'Spark Joy' with the KonMari method
A very dear friend of mine from university took me to the Barbican for my birthday recently to see The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945. I highly recommend making a visit if only to climb into the life-size house installation, Moriyama House, which was designed in Tokyo by Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) and inhabited by Yasuo Moriyama, an enigmatic urban hermit. As I left, I picked up a new book; Spark Joy by Marie Kondo.
I had come across Marie Kondo before, on the Tim Feriss Show ( a podcast I seriously recommend). The best selling book is a detailed and illustrated guide to organising your home, room by room, category by category. Not only cleaning, but tidying - and within that term lies a whole world of letting go of things by giving away possessions you no longer want (as opposed to need and thus different from the also trending minimalism lifestyle movement). ‘The global decluttering sensation’ as The Sunday Times describes.
The criteria for distinguishing if something is what you want and no longer what you want, no longer love, according to the KonMari method is if the item ‘sparks joy’ aka tokimeku トキメク ときめく. The exercise to finding out if an item does spark joy within you is to hold the item in your arms, give it a good hug, even talk to it, and notice how it makes you feel. Do you get a happy, elated feeling? Butterflies and excitement? Or is it apathy, perhaps even a sense of resentment. Keep the former, discard the latter.
Sounds simple enough right? Or so it may seem... I don’t know about you but I had been meaning to clear out my stuff and hold a sale at a flea market or drop them off at a charity for longer than I like to admit. Way longer.
I tried the eBay thing. It was good whilst my attention lasted but whole process is too long. And I ended up keeping all the things I didn’t sell, mostly out of guilt because these items were on the pricier side of things.
I mentioned Marie Kondo encourages you to talk to your things. And this is a crucial part of the KonMari method - if you notice you no longer want something, thank it properly before discarding. Appreciation is key. Appreciating meant not only the thanking item for it’s constant use, acknowledging it has served its full time, but it can also be thanking it for something like ‘Thank you for teaching me that silhouettes like you don’t suit me’ and ‘Thank you for giving me a sense of excitement albeit a brief thrill, because that is what I needed it at the time.’ To me, this last one was a revelation. Instead of feeling guilty about an impulsive purchase and holding onto something that accumulated a sense of regret, at times fuelling resentment and inward judgement, I was able to accept and let go.
Training my new skill, my spark joy detector muscle as she puts it to Tim Feriss, I set out firstly on my clothes. Organisation by category meant I piled up all the clothes I own from every part of the house, not just one closet at a time and the pile amounted to something mountainous. With slight nausea, I set out to give each and every piece a good squeeze and cuddle. I also put on display something I acquired recently that I knew I loved. This off shoulder embroidered top hung distinguished in the corner of my eye. If that was a feeling of sparking joy, I could hold it in comparison.
After many hours, I had a pile for things I knew I loved and for keep, one for things not, and one for thing’s I wasn’t sure about. Then I remembered that Marie Kondo said it never works to keep those things you are unsure of, because you’re bound to relapse into disorganisation. So I bite the bullet and decided to discard these too. All the unwanted items I folded up and packed with great care, arranging a collection with Traid, an organisation that helps children get out of child garment labour.
It takes a long time to take on this project, and it can be tedious at times. However, a project well worth pursuit and in perfect harmony with our 85 ethos of embracing the slow life. It dawned on me in conclusion that the KonMari method is about honesty, how to be honest with oneself. By really thinking hard about whether something gives me joy now - not last week, not three years ago, but now - I stopped hiding behind any guilt.
And this, I feel, has profound consequences on all the other areas of my life. I have gained so much more than a tidier desk. Letting go of things that no longer made me happy, I created space for all the things that does. Within that new space, I am able to care for them better.
You are not the person you were last week, three years ago or ten years ago. Values change through experience and values are not a matter of right or wrong. We each have our own. Just like the story of how Marie Kondo got into trouble with her parents for throwing away things that seemed useless and unused, what we hold dear is our own business and no one has the right to discard those. Love yourself as you are now and love the present you live in by doing everything you can to make it the best space it can be for you.