The Decluttering Trend

Growing-up in a small house in Tokyo, I was raised with an awareness of making the best use of space.  Putting things back to where they belong was a daily challenge.

I also adapted this philosophy living in New York.  The city is known for its shopping but, there’s also the dilemma of not having enough closet space.  So, when I first heard about Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant and author, I had to buy her book.konmari

In case you haven’t,  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, is an International best-seller with a cult like fan base worldwide. With urban areas accounting for over 54% of the total global population, most of us are forced to live in smaller spaces and share this sentiment of streamlining our home.

Spark Joy

One of Kondo’s most unique ideas challenges us to ask ourselves whether to keep “necessary” items that may not bring us joy. To her point, we are influenced to buy more things everyday because of advertising and only later realize it was just a waste.  Our impulse shopping ends up in the land fill.  Did you know 2,500,000,000 pounds of used clothing go to the landfill each year?

So, why do we keep buying stuff we don’t really love or need?

I am aware that I personally get instant gratification from clicking an “order now” button but the excitement quickly dissolves when I go back to yet another life challenge. It’s fair to say that we tend to buy things to fill some kind of void in our lives. As seventy percent of our GDP being driven by consumer spending, I may not be alone.

Consumer goods are so cheap today that we don’t feel guilty when we spend $5 for a new T-shirt.  We’re consuming more than we ever have and pay less than we ever did.  This is a cycle that is created not for consumers or our planet, but for the benefit of a handful of companies.

The Fulfillment Curve 

Have you heard of the “fulfillment curve”?  For those unfamiliar with it, the “fulfillment curve” is an idea presented in the Vicki Robin’s book Your Money or Your Life, which says that there’s a sweet spot for anything fulfillmentcurvethat maximizes the fulfillment you get out of it.  In fact, if you spend more than the optimal point, your fulfillment starts to actually decrease.

Gallup analyzed surveys of 450,000 Americans in 2008 and 2009 and according to this report, the optimal income where people feel happy is $75,000 a year.  Is it surprising to find that people’s day-to-day happiness rises till your income hit $75,000 but, no more?  I am sure this figure differs by region or city.  I would argue that you can maximize your fulfillment by being aware of this optimal point.


The Power of Conscious Consumption

Kondo suggests that we respect what we already have and only collect what we really love.  Does this idea also apply to our lifestyle beyond our closet?

Today, we spend way too much time on things that we really don’t care about, like social media.  Or, spend too much money on things that we quickly forget later, or worse, we hang out with people who we don’t truly connect with.  Once we understand there is an optimal point of fulfillment or happiness, we’ll want to align ourselves to this point.

So, how do we get there?

I believe it’s the power of “Conscious Consumption”.  Conscious Consumption is a social movement based on awareness of the impact of our purchasing decisions on the environment and consumer health and life in general.  It easily translates into Kondo’s declutter method and our daily decisions. Instead of constant and mindless consumption, we become the conscious and well-educated consumers.

Four Tips for Conscious Consumption 

On Earth Day this year, I would like to invite you to rethink your life choices from the ground up in a tangible way using the four tips below.

1) Identify the true holes in your life.  Pause and ask yourself what is going on your life right now before your impulsive purchase.  As I practice this, not only is my home becoming less cluttered but I really feel the joy from things and people around me.

2) Only collect what you truly love.   Spend time to identify what you really love and the company you can relate to.  Train your eyes for high quality that last a long time.  For me, I cherish the things passed on from my mother, such as a beautiful green glass bowl she used to serve salad (see the cover picture).

3) Fall in love with what you already have.  Your awareness of having enough is really empowering.  Cherish the things and people you carefully handpick and nurture long-term relationships.  Forgo any transactional relationships with things and people.

4) Let go of things that don’t work for you any longer.  The only constant is change.  If things or people no longer bring you joy, simply thank them and let them go or find new appreciative owners — there are large online communities for trading goods.

We would love to hear from you about your story of conscious consumption.

Please share with us and help us keep this dialogue going!