I've already written about the process of “Kondoing” my house, and I already knew I was a fan. (We're not done yet, but we're getting there!) But one critique of the process that was always in the back of my mind was that the ability to get rid of excess items is something only privileged people have. People who say this aren't wrong – if your income is unpredictable or you're barely scraping by, it would be irresponsible to throw out something you could need that you might not have the money to buy back later. And besides, isn't it wasteful to get rid of a stockpile of stuff, like toothbrushes or paper towels, that you'll use eventually? And isn't it cheaper to buy in bulk, anyway? While I acknowledged how grateful I was that I was in a privileged enough place to be able to use the KonMari method, I never quite settled those doubts.
I also had never read any of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up until the other week, though (we were inspired by the Netflix show and just started following the basic process portrayed on it), and in it I finally found the explanation that made me see that this method is not only a good choice if you're privileged enough to do it, but a responsible one. In a section called “Astounding Stockpiles I Have Seen,” Marie Kondo writes about the insane amount of stuff that people keep because they think they go through it quickly, including one person who owned 20,000 Q-tips (122). In addition to pointing out how long it would take for people to actually use up the stockpile (55 years for the Q-tips if used once a day, if you're wondering) and that a lot of times, people don't even realize how much they have (122), Kondo also notes that stockpiling reflects an anxiety that will never be solved by accumulating more things:
“...even though they owned a huge stockpile, they always felt as if they didn't have enough and were anxious about running out....I don't think there is any amount that would make them feel secure. The more they have, the more they worry about running out and the more anxious they become. Even though they still have two left, they will go out and buy five more.” (123)
The solution to stop doing this is to experience the freedom that comes with getting rid of or donating all of the excess stuff, according to Kondo. And you'll find that not only will running out of something not kill you, she goes on to say, but once you stop stockpiling, and this is the clincher, “My clients tell me that now life is more fun because when they run out of something they enjoy seeing how long they can last without it or trying to substitute other things” (123). That sounded pretty great on its own, but it also made me wonder, if you didn't stockpile things and you were running low on something, wouldn't you also be more motivated to try to conserve as much as possible so you didn't have to go out and get more? I know I would, because I will do anything to avoid an errand. And when you know exactly how much you have and you know where it is, you're also less likely to make the “I can't remember if I have it at home so I guess I'll just buy some while I'm here” mistake. I'm not saying I won't ever do things like stock up on meat when it's on sale – my idea of what it takes to be “stocked up” will just be a lot smaller.
It turns out that getting rid of the stockpile, even if it's useful, means that I'll use things more conservatively and cost-effectively in the future. I might have some one-time waste if I can't donate or give away some items, but I think I'll more than make up for that by using less stuff in the future. I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize this, since this is basically just another example of how having an abundance mindset actually gets you what a scarcity mindset promises but doesn't deliver.
So while Kondoing may seem to be a wasteful practice of the privileged at first glance, it actually helps the privileged become less wasteful. If you have the privilege of being able to live without a scarcity mindset, make the most of it, and you may end up with more resources to help those who can't.