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.