Sparking joy: The other big epiphany from the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

some sparkle

I was umming and ahhing over whether or not this “big epiphany” was actually that big until about 3 different things happened through the last week that made me realise – yep. It’s subtle but worth sharing.

If you’ve missed my two previous posts about the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo  then you can catch up here and here.

How can surrounding yourself with things you love make you happier?

One of the things in the book Marie talks about is how to decide what to keep and what to throw away and it all comes down to this concept of whether or not something “sparks joy” for you. Eg. Whether when you look at it, hold it or wear it, it lights you up inside and gives you this happy/ good vibe feeling or instead gives you a sinking “ugh” kind of feeling.

At first it seemed like a bit of an arbitrary discretionary system but then I thought about it and realised she’s definitely on to something.

Eg. I had a top with a turtle neck neck line – but short sleeves (always an odd design combination because I figured if you’re cold enough to wear a skivvy then it’s cold enough to wear long sleeves rather than short? Anyway, for a variety of reasons from the colour, to the fabric to the shape I don’t like this top. It should be good “clinic wear” but I never wear it because it makes me feel frumpy and un-feminine.

I had a few other clothes I didn’t like as well like a grey stretchy lycra top that just doesn’t make me feel good, some t.shirts which I didn’t like and some 3/4 length cargo pants which in theory I should have loved but in reality – just didn’t fit me quite right and so I never wore them or felt uncomfortable when wearing them.

In another area completely we had some sheet sets. Some we inherited some we’d bought because they were inexpensive and available at the time. But every time I’d go into my bedroom and I’d see those brown sheets I’d think – I wish I’d taken the time to look for what I actually wanted rather than getting a “make do” solution.  So in a huge recent clean out of the linen cupboard (I’ll share some ah-ha’s from that down the track) I decided to give them away and just keep the ones we actually need and will use – that I do like and I took the time to actually find a set that I wanted and so now when I walk into our bedroom and see our plain white sheets with a simple quilt cover – I love it. It’s a very simple pleasure (and the sheets were a grand total of $35) but all it took was some discretion on “Is this actually what I am looking for?”.

Another tacked on “solution for now” we’ve done is a book shelf in our bedroom (which is doubling as a study as our kids were poor sleepers so they’re occupying the other rooms). And although this bookshelf serves a purpose and removes the piles of books and makes it a bit easier to work at my desk every time I look at it though – it doesn’t spark joy  – it sparks a “to do” feeling which isn’t really what I’d like to go for in my bedroom. So one of our plans was to build a book shelf in our lounge room on either side of our fireplace. Recently we rearranged our lounge room to begin to accommodate this and every single time I walk into that room I light up and feel that “oh I love it!” feeling (and it’s not even built yet! Just rearranging the furniture has made a difference!

Finally our pile of mail -we’d got into the habit of letting it build up on our bench and also on the fridge and every time I’d walk into the kitchen and see it there  it was another thing on the “to do list”. And gave a heavy heart rather than a feeling of being lit-up inside. So after the last big filming session last year when we were getting the book ready I put a moratorium on letting things build up in the kitchen so that the space felt clearer. Instead of putting everything back like I would previously after cleaning the kitchen for a filming session, I only returned things I loved (this was before reading Marie’s book – haha  it must’ve been my latent psychic powers kicking in;-) Anyway now whenever I walk into the kitchen and look at the fridge I see pictures that make me smile – every time I open the fridge I smile. Not seeing piles of unopened mail -makes me smile.

There are a couple of take homes for me from this simple concept.

  1. It’s a relatively easy way to feel happier more often – because when you take away the things that give you the “ugh” feeling there’s just less of that trigger occurring on a daily basis.
  2. It makes it a bit easier when buying new things – or making changes around the house too – because getting into the habit of asking yourself “is this what I actually need? Is this a tacked-on solution? or Will I actually wear this?” also helps to stop bringing in the “ugh” stuff to begin with. Especially with clothes. If it feels uncomfortable in the store, it rarely feels better when I get home I’ve found.
  3. The biggest epiphany I found was that a lot of the “ugh” feeling comes from things I’ve been given or inherited rather than things I’ve chosen for myself (although as described above – my radar has been off there too). But often with inheriting hand-me-downs especially well worn and used ones with odd prints, colours or shapes they’re just not the kind of thing you’d choose for yourself and they don’t often suit your exact needs and so you rarely ever use them and they just end up taking up space, collecting dust or making you feel “ugh” rather than “ah!” every time you look at them. (I’m not saying I don’t love being given stuff  because we’ve been given some really cool stuff too. But sometimes people give you stuff they don’t want but can’t throw away so they appease their guilt by giving it to you  and then they give you the guilt).

So to instantly feel lighter – get a pen and paper and take note of all the things you can see in the room from where you are currently sitting. Eg. for me it would be desk, chair, bed, bedside cabinet, filing cabinet, printer, tallboy, cupboard, bookshelf and dream catcher I made in a workshop with Sarah Wilder from The Fifth Element Life last year. Then go through each thing and think about if it “sparks joy” for you. Eg. I look at my desk chair and I love it. I look at our cupboard (now after doing the whole Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up cleaning thing) and I love it because it’s tidy.  I look at my bedside cabinet and see the book I’m currently reading and I love it. I look at the picture on our tallboy of the family and my hubby and I and I love it.  The printer, filing cabinet, desk and bookshelf need to move for sure but I look at the books on the bookshelf and they’re all books I loved reading or can’t wait to read so I’ve got that “ooh can’t wait to read those!” feelings when I look at it.

Now it’s your turn to give this a go:

Are you surrounded by things you love and that light you up and that make you smile a few times a day whenever you look at them? Or are you surrounded by things that make you feel flat, frumpy or fatigued?

Some of these things might be transient too – eg. the fluff on the shelves, or the floor needing a vacuum or the bathroom bench needing a wipe down etc. So it’s not so much a “thing” you need to buy, sell or pass on to someone in need who would love it, but a thing you need to start doing like creating a new habit around something or changing an existing habit and so we’ll talk about that next time!

I’d love to hear your experience with this. Are you surrounded by things that light you up or things which dim your sparkle? Have you recently given your living and work space an overhaul? Do you find you smile more? I’d love to hear about the impact its had on your energy levels and feelings of happiness or health.

Have a great week!