The privilege of Konmari

After a conversation I had with my Mum recently I was struck by something I had never considered before: to simplify and declutter is actually quite a state of privilege.

After my grandparents passed we were cleaning out their house and we found 2 old hand turning washing machines. I remarked to my Mum how crazy it was to have not just one, but 2! Mum reminded me of the depression that they had lived through and that money had always been tight: in case the electric washing machine broke they had a spare and then a second with parts to repair the first. When you’ve lived with little you never escape that feeling I guess.

Nowadays we just chuck stuff out. I read on an article about minimalism recently that someone said that if it costs less than $20 to replace and you use it once a year you should just chuck it out and just buy another if you need it. That is not something I am about at all and the more I reflect on minimalism, decluttering and my life the more true it feels.

My family grew up with not a lot, but compared to my Grandparents during the depression we were wealthy. There were periods were we couldn’t afford a car, our fridge broke and oven was broken for over 10 years: if I were to bake I would turn the dial all the way up and hope for the best – Mum didn’t get a new one till Grandpa bought her one when I was at uni. I can recall our washing machine breaking and washing our clothes at my Grandparents when I was a teenager. I never spoke of it and even now I struggle to discuss money or money related issues with friends. Now things are calmer though and things are less stressful. I and my family are still not at all well off, but I have accumulated enough things to justify konmari-ing my life. And what a privileged position that is for me to be in.

To Konmari you hold an object and decide if it gives you joy. Well I bet my Grandpa had joy knowing he’d always be able to wash his clothes if he couldn’t afford a new washer or the power was turned off for a long time. Then the knowledge that spare parts were there as well. They were the epitome of make do and mend. A full vegetable garden and everyone made their own clothes (my Grandmother was a seamstress until she got married, my Grandfather was a boot maker before the war) and got by. My grandpa would grow the fruit and make Jam. My grandma would bake the cakes that had the jam in them. My Mum still has the blunt old knife used for cutting the ends off green beans. The beautiful mustard pot with the porcelain spoon for their own recipes.

I don’t imagine there’s much point in me keeping an old washing machine – parts are designed to be individual and plastic and not interchangeable – plus unlike my grandfather I’d never be able to work out fixing it. I can check on my car, but not too much and my computer is totally beyond my skill set. Repair cafes are becoming trendy (which I love FYI!) and my friends are probably sick of me spouting about how much I love the library – although one of my closest friends uses it more than me I’d guess!

So how do I decide to Konmari? Well, I am happy to Konmari books that are not sentimental and I can still get easily at the library or as an e-book. Classics, for example. You’ll always be able to find Jane Austen about, so out she goes. But she goes to the Op Shop where you can get 5 books for $2 and some teenager can have access to her words all over again – much like how I got half the books I own.

I Konmari many clothes, but I keep old t shirts. I can still use those for things and I just found an instructional thing online about turning them into carry bags which I love. I’ve never really been one for little knick knacks, so that’s fine too. Mostly books and clothes are my items to go which horrifies my Mother (“You never throw away a book!”). Even with less I still have so much and it’s so easy to forget that. And if someone can get pleasure out of something I wear rarely then I think it is worth it.

I miss my Grandparents a lot. My grandmother died when I was 18 and I was just beginning to know her as a person. My grandfather when I was 22. My Dad when I was 23. They all had so much skill and knowledge in certain areas (I’d love to be able to have both my grandfather and father’s mechanical skill and know how) that it only really struck me in the last couple of years. Instead of turning to them for help to learn things, I turn to the internet or pay someone. My grandmother was an amazing cook, but her cook books are useless (“put in over, cook till done” is a direct quote from one of her baking recipes) and my grandfather’s green thumb was second to none. He knew to grow for both pleasure of the beauty of plants and also for food and that it doesn’t need to be one or the other.

So to Konmari is wonderful and my life feels better without useless stuff in it. But I think I’d rather not have the stuff in the first place and have the people that could teach me how to fix the broken things instead.


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