Have you been inspired to #sparkjoy from Marie Kondo lately? From her Netflix show to her best-selling book to her guest spot with Stephen Colbert, she’s the It-Girl in the world of decluttering. Worth an estimated $8 million, she’s got the trashbags and donation bins of the world lined up, following her every word when it comes to organizing and tidying up.
As a professional organizer, I was curious to learn her approach to organizing and how I might incorporate some of her suggestions for myself and my clients.
Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is a quick read with a lot of helpful suggestions. Some were tried and true…others, not for me.
For example, I do not bow on the floor of my client’s homes as Kondo does, introducing myself and asking the home to help me create a happier life for its occupants.
Also, her insistence that the homeowner must physically touch every last item in the home to determine whether to keep or discard is also not in my wheelhouse. I believe I would find many of my clients overwhelmed before we ever began if I told them this would be our approach. In fact, when I tested my theory with one client, she looked at me blankly. “No,” she said. “Absolutely not.”
So how does someone with such seemingly odd decluttering habits become the world’s most renowned organizing expert?
Simply put, #sparkjoy is brilliant.
The belief that something has outlived its purpose when it no longer sparks joy is stand-out advice, and not just when decluttering and organizing.
I tried it when going through my own closet. As you can probably guess, I’m fairly minimal when it comes to holding on to belongings. I didn’t expect I would get rid of much. However, when I looked at my clothes deciding if each item sparked joy, I was surprised how it changed my outlook. There were some items I didn’t wear but did spark joy. An old t-shirt from my first triathlon swim doesn’t get worn because of the fit, but it represents a big moment where I tried something completely out of my comfort zone, building confidence to keep doing things that help me grow. I kept it.
There were other things I liked but just didn’t seem right somehow. Maybe it was the size or the scratchy fabric. Other times, the issue was harder to identify. A cute shirt that I loved used to be in my regular outfit rotation. Later, I was wearing it when I received bad news about the health of a loved one. I remember staring at the fabric through tears. As I held the shirt up, I suddenly realized that sad day was the last time I wore the shirt. I knew I didn’t care to see it again. Finally identifying why something I used to value was no longer wanted was eye-opening. I let it go and felt better immediately.
Kondo recommends thanking each item for being there when you needed it. I was firmly in the “absolutely not talking to my clothes” category but tried it anyway, starting with my jackets. I considered an expensive, heavy North Face coat in a grayish purple color, purchased before I lived in Houston’s warm climate. I’d struggled with getting rid of this item before. I’d ask myself “What if I go somewhere really cold and I need it?” “Well, the color looks like a bruise and it’s not flattering,” I’d answer to myself. Since I recognized I was already engaging in self-talk during the organizing process, I decided to talk to my jacket as Kondo instructed. “Thank you for keeping me warm when I needed you. I hope the next person who owns you appreciates you,” I silently thought while holding the jacket. I felt ridiculous, but you know what? I recognized it had served but outlived its purpose for me and I finally let it go without guilt.
I soon found the beauty of sparking joy is not just when it comes to organizing, but in so many other aspects of life. It’s the concept that can drive real change, inspiring you to follow your dreams and live the life you really want.
I found myself asking if daily events would spark joy. When I had to RSVP for a business networking presentation 45 minutes away to listen a topic I didn’t particularly value, I asked myself “Does this event spark joy?” No, it did not. Normally I would go anyway out of obligation, but not this time. I spent the evening home catching up on laundry and eating dinner with my family. And that did spark joy.
I considered how much I enjoyed having friends over for dinner and wondered why I hadn’t done that in several months. It certainly sparked joy, but I was finding that I let other tasks I perceived as more important take precedence. I texted another couple who always made me laugh and invited them for our house specialty, steaks on the grill. We laughed and caught up on each other’s lives in a way that can’t be replicated by texts or social media. That sparked joy too.
On a larger scale, the idea of sparking joy can be applied to employment, relationships, finances and many other life choices…the list goes on and on. The key is not to get caught up in the short-term spark of joy but to really look at what you’re doing, being intentional about choices, and listening to your inner voice. And that is worth bowing down in thanks.