She listens patiently to her clients’ concerns, with a reliable smile that frequents on her face and an unmatchable tolerance toward the cluttered living room and the rowdy children. Crouching delicately on her knees, she smoothly folds the wrinkling T-shirt into a small rectangular piece that stands firmly on the floor. The faces of the her clients are immediately lit up with a surprised look and hope as if they have finally found the savior of their life.
From the Marie Kondo phenomenon
The early 2019 witnessed the 34-year-old Japanese tidying guru taking the world by storm with her Netflix show’s Tidying Up, where she travels around America to help people declutter their houses. Sounds like a simple task that anyone can excel, isn’t it? But this woman is far from being ordinary. Within a short span of time, more than four million copies of her own book The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up have been sold in Asia, and it’s for a good reason.
What’s so special about this sweet-looking lady? Her cleaning tactics revolve around one simple, yet profound word: “joy”. She guides her devotees step by step on how to get rid of things “that don’t spark joy [in them]”, because according to her, one of the reasons why our house, our place or our life are cluttered is that we spend too much, buy too much but refuse to let things go. When you pick up an item, if you don’t feel any firework booming, the sizzling effect of pops, birds chirping and music ringing in your ears, there is no reason to keep it. I know that might sound a little bit dramatic. But what Kondo suggests is that if an item no longer brings you joy or brings back good memories, it is time to let it go with gratitude and peace of mind.
This woman has turned such an ordinary task that most people dislike into something so spiritual that appeals to their yearning for simplicity and tidiness. For those who are feeling like their life is turning upside down or falling apart, watching videos of Marie Kondo folding clothes could also make you feel as satisfied as watching some cooking or art painting videos around the internet. They gives you a sense of fulfillment for what’s missing in your life: order and organization.
… to the story about Consumerism
We are living in an era where an influx of information and advertisements are thrown at our face everyday, from the moment we open our eyes in the morning to when we fall asleep.
Everywhere you go, you are encouraged to spend, from the ads on social media, newspaper, banners on the street, grocery stores, shopping mall to even your TV, school and workplace. Remember all the seemingly casual social media posts of the Kardashians or your favorite actors that tell you about what kind of products they use to achieve a desirable look and lifestyle? They all try to sell you off on something.
Of course consumption and production should go hand in hand, because they are crucial to maintaining a healthy economy. But that’s only when they are kept at a balanced level. Nowadays, the more you need, the more they sell; and the more they sell, the more you need. This never-ending cycle leads to is a huge stack of clothes in your closet, or some dusty book collections left unaware of in some hidden corners of your house, unused for ages.
For some people, shopping is a coping mechanism for boredom, sadness and emotions. According to author Edward M. Tauber, consumers tend to shop for diversion, self-gratification, trends, physical space and sensory stimulation. With that being said, shopping is one of the most popular go-to leisure activities for most of us, especially girls. It is no kidding when somebody says when they are happy, they go shopping; when they are sad, they shop their sadness away; when they are heartbroken, they shop to heal. That’s why retail therapy is a thing. Not only that shopping presents an escape from the stability of everyday life, it can also be very flexible. You can go to your local grocery stores or supermarket in your sweatpants and PJ to shop, without feeling pressured to look presentable. Or say you live in a small uneventful town, where recreational space and activities are so limited, and one of the few options that is available is shopping. Guess where you will find yourself wasting most of your time at?
Another concern is that, our society trains us to regard the ownership of things as a mark of success. For many people, possessing more means a better and happier life. This way of thinking also encourages us to buy things as a way of communicating our taste and identity to others. The bigger space you have, the more you are tempted to clutter it.
What goes around does comes back around. One of the most prevalent images we encounter on Kondo’s show is trash. It’s frightful to come to terms with how much damage we have caused to our bank account, our living space and the environment with our reckless spending. First, you stack up your living space with things, then when your house can no longer accommodate them, or in Marie Kondo’s way, you no longer find joy in them, they eventually have to go out into the environment.
Never have we seen such a generation that is more concerned about the environment, yet also so uncontrollable when it comes to consumption No wonder why the world is drowning in ever-growing mounds of garbage, and why garbage is now a global issue that is continuously addressed on the news every now and then.
What must be fixed must be fixed
We can always ring Marie Kondo, give her Netflix show a shot or buy her fancy books, but when it comes to actually tidying up our life, it’s only us who can prevent our mess from taking place.
When it comes to shopping, the temptation is almost always taking us over. Just imagining rocking your brand new teddy jacket (it’s trending right now in case you don’t know) and getting tons of compliments has already got you wanting to go online immediately and make a another purchase. But in the end, what must be fixed must be fixed, and there’s always a way to it.
If you are a fashion geek and like to do seasonal shopping, you may want to consider investing in something that is durable and practical, meaning items that are usable in different seasons and occasions. Before you’re determined to confidently walk up to the cashier with a shirt you have been pondering on for ages, ask yourself if you really need it and how many times you will actually wear it. I know it’s easier said than done, but think about it this way: instead of spending money on tangible things that are eventually going to be stacked up all over your house, invest in intangible things that will not clutter any space, such as traveling, vocational courses, leisure activities (excluding shopping of course), you name it.
Changes take time and you’re not going to change your consumption behavior overnight or right after you have finished binge-watching the Marie Kondo’s show. But what you can do after reading this article is to think twice, probably three or even ten times before making a purchase.
Ms. Kondo may help you clean and declutter your living space, but it is you who is capable of stopping the mess created from your spending habit. Is it better to declutter your life after it’s messed up, or to prevent it from becoming a mess in the first place? You decide.
Content: Uyen Nguyen | Edit: Rosie | Visual design: Vy Le
Images from the Internet.