The Quest for Joy

person-731243_1920The hottest title on Netflix right now is Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Based on the professional organizer’s 2014 book, and introduced to coincide with New Year’s resolutions, the show has everyone talking. Fans are quick to share how Kondo’s KonMari method has changed their lives. Detractors will tell you why it simply doesn’t work for Americans. And everyone is talking about joy.

I was introduced to this phenomenon one recent evening when I walked in on my wife watching the premier episode of Tidying Up. At the center of the show, and the KonMari method, is the idea of joy. When you hold an item, say a sweater from your closet, does it “spark joy?” If that sweater sparks joy, then keep it. Store it in a way that allows you to access it and benefit from the joy it brings. If there’s no spark, then respectfully let it go and move on.

That word “joy” is key. It’s a noun, meaning a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. The KonMari method of organizing is all about surrounding yourself with those things – and only those things – that make you feel positive emotions. If something sparks negative emotions, like anxiety, fear, or even sadness, then remove it.

But few people realize that joy is also a verb. It stems from the Latin word gaudēre, or rejoice. When the things around us spark joy they cause us to take action. We feel encouraged and affirmed; and act in order to repeat those feelings. We take further action to continue the process of sparking joy.

I spent part of the last long weekend tidying up my workshop. As I did so, I reflected on this idea of surrounding myself with things that spark joy. I wound up throwing out a lot of stuff. There were tools that didn’t work, and that I’ll likely never get around to repairing. There were wood scraps and fasteners that I’d been telling myself (for far too long) might come in handy. I kept those items that I felt brought me joy – tools that I like using because they work well and allow me to accomplish a job effectively, and materials that I plan on using in specific projects during the upcoming weeks. My next step is to organize them in ways that honor their purpose and allow me to access the joy they represent.

Back in the office, I’ve still been thinking about this idea of sparking joy. Only now, my thoughts have turned to the people around me. Have I surrounded myself with people who spark joy? Do they make me smile? Do they cause me to feel encouraged? Does their presence motivate me to take action; to contribute in meaningful ways? Am I happy to be in this space because of them?

And more importantly, what about me? Do I spark joy in others? Given the choice, would the people I interact with choose to honor me and the feelings I generate in them? Or would they decide to respectfully part ways? Would they tidy up by eliminating the clutter I represent?

Before you answer, give me some time to work on a few things. The KonMari method is an introspective process, and it takes time. Decisions this significant aren’t meant to be made lightly. I suspect there are changes I need to make in order to be capable of sparking joy in others. I believe I have a little more tidying up of my own to do.