Does This Spark Joy?

I love it when a book or a show comes out and jumps starts any and all efforts to organize.  By doing so, it normalizes the process and inspires us to clean out. When the book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, came out a few years ago, I flew through it highlighting and high fiving KonMari for her words.  They spoke directly to how I approach organization. 

Her simple approach to organizing requires just two decisions:

  • Do I want it?

  • Where does it go?

Once you've gone through your entire home answering those two questions, she promises that organizing then becomes a simple task of putting things back where they belong.  

I 100% agree.  The hardest part of the process is sorting and decluttering.  Once you've eliminated the excess and assigned a home for everything, then it is much easier to keep up with your newly "installed" system.  

I use quotations because organizing systems are rarely complicated and rarely need an official installation. 

She reminds us that organizing isn't fun (unless your name is Jennifer Burnham) and emotions will come up as you start to purge.  She urges you to keep going and don't stop halfway through.  The point of organizing is to be happy in your home. 

KonMari recommends focusing on the things you want to keep rather than on the things that you want to get rid of.  

Surface clutter is extremely easy to let go of once you get started. The chipped dishes, the clothes that are too small, the shirt with the missing button, the pens that don't work.  

It becomes more difficult to decide when there is no compelling reason. The value lies in the answer to this question, "Does this spark joy?"


Does this spark joy?

One day I was organizing with a client and we came across some cookbooks.  As I gathered them all together on a bookshelf, it became apparent that cookbooks sparked some sort of joy within my client as she owned 50 or more.  Based on our conversations, I also knew that she didn't cook and that her and husband enjoyed eating out.  

I asked her nonchalantly to go through the cookbooks and donate any that she didn't want or use. 

Ten minutes later, there were three books in the donate pile.  

I knew this was going to be an uphill battle, so I rolled up my sleeves and started to ask questions. 

"Only three? Can we get donate more?"
  "No, I really love all these cookbooks and I want to keep them."
While I definitive answer like that would hush up most people, lucky for her it doesn't phase me.

"How often do you cook dinner?"

"Maybe three or four times a week."
"Really? I must have misunderstood. I thought you two liked to eat out for dinner."
  "Oh we do, it is so much easier, but we cook breakfast and sometimes lunch at home."
I walk over the crowded shelf. 

"Most of these books are about baking and dinner recipes. Two things that you don't actively participate in. Can we try again?"

My client was really annoyed with me at this point as she had caught on to what I was doing.  

"Does it spark joy?" is a great question to get started in decluttering, however, the follow up question is "Do I use it?"

Everything in our home was created to be used. 

Books were published to be read. Cookbooks were printed to encourage creativity in the kitchen.  Coats to be worn. Shampoo to clean your hair.  

Stuff is meant to be used

Everything around us is meant to be used.
        caveat: some things are memory pieces that have no functional value

Our stuff holds value in four different categories:

  • Informational

  • Physical 

  • Functional

  • Emotional

Ask yourself, "Why do I have this item? What role does it play in my life?"

If the function has been fulfilled, then it is time to let it go.

If it is a function that you would like to step into in the future, then keep it.  

But you must begin to actively use it. If in a few months, you find it laying in a pile unused, then it is time to let it go.

Actions speak louder than words. 

Where NOT to start when decluttering

And if there is one thing I've learned over the years, never ever start with the category of items that you really love or that you really want to love. 

My client and her cookbooks won that day because cooking was important to her even though her actions didn't match her words.  To her, those books represented something more than just a recipe.  Permission was granted for her to explore that further and step into the function of cooking at home.  

If hosting a party is important to you, then don't start decluttering your platters and pitchers.  Start in the garage with the tools that you don't use and aren't interested in using again in the near future.

In the beginning, you are looking for quick wins. 

Are you interested in a more in-depth KonMari series?

I've been ruminating on the idea of creating a KonMari series where I dive deeper into her topics.

If this is something you would be interested in, then would you email me to cast your vote? 

Jennifer Burnham