Like everyone else we know, my wife and I have gotten hooked on Marie Kondo. But maybe we shouldn’t have.
After reading her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, we tidied up. We are frugal people and don’t accumulate that much stuff, but still we had many bags of old clothes, shoes and books that didn’t meet the criteria she sets for ownership: they no longer “sparked joy.” My hope, as I dropped them off at the United Way station at Rumford Recycling Depot, was that someone else could find some use for them.
As a frugal person, interested in ecology and decluttering the world, I breathed a sigh of relief.
Until this morning, when a hole in a pair of jeans widened. “I don’t love them anymore,” I thought to myself and was about to throw them away. It wouldn’t cost much to replace them, these days. We are lucky enough that buying a new pair doesn’t require much thought.
But then I started thinking about the environmental impact of a pair of jeans. Cotton is a thirsty crop, often grown with lots of pesticides. Outsourcing means that threads and fabrics and brass fasteners are shipped back and forth all over the world even before the finished product is shipped to my local store.
Some advice: Don’t Google “Carbon footprint jeans” unless you have some time to spare. Otherwise you may end up learning about why the Levi Strauss CEO never puts his jeans in a washing machine, that you can spend a lot of money on a pair of organic jeans, there are high carbon costs in just wearing jeans… you might be tempted to never wear pants again.
The truth is, while Marie Kondo’s philosophy may sound like a simple, eco-friendly lifestyle, anyone who has read the book understands that she is a consultant for clients in shopaholic, consumer obsessed Japan. Furthermore, not only are her consumerist clients desperate for her help, her methods really work best in a social situation where constant shopping is the norm. She advises, for example, never to keep those extra buttons that come with shirts — when you lose a button, that shirt has outlived its usefulness. In other words, chuck it and shop for new joy!
I’m happy that we’ve reclaimed a lot of space in our closets, and I’ve done my best to sort our items to places where they would be reused, if not recycled. However, it’s important to remember that the first “R” is the most ecologically significant: Reduce. We don’t need to acquire more stuff.
I hope Kondo’s readers are not throwing out old towels one day and then buying rags from Home Depot the next. Yes, Home Depot sells rags, but who am I to talk? I’ve spent money buying bags of rocks and dirt. (Although the best deal in town is free compost at Rumford. Free dirt!)
I guess I’ll just patch up my jeans and see how much longer they last. Although summer is here, so maybe I’ll take a 3 month moratorium from wearing pants.