Podcasts & Books

Spark Joy: We Try Tidying Up

By Marilynn McLachlan
12th Jul 2016

Spark Joy: We Try Tidying Up

Normally one to jump on any trend when it involves a book—particularly a best seller—I resisted buying Marie Kondo’s first, ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. Mainly because I found the claim in the title ridiculous. But when I came across ‘Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying,’ I became a sheeple, determined to find out why on earth people would be interested in such a topic. Surely there’s something wrong with your life if tidying up is going to make it better. Tidying is a life necessity, a chore, a grind.

Let’s be clear: before I opened the book, I was pretty happy with my life. Sure, I’d wanted to lose a couple of kilograms and find some kind of life balance, but all in all, I had a good life.

And then, the first sentence: ‘Life truly begins only after you have put your house in order.’

My heart beat a little faster, my breath came a little shorter. Hang on just a minute. My life hasn’t even begun yet? This woman is seriously crazy.

I kept reading. ‘Only when you know how to choose those things that spark joy can you attain your ideal lifestyle.’ And later on that first fateful page, ‘Taking good care of your things leads to taking good care of yourself.’

Normally I’d have a wee laugh at such claims, instead, I found myself having a 360-degree flash review of my life. Being a mum (sorry for the momentary self-indulgence) means taking care of myself isn’t really high up on the list of priorities. I pushed on. Her first book was about tidying, this one would be about doing the tidying work and then sparking joy into my home. Kon Mari hopes, she says, that this will help me create a bright and joyful future. I smile through the cheesiness. I’m in.

There are six basic rules of tidying:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
  3. Finish discarding first
  4. Tidy by category, not by location
  5. Follow the right order
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

Although it’s not until step six that she talks about joy, Marie dedicates the first chapter to it. Joy is something that’s in the heart. Essentially, anything that doesn’t spark joy is gone burger.

‘After discarding a hammer because the handle was worn out, I used my frying pan to pound in any nails,’ she writes. I imagine the look on my partner’s face if he were to get wind of this. It wasn’t pretty. And there was more. ‘I have a secret for raising our joy level for things we know we need but that fail to excite us,’ Marie writes. ‘Shower them with praise.’

Yep, that’s right. She actually means talking to the things around you. Like a screwdriver.

‘Dear old screwdriver, I may not use you much, but when I need you, why, you’re a genius. Thanks to you I put this shelf together in no time. You’ve saved my fingernails, too. I would have ruined them if I had used them to turn the screws. And what a design! Strong, vigorous and cool to the touch, with a modern air that makes you really stand out.’

This time I imagine not just my partner’s face, but my kids, too, if I were to start talking to items around the house. Again, it wasn’t pretty.

But I doggedly push through and the more I read, the more I’m convinced that this woman is on to something. She encourages me to imagine my perfect lifestyle and I do and it’s good. Really, really good. She gives some fabulous tips, including how to fold clothes. A lesson in folding clothes like I’m 12? Yep. There are even pictures! All clothes are folded into rectangles and then made to STAND up! Undies are folded like origami. In fact, there’s an entire section called ‘The tidying encyclopaedia’. I look around my home with a fresh perspective and something changes.

Three months later, it’s time to look back at what’s actually happened since picking up this little hardback in  Mt Eden’s Time Out bookstore.

It started with my clothes. I’ve got a really small closet and yet I still managed to fill a couple of big black rubbish bags to donate. I felt good. Cleansed. Lighter. Until…it came to the work week and I felt like I didn’t have enough clothes. I’d kept the pair of pants I loved, but had got rid of the only top I had that went with them. I’d ended up with a mis-matched wardrobe—I liked each item, but they didn’t really go together. So I did what any normal person does. I Googled. Google directed me to Pinterest where I started obsessing over capsule wardrobes. This phase lasted about a month. I still don’t have a capsule wardrobe, and I have pretty much replaced all the clothes I had donated. That said, I care for them a lot more now. Whether it’s a $5 Kmart bargain, or something a lot more expensive, I treat them all with a lot more respect.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I knew that the bathroom was in such a bad state of repair it wouldn’t matter how much work I did in there; it was never going to look any good. We called in the experts who completely gutted and rebuilt it.

I’ve gone through the kitchen. It’s next on the list for a renovation, but for now it is clutter-free. There’s still work to be done, but I don’t feel overwhelmed by it.

I admit it, I’ve turned into a bit of a clean freak. I love the feeling of a clean, tidy house. But there’s more. Marie was right…I take much better care of myself. I once interviewed a woman who dresses in vintage style and she said, ‘Every day is a reason to get dressed up’. I kind of get that now. I make sure I get enough sleep. I’m more careful about nutrition and I have a new diary to plan out my days and set my priorities—it’s a book of inspiration that I take everywhere with me.

I didn’t take all of her advice, though. I fold my clothes my own way and I don’t talk to my belongings. That ain’t ever going to happen. And, as a bibliophile, there’s no way I’m going to cull my books like she wants me too.  

But ultimately, while I’m guessing few would notice a difference in me from the outside, I feel different on the inside.

And yes, even I’m cringing at the cheesiness of that last sentence.

The Deets

Title: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying

Author: Marie Kondo

Publisher: Penguin Random House

RRP: $37.00

More: Get a free sample of the book 

Image credit: IKEA

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