Living Sustainably Through Joy
By now, you’ve likely heard about the “KonMari Method.” In her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie Kondo guides readers on a journey to declutter their lives. The main idea is to simplify, organize, and store our things in such a way that allows us to feel the magic of a tidy space. Her barometer for deciding what to keep (and, more importantly, what not to keep) is simple: any item we hang on to must spark us with joy.
I KonMari’d last fall when I moved from Seattle, Washington, to Boulder, Colorado. My ultra-funky, 120-year-old Boulder house demands decluttering. The closets are not even shoulder-width wide, so I started with clothes. Five trash bags full later (to be donated!), I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.
As a student of all things eco-friendly, studying Sustainability Planning & Management at the University of Colorado, Boulder in their Masters of the Environment program, I began to see Kondo’s method as more than just a way to achieve a mess-free life. By only keeping and accumulating things that spark me with joy, I consume exponentially less and, thus, live more sustainably.
There are so many ways to shop and consume sustainably, including but absolutely not limited to seeking out items with recycled content, sustainably sourced wood, biodegradable materials, and reusable or repurposable packaging. However, I’ve found I consume even less using the standard of joy than any of the conventional sustainability standards.
"By only keeping and accumulating things that spark me with joy, I consume exponentially less and, thus, live more sustainably."
Thinking in terms of sustainability and simplification can be particularly challenging in the aftermath of the holidays. As fun as it was unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, I felt a pang of guilt when I saw the amount of waste created by all the gift wrap. And then, of course, the inevitable uneasiness of receiving a gift you don’t want or need. Marie Kondo encourages us not to keep gifts out of guilt because the giver’s joy happens the moment the gift is given. Gift giving is valuable because of the transaction, or connection, between two people - not because of the object itself. If any of the gifts you’ve received don’t spark you with joy, donate them or find them a good home where they will give someone joy.
When giving gifts in the coming year, here are some helpful questions to ask: If it’s an object, is it produced sustainably? Could an experience (museum, concert, dinner, etc.) be given in place of an object? Can the gift be wrapped without creating unnecessary waste (like with Nuno’s reusable fabric gift wrap)?