The Best Way to Spark Joy When Organizing Your Stuff
A new year means a fresh start on finally getting organized for lots of people, and there are plenty of books and guides out there to help you simplify your life in 2018.
I was on a hike with some of my girlfriends, and two of them started praising Marie Kondo’s book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. The book, a sequel to Kondo’s runaway bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, focuses on applying Kondo’s special methods of organization to our living spaces for optimal happiness.
I love feeling organized but worried that applying the “KonMari Method” could potentially be one more thing to do that I don’t have time for. Still, I was curious about Kondo’s tidying-up wisdom. I purchased the book in an airport sundries shop before boarding a flight (of course, it was there waiting for me) and started reading.
The main theme of Spark Joy goes as follows: If something doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. The reason why people hold on to many non-sentimental items is because they might come in handy someday. Yet, many of these objects just collect dust in our closets and garages. Why not let other people put them to good use? Kondo encourages readers to keep the following perspective when organizing their personal spaces:
Remember that you are not choosing what to discard but rather what to keep. Keep only those things that bring you joy. And when you discard anything that doesn't, don't forget to thank it before saying good-bye. By letting go of the things that have been in your life with a feeling of gratitude, you foster appreciation for, and a desire to take better care of, the things in your life. (p. 8)
This doesn’t necessarily mean that we should just get rid of everything and trust that the Lord will provide whatever we need, but we can make reasonable decisions about where an item can be best employed to God’s glory. Kondo helps us to make these decisions about what stays and what goes based on how much joy an item brings to our lives, not on whether we might need it in the future. Going through this process will result not only in our homes being less cluttered, but we also will have the gratification of knowing that someone will get good use out of stuff that doesn’t make us all that happy anyway.
Yet, Kondo doesn’t just stop with teaching people how to purge their belongings. For anyone who has read either of her books, it goes without saying that Kondo takes folding clothes to a whole new level. No matter what you have been taught about how to store your belongings—particularly your clothes—Spark Joy will give you step-by-step illustrated instructions on how to fold every type of garment, right down to your underwear. I actually tried her method on a few of my articles of clothing and was quite pleased with the results.
With Kondo’s method, you can help keep your clothes more wrinkle-free and see them more easily in your drawers with her “stand-up” folding system. I have to admit that I felt a little silly folding certain items that I usually just throw in a drawer, but I thought, “Why not? If Marie Kondo thinks it’s good to do, I’ll give it a try!” Kondo has such a winsome and energetic personality that I couldn’t help but wish we were friends while reading her book.
I did balk, however, at the part where Kondo encourages people to thank the item they are discarding for the joy it has brought into their lives. I appreciate her point that we should show respect to the objects we are privileged to own and use in life, but an inanimate object has no feelings whatsoever and is not the rightful recipient of our gratitude. The reason we have these objects is because the one true God made material out of nothing, and, as his image-bearers, humans have taken these materials and made their own creations from them (Gen. 1:1; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:3). The one most deserving of our appreciation is our Creator, not the created thing.
Kondo has made me more conscious of thanking God for all he has given me, especially when I am able to pass items on to someone else who can use them. I hope she writes a third book on how to stay organized, because it didn’t take me long to slip back into my old folding habits since reading Spark Joy. Having an improved attitude of gratitude most definitely fills me with happiness. Still, after reading Kondo’s book, I can’t help having pangs of guilt whenever I see my messy undergarment drawer, but I do my best to suppress them.