The Downside of Tidying Up: When Only New Stuff Sparks Joy

HAPPY 2019! it’s hard to believe the new year is here and off to the races. this past year truly flew (as they always seem to) and it’s crazy to be jumping into new year new me mode already.

as i’m sure many of you did, i binged all of the new Marie Kondo Tidying Up episodes pretty much the minute they dropped (ok, not exactly at midnight on NYE, but like a few days after when i still wanted to deny that ‘holiday break’ was 100 percent over and it was time to be a real human again). i absolutely loved her book, and actually posted a bit about it in my closet makeover series here, so naturally i was super excited to see that she created a show around helping actual people get rid of all the (mostly) garbage they’ve been hoarding. SO satisfying.

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as i watched the show and periodically kept turning to my own piles of unnecessary stuff in various rooms of the house asking myself what ‘sparks joy’, i couldn’t help but notice a pattern that i’ve been thinking about for awhile now. this past month, i’ve actually been moving into a new place and going through several storage units worth of stuff for the first time in awhile (kind of a nightmare tbh) so i’m already in the thick of this process.

the realization i keep having as i’m going through years and years of clothes, shoes, accessories, house wares, etc. is that our culture has shifted so dramatically as the age of social media has taken over to condition us to find the most joy in the NEW. the newest dress, the newest shoes, the newest this that and the other thing.

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now obviously, fast fashion has been around forever and its primary goal since the beginning has always been to convince the consumer that they NEED a new dress for that friend’s wedding. and that they NEED a new pair of shoes this fall because that style of boots they bought last year is outdated now. as someone who loves to shop i feel like i’ve always tried to keep an awareness that this is a marketing technique and not the truth. but, the age of instagram has put this phenomenon on an entirely different level.

do you ever find yourself gearing up for an event - let’s say, that friend’s upcoming wedding - and realizing that while you have a bunch of dresses that would work, you’ve already posted a few pics in those dresses? and do you find yourself then thinking that you probably need a new, different dress that you’ve never posted instas in before? it can be a pretty dangerous (and expensive and wasteful!) cycle if you really think about it.

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now, i’ll be the first person to admit that nothing is more fun than finding a new outfit that works perfectly and truly ‘sparks joy.’ i think there’s something incredibly fun about having, for example, an upcoming gig and wanting to make a statement and finding that just right outfit. but, how do we keep ourselves from falling victim to the carefully crafted messages that targeted ads and marketing have been sending us 24/7 on our phones claiming we will not be happy unless we are constantly filling our closets and lives with new stuff?

when i realized i was finding myself choosing the newest of the new stuff to keep as the things that ‘sparked joy,’ i knew something was off. and the real takeaway for me was that i must not be shopping intentionally if i’m only excited about the newest pair of jeans to hit my wardrobe. of course, it’s natural and totally OK to be extra excited and extra ‘joyful’ about that adorable new skirt you just scored, but for me at least, i realized i need to start caring over the process of what i bring into my life much, much more.

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so how do we combat this neverending quest to create a new, shiny self to present to our social media-centric world? one thing i really love about Kondo’s book is how much she emphasizes the crucial aspect of being intentional about what you bring into your home in the first place.

these are a few small changes i’m working on as i move into my new place that i hope will help prevent me from filling up my closet just to have to ‘tidy’ it again in a year because the items inside were just a quick fix to have something new to wear:

  1. i want to really think twice about buying something cool just because it’s on sale. would i be willing to pay full price for it if it wasn’t on sale? if not, it’s probably something i can live without.

  2. i walk to think about quality and craftsmanship. that means avoiding buying stuff that just falls apart after a couple washes.

  3. i want to do a much better job of buying sustainable and used/vintage clothing. i love Reformation and the fact that everything is recycled, and i’m inspired by Elsie’s all pre-owned clothing challenge over at A Beautiful Mess.

  4. i want to consider how i actually live my life in the clothes i wear. i live in LA right now, so i probably don’t need a new winter coat!

  5. i want to remember how good it felt to have an edited, well-curated collection of options. when i lived in France last year, our place was absolutely tiny, so i had to basically bring a capsule collection of clothes for the whole year and it made getting dressed so fun and so easy.

so that’s my wardrobe challenge for this year! have you tried tidying up to kick off 2019??