Spark Joy

Kondo, Marie. Spark Joy: an illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2016.

Reason: title caught my eye.

Confessional: the phrase “tidying up” seems fussy to me, maybe even a little inconsequential. Maybe I’m confusing it with the act of shuffling things around, tucking things away, the superficial appearance of making things neat.

Even though it is a cooking term, I apply “mis en place” to my everyday life. In a chef’s world it means having all the ingredients measured out and ready to be cooked/mixed for the meal. But, in my world it means everything in its place; a place for everything.

The key to taking this book seriously is the promise of joy. You are to believe that you will actually spark joy in your life and “change it forever” by being tidy. There are six fundamental rules of Tidying: 1) commit, 2) imagine a new lifestyle, 3) discard first, 4) tidy by location, 5) follow the right order to tidying. Sounds pretty simple, right?
At first I found Kondo’s direction to be a little hokey: I couldn’t see myself holding an item and testing the spiritual connection to that item. Thanking the item before letting it go. Understanding that “tidying is the art of confronting yourself” (p 15). Hmmm. Not sure how that would work. I have the ability to feel things for inanimate objects so this doesn’t sound like a good plan for me. Case in point, my sister and I tried to abandon a box of horribly dry, outlandishly green and red Christmas cookies in a parking lot. It was Christmas day, our first after the death of our father. Backing out of the parking spot we had to pause for an oncoming car. While waiting, we looked at the cookies and my sister mentioned how “lonely” they looked sitting there…alone… on the pavement. I immediately made her pull back into the spot just so I could collect those damn cookies. Here’s the really sick part. No one knew I kept them…for three years. I saved them because I pitied them. Not because they brought me joy.
Another thing I couldn’t see doing was discarding practical items just because I felt nothing for them. Who uses their fingernails to turn a screw just because the screwdriver didn’t inspire joy? Kondo tried. What about the items you WANT to bring joy but don’t? I have a shirt of my mother’s. It was one of her favorites. And yet, when I look at it, it’s just a shirt.
Anyway, back to Kondo. She writes in a voice that is friendly and encouraging; always urging her reader to keep going.
I have to ask, what is the difference between Kondo’s advice and the old adage, “love it or lose it?”

Author fact: Kondo wrote another book called the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Book trivia: Spark Joy was translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano.