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Sorry Marie Kondo, here’s why your method doesn’t “spark joy” in my house

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Cerith Gardiner - published on 01/25/22

Here's why you should think carefully before some heavy-handed de-cluttering.

To Marie Kondo, or not to Marie Kondo? That’s the question people looking for the ultimate home environment may ask themselves. Well, as a lover of books, plants, and chipped pieces of sculpture with my kids’ initials on the bottom, I can happily share that I’m definitely on the side of not Marie Kondoing my interior.

So with the new year settling in, and all those resolutions to simplify and get organized, you may be considering a drastic culling of clutter in your home. But hold your horses for a minute.

I’m convinced — or maybe I’ve managed to conveniently convince myself — that

will actually lead our homes to become less joyful.

In trying to share my thoughts with a friend, who had armed herself with plastic tubs and garbage bags for her annual clear out, I came up with some arguments that I think are worth considering.

Our homes are also for others

Kondo talks a lot about what makes the individual happy, with her notion of looking at something and only keeping it if it “sparks joy” in you. Well, I have a number of things that don’t fill me with joy, but they do give joy to others. For example, I have a battered chair that my dad loves to sit in when he visits. I’d love to throw it out ,but there’s no way I could, knowing my father finds it so comfy.

It’s the same with all the endless artwork introduced into our home on a daily basis. My kids are definitely no Michelangelos, but my walls are filled with their precious efforts because it makse them happy to see it. And for me that is far more important.

Our homes are a reflection of who we are

When people come into my home they often say they can see my personality in the decor. It’s colorful, tidyish, full of photos of all my many loved ones, and gives a nod to my interests and passions: from a waving solar-powered Queen Elizabeth II, to a pair of wooden birds balancing on one of my giant plants. It’s a home I hope people will feel comfortable in.

Not every knickknack sparks joy, but each is a statement about me and my family. These items tell the stories of our life together. I’d hate to strip my home back to the bare essentials and water-down what we’ve created together.

We don’t have to be part of a throw-away society

One thing I do love about Marie Kondo is her serene smile as she encourages others to chuck out things they don’t want anymore. But there’s something a little disturbing when you look at the boxes build up of things being chucked. It made me think of how little value we give to things that they’re so dispensable.

If you visit my parents’ home you’ll see a multitude of objects that have been untouched probably for decades. My dad keeps hold of every tool, every odd-sized screw and spare piece of wood, in case he needs it for one of his many DIY projects. And he’s been right to do so. Just last year my dishwasher broke down and when my dad flew over to visit he came with a piece he’d taken from his old dishwasher. In less than an hour my dishes were gleaming once more. The utter joy and satisfaction on my dad’s face proved how joy truly comes in more ways than one — and one of them is keeping things you may need down the road.

So Marie Kondo, while I truly appreciate how you can encourage people to de-clutter their homes, you may need to review your perception of joy. True joy doesn’t come from making just yourself happy; it comes from seeing the looks of delight on the faces of those we love and care for. It comes from opening your doors and allowing people into a home that is full of meaning.

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