Update on THAT SPARK of JOY

Update on THAT SPARK of JOY

Guru Marie Kondo doing a tidying consult.

Last year in my post Cleaning and the Spark of Joy, I wrote about Marie Kondo’s best-selling book that deals with a topic rather dear to my heart: cleaning. Entitled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo taught millions that going through your belongings and deciding what to keep and what to save was a zen-experieince and one that we should all practice. Now she has come out with a sequel: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying UpAnd she’s not kidding, there are illustrations on folding, for example. If you have the time and the patience to learn how to FOLD clothing all over again, check out this video.

When I read Kondo’s basic principles I felt they had some weight. But then I encountered the concept that is truly over the top: the magical element of her method. That’s where the spark of joy comes in. You touch each item and wait for it to communicate to you. How does your body feel when holding this item? Do you feel down–your entire body responding negatively to this item? Or DOES IT SPARK JOY? That’s the key. If it sparks joy, it’s a keeper. And Kondo acknowledges that you might be skeptical. But she believes in her method saying IT WORKS.

Ann Friedman in the LA TIMES, took on Kondo in a recent article. She slices into the current phenomena bemoaning the fact that the readers of Kondo’s ideas are mostly women. And she asks why, saying that this is just a rebirth of GOOD HOUSEKEEPING and that Kondo is again chaining women to these chores when she insists: “Tidying is the act of confronting yourself. Cleaning is the act of confronting nature.” And Friedman counters saying that basically women are confronting OTHER PEOPLE’S MESSES.

Friedman acknowledges that more men have moved into the kitchen, but that Kondo’s book is sneakily making women forget that cleaning is a chore and that subsequently, men are not sharing it. And she cleverly analyses Kondo’s theory in the following way:

  • If we are having trouble getting rid of an item, Kondo wants us to ask what our past attachment is to the item or our fear of not having it in our future.
  • Bingo! Is cleaning after everyone in our family an attachment made in the past and therefore something we fear losing in the future? For me I have to admit, yes and yes.

I began tidying up when I was two–my mother said I would toddle around the house straightening rugs. That penchant grew as my mother’s life prevented attention to cleaning and tidying (she was our sole breadwinner) and I gradually took over those chores. I liked it. To this day, I like to clean, because I have CONTROL over my environment.

Yes, my husband and family have helped me–my husband still does. But I always find myself going back to make sure the furniture is just where it should be after a floor is washed or vacuumed. Is there a cure? Friedman says the SPARK OF JOY will truly occur if women reconsider their domestic roles. If Kondo’s books are written to push us deeper into the proverbial joys of cleaning, then maybe we have to find ways to release ourselves. Thanks, Ann, you’ve got something there. And I’ve got a solution.

Following Kondo’s MAGICAL process, this is something all women might do when tidying up, but at their own individual peril. Because I’ve been there done that, as they say–everyone of my family coming to me later to complain–but give it a shot!

Kind of following Kondo, when touching an item that belongs to a husband or teenager I’m betting that you are NOT going to feel THAT SPARK OF JOY. Great, toss the ripped pants, the no-longer viewed video game, the piles of old shirts that are always held back by a husband or partner because: “Oh that will make a great painting shirt.” Really? “How many painting shirts do you need?” And also, “I really can’t remember when I last saw you with a paintbrush in your hand!”

I marvel at the success of Kondo and her cleaning initiatives. But today, I think I’ve found a great way to interpret or re-interpret her magical concept. I should write to Ann Friedman and let her know. I think it’s an idea that would give her a SPARK OF JOY.

Thanks to the LA for the Photo

18 thoughts on “Update on THAT SPARK of JOY

  1. Hi, Beth
    Tidying and cleaning is very important to me because I feel uneasy in a place with many stuffs around. The oriental Feng Shui bases on the believe that the orderly fashion and roomy ideas promoting good spirit and blessings to flow in.

    Marie’s method helps my tidying work much faster and joyful. That three words “Spark of Joy” is the yard stick for me to keep this or that in the house. Wonderful. In my opinion, this really can encourage people to tidy up their own place at personal level.

    Thanks for sharing this, Beth
    -Stella Chiu

  2. Hi Stella, glad that you like her work and follow it. Tidying has always been huge for me. I just wish more people in any family would follow suit so the women didn’t have to do all the work.

  3. I love a clean house but living with two men (hubby and son) it’s difficult. My husband does a lot of chores so I can’t complain but I love things neat and tidy. We both work from home so the papers cluttering the rooms bother me. Mine are in neat piles and his are strewn all over the place. I must practice mindful meditation more! Breathe. Breathe. Love this piece. Very thought provoking!

    • Hi Cathy, my husband is exactly the same. I am constantly trying to at least have him tidy the piles. We bought a big file cabinet for him and the piles are still there! The mind of men–who knows. Yet a few weeks ago I wrote about a guy who has a book on decluttering. I wonder if he has a wife. Beth

  4. My attitude toward cleaning has often been like that of Dorothy Parker’s toward writing: “I hate writing. I love having written.” Fortunately, Hubs is quite neat, and doesn’t complain too loudly when I instigate periodic purgings of “stuff” (which I did recently after reading Kondo’s book. Kondo’s “sparking joy” philosophy does put a different spin on the process. And I really do love having tidied up!

    • I do too, Roxanne. Post-Christmas is always my time to SWEEP things clean. And I love the openness of doing that. Kondo is really brilliant in that she tapped into a need. But when I hold some of my husband’s old things in my hand–there is truly only the spark to want to get to Good Will.

  5. Eh – I think Kondo’s idea is an old one and I think she’s just repackaged it for a new generation. For women (or men) who are homemakers, the act of caring for their families can sometimes be magical, but more often it’s just work.

    Anyone surrounded by junk and clutter is going to feel stressed and anxious.

    • I agree. A place that has space and yet is warm and inviting is the only way to live. I feel blessed that we have a laundry room in our townhouse after living with a basement, an attic and a shed in our 4 bedroom in Iowa. We decluttered and purged, but life has a way of bringing things back. Clutter is eternal. Thanks, Sharon.

  6. I heard my husband tell a friend that if he hadn’t read the newspaper within the first 15 minutes it was in the house, I would throw it away. I’m a minimalist and am the master of clean. LOL!

    • Oh yes, I’ve been accused of the very same thing. Can’t help myself. As a child growing up I was referred to as the Tornado–I would rush through the house straightening and organizing and it wasn’t always appreciated!!

  7. I have a problem with packaging cleaning and tidying as one. I hate cleaning and consider it a chore. I love tidying, and I think it’s party because of how I’m hard wired, to need organization and feel scattered in clutter. But I also think it’s because I took a long time and great pride in decorating my home and it gives me pride to see it without crap everywhere.

    That said, I do not always pick up after everyone or even decide which belongings stay or go. If my family doesn’t do their own sorting and tidying, that’s fine. If it gets out of hand, I encourage them (quite strongly at times) to get on that!

    • Thanks, Karen. I get the cleaning versus tidying thing. The best way to cure it is room by room. I don’t have anyone helping me clean anymore, so I try to do a thorough tidy/clean of the upstairs one day, the downstairs the next. When my youngest, my son, was living with us–I always dreaded going in his room because of course he wasn’t into tidying. And yes the encouragement was quite strong at times. And often I just removed things, I confess, because he did not!!

  8. My husband is the ‘neat freak’ and I’m the ‘clean freak’. He can’t stand clutter and will tidy up and not wash a countertop or the stove, etc. To me, that’s not finishing the job. If you’re going to remove clutter, dust, wipe, wash, etc. goes with it! I have my limits on clutter and when it’s reached I’m a cleaning machine. But, being an artist can be messy and he has a problem with that, sometimes.
    As for paring down, after condensing 2 houses into one a while ago we have gotten down to the basics. It is freeing!

    • My husband loves to pile things on our kitchen counter, use it as a portable office. It makes me crazy. Last week he cleaned off his desk in in the den. That was a great start. I am a clean and neat freak–except when I’m writing, so like your art, I get that. Thanks for chiming in.

  9. Actually, in my family it is the opposite – I am the slob. My hubbie isn’t Felix Unger by any shot, but he does the vast majority of straightening and decluttering. Too many of my objects bring me joy – like all my zillions of books. Although I admit, clutter does drag you down, so many things I own are things I have emotional attachment to, and that is the problem.

    • Me too. I had to major downsize when we moved and I miss some of the things I gave away. They are only THINGS, but there is usually some emotional attachment. Yes, I get that!!

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