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We live in a time of the Marie “life-changing magic of tidying up” Kondo movement, where we are encouraged to ask ourselves if our possessions “spark joy”. Megan Blenkarne, of Mode & Methodology, thinks this is ridiculous.
Judging by YouTube, the declutter game is an intense purge, where you take everything you haven’t worn for an arbitrary period of time, and get rid of it. If it doesn’t fill you with joy – joy! – then you get rid of it. If it’s not your style, or it’s worn out, or it still has the tags on it, you get rid of it. The result is literally hundreds of thousands of videos of young women filling up bags with clothes they’ve suddenly decided they don’t want or need.
The concept of clothes sparking joy is, frankly, nonsense. I love clothes and fashion more than the average woman, yet it would be rare for me to say my clothes spark joy. When my godson learned my name and called to me in the playground for the first time, then I felt joy. When I learned my brother was moving home from overseas – yup, felt real joy. Even my favourite clothes get nowhere near. Let’s replace that ridiculous standard with a much more reasonable one: do you feel good when you wear it?
Moving on to the idea that you might get rid of something you haven’t worn in a year. That is too simplistic a test – your life is complex and changing! Confession: in my younger days I once “decluttere”’ a pair of red, wide legged trousers because they were a bit tight. I was also nearly 10 kilos over my healthy weight for reasons that were obvious (I ate a chocolate muffin for breakfast every day for two years). Clearly, I should have got rid of the muffins, not those fabulous pants. Similarly, if you haven’t worn your fancy shoes, you are just overdue a fancy day. Scheduling a night out seems like a much happier result than throwing away a thing you genuinely like.
Instead of decluttering, find a way to wear things again (the great news is that this will not always require you to eschew chocolate muffins).
Sometimes the best thing you can do is temporarily remove your favourites from your wardrobe, so you can think about what’s left in new ways.
Take for instance the linen dungarees I’m wearing in this photo. I realised that a 30-something-year-old career woman has disappointingly few opportunities to wear dungarees, but has many opportunities to wear linen trousers. One quick layering experiment later, and I was the proud owner of a “new” pair of pants (and one less item went into the black hole of a clothing bin).
Finally, yes, we’ve all bought the insane thing online that was a mistake, or worn a pair of pants until they were falling apart and fit only for rags. Those definitely don’t deserve a place in your precious wardrobe space but – and here’s an innovative thought – just don’t put them back in there in the first place. Hey presto! Your decluttering days are over.