Sustainability and the KonMari Method™

The pace of modern life can seem relentless, and that's one of the reasons that I'm grateful that I have a job where I can take a step back three times a year, breathe, and reflect on how things are going and what is coming up next. 

You might remember that back in January I spoke about Marie Kondo and the increasing popularity of her 'de-cluttering' method (you can read the blog here). With Easter here already I have been thinking a lot about the progress I am making with my New Year's resolutions. It's scary to think that in under four months we will be heading off on our Australian adventure, and although I'm making progress, there's still so far to go!

As part of looking at the progress that we are making in simplifying our lives, we spoke to Julie Strandberg about her tips and advice from her experience as a KonMari consultant based in London (you can visit her website here). 

Julie is a former professional dancer who has since trained as a lifestyle consultant. Her passion for simplifying your life as a means to improve wellbeing is contagious and, as you can read below, is based on personal experiences and a real commitment to improving the lives of those she works with. 

Julie Strandberg, KonMari consultant

Your background is as a dancer, what inspired you to move into the field of wellbeing, and more specifically becoming a KonMari practitioner?

Very early in life I discovered what would be my first passion in life. I joined the Royal Danish Ballet School at age 7 and immediately fell in love with that whole universe. Being on stage and dancing as the orchestra played was just magical. I spent the next 20 years dancing, touring and working with leading choreographers. When I decided to retire from dancing, I was left with some of life's biggest questions. What next? Do we get more than one passion in life? 

It was a Skype call to a friend that led me to my next adventure. Something had changed around her and within her. What I noticed was a new sense of calm. When I asked her about this, she excitedly told me about a book she had read called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I decided to read the book which led me to start my own tidy process. I soon realised that the stamina I had developed from my time as a dancer was helping me through the often confrontational and challenging KonMari Method™. When the process was complete, the clarity I had gained was utterly profound. That's when I knew I wanted to help other people to gain same clarity through this life changing process. 

Why do you think this method of organisation is becoming so popular at this moment in time?

The KonMari method of hanging your clothes

In the past, material possessions were expensive and scarce. Now, we are lucky enough to live in an age of abundance in the West and consuming has become a habit. There are a variety of reasons for our often mindless shopping habits.

We often buy items, not because we love it - but because we feel compelled to buy it for a fleeting moment of satisfaction. Eventually many of us end up surrounded by towering piles of stuff at home. I believe many people are beginning to feel overwhelmed and weighed down by all of their clutter - and wanting to take steps to do something about it. With the recent publicity around The KonMari Method™, people are becoming increasingly aware that there is now a tried and tested structure that can help them to declutter and organise their home once and for all.

We've decided to make our lives more minimalist partly for sustainability reasons. Do you find many of your clients have similar concerns?

Many of my clients do wish to live surrounded by fewer things - not just for sustainability reasons but also to improve their own lives.  

Initially they might be anxious about a certain aspect of their lives - whether it be the next step in their career, their relationship or the effect that the clutter at home is having on their mental health. 

When the process is firmly under way and we are going through their many possessions, they also start expressing appreciation for the positive impact living with less has on the environment, as well as a concern for disposing of unwanted items in a sustainable way. 

Is sustainability and the environment a concern that you bring into the advice that you offer your clients?

Sustainability and the environment is extremely important to me and how I live my life - and this is something I try to pass on to my clients. I very rarely recommend throwing anything out unless it is broken beyond repair and has no use for anyone. If we can fix items or pass it on, we can avoid mindlessly contributing to unnecessary landfill. Another realisation people often have is the amount of stuff they impulse buy and what that means to the environment. The health of our planet is at a critical tipping point - and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to help minimise waste and protect the one earth we have, our global home, as best we can.

What other motivations do your clients have for you coming to you, and how can the KonMari method benefit them?

People often feel paralysed by the state of their home - especially if it has become extremely cluttered. Many of my clients tell me they can't move on with their lives until they get their personal surroundings in order. They say '"when my home is tidy and organised then I'll look for that job/go on that date/start that business/start cooking more/have friends over/read more books"...the list goes on and on. That mindset is rooted in a fundamental need to have our base in order before we feel able to pursue the things that really matter to us - and that's what Marie's method is so good at. When you have asked yourself 300 times if something sparks joy while going through your belongings - that questioning spills into other areas of your life. You may start to notice whether the food you are eating gives you joy, if your job is actually your passion and how you want to spend your time and so on. This is an incredibly rewarding process, leaving my clients with clarity on how they actually want to live their lives.

Drawer organised in keeping with the KonMari method

As Marie Kondo says, the method is not about deciding what to throw away, but deciding what to keep. Nevertheless, how do you advise clients to dispose of items after they have decided to discard them?

Once we have decided an item doesn't spark joy, the method advises you to let the item go with gratitude. Spend a moment thanking an item for the role it played in your life. There's a real worthwhile lesson in realising why an item has come into your life and why you're passing it on.  

Now for disposing of the items to go, I normally create the 4 following categories:

  1. Things to give to friends

The best way of passing on unwanted items is to give them to someone we know who will love them and get more use out them than we do. 

  1. Items to sell

It makes senses to dispose of high-end clothes or books that are in very good condition by selling them.

  1. Items to give to charity

This category can spawn sub-categories depending on who they might be useful for. If the item could be useful for a homeless person, we make sure it goes either directly to that person or to a registered homeless charity. When working with families with children I often suggest we pass on old toys and books to schools or hospital - both of which are overlooked when it comes to donations. It is hugely worthwhile for children to be able to bring home books regularly, but many schools don't have the resources to offer that - so I'm keen to put good causes on my client’s radar. 

For any open, half used beauty and hygiene products that my clients might be tempted to throw out, I find the nearest crisis centre that will pass them on to people in need. 

Lastly, we make categorised bags for electrical items, papers, glass etc - to take to the local recycling centre. 

  1. Throwing an item out
This is an absolutely last resort if the item is too dirty to recycle or too broken for anyone to get any use out of.

    What would your number one piece of advice be to someone who is thinking they need to reassess / re-organise their life? 

    My number one piece of advice is: be clear on WHY you want to reorganise your life. The clearer you are on the why, the greater the motivation you will have to go on. This is the single most important step to spend time on before starting to declutter. There are different ways to help this "why" materialise. Some people like to write down key words. Others make a 'mood board' which reflects their ideal lifestyle. Do it whichever way feels right to you. Be as precise as you can - because the more details you have, the easier it will be to choose which items to keep and understand how that item will fit into your ideal lifestyle.

    Clothes organised in keeping with the KonMari method

    On a similar note, what change have you made that's produced the most significant change in your wellbeing?

    I’m not sure I can pin down one change to my overall wellbeing after completing the process, it touches on all areas of your life to be honest.

    If I have to choose the most significant change to my life it has to be the revolutionary impact on my morning routine and how streamlined that now is. I can see everything I own at a glance when I open my drawers, meaning it takes me just 2 minutes to get dressed. I have carved out time to meditate. I no longer have to run around looking for my keys, phone or laptop every morning. Less stress means I feel more on top of things when I leave my house - which in turn informs the confidence I take with me into the day as well as how productive I am throughout the day. It's all connected - and it all starts at home. 

    Thank you, Julie, for those fascinating insights.

    Having worked in a number of environments where stress is endemic, I've come to the conclusion that an individual's mental and physical wellbeing are far too important to leave neglected. As Julie rightly points out, the whole system is connected - this is why when I'm stressed with work I'm less likely to go to the gym or eat well, or when I'm stressed at home I may be less productive at work. The beauty of Julie's work, and the KonMari Method generally, is that the steps taken to simplify your life, although hard at first, can make a lasting impact which improves the other aspects of your life. 

    We are all occasionally guilty of not looking after ourselves properly, and the same is true of our environment. The papers are full of news about the Extinction Rebellion group and their protests in London (you can read about the group here), and it seems that public awareness is heading towards the tipping point where people realise the challenge we have on our hands to make changes to protect the world moving forward.

    As Julie says, we are lucky to live in an age of abundance, but it is important that we don't therefore just consume for the sake of consumption. Whilst I believe there is a place for protests, I also believe that the best long term solution for environmental issues is for individuals to make lasting changes to their lifestyles which reduce their consumption and waste. While there are many ways to do this, the KonMari Method certainly seems to be one that works for more and more people, and anything that we can do that improves not only our personal wellbeing, but that of the planet, is worth looking into in more detail. 


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