Clutter can weigh us down in more ways than one. Our emotional attachments to all the things we accumulate in our lives can cloud our best efforts to organize and focus in on what matters most. Marie Kondo, the Japanese cleaning consultant and New York Times best-selling author of The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up and the brand new, Spark Joy, is changing the way we organize and declutter with her revolutionary take on caring for our personal spaces, the KonMari Method.
We loved Kondo’s first magical book that took our hearts and closets by storm. Her new book and accompanying ‘joy journal’ are equally as captivating. Learn how to let go without loss and to tidy up while still enjoying the objects that have the most meaning to you. This excerpt from ‘Spark Joy’ is Kondo at her finest…
Things that spark joy soak up precious memories.
As I continued to teach clients how to tidy, people began to call me “teacher.” I long ago reached the point where I had just the right amount of possessions in my life, and, having stayed true to my sense of joy and practiced the rules of my trade, my closet never overflows with clothes, nor do books end up stacked on my floor. Of course, I buy new clothes and other things, but I also let go of those that have served their purpose. Consequently, I never feel inundated with things, and, confident that I can care for them well, I feel very good about my relationship to the things I own. Yet, until recently, I felt that something was still missing. There seemed to be something my clients had discovered through tidying that I had yet to find.
Then, not long ago, I went cherry blossom viewing with my family for the first time in fifteen years. I had reached a bit of a block in my work and suddenly decided to call them up and invite them to go. We didn’t go anywhere special, just to a little park near my house. The fact that it’s not well known actually makes it a great place for cherry blossom viewing. The trees were in full bloom, but no one else stopped to spread out a picnic blanket underneath, so we had them all to ourselves.
Despite the sudden notice, my mother had prepared a picnic lunch, and my sister and I behaved like excited little girls. Unwrapping and opening the lunch box, we found nori-wrapped onigiri stuffed with pickled plum and grilled salmon, fried chicken, a sweet potato dish, and red and yellow cherry tomatoes. While the menu was limited, it was packed beautifully and obviously with a loving care that touched my heart. The sight of the neatly arranged contents activated the tidying freak in me, and I couldn’t help comparing it to the perfect example of a well-organized drawer.
But that was not all. My mother opened another package to reveal a bottle of pink-hued amazake, a beverage made from sweet fermented rice, and small pink glasses with a cherry blossom pattern. When filled with the pink amazake, it looked like cherry blossoms were blooming in our glasses. “How beautiful!” The blossoms I viewed that day with my family were the best I had ever seen.
When I returned home, something about my apartment seemed different. Nothing had actually changed since I left it the day before. It was still the place I loved filled with all the things that bring me joy, each resting comfortably where it belonged. At that moment, an image of the blossom-patterned glasses we had used that afternoon rose in my mind. And finally I knew. The glasses that my mother had chosen showed me the precious piece I had been missing. I want to live my life in such a way that it colors my things with memories.
The glasses were an expression of my mother’s love and affection, chosen out of her desire to make that day special for us, even just a little. I had seen those glasses in our house many times and had always thought they were pretty, but they had been transformed into “those special cups that my mother filled with amazake when we went to view the blossoms.” I realized that the value of things with which I have spent precious hours alone cannot compare with the value of things that bear precious memories of time spent with other people.
My favorite clothes and shoes are special, and I wear them constantly, but they can’t compete with things that have been steeped in memories of the people I love. I realized that what I had really longed for was just to be with my family. Compared to the amount of time I spent with my possessions, myself, and my work, I had spent far less time interacting with my loved ones. Of course, I will still continue to value my time alone. But the purpose of it is to nurture me so that I can enjoy an even more fulfilling time with my loved ones, so that I can contribute even more to the happiness of the others around me.
If the glasses had been plain and ordinary, I would still have remembered the beverage my mother had brought, but I doubt that I would have remembered the glasses. Objects that have been steeped in memories carry a much clearer imprint of special times. Objects steeped in memories keep the past crystal clear within our minds. And objects that bring us joy have even greater capacity to soak up our memories. When those glasses finally break, as some day they must, when they have finished their job and the time to thank them and bid them farewell finally comes, I know they will have left the memory of our blossom-viewing picnic etched forever in my heart.
Our things form a part of us, and when they’re gone, they leave behind them eternal memories.
As long as I face my belongings sincerely and keep only those that I love, as long as I cherish them while they are with me and consciously seek to make my time with them as precious as possible, every day will be filled with warmth and joy. This knowledge makes my heart feel so much lighter.
Therefore, I urge you once again: Finish putting your things in order as soon as you can, so that you can spend the rest of your life surrounded by the people and things that you love most.
Reprinted from SPARK JOY Copyright (c) 2016 by Marie Kondo. Illustrations copyright (c) 2012, 2015 by Masako Inoue. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.