How Do I Know What Will Spark Joy?

We’ve all heard the phrase by now, right? Spark Joy! Ever since the Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” what has become a common phrase for KonMari practitioners has become a new verb- and punchline. We’ve all seen the cartoons, the memes, and the viral videos with admittedly funny messages of people left with empty rooms because nothing they had sparked joy- and the lament that the bathroom scale doesn’t  spark joy so out it goes…

We aren’t used to a concept or phrase like spark joy- but if we dig a little deeper, we can see how Marie Kondo’s unique catchphrase is something we can all relate to. As Marie states in her touchstone book, Tidying Up, she explains that she chose the Spark Joy standard for a reason- she asks- “What is the point in tidying? If it’s not so that our space and the things in it can bring us happiness, there is no point at all.”

Many clients have giggled nervously at the start of a tidying session when I use the “spark joy” expression. “What if I don’t know what sparks joy?” some have asked. I suggest the client start by going to his or her closet and reaching for something that they love. People instinctively know right where to go. As Marie explains, it’s like a flutter in the heart. When that item is taken and held, their face lights up. It might be something hard to quantify, but it’s real. And the point of handling every item of clothing when you are tidying your closet, is to further hone your “spark joy” meter. And it is a meter…we can talk ourselves into keeping that outfit that cost a small fortune (but we can’t stand), or the sale items that never fit or flattered us, or the gift that was not something we liked or didn’t flatter us but came from someone we care about…but when you ask if it sparks joy, the answer becomes clear.

Spark joy goes beyond logic and analytical cost-benefit ratios and goes straight to the heart. And I can’t tell you how many times I have seen clients light up, smile, and beatifically beam when hug something they own that sparks joy…and how the body droops and the energy declines when a non-joyful item is held. As you try the Method yourself, you will start using the Spark Joy phrase yourself…and if you are like me you will develop a new framework for what you want to keep in your life.

This summer I went for a rare clothes shopping excursion. I needed to refresh a few items in my wardrobe and wanted some new summer items. I reflected on how much I had changed in the four years since I began using the KonMari Method. I used to shop indiscriminately and looked for good buys. If it fit and was reasonably attractive, it was a likely buy. Now I spend more time selecting and trying on items, and being very careful about what I bring in to my closet. Everything has to Spark Joy! My standards have gone up, and that’s a good thing. And since it has become intuitive, it’s a natural and valuable skill to continue to develop. I had to snap a couple of selfies when I was shopping that day- the blouse I thought would be perfect (on the left) made me feel dragged down and sad- and the white eyelet blouse (on the right) made me light up and feel fabulous. I’m sure you can guess which one went back on the shelf- and which one I bought and have happily worn several times already!

So, as laughable as the concept may seem, inanimate objects can and do transmit energy to or away from us. Take a few moments and try to do your own Spark Joy tests- and I guarantee you will learn a lot about yourself and what you love!



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