KonMari costs you, in the end; if we slowly buy back many of the things we thought we did not need, or if the decision to pitch our horribly mistreated socks inevitably ends up with us buying newer socks at a higher price point. (This isn’t necessarily a lifestyle inflation thing, either. You could buy the same socks that you bought five years ago and still pay a higher price due to regular inflation.)
KonMari can also catch you in a cycle of “throwing out worn-out stuff but only being able to afford to replace it with stuff that wears out just as fast,” as Megan Reynolds wrote last year:
It’s an endless cycle that continues, and probably won’t be broken until I pony up and spend the scratch on something that is actually well-made and won’t lose its shape or become threadbare after a month or two.
I know we have Billfolders who have done KonMari, so let us know: did you end up replacing some of the items you removed from your home? Were these items that needed to be replaced (socks with holes), or were they items that you didn’t know you needed until they were gone? Did you specifically try to buy better versions of these items, or did you buy the same versions, knowing that they might wear out just as quickly?
Also: did you worry, as you decluttered your home, that you might need replacement items in the future and not be able to afford them? Or is decluttering intrinsically linked to consumer confidence? (There’s another side of this, as Bernstein mentions in her essay, where we declutter because we cannot afford to move all of our possessions to wherever we’re going to live next—and we can discuss that in the comments as well.)
It’s fascinating how even something like “sparking joy” can have long-range economic implications that we barely realize when we pick up an object, thank it for its service, and throw it away.
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