Choosing Things That ‘Spark Joy’

(Published on Wednesday, November 25, 2015, in The Daily Citizen, Dalton, GA.)

Recycle & Reuse: Choosing Things That 'Spark Joy'

Get rid of clutter in your home and keep only the things that spark joy when you follow the methods found in  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Get rid of clutter in your home and keep only the things that spark joy when you follow the methods found in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Earlier this year I heard about the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It’s a New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing. “With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home - and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.”


While I was curious about it I had just gone thru and cleaned out my wardrobe with the Project 333 method. Decluttering even more just didn’t seem necessary at the time. However, as the year comes to an end I am reminded of New Year’s resolutions and that desire to start fresh for 2016. After seeing the dramatic results of several before and after photos of closets, dresser drawers, and homes that have been “KonMari-ed” I knew that I had to share with you some of the basic principals in the book.


Initially, the method may seem more appropriate for minimalists, since discarding things is one of the first steps. But, the goal is to have an organized living space where everything has a designated space, therefore clearing clutter from your home permanently. The things you actually keep should be those that “spark joy” or give you a good feeling when you see them or use them. Like, that pair of jeans hanging in your closet that is two sizes too small that are waiting for the day when you might be able to lose weight and wear them again definitely does not give you joy. More likely they cause you to feel guilty, self-conscious, or even like a failure when you see them. Kondo’s solution - get rid of them.


It’s important to note that the KonMari method does not have readers tidy by room, but rather by categories of items. The first step is to tidy all clothing, then books, documents, miscellaneous items, and last of all mementos. To tidy each category, you have to put all of the items in one place. For example, take all of your clothing out of the closet, drawers, and anywhere else in the home and put them all in one place like on the bed or an open space on the floor. When you do this you’ll see what you actually have, perhaps much more than you thought.


The next step is to discard items by holding each one and asking yourself if that item sparks joy. If it doesn’t set it aside to be donated so that someone else may find joy in using it. Consider selling some items if you have spare time. Of course, if a particular item is in bad shape, throw it away in the proper place. Don’t forget that some items like books and documents can be recycled too. Oh, and it you’re telling yourself that you’ll use an item “someday” Kondo says that day never comes. It’s best to let go of things you are not using so someone else can use them instead.


When you finish the process of discarding all at once, intensely and completely, it’s time to put the remaining items in their designated space. Because you’ve discarded several items there will be more room for the items you’ve decided to keep. Kondo recommends storing items in order by type, such as all t-shirts first, then pants, then dresses, and so on. Also, it’s helpful to store all items of one type together, like all books in the same place, to avoid having them scattered throughout the home and creating clutter.


Decide where things belong and when you’re done using them, put them there. Once you have a place for everything and your space is tidy, keeping it that way becomes second nature. There’ll no longer be the need to declutter because everything will be tidy every day. Kondo also recommends not purchasing new storage containers because you probably already have enough storage space at home in the form of empty drawers, shelves, baskets, and even shoe boxes. Keep your storage as simple as possible so you can easily see what you own.


Another highlight from the book is the folding techniques to help store clothing vertically to save space in drawers and to reduce wrinkles. The second book by Kondo, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, which includes step-by-step folding illustrations for everything from shirts to socks, plus drawings of perfectly organized drawers and closets, will be released in January. With this fresh take on keeping tidy, I know what I’ll be doing this Christmas break.


Liz Swafford is the Recycling and Education Program Coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority.  Have questions about recycling in Whitfield County? Call 706-278-5001, or e-mail