January 25, 2019

Deciding Joy

The Marie Kondo ‘Tidying Up’ phenomenon has gained juggernaut style momentum since Netflix decided to stream the home-making philosophy with Japanese Shinto roots into our homes and onto our devices.

The essence of the Kondo approach is one of simplicity – to rid ourselves of ‘stuff’ around the home that doesn’t ‘bring joy’. The practice involves holding items and mindfully asking whether or not it ‘brings joy’ – if the answer from your soul is no, then the item must be donated, sold or thrown away.

I’m not sure I did it right as I no longer own an iron, ironing board, washing machine…and there have been moments waiting for back to school this week where some of my kids have looked a bit shy of making the cut.

It is amazing how much ‘stuff’ we accumulate though and how much energy we devote to maintaining the ‘stuff’ we store. In real estate, we regularly witness the decluttering of homes in preparation for showing the home and moving on and it can be a difficult process for many people.

It is not difficult because of the physicality of actually moving things on; but rather because of the emotionality. Turns out we store our ‘stuff’ because of what we store in our ‘stuff’ – hopes, memories, aspirations.

Like the treadmill that I’m currently selling. It is an enormous clunky ‘thing’ in my home that stores my aspirations for better health and a flatter tummy. It is also a reservoir of excuses to wear Lycra for comfort. The treadmill brings me no joy – not like a walk in the fresh air to the lighthouse does, so the treadmill has to go while I take stock of the disconnect between an imaginary indoor running hobby and the reality where I might sometimes be found in stretchy gym clothes on the couch eating ice cream watching shows about tidying up when I ought, in fact, to be tidying up.

What our excess ‘stuff’ actually represents in unclarity. It hangs around asking us to make decisions. Decisions about our identity, our lifestyle and our values.

The beauty of the Kondo method is that it provides a simple framework for that decision making. Moreover, it centres our lives around the notion of joy.

The whole ‘tiny house’ movement is erupting because people are experiencing that they do more when they have less ‘stuff’. Perhaps counter-intuitively to the consumption conditioning that we have in the western world – going tiny gives us more space for ‘joy’.

Joy seems to be a good place to draw a line in the sand. It isn’t equal to ‘happiness’ which requires things to be going well; things that are beyond our control.

No, according to Merriam-Webster, joy is the emotion evoked by well-being.

The cool thing things like ‘well-being’, is that it isn’t an absolute thing. No matter what is going on, how you are feeling, or how big the (emotional or actual) laundry pile of your life is – you can always take a step towards greater well-being.

A step towards that might be avoiding the laundry for 10 mins and enjoying a quiet cup of tea in a cup and a part of the house that you love. Equally a step towards well-being could be rolling up sleeves and doing the folding and ironing in order to feel that sense of conquest. (You know that feeling when all the washing is folded and put away and you just want to scream “I. Am. Sparta.”)

Invite joy into your life in a way that works for you. For me, I’ve just created a folder on my computer called archive and I’ve just dropped everything I’m not working on right now into it.

Simple. Joyful. Desktop.