Does It Spark Joy?
While I was home for a visit last summer, my mother commented that we ought to do some organizing. That was all the invitation I needed! She suggested we tackle her kitchen cabinets, and I dove right in, literally - head first.
Her kitchen cabinets do not extend all the way to the ceiling, and she uses the space on top of the cabinets for display (at least she used to). That's where we began. I climbed on top of the counter and started pulling things down for her to examine. To my surprise, she voted to get rid of pretty much every item I handed her.
Next we went to work on the upper cabinets, starting with the cabinet above the refrigerator. Again, the entirety of the contents were placed in the donation pile. I was amazed and impressed. As we worked, we talked about the items, many of which had originally belonged to my grandmother. Mom confessed that when she first moved into her current home, she wasn't ready to let grandma go, so she just held onto all of grandma's things, even though she had no real use for many of them.
It was then that I introduced her to Marie Kondo. Not literally, of course. I just shared with her Marie's famous question from her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (affiliate link) - "Does it spark joy?"
The concept really struck a cord with my mom. Over the next few days we decluttered her entire kitchen, her pantry, and her utility closet. As I held things up for her to examine, she frequently responded with, "Nope. That doesn't spark joy." I have to admit, her enthusiasm for the principle sparked a lot of joy for me, and we made some fond decluttering memories together. We also made three trips to Goodwill! Check out these pictures of some of the stuff we donated.
Following My Own Advice
Upon returning home, I found myself hyper-aware of items in my own home that hadn't sparked joy for me or anyone else in a long time. Before I knew it, I had a decent sized pile of donations prepared. Since then, I've made numerous trips to the thrift store to drop off a bag or two of stuff that no longer serves a useful purpose in our home. In the process, I've discovered something that consistently sparks joy for me - letting go.
My mom's enthusiasm for eliminating the non-joy producing things in her life has remained constant since our declutter marathon last year. She shared her appreciation of the concept with my nephew who gave her the above mug for Christmas last year. Needless-to-say, it sparks joy for her.
I admit I'm not the biggest Marie Kondo fan out there, but I do love this simple question that she introduced to the world: "Does it spark joy?"
Associated with the question is a principle of organization that, when embraced, can remove much of the guilt, fear, and other concerns that are often felt by people struggling to let go of things that no longer add value to their lives.
Personally, I find it liberating to let go of things that no longer spark joy in my life. It helps me appreciate better the things that do. If you're having trouble letting go of things that are bogging you down, try asking yourself, "Does it spark joy?"
7/13/2020 08:25:17 am
I think it is so interesting that she was willing to let go of almost everything that had been stored/on display above the cabinets. It's like we almost stop seeing them once they are up there. Plus, I imagine that when you brought them down they were dusty. I have come to believe that we should just always takes the cabinets all the way to ceiling, even if the space is not easily reached. I can totally relate to coming home and being hyper-aware of my own things. That happens all the time to me:)
7/13/2020 05:18:52 pm
I think you make an interesting point about not seeing things after awhile, and you’re right: everything was super dusty! What I love is how much fresher everything looks and feels after a good decluttering. Every time you open a cabinet or drawer you feel a sense of accomplishment.
7/13/2020 10:20:03 am
It just goes to show that different strategies work for different people! Thank you for sharing this story.
7/13/2020 05:20:13 pm
Thanks for your comment Janet.
7/13/2020 04:59:54 pm
I love how the decluttering and letting go you did with your mom inspired you to do the same in your own home. What I call the "domino effect" is something I've noticed with my clients. When I'm working with them, if they tell a friend or family member about our work, that person will start organizing on their own. The willingness to change, let go, and organize seems to inspire others to do the same, as your mom did for you.
7/13/2020 05:24:04 pm
I’ve noticed the same phenomenon. Ive also noticed how having some organizing success inspires people to keep at it. That has also been true for my mom. She regularly sends me photos of some new closet or other area she has decluttered.
7/13/2020 06:47:18 pm
I love how you found the treasure in the Marie Kondo method - there's almost always something I can use from what other organizers do, even if it's confirming how much I differ! I agree with you, "spark joy" has become a great shortcut to help people get moving. Congratulations to your mom on making a change!
7/13/2020 11:16:31 pm
Thanks, Lucy! I agree that there is always something to learn from other professionals even if it’s what not to do.
7/13/2020 07:46:38 pm
Yeah Mom! She did a great job decluttering with you. I agree that Marie Kondo hit a cord with people with her question "Does it spark joy?" I have sometime used it with clients. But sometimes other questions work too. "What's your intention?" is a good one that work sometimes.
7/13/2020 11:19:39 pm
I agree that there are a variety of key questions that can be used to set things in motion. I love the idea of examining intentions. It’s a great way of getting people to think about the big picture which is so important for long term success.
7/14/2020 12:36:40 pm
This is such a sweet and inspiring article. What sparks the most joy for me is what a fantastic daughter you are. You took time to help your mother unload. We all know how challenging decluttering is and you finished to the end. Bravo to you!🙌
7/14/2020 03:53:25 pm
Thanks, Ronni. That’s kind of you. I appreciate your comment.
7/19/2020 04:58:33 pm
I am removing some stuff but I have to admit that I am holding onto things just because it belonged to a friend or family member that I'm not ready to release yet. I love the question "Does it spark joy" and there are days I can release but not consistently yet.
7/20/2020 07:37:04 am
Hi, Cheryl! Good to hear from you, and good for you for sticking with it. Decluttering is really a life long process. What I like about this particular approach is that it focuses on the positive instead of more negative reasons for keeping things like fear, guilt, etc. Good luck with your continuing efforts!
10/20/2020 02:28:30 pm
It’s always wonderful when someone is overly cooperative in letting things go. It’s also interesting that the question “Does it Spark Joy” works well with some people but not others. <a href = “https://utterlyorganizedva.com/decluttering-sorting“>decluttering</a>
10/20/2020 02:33:38 pm
Sorry, that decluttering link should have been
10/20/2020 02:42:06 pm
10/21/2020 04:22:39 pm
It's true that the notion of "Does it spark joy?" does not strike a chord with everyone. I find that it is particularly unsuccessful with people who are super sentimental. They have a tendency to think that everything "sparks joy".
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