With the release of Marie Kondo’s new book and a comment from Ikea that we have reached ‘peak stuff’ there is a lot of discussion, in the British media at least, about consumerism and responsible consumption. For most people in the sewing community this isn’t a new concept, even if it isn’t a motivating factor in the decision to make your own clothes. However, I think this current media outburst comes partly as a reaction to the overindulgence during the holidays, whether of food or consumerism, and partly as a way of ‘detoxing’ in line with many new years resolutions.
I read Marie Kondo’s first book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ last year, and I will admit, I do still fold my underwear according to her rules (it makes storing underwear so much more efficient). Her book hinges on the idea that by throwing away a lot of your possessions and living more minimally, you can bring about change in your life. While I don’t disagree that living more minimally can improve your life, whether it is by changing what you spend money on or by making you appreciate certain objects more, I question whether throwing everything away in one day is responsible.
As with fad diets and resolutions to join the gym*, I wonder whether throwing away will turn into another cycle encouraged by consumerism. If people feel the same rush from throwing things away as they do buying them, that’s just more money to be made. Maybe that’s why Ikea has said we’ve reached peak stuff while simultaneously setting aggressive sales targets for 2020.
And yet I’m still taken in by it! My plan for this weekend is still to purge my house of the irritating things which are still lying about, half used diaries from three years ago, broken phone cases and £1.50 Primark tank tops with holes in. Things I haven’t been able to get rid of because I wish I’d never bought in the first place.
So, for 2016, rather than reduce my possessions or throw away everything that doesn’t make me happy, I’m going to consume responsibly. I want to reduce the volume of my things, not by throwing everything out, but by limiting the amount of things which enter my home. When I create something I want to do it with intention, considering the environmental impact rather than just making something on a whim. Instead of getting a rush from throwing away, I’m going to get a rush from not buying, from opting out of consumerism and setting my own rules for consumption.
* This is an interesting podcast about how gyms are constructed to encourage people to take out a membership without actually going. (Also while I’m recommending podcasts this is an interesting one about the architecture of shopping malls, if you’re interested in that kind of thing.)