Marie Kondo’s Netflix show on the transformational effect of tidying up has blown up. I’ve heard NPR shows about the effects of the decluttering craze (a thrift store bonanza), seen countless posts online about goals for emptying out closets and garages, and heard pushback about some of her advice (especially about books). Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the show, but I have read a couple of her books.
Spark joy. This is how we are to decide what objects to keep. I like the notion, even the woo-woo aspect of talking to an inanimate object that can’t actually speak back.
Do you bring me joy? I asked the ashtray I bought at a garage sale ten years ago. I don’t smoke or even have smoking in my home. This ashtray has a gun on it and says that it was the type of pistol that killed President Lincoln. I have never held a gun, much less shot one. I abhor gun violence but this ashtray amuses me. Of course I kept it!
But is amusement joy? This is where the whole process gets murky for me. What is less murky is flipping the question on its head. I ask myself the flipped question in all sorts of situations, not just in clearing out the clutter. I ask – does this spark dread?
Maybe joy is too high of a bar for me – unbridled laughter, pastel balloons, happy tears. Moving away from the feeling of dread feels more accessible. I let the phone ring go to voice mail, I don’t sign up for the parent volunteer opportunity, I ask for help with a task that overwhelms me. Of course we all have things we prefer not to do, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about not initiating or agreeing to take part in something that fills me with dread.
To know what sparks dread (or joy) is to know yourself. When I take the time to be intentional about what rings my bell or drags me down, my days are better. Better days make for a better life. May we all continue toward better days.