Marie Kondo’s books on tidying up is a bit intense and sometimes unintentionally hilarious, but actually also full of really good tips for de-cluttering your life. Spark Joy is basically an illustrated guide to implementing the methods espoused in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I read Life-Changing Magic on audio, and Spark Joy is a useful companion volume, with a lot of visuals that I’ll use as a reference when I actually start implementing some of her tactics.
My main take-away from both books is that you should get rid of anything you own that doesn’t spark joy. That seems a pretty good rule of thumb when de-cluttering. Sure, it’s sometimes hard to look at a pair of socks and ask yourself whether or not it actually sparks joy, but certainly, when organizing my bookshelves (and piles of books that no longer fit on the shelves *ahem*) or my closet, this piece of advice makes a lot of sense.
This actually reminds me of a shopping trip with a friend a few years back. Every time my eyes didn’t light up instantly when I tried something on, he immediately recommended I return it to the rack. His advice has stuck with me since: “If you try it on and it doesn’t excite you or make you feel amazing, it’s not worth it.”
Before that shopping trip, I often bought clothes simply because they were practical, thinking only if they fit and not if they made me feel amazing. I’d always enjoyed shopping but when it came to certain kinds of clothes, such as those for work, I had a very utilitarian approach which, to be honest, wasn’t much fun. That friend’s advice was a game changer, inspiring me to trust my own instincts and try the most offbeat combinations just because. He made clothes a lot more interesting, and I learned how fun it can be to adapt my personal style to multiple situations.
So Marie Kondo’s advice to use the “spark joy” criteria in deciding whether or not to keep a particular item makes so much sense to me. It’s all about trusting yourself to know what is worth keeping. She also cautions against holding on to items that may have already served their purpose and no longer spark joy. For example, gifts from loved ones that you can’t actually use, or photos of scenery you can barely even place. She says that a gift’s purpose is to be received, a book’s purpose is to impart information, and so on, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about letting them go. This feels particularly relevant since as an immigrant, I’ve had to leave behind a lot of things when I moved. Part of me misses having those things around — old school projects, old toys — yet another part of me has come to understand that while the items themselves may be gone, the memories they represented remain and cannot be taken away as easily.
Her approach can sometimes be a bit intense. For example, I have no intention of thanking my socks for their work in holding my feet (sorry socks), but I see the benefit of not balling them up. (Kondo says it’s because they deserve to rest, I see it as keeping the fibres from loosening up/wearing out.) I also caution against throwing out all documents as she advises. I often throw things out when I’m stressed, only to realize later on that there are documents that would have been useful to keep. She’s also clearly a fervent advocate of living clutter-free, which to be honest, I can’t get as excited about.
Kondo says that for her method to work, it has to be a concentrated effort over a few months, and a rather severe cutting back on the items you own. I don’t know if I’m ready to commit to that quite yet, but certainly, I plan to do at least my closet and bookshelves and then take it from there. Coincidentally, clothes and books are also where Kondo suggests you begin, so I’m open to the possibility that I’m so excited by how I feel that I continue on with the rest of my apartment.
At the very least, I find myself already applying her principles to the books I read. If a book is not “sparking joy” by a certain point, I label it DNF (did not finish) and move on. Whereas I would have felt guilty before about not struggling through to the very end, I now trust that I’m making the right choice and freeing up my time for books I’ll actually enjoy. It actually feels quite liberating, and I’m having more fun reading.
Is the KonMari method for everyone? Possibly not, but I think there are some principles that many will find useful. And certainly, making decisions whenever possible according to what gives you joy seems like a good rule of thumb.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of Spark Joy in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you to the Toronto Public Library, from whom I borrowed the audiobook of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I highly recommend reading Life-Changing Magic on audio, as it’s really good background for when you’re folding laundry or doing chores and will make you feel extra motivated to do a good job.