What “junk” do we have in our lives? Emotional “junk”? Junk food? Household “junk”? We have so much junk that it gets in the way of the nicer (and simpler) things. Although any of you who frequent this site are familiar with the fact that I could write for days on junk food, today’s post is about junk around the house. People seem to be becoming more aware of the junk in their homes as the popularity of tidying up media increases. Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is one example that has gained quite a following. Her mantra “Does it bring me joy?” is an excellent starting place for those looking to declutter. I also posted on the increasingly popular concept of hygge a few months back (found here) after finding inspiration in Signe Johansen’s How to Hygge: The Secrets of Nordic Living. Perhaps my favorite approach of all, she recommends simplifying all areas of your life and creating a clean and warm environment at home that recharges you. Focusing on satisfying unprocessed foods and time in nature are also important elements of her book.
The ideas I took from these sources have been floating around in my head for a while, but I found it difficult to apply them to any real extent without totally overhauling my life. It was as if I had a few pieces of a puzzle while others were missing. A few weeks ago, my husband and I sat down to watch a documentary on Netflix. It was called “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”. You may be familiar with “The Minimalists”, their website, or their podcast. We found the documentary quite interesting, if not a bit extreme. These ideas are gaining traction in a world where people with mega-houses are sizing down to tiny homes and shows about simplified living offer a glimpse into a world many of of long for. Yet, if you think as I do, you probably respond “I could never do that” or “That might work for them…but”. The thing is, I don’t think we have to commit to one of these ideas 100%. Cherry picking what works from each style might be just what we need. Could we all stand to get rid of those items we hold on to that don’t bring us joy? Sure! Would we all improve our health if we were active in nature and focused on nourishing foods? Of course! Would creating simple, functional, and cozy spaces at home help improve our emotional state? Probably! All I’m saying is that we don’t have to get rid of everything we own to feel better.
One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is the rampant consumerism that seems to be infiltrating our lives. I could go on and on and probably point fingers in several directions, but I think it would be more helpful (and more efficient) to summarize and move on to suggestions (although you can find a nice article on the subject here). Back when we used to watch the Big Bang Theory there was and episode where Sheldon is discussing the problem with gift giving. He says something along the lines of when one is given a gift they must return a gift of a reasonably similar worth. Do you ever feel like that? Like we just exchange stuff with each other? That might be part of the problem, but part of it is that things are cheap! I know, they often seem expensive, but compared to any other time in history, goods are cheap! The goal is to get as much cheap stuff as possible! Hey, I can go to (insert name of discount clothing store here) and get a new wardrobe every season, always staying in style, for several years for the same price that I could spend on several quality pieces that would look questionably trendy in a year. That’s the problem. Have you ever read the labels on those discount pieces? Made in China. 100% polyester. 100% modal. 100% lycra. 100% rayon. These things are manufactured. They’re manufactured from cheap materials by people making a non-living wage, fees are paid to countries with questionable practices, and then you pay the rest to the company. I know, I know, I’m a fan of those lululemon yoga pants too, but it doesn’t mean that’s all I own. I’m a cotton farmer’s daughter. I have been frustrated for years by the options for non-synthetic clothing. Try finding maternity or nursing clothing that isn’t synthetic- it can be done, but it is expensive! I invested in a handful of quality cotton and wool pieces and made do with layering other pieces to make them work! We just see the initial cost and are wired to go with the less expensive option. The problem is that we don’t see all the other costs that go into it. How was the synthetic fiber manufactured? If it isn’t synthetic or came from a plant, how were the farmers paid? How were the garment makers paid? What are the working conditions? Is child labor used? What is the environmental impact? I know, I know, this got heavy fast. I’m not expecting anyone to go out and chunk all their clothing in the trash (or hopefully the donation bin). I’m just suggesting that we all, myself included, think about the true costs of our purchases. Maybe next time you need something to wear, think about replacing 3-4 of those inexpensive tops with one good piece. Yes, you may not always be wearing the trendiest fashion, but you’ll be getting rid of junk and investing in things that matter. This website has a few tips and resources for finding ethical fashion.
Perhaps this post has been a bit fragmented, but the common thread is junk. We should be trying to rid ourselves of junk and clutter- not to create space for more junk at our next gift-giving occasion, but to focus on what matters. I’ve always been a big fan of homemade gifts or gifting an experience: taking someone to dinner, baking them a cake, exploring a new place.
To end, I think this summarizes these 1000+ words better than I ever could, simply:
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary,
so that the necessary may speak.” —Hans Hofman