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Rethink Your Closet Refresh: The "Marie Kondo Effect" and its Impact

Updated: Apr 3

Organizing our wardrobe and giving our closet a thorough edit every so often has both aesthetic and self-care benefits that we can all agree on. Marie Kondo's simple and sweet approach from Netflix's "Tidying Up" has inspired many of us, including myself, and gained universal appreciation. Her method has encouraged people to declutter and simplify their lives.


While it may seem like a great idea to donate clothes to thrift stores and charities after following Marie Kondo's method, this trend has unexpected consequences. The "Marie Kondo Effect" has led to a surge in clothing donations, which these organizations cannot handle. As a result, many of these donations end up in landfills or are shipped to developing countries, which can negatively impact local textile industries.


In this blog post, I will highlight how we can make a positive impact by being mindful during our closet reset. I'll share tips, tricks, and recommendations that help us put our unwanted clothing to good use. 


Let's dive in.


Personal Style and Seasonal Rotation


Fashion is my passion, and I take great pleasure in expressing myself through my clothing choices. I'm a self-proclaimed clothes horse and love curating my wardrobe with fun, bright, bold outfits that make me feel confident and happy. One thing that brings me immense joy is knowing that I've put a lot of thought and effort into creating a wardrobe that doesn't have any dead zones. I steer clear of fast fashion and ensure that every item in my closet is cherished and worn instead of being forgotten at the back of my wardrobe.


Refreshing your closet with clothes that spark joy

However, as much as I love clothes, I also have limited space in my closet, which many of you can probably relate to. So, instead of jamming all my clothes into one closet, I embrace a seasonal organizing system. Here's what works for me:


As the summer season comes to an end, I pack away my shorts, sandals, and flip-flops in zippered canvas bags that I store under my bed. I prefer using large canvas bags because they are more breathable and don't contain any plastic that could off-gas on my clothes during the entire season and the zipper is great because it keeps my clothes protected from dust and other elements. I keep my sundresses and sleeveless tops in my closet as they make great layering pieces for the cooler weather. I love pairing them with cardigans, jackets, and scarves to create stylish and comfortable outfits.


Practical Tips for Wardrobe Evaluation


As the seasons change, it's a great opportunity to review your wardrobe and make some edits. If you're like me, your body might change throughout the year, so certain clothes may fit better than others. I've learned to embrace this reality and try to avoid overconsumption by keeping clothes that I can wear later. To curtail excessive consumption, I advocate keeping clothes if they pass a set of crucial questions:


  • Do I still love this item?

  • Does it require repair or alterations, and am I willing to invest in restoring it?

  • Do I possess several similar pieces, and is this one a standout in my collection?


Answering "No" to these queries signals that the item needs to leave your closet and find a way to use it around your home or find a charity thrift store in your community that supports a cause you find important. More on this subject later.


Marie Kondo's Approach: Gratitude and Reflection


Marie Kondo's overarching philosophy aligns well with this method—holding each piece and gauging if it sparks joy, expressing gratitude to garments that have served their purpose before removing them. 


Gauging if your clothing sparks joy and expresses gratitude


Expressing gratitude seems fitting, considering how detached the Global North often is from the human effort behind every garment. Her approach involves systematic steps:


  1. Emptying the Closet: Remove all clothing items from your closet and place them in a single pile. This step allows you to visually see the entirety of your wardrobe.

  2. Categorizing Clothing: Sort through your clothing by category rather than location. Group similar items together, such as all tops, bottoms, dresses, jackets, etc.

  3. Micro-Sorting within Categories: Further refine each category by separating items into more specific subcategories. For instance, within tops, you might sort by t-shirts, blouses, sweaters, etc.

  4. Assessing Each Item: Go through each subcategory and evaluate each item individually. Hold each piece and ask yourself if it sparks joy or brings happiness. 

  5. Letting Go: If an item no longer brings joy or serves its purpose, let it go. This step involves being mindful and expressing gratitude for the items you're choosing to remove from your closet.


Unintended Consequences: Impact on Thrift Stores and Global South


Step number five is where the problems start for me, your local thrift store, and the Global South. 


Many of us passed the time during the pandemic by decluttering and organizing our closets, which is a great way to declutter and make some space. However, this has resulted in billions of tons of textiles being shipped to the Global South, where they pile up and create waste. 


The issue lies in the fact that the clothes we donate to our local thrift stores cannot be sold if they are in poor condition. These clothes are sold by the pound to "rag houses", who then carelessly bale them up to sell by shipping containers to individual resellers in countries like Chile, Uganda, and Ghana. Unfortunately, the people in these countries cannot sell the unusable garments either. As a result, piles of clothing are choking the shoreline in Ghana, near the Kantamanto Market, the largest clothing resale market in the world. The problem is even worse in Chile, with a mountain of clothes dumped in the Atacama desert. 


Marie Kondo's Impact on thrift stores and global south

Even when the clothes are dumped, they overwhelm the system due to their sheer volume. As a result, the dump employees often burn the clothes to reduce the amount needing to be added to the landfill. This process is harmful to the environment, as the smoke released is toxic due to the chemicals used to make modern-day clothes. 


Towards a More Responsible Approach: Rethinking Disposal


As an alternative to step number 5, there are myriad uses for a no longer warn piece. Here are some creative ways to manage your wardrobe to help reduce the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills and contribute to a more sustainable future:


  • Host a Clothing Swap: Organize a clothing swap event with your friends or neighbors. Everyone brings clothes they no longer wear but are still in good condition, and you can exchange items, providing everyone with a chance to refresh their wardrobes without spending money.

  • Upcycling or Repurposing: Get creative and repurpose old clothing items. Transform old t-shirts into cleaning rags, turn jeans into shorts, or repurpose fabric for DIY projects like quilting, pillowcases, or tote bags.

  • Hand Them Down: Pass down clothing items to family members or friends who might appreciate them. It's a great way to share items with sentimental value or special significance.

  • Reuse for Home Purposes: Repurpose old clothes for household needs. Cut up old t-shirts for cleaning clothes or use them as towels for various tasks around the house.

  • Crafting or DIY Projects: Use fabrics from old clothes for crafting projects like creating patchwork quilts, making stuffed toys, or crafting decorative items for your home.

  • Store for Sentimental Value: If certain clothing items hold sentimental value but are not suitable for regular wear, consider storing them in memory boxes or displaying them in shadowboxes as a keepsake.


Striving for Sustainability: A Shared Responsibility

While it's impossible to be perfectly eco-friendly in the fashion world we live in, we can all take small steps towards more sustainability and equality. By being mindful of our clothing consumption and finding creative ways to repurpose old clothes, we can help reduce waste and contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future for all.

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