How to Fill Your Home with Things That Spark Joy
You may have already heard of Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’; perhaps you’ve even read it yourself. It was certainly a game changer for me. With a bold claim of ‘A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever’, this book by Japan’s expert declutterer has revolutionised the way a lot of us store and interact with our belongings. With a three-month waiting list, her KonMari method of decluttering and organising has become an international phenomenon.
Now, this isn’t a post to talk about how much of a fan of this book I am (although in case you couldn’t tell, I am 😉 ), but more to talk about the question this book keeps referring back to: “Does it spark joy?”
The principle mentioned throughout the book can be applied to a number of different things in life: Do I want to eat this pizza because it will spark joy? Do I want to buy these jeans because they will spark joy? Do I want to keep this item in my house because it sparks joy?
If the term “spark joy” doesn’t really work for you, try swapping it for “does it make me happy?” or, “do I love it?”. If you can get into the habit of asking yourself this very simple but effective question, I promise you it will make a huge difference to your life and the way you make decisions (in the best way possible!).
At first, it may be difficult to tell whether or not you really love something, but as Marie says in her book, once you hold something you know you definitely don’t love, it becomes easier to recognise the things you do. Every time you look at something you’re not fond of, you’re giving yourself an unnecessary reason to feel negatively triggered.
Perhaps it’s a piece of clothing you’ve always wanted to wear but it’s never really felt “right”. Maybe it’s a gift from someone that you’re keeping out of politeness. It could be an item that was important to you at a certain time in your life, but it doesn’t reflect who you are now.
When you only keep the items you love, you’ll find that things don’t pile up in the same way as they used to. Items are easier to find and you’ll feel more excited by your belongings than ever before. If anything, surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy each day can only have a positive impact on your life.
I want to talk more here about how you can use this question as a prompt to work out which items in your home you’re holding onto because you really want to have them in your life, and which things you’re holding onto out of a sense of duty. The most common reasons that people hold onto things is because of sentimental value or because someone gave it to them as a present and they feel guilty about throwing it away. Holding onto things you don’t want to be around doesn’t do anyone any favours.
If it’s sentimental, there are a number of different suggestions the author makes. Firstly, leave these things until last. Once you’ve had a bit of practice with something like your clothes or books, you’ll be in a much better place to deal with anything that could bring up emotional triggers. Generally, the same rule applies, though: only keep things that spark joy. Nobody wants to keep photos of blurry looking landscapes that you can’t remember where they were taken. Another point made in the book is that most of the things we place sentimental value on are things to do with our past. By sorting through them, we leave things in the past which frees up space (both physically and emotionally) to focus on the present.
Most methods of decluttering use numerical goals, such as “throw anything away if you haven’t worn it in 2 years”, or “3 coats, 5 pairs of jeans and 10 pairs of socks is the perfect amount”. There can be no “perfect amount” because we are all so different and unique. The main thing to go by is your personal sense of what’s right. Maybe you love earrings and having 100 pairs brings you happiness. You could be someone who owns more gym gear than fancy clothes, so having a set amount of formal tops won’t be relevant to you.
Generally, less is more and when you get into the swing of getting rid of things that just aren’t “you”, you’ll be amazed at how empowered and well, just connected to you you feel.
The KonMari method in a nutshell:
- Gather all of the same items together in one place, at one time (eg. all of your trousers, all of your hairbrushes, all of your screwdrivers). Having all of your items together allows you to see a) exactly how much of each item you have, b) which ones you actually use often and c) by comparing them against each other, which ones you actually love.
- Hold each item in your hands. This helps you connect to the item and assess whether you have any emotional attachment, as well as seeing close up if you like the item more. Feel the texture of the item, notice how you yourself feel when you touch it and see if it sparks anything inside of you. Make piles of anything you’re unsure of so you can go back to them at the end. Sometimes you just need to work your decision-making muscles a little bit before it clicks!
- Go with your gut and get rid of the things you don’t like. Initially, this may be a little like ripping off a plaster; painful at first but oh-so-satisfying in the end! A helpful tactic I use is to think how much better appreciated the item could be if it was being used by someone who really loves it. So, donate to charity, give it to a friend that has expressed an interest in it or throw it away if it’s really not re-usable. Tip: If you’re struggling with feelings of guilt when getting rid of something, take a moment to be thankful for the item and everything it’s done for you. Even if it’s a gift that you, think about how happy your friend would have felt when they picked it for you. Then think about how much happier you’ll feel without it and get rid!
- Keep going until something clicks. When having a sort out, you’ll eventually get to a point where something just feels right. This is where you stop (and take a little moment to give yourself a high five!)
This method does take a little bit of time and effort but its results have definitely changed a lot of people’s lives for the better. I’d love to know if you try any of the steps I’ve mentioned here or if you’ve read the book yourself and what your thoughts are. Let me know in the comments down below!