Can You Create a Life That Sparks Joy?

The first time I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo I didn’t really get it. I mean, I understood that she was promoting the fundamentals of organization and I agreed with all of her organizing suggestions but I didn’t truly see the bigger message behind her clever tagline “Does it Spark Joy™?”

What is the KonMari Method™ and what does it really mean to me?

Marie Kondo developed The KonMari Method™ after a lifetime of experimentation in organizing.

To implement the method you must follow the rules she has developed.

1. Be committed to organization or as she calls it “Tidying”
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
3. Finish discarding before other elements of organization like assigning homes and containerizing
4. Organize by category not by location
5. Follow the right order
6. Ask yourself if it Sparks Joy™

In practice, you start with the first category, clothing. You take all of the clothing from within your home (category) NOT just the items in your bedroom closet (location). You review the items, not to see what you want to discard but to choose the items that you want to keep. You make this choice by deciding if it Sparks Joy™. Does it make you happy? Do you love it? Does it bring up a memory or make you feel beautiful? Does it make you feel inspired or confident when you wear it? The fact that it fits, is blue, was expensive and matches your red skirt does not factor into whether or not it makes you feel something special. You repeat this process with every piece of clothing in your home and if it doesn’t pass the joy check, it is donated or consigned with gratitude.

Once you have made this decision more than a hundred times with your clothes you will start to realize what it means to think about what makes you happy and not just what you do out of habit. You will start to improve your decision-making skills. You will use those skills to tackle all the books in your home, then your paperwork, then Komono (the Japanese word for miscellaneous items – think everything else in your home!) Finally, you will have practiced making the decision about what Sparks Joy™ so many times that you will be ready to review the sentimental items – your baby photos, love letters from your college trip abroad, your child’s lost teeth – every item that you keep because it rekindles a memory from your past.

Once you have determined the items you want to keep and have discarded all the rest, you will put like items together, define their home, containerize and maintain that new organizational system. That last part makes up the fundamentals of organization and the practice of every organizer around the world.

So what makes The KonMari Method™ different? What did I realize it means to me when I took a deeper look?

As we go about our busy lives, particularly women, we spend a lot of time on our activities, work, families, friends and all of the many demands on our lives. We get to the end of each day but we are so busy we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what makes us happy. What brings joy to our lives? We lose the skills required to eliminate those things that weigh us down.

We might even be trying to buy our way to happiness. In the process of living our lives, we buy so many things that our houses are filled with stuff, so filled that the stuff itself starts to cause stress and anxiety. We feel anxiety so we participate in a little “Shop Therapy” and before we know it we have another new outfit or designer pillow to fill the spaces we can’t seem to fill.

The KonMari Method™ asks some important questions

1. What is our ideal lifestyle?

2. What Sparks Joy™?

By asking ourselves these questions not just a few times but hundreds of times over the course of a complete organizing series, we are initiating and then honing our skills at determining what it is that truly makes us feel happiness. Once we surround ourselves with these things and have mastered our “joy checks”, we are ready to ask the bigger questions – does this job make me happy? Do my relationships make me happy? Does the way I spend my time make me happy?

So at first, I was with everyone else and I thought asking “Does this spark joy?” was fun and gimmicky way to decide if I wanted to keep that beat up sweatshirt or pants that don’t fit. But after spending a little bit of time with Marie Kondo herself and a weekend investing in the method as part of the certification, it sunk in that it isn’t about organization, minimalism or having the perfect showpiece home at all.

It’s about living your most joyful life, whatever that means to you.

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