Has this ever happened to you?
A friend unexpectedly lets you know she’s in the neighborhood and can stop by for a quick hello, which sounds delightful until you look around your apartment to suddenly realize your place is a cluttered mess! You frantically tidy up the stack of dirty dishes in the sink (not actually cleaning them, just better containing them), stuff mail into a kitchen drawer, and toss dirty clothes onto the closet floor.
In the split second between panic and tidy-frenzy, you’d see your place as if you had to suddenly list it on AirBnb, as if you’re seeing through someone else’s eyes.
Do you know that feeling?
That’s how I felt when I came back from a weeklong work trip, having freshly devoured both of KonMari’s books back to back, as if they were freshly baked jumbo macadamia chocolate chip cookies (yum!)—The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (all theory, no pictures) and Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (all pictures, little theory).
I stepped into my apartment and felt like I had never been there, the daze of 5 days away compounded under hours of imagining how I would tidy it up as soon as I got back—I’d already envisioned the monumental task having been completed, it was jarring to see that my wistful mirage was a day dream.
It was the week before my upcoming two week holiday vacation and I vowed to go into the new year with an apartment that felt like a spa—a lush oasis where I lounged around in a plush bathrobe and comfy slippers as soft jazz hummed during candle-lit bathes and I sipped red wine. But first, I had to clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen, excavate the avalanche of our walk-in closet, and, most importantly, buy a bathrobe robe (something that has always seemed like an indulgent luxury against my frugal pragmatism).
So, sure enough, I literally touched every object I own over the period of about 2 weeks and tuned in to whether it sparked joy. Yes, this is my idea of a well spent staycation. I loved every second of it. :)
To me, It was more than the tidying of things, it was a tidying of the heart.
Think about it. Everything you own is a manifestation of your life. Your things are a material representation of your choices and life experiences. To touch them and encounter them, one at a time, is to relive your life up until this point. At least, that’s what it was for me.
I was profoundly surprised by how everything has a story. Everything. Take clothes for example, I held a long flowery sundress and recalled an envelope of stories —buying it at Target, wearing it to my sisters birthday party, and sadly remembering when I first realized the seam was tearing.
This wasn’t just true of clothes. It was true of almost every object in my home—art supplied, electronics, paper (so. much. paper!), books, of course. I donated and thanked 60 books. Part of the process is thanking and letting go of the things that no long bring or never brought you joy. Every object has this flash of recollections: a memory that made it special and I wanted to remember forever, or a memory that made it vile and I wanted to always forget, or the moment I decide to buy it/accept it as a gift, etc.
In the end of my whirlwind experiment I was left with only things that spark joy in my life. There truly is a magical art to this.
And, of course, I now own a magnificent royal blue robe and a pair of plush slippers. They are a luxurious joy, but I feel like I value and cherish that in a way I hadn’t before.
Bottom line (for me): I value joy first now, before pragmatism. Before this experiment, my mind, and only my mind, would make a purchase. But now, I start with my heart and then my mind steps in—I now ask myself “Would this item spark more joy in my home?” and “Do I want to give this to my future self?” My home now feels like a lovingly curated oasis customized to my family, where we can enjoy our time together and fill it with joy, love, and laughter.
And as an delightful surprise, my joy spark-a-thon ignited excitement in my mom, sister, and mother-in-law to go on their own cleanse. :)
If you want to embark on your own joy spark-a-thon, then I suggest these two things, in this order:
READ: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (all theory, no pictures). In my opinion, this is really all you need. I’d say this is a must-read to undergo the process on your own and the other book is a nice to read. This is also super short—I read it on a 4-hour flight.
PRINT: This checklist. If you only use the checklist, then I think it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have the same results because the process is almost like a therapeutic exercise—something you won’t find in a checklist. So I do highly recommend reading the book.
There is also the Nextflix show. I think it’s a good intro to the process, but I still think you’re best off reading the first book. I was actually done with my tidying process by the time the show premiered—I found out about her show the day after my work trip, tidied over the holidays, and binged all the episodes when it premiered on New Year’s Day (in my robe, naturally), along with my January 1st tradition of creating a personal yearbook (this was yearbook 5!). I also think the show’s a bit out of order from the process itself so not a great guide, but a great intro to the process.
Here are MY before & afters:
I don’t have a before for these, but you appreciate their ‘after’ nonetheless. :)