Should Your Stuff Spark Joy?

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Japanese organizational guru Marie Kondo has taken the world by storm with her KonMari™ method for tidying.  She’s got a show on Netflix called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and she has published four books.  You can even become a consultant trained in the Konmari method.

She has some good ideas around organizing and tidying, and her clothes folding method is fantastic, but one of her fundamental ideas just doesn’t quite sit right with me – that we should only keep things that spark joy in us.

The Konmari method involves gathering up all items in a particular category (e.g. clothing) in one big pile, and then going through them one by one and discarding items that don’t speak to the heart and spark joy.  She explains that you need to hold each item one at a time in your hands and see if your body feels lifted up (sparking joy) or weighed down (no joy).  If you want to see her demonstrate, there’s a short video on Youtube here.

Living with treatment-resistant depression, joy just isn’t in my emotional range.  Even so, I’m not convinced that things would spark joy for me even without the depression.  I’m not someone who’s ever been particularly interested in having stuff.  If something is practical, great.  But if it’s not something I’m going to use, I don’t want it hanging around.  I’ve travelled a lot, but I don’t do souvenirs.  I’m just not interested.

I suppose I can see that some items might spark joy if they’re closely linked to a person or an event that is meaningful.  Or maybe that fabulous dress that always makes you look and feel hot even when you’ve got your period and are bloated like a balloon.

Overall, though, stuff doesn’t seem like a very good basis for joy.  Even with material items that are connected to something meaningful, it’s not actually the thing itself that the joy is based on.  Joy comes from meaningful connections, whether that’s connection with yourself, another being, or an activity/experience.  I’m not convinced that joy comes from something that’s sitting in your closet, however neatly it may be folded.

Even if materials things could spark joy, do you really want or need every item in your house to be joyful?  Is your toilet plunger ever going to spark joy in your life except for that one moment when it prevents your toilet from exploding everywhere?  How about your toilet brush?  And maybe if these things do spark joy, you’ve got a problem that you’ll need more than Marie Kondo’s help to deal with.

So thank you Marie Kondo for your stellar folding technique, but the rest I’m going to discard because it just doesn’t bring me joy.

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29 thoughts on “Should Your Stuff Spark Joy?”

  1. Having been through that experience you described with a toilet, I will look at my plunger with true joy now. I also can’t hold my dishwasher, but probably love it most of anything in my house after so many years as an unmedicated person with ADHD without one. But, I totally agree with you on the rest of it. For any diagnosis known for choice anxiety, the MariKondo method seems like a slippery slope to analysis paralysis…

  2. Well said, Ashley. Kondo’s definition of joy differs from mine. I feel that joy is too precious to be associated with every household item.
    I follow William Morris’theory -” Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
    Folliqing this theory should leave you with a clean uncluttered home

  3. Very interesting point of view about Marie Kondo and her spark joy concept, I think her intention when she is talking about it is to connect us with the emotions that objects can make us feel, for example if we are keeping the jumper that we were wearing when a boyfriend broke up with us, probably that object does not spark joy to us because the memories behind it. This is an extreme example. I think the Marie Kondo method is a good way to let it go many things that are holding us back and is not only about objects but the memories behind it.

  4. I’ve had in my mind to run through my clothing and liquidate, based on the whole “spark joy” thing. Clutter bothers my anxiety so I try and keep things lean and tidy. I thought yesterday, however, about something you mentioned. My depression. Perhaps using the “joy” method doesn’t work for everyone. It’s hard to find joy when everything seems dark. Perhaps, as well, that’s not the best time to discard the bits and pieces of your life.

    1. I think it was about a year ago when the depression was really I bad I threw away a lot of things I’d received as gifts from people. It is what it is, but probably wasn’t the best thing to do in that state of mind.

  5. Well thank you Ashley for putting into words what I have been silently saying since this craze took over. I understand the what she is trying to say, but was also thinking cant somethings just be useful and not necessarily spark joy? And at the same time, I give her major kudos for her branding and marketing. 😊

  6. That is so weird. I’m unfamiliar with her works, but it sounds as if she forgot the importance of functionality, such as with the plunger. I can see her technique applying to the stuff we collect: books, decorative items, etc. But to everything? Not everything in the household is meant to bring joy! (Antifungal cream, anyone?)

    I think I know how you felt about this book–I read a self-help book once about dieting, and it offended me profusely. It was written by one of the Oprah’s minions. It was kind of like this, “Every day, pick something from your past that upsets you and force yourself to get over it. Eventually, you’ll quit shoving food into your fat face.” (You can’t make this stuff up.) I think I wound up hurling the book into the trash, because I didn’t even want to donate it.

  7. I like this blog post as I watched the series when I was feeling quite well but that’s such a good point and I wonder how diffrent my experiance would be if I had started watching it now. I found the program helpful as it help me let go of something that I was saving that had a connection to someone who I have a painful relationship with, I thought I needed to keep the stuff connected with them and honestly I feel better having thanked the stuff and said goodbye to it. I have less reminders of the person around the house and some more space. I really like how you challenged it and found diffrent ways to look at it <3

  8. I’ve been hearing more about this and the whole Konmari method. I’d have to agree with you, I don’t think everything needs to spark joy. My bread bin & toilet roll holder don’t bring a smile to my face and instant joy, but they’re practical and necessary. I’d just go for not having things you detest the sight of to be honest! x

  9. Even though Marie Condo is popping up, I’ve always followed the minimalist mindset more closely, which usually asks, “Is this useful?” and “Does this add value to my life?” While a plunger my not add a whole lot of value to my life, it is sure as hell useful. Where as owning my favorite books may not be ESSENTIAL, they add value to my life and make me happy.

    Rachel || http://anotherstationanothermile.com

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