The KonMari Method of tidying and decluttering to improve your life, made famous by Marie Kondo and her Netflix series, has six basic principles. Number six, “Ask yourself if it sparks joy,” is my favorite KonMari principle, and it’s also the most complex and emotionally charged, in part because many people can be intimidated by the word joy.
I have been thinking a lot about this after listening to a wonderful podcast dialogue featuring Eliette and Marieke Staub of Clarity Home Detox in Switzerland. (Follow the link below to listen to the sisters discuss how they discovered KonMari and what sparking joy means to them.)
In their discussion, Eliette and Marieke, who are both Certified Master Consultants, say the KonMari Method is ultimately not about organization, but really about choosing joy. “This method is not about getting rid of things, it’s about choosing what you want to surround yourself with because it defines your life,” they explain.
It’s an important distinction. While everyone who completes a KonMari tidying festival lets go of things that are no longer needed or useful, the guiding principle throughout the often intense tidying lessons focuses on what you want to surround yourself with to enrich your life going forward.
As Marie Kondo says in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
That philosophy is the core of the KonMari Method from the outset, and it’s established early in the second principle, which is “imagine your ideal lifestyle.” That’s the true starting point for your KonMari journey, as the first principle is simply to commit yourself fully to tidying up.
In fact, imagining your ideal lifestyle and asking yourself if things spark joy are really the two linchpins of KonMari. All of the other principles are procedural, including following the right order, for example, and tidying by category, not by location.
Most people don’t have difficulty imagining and describing their ideal lifestyle, though some do. And while engaging in the KonMari tidying lessons can be taxing, most KonMari clients are also comfortable following the advice of Eliette and Marieke in the podcast, which is to view everything—“objects, philosophies, activities”—through the filter of “does this align with how I want to live my life?”
Where some people can get hung up is the “spark joy” terminology and the emotional expectations it suggests. The Oxford dictionaries define joy as “a feeling of great happiness,” and the colloquial understanding of joy suggests the emotion is even more unbridled—almost a sort of euphoria, perhaps.
Even those who feel emotions fully and deeply, and aren’t ashamed to discuss or express the magnitude of their feelings, might be a little skeptical about whether a comprehensive decluttering of their homes and lives will have them embracing each new day with effusive happiness.
Based on the word joy, that status may be perceived as the byproduct you can expect from KonMari; if you eliminate everything that doesn’t spark joy, and keep only what does, why wouldn’t you feel joy every day at that point?
We just need to put the weighted expectations that come with the word joy into proper perspective. Not everyone feels emotions at such a heightened level. What the KonMari process and consultants really do is find out what “joy” means to each individual client.
KonMari is always about choosing to keep only the things that align with how you want to live your life, but the ambient feeling after the KonMari process may be closer to one of contentment, serenity, peace of mind, or some combination of those, along with feeling able to live more fully and explore your potential now that your life is no longer cluttered with things that were essentially holding you back.
So it might be a quiet joy, rather than a shout-from-the-mountaintop joy.
In the end, it’s about honoring who you are by embracing and honoring the things you choose to keep—and your life is transformed to focus on the future rather than being weighed down by the past. “The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past,” as Marie Kondo says.
Certified Silver KonMari Consultant Christine Thorn shares the benefits of the KonMari Method with clients through her venture Sage of Interiors, LLC, as well as giving talks on Marie Kondo’s life-changing philosophy at venues including libraries, residential communities, and professional settings.
Thorn creates living spaces of comfort and serenity through the KonMari Method’s category-by-category system of tidying—guiding clients in a tidying journey toward keeping things that nourish the soul, while discarding the rest, and producing lasting results in the process.
Contact Christine Thorn by phone at (203) 772-8883 or by email at [email protected].