Seven life lessons from Marie Kondo

I do think my knits are happier when folded!

Now that I've finally read Marie Kondo's book Spark Joy - the waitlist at the library felt like months - I see what all the fuss is about. A lot of what I've read and watched in response to her KonMari method of tidying tends to reduce her message to an instructional manual for getting organized, but the wisdom she offers us is much richer. Here are seven lessons from Spark Joy worth remembering:
  1. Choose what to keep in your life based on whether or not it brings you joy.

    First of all, what is "joy"? Kondo defines joy, if I can attempt to translate a movement into words, perhaps as a transmission of uplifting energy. Someone once said "joy depends on being in harmony with your soul". Happiness is superficial; joy has depth. Happiness is fleeting; joy endures. Happiness can be bought; joy is discovered. Joy. Is. Discovered. Cultivating a space that brings you joy will energize your spirit.

    One of the great points Kondo makes is to choose what to keep, not what to discard. Choose what you want in your life: that's a life lesson that transcends organizing. Spark Joy walks you through how to hone your sensitivity to joy, and teaches you how to choose.

  2. Take stock of what you have, and be grateful for it.

    The process of choosing what to keep is also one of inventory. A prerequisite to organization for sure, taking stock is also necessary in order to fully appreciate what you have.

    Her method of folding may seem complicated and time consuming, but like everything else in life, you get what you give. Taking time to notice and care for your things inherently makes you appreciate them.

    Kondo acknowledges that you may have utilitarian things that are necessary, but that don't immediately spark joy. It's not always feasible to procure replacements that do. In this case, her sage advice is to simply express gratitude for them anyway. You need them, and they bring you joy by enhancing your quality of life. But be careful: your definition of "need" may depend on your understanding of "joy".

  3. There's a time and place for everything.

    There may be something in your life that used to spark joy, but no longer does. In this case, Kondo teaches that one can thank the item for bringing joy and then part with it. If you donate an item that has lots of life left, it will bring someone else joy.

    Without a designated place for each item you own, organization becomes a hamster wheel stuck in a hopeless spiral of cluttered doom. Having a designated place for each item you own is a sure way to stay organized. Even if life gets busy, tidying simply becomes a process of putting everything back in its place instead of total chaos.

  4. Your meditation practice can be anywhere.

    Not everyone wants to take up yoga or has the time to partake in guided meditation aside a babbling brook every single day. Simply bringing awareness to the mundane, the rote, the repetitive is a meditation practice that cultivates mindfulness.

  5. Lead by example.

    Be the change you want to see in the world. If you're stuck rooming with slobs and it's making you miserable, the best thing you can do is to accept the situation for the time being and master the art of tidying up yourself. Do it for yourself, but know your example of success may uplift and inspire others. Kondo began tidying at a young age for her own benefit, and having honed her craft for years has inspired millions.

    Acceptance does not mean abandoning all hope and doing nothing to help yourself change your circumstances, but making peace with the situation in order to move forward with clarity.

  6.  Attract what you want by taking care of what you have.

    Maybe you don't like the uniform you have to keep for work or the place you live. Kondo says your relationship with your current home will help to determine your next home, so take care of what you have. Broadly speaking, what you do right now determines where you'll be in the next moment.

  7. Accept and honor who you are.

    Maybe you abhor folding, your roommate ignores your organizational system, or for whatever reason, you cling to things that don't spark joy and can't bring yourself to let them go. It's okay. Simply acknowledging where you are and your current relationship to things is taking a step forward on the journey of self-discovery. The KonMari method does not have to rule your life - it is a suggestion, one that you can take and adapt to fit who you are.
Marie Kondo's books are full of wisdom, and not just about organizing. If you're still on the fence about the KonMari method, she recommends you start with her first book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, so that you can delve into Spark Joy fully committed to tidying up and ready to receive her wisdom on how to go about living fully.

Photo credit: Stephen Kennedy.

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