Marie Kondo’s guidance is all the craze these days, especially thanks to this Netflix show. I have to admit I have joined the bandwagon.
Over the past month, I’ve gotten everyone in my household (visitors included) watching this show.
I’ve even been reading her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” while in my car on the way to work.
Marie Kondo, the Japanese consultant and author, has felt like a spiritual revolution in my daily space.
The premise of Kondo’s advice about tidying up is simple. You can’t tidy without discarding. In the West, we have too much stuff, she hints. And Kondo says it has to go.
But how do you decide what to keep or give away? Enter the word: joy.
OK, I know at this point, most people start rolling your eyes. What in the world does joy have to do with what I have in my closet or on my bookshelf?
But stay with me for a moment. Joy, as defined as a feeling of great pleasure or happiness, is essential for this process.
According to Kondo, tidying up begins as you hold an item in your hand and ask, “Does this item bring me joy?”
And if the answer is “no,” you say thank you for whatever gifts the item has brought to your life and then you let it go. You give it away or discard it.
Joy-producing items are all that get to remain.
When my husband, Kevin, saw how much I was giving away on the basis of joy, he wondered if I’d lost my mind.
“If I did that,” he said, “I wouldn’t have many clothes left!”
And it’s true; it feels like I might only be wearing six outfits for now until who knows when. My joy-bringing items were particular and few. But, when I look at my closet now, gratitude comes over me.
But I have to tell you – adopting this joy rule to what I own, I feel lighter.
Not only do I feel more confident in the outfits I put together on a daily basis (because hey, what a concept, I like everything I am putting on), but it feels like a metaphor for life and for spiritual practice.
Even if you aren’t a Kondo fan (and I need you to know I do not follow her rules for folding; it’s just too much for me right now), here are three insights I’ve gained about joy from this process:
- Leaning into joy frees us from the expectations of others.
There’s nothing fake about joy. Either you have it or you don’t. What is joyous for me, might not be joyous for you. But, that’s OK. Joy springs forth in authenticity.
I am no longer keeping stuff because it is what some professor thought I needed to have in college or a great-aunt thought I needed at Christmas. What I have is what I want to have.
And just like Kondo advises, only surrounding yourself with the things that bring you joy gives you clarity in other areas of your life.
It opens your mind to the possibilities of what you would like to do if you’re not so consumed in what other people think.
- Leaning into joy frees us from hoarding.
Joy is not multiplied by having more. It comes when we have what we need. So, why take more than we need?
For example, there was no reason that we needed to keep every little hotel soap that we gathered from a trip. Even though our house has a lot of visitors, we don’t have that many visitors.
After cleaning out our bathroom closet seeing how many little soaps I had, the reality hit me that I really needed to find a place to donate them. I had more than my share of them.
- Leaning into joy frees us to live in the now.
Joy has little concern for the past or the future. Joy’s invitation means feeling something right in the moment where we are.
While I was going through my books, I made piles and piles of volumes that I hadn’t touched in years.
Sure, they might have been important to me back then, but they weren’t anymore. I have new theological teachers. I have new authors in my life that are helping me uncover insights in need in the present.
Letting go of boxes and boxes of old books cleared my bookshelf for what my soul needs now, not what it learned 10 years or more ago.
Spiritually, I have to tell you, I feel excited about the future. Why? Because there is open space in my house, in my mind and all around me to welcome the new thing that God might want to offer me.
What is one thing you can do this week to invite more joy into your life?
When I think where God is found, I have to believe we experience God when we accept joy’s invitation.
Elizabeth Hagan is senior minister of The Palisades Community Church in Washington, D.C. Other hats she wears are as a preacher, author and executive director of Our Courageous Kids, a foundation dedicated to orphan care.