Sparking Joy: How one book helped me tidy my house, mind and life


To me, there is no greater feeling than coming home from a long day of work knowing that your house is tidy and in order. What can I say? I like my house clean. In fact many would say I have OCD-like tendencies. If you ask me, there’s nothing wrong with color-coded books or meticulously organized closets with shoes grouped by color/occasion.

I had just moved into a new home when the book “Spark Joy” by Marie Kondo came to my attention (thanks Amazon Kindle suggestions). Marie Kondo has dedicated her life and has formed a career in organizing and thus improving people’s lives. After reading the book’s description, “An illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up,” I knew this could be the solution to my “clutter.”

After several moves in the past couple of years, stuff accumulates! How could I possibly throw out the college sweatshirt that kept me cozy for the past 10 years? And how could someone so cold-hearted get rid of the 50 wedding programs that we had left over from almost 8 years ago? I was in need of some serious joy sparking as I would listlessly look around the house at the accumulated junk that I held on to for “sentimental” reasons. With over 2 million copies sold, I ordered the book and was ready to spark my own joy!

I practically ripped off the packaging the second Amazon delivered the book to my door and was so excited to start “my new, tidier life!” I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time…in control. Needless to say, once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I pretty much read the book in two nights. I learned all about the “KonMarie Method” which is Kondo’s descriptions and illustrated guides to folding, organizing and keeping things tidy.

Here are the three most important things that I took away from this book:

1. Be Thankful for the Memories and Move on: Just because you get rid of something, doesn’t mean that you don’t hold on to the memories. I had so many objects in my house, from college, grad school, and studying abroad, that I had held on to. In reality however, these were just objects that I had stowed away in boxes in the depths of my basement that probably wouldn’t see the light of day ever again.

Kondo urges her readers to “hug” the items (I know this may sound weird but stick with me here) and thank them for their memories that they gave you. Treat your things as if they are alive. Sounds strange, I know. And believe me, growing up in NY, my threshold for tolerating weird stuff is low. But the more I read, the more Konmarie made sense. Things are just things, and so to actually grasp how important (or useless) they are to us, one must treat them as living objects. I know it sounds super strange, but as I started thinking this way, an odd calm spread over me and I didn’t feel so bad about finally letting these things go.

2. Stick to the plan: Follow the steps! Kondo makes lists and justifies her reasons for tidying in the order she suggests. One great example is to always leave your memorabilia for last. Why is this? Have you ever been cleaning your room and suddenly come across an old box from a summer abroad, or pictures from 5th grade graduation? Before you know it, you look up in a stupor as you didn’t even realize that you’ve been looking through stuff for the past two hours. That’s two hours wasted of optimal organizing (and that certainly ain’t sparking joy!).

One of my favorite parts of this guide was the amassing of all clothes. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of things in my closet that, “I swear I’m going to fit into again one day” or “What if I need an aquamarine dress again one day though?” and “Well I heard the 90’s are coming back in.” No Erica…no no no. By following the steps, organizing doesn’t seem so “daunting.” It’s a visual check list that makes this whole process possible. Stick to the plan and before you know it, you are tidying up your house AND your life!

3. Making sure I’m always Sparking Joy: This may sound strange but after reading Kondo’s message, I started to ask myself, do the things I have really spark joy in my life? Now you may be thinking, “Erica, how can an object spark joy for me?” I get it, and while I was also hesitant in the beginning, I found that there are certain things throughout my house that really do spark a small happiness inside me. That little cactus plant that sits along my windowsill as I wash dishes? I always catch myself smiling it as I go about my day. Or the monogrammed door mat in front of my door that I had especially made from Pottery Barn? “So Cute!” I think to myself every time I see it. While all of these items don’t necessarily make me want to jump for joy (it’s only a door mat after all), it does spark a tiny bit of joy inside me and that is exactly how I look at objects now after reading Kondo’s book. That ugly bowl from Mexico I was gifted 7 years ago? Gone! That plastic cup I used for years to hold all my pens? Replaced with an adorable porcelain pen holder!

I have to admit that some of my friends laughed at me when I told them about the premise of the book. But I can’t begin to describe the utter contentment I feel every night when it’s time to go to bed and everything is in it’s place. It almost feels like I can breathe again in my own home. Now are there times that my house looks like a bomb went off? Absolutely. And are there times when the playroom is just in such disarray that I pretend I don’t even see it as I drag my exhausted self to bed? 100%! But this book has opened my eyes to the way I think and treat things in my home. Most importantly, I feel like I am in control, and when things do get out of hand, I can easily get them right back in line.

How do you keep your home organized?