Don’t hoard, let go: It’s all about clean living and conscious shopping

Ambika Shaligram
Saturday, 11 April 2020

Marie Kondo, a Japanese tidying up expert, told us to identify what we should and what we shouldn’t retain. Back here, we catch up with people who believe in clean living and conscious shopping.

Before the 21-day enforced rest and rejuvenation (and loads of work from home, some would say), we lived life on autopilot, from home to office and back and the weekends for some little leisure.

The lockdown has resulted in homebound activities like cleaning the kitchen shelves, going through clothes, jewellery and books and whatnot. And, then the dawning of realisation – ‘When did I buy all this? What do I do with it now?’

Here steps in Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying up expert, who took the world by storm, asking people to retain those objects which offer them a ‘spark of joy’.

We speak with Gayatri Gandhi, who is a KonMari consultant, certified dietitian Nita Belliappa, who believes in ‘spark of joy’ approach, author Leela Broome, who believes in clean living and Anandita De, a luxury brand event curator to understand it in the Indian context.

Gandhi was on a sabbatical after working for ten years with Discovery Channel, when she came across the book, ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo.

“The concept of the book was so exciting that I decided to apply it in my life. I started to see a change not only in my physical environment but also in my personal life. That is when I decided to delve more into it,” says Gandhi.  

She found that the question “does it spark joy” was a very empowering one, and she was able to ask it in every sphere of her life. That made it easy for Gandhi to identify and decide what she really wanted or not.

When asked why she felt the need to become a certified KonMari expert, Gandhi replies, “Researching on the topic; I narrowed down to the point that cluttered surroundings have a great impact, not just on the physical environment but also on the mental state of a person. I saw merit in taking this concept ahead as a business proposition. I underwent training in New York, successfully completed and submitted my reports and pictures and as a result of this became India’s first KonMari Consultant. I also launched Joy Factory – the first and only company in India that officially offers The KonMari MethodTM to people for their premises.”

Explaining how one can start decluttering, Gandhi says, “Start by imagining your ideal lifestyle. This will give you clarity on why you want to declutter in the first place. Only two things are needed to successfully complete your decluttering journey: the ability to keep what sparks joy and chuck the rest, and the ability to decide where to keep each item you choose and always put it back in its place.”

“If you hold an item in your hand and it evokes a smile, a sense of happiness, joy or inner peace, then that item must be kept. But if it doesn’t evoke such feelings, then the item should be acknowledged and thanked for its service in your life before letting go. The important thing in tidying is to focus on what to keep rather than what to discard,” she says.

We are known to hoard, accumulate, sometimes for sentimental reasons, sometimes because of the ‘what if’ scenario. But Nita Belliappa realised that you could survive, with whatever you have.

Growing up in a middle-class family, Belliappa wore hand-me-downs and was pretty comfortable with the idea. When she started earning, she realised that she could buy and then she did go overboard for a bit.  

“Later, I tried to become a conscious shopper. I realised we are burdening ourselves and the earth with unnecessary stuff. At that point, we were relocating to India from the USA, and there was a lot to ship back home. We were just two and a half (my son was six then), and that’s when my husband and I asked ourselves, ‘Why do we have so much?’,” says Belliappa, who is a certified dietitian and yoga teacher.

She had heard of Kondo when she was in the US, read the tidying consultant’s book and now follows her on YouTube. “We have a lot of stuff piled up for sentimental reasons, so I believe in Kondo’s philosophy that if it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. My mother-in-law had a huge collection of silk, Kanjeevaram sarees that were divided between the two daughters-in-law after she passed away. But I have become a vegan, so I don’t wear silk and animal clothing. And, yet I was holding on to the sarees… I realised that it’s not doing me any good, so I gave them away to cousins,” she says.

Belliappa is now trying to lead a minimalistic lifestyle, and she hasn’t shopped in a whole year, except for undergarments. “The lockdown scenario is making people rethink about their choices; we can live with minimal stuff. My family also believes in this minimal lifestyle. Yes, there are temptations. But we keep asking, ‘Do we require this?’,” she adds.  

A runner, Belliappa gives away her running gear and shoes to an organisation, which passes them on to underprivileged people. “I used to participate in a lot of running events, and they give away t-shirts. Later I stopped accepting them,” says Belliappa.

“If inanimate objects make you unhappy, then you don’t need them. When you get rid of stuff, you see things clearer,” she says on a concluding note.

One must learn the art of decluttering their closet of non-essentials, especially in the times of upcycling and sustainable fashion. The world is getting more aware of buying smartly rather than indulgently. “I see a positive difference, more consciousness when we are spending money,” says Anandita De, who owns her fashion styling brand.

It is very easy to get tempted by new trends and fashion fads. “The most systematic way to maintain a wardrobe is to compartmentalise the closet such as evening wear (dresses), gym/ activewear (sweat pants, t-shirts), work attire (shirts, pants, formal work skirts), jeans, shoes, undergarments etc. They must hold their unique place within the frame of the closet. It’s much simpler to access even at the time to wear,” she adds.

Observing the ongoing health crisis, author Leela Broome feels that we are all beginning to live in a sci-fi world. What we need to do is to keep one’s interests simple, and work towards cleaner living. “Exchange stuff that you don’t need, buy less and therefore you waste less. It would lead to less garbage, less pollution in the long term,” says Broome, who has written The Flute in the Forest and The Anaishola Chronicles.

She believes that this lockdown should force us to see things for what life is really all about. “I have from my childhood days lived simpler, thanks to my upbringing. Both my husband and I were born just before and after Independence, respectively. Life was tough and thrifty living was the way we knew. We grew up finding joy in art, music, painting, stitching, gardening.”

She continues, “All those who are grandparents now would probably think like us. None of us appreciate material wealth or ostentatious homes and possessions. They’re the first signs of future waste! We all used and reused and recycled out of habit; we had little plastic in those days. My mother always warned us: live with a regular structure in your daily lives. Useless, live simple!  It works and makes for a more peaceful state of mind!”

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