You have probably heard about the single and somewhat divisive criterion Marie Kondo applies to whether or not to keep a possession. She asks people to hold the object in question and ask themselves: “Does this spark joy?”
There has been a lively debate on whether “sparking joy” is too esoteric, and whether a more down-to-earth approach like “use it, need it, love it” is more sensible in deciding what to keep. Here’s my take on it.
Yes – holding objects and looking for the spark of joy seems a bit whacky, especially for a left brain thinker like me. Really, I wouldn’t throw out my toothbrush for good just because it doesn’t spark joy. But here is what works for me:
Firstly, other than more rational approaches, looking for that spark of joy allows me to switch off my rational brain and trust my gut. I’ve never been known as a quick decision maker. With a preference to weigh up pros and cons to then present the best decision possible I have seen people around me making much faster and much more assertive decisions. Equally often, in hindsight I could see that my gut was telling me the right thing, only my rational brain wanted to understand what my gut was telling me.
My de-cluttering journey started with my clothes, and that battle between my gut and my rational brain became very apparent. Deep down inside I really knew that the expensive, sleeveless shirt had been a no-go from day one, because sleeveless shirts are simply not a good look on me. My rational side was trying to come to terms with the amount of money spent, and that it might come in handy one day if worn under a jacket. The simple framework of “Does this spark joy?” made it crystal clear that while it was a good quality top and I could find one hundred uses for it, it was not worth the wardrobe space it was occupying. Therefore, this top was better off at the local charity shop, bringing someone else joy.
Secondly, it has taught me to curate my belongings in a much more deliberate way. Just because I need a toothbrush doesn’t mean that I should hang on to the one I have.
I always used to have a big laundry bin with compartments for “lights” and “darks”. The bin was colour coordinated with the bedroom furniture and looked really pretty. And it didn’t work for me. At all. Ever. Some months into my de-cluttering journey I looked at my laundry bin and asked myself if it sparked joy. You’ve guessed the answer. So bit by bit I looked at what didn’t work for me.
- For starters, I have lights, darks, towels and reds/pinks that I like to separate. So having a laundry bin with only two compartments meant that I was constantly shuffling around clothes and missing bits when doing the laundry.
- Then the bin was so big I could not carry it to the back of the house where the washing machine is, so I was transferring laundry to big blue IKEA bags (yes, those!) which ended up all over the house because there was no real home for them.
- The bags were also not good for carrying the folded laundry back to the wardrobe, because they were so wonky and everything would fall over.
- Lastly, we’d stored the laundry basket in the bedroom, but our wardrobe is in a different room, so there was a constant shuffling of clothes between these rooms, and there were definitely a lot of single socks happening.
In good old Konmari fashion I started to keep a look out for what did spark joy. And last year, on holiday in A Coruna (Spain), I finally came across this cheap, low rimmed, plastic laundry basked which was perfect for carrying laundry down to the machines, back up to the apartment, and for folding clothes straight back into neat little stacks.
Back in Australia, I was on a mission to find a similar basket. There were none! But with that laundry basket in mind I eventually I put together a laundry sorter that sparks my joy, with a rack of four flat metal mesh baskets that I can easily carry around with me, fold the laundry straight back in, pop them in the wardrobe and put the basket back in the rack, located right next to the wardrobe. Suffice to say, there are no more stray socks in our house!
Long story short, I really think that listening to my gut and asking myself whether something sparks joy helps me to curate the life and surroundings I want, decreases friction in my life and helps with mindfulness. Even my back-talking left brain had to concede.
And don’t get me started on folding clothes and mindfulness! But more about that later…