Most of you are probably aware of the Netflix sensation “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” For those who aren’t, it’s a reality series where organizer extraordinaire Marie Kondo visits people with messy homes (e.g., families with cluttered playrooms, weeks-old dishes in the sink, piling laundry and no hope of getting out from under the clutter) and tidies up their lives.
After a few tips on de-cluttering (and a few weeks of clean-up). their homes – indeed, their very existence – is trim and streamlined: marriages are saved; kids prefer folding laundry over LEGOs; every dish and power tool has its place.
Essentially, Marie Kondo accomplishes these feats of tidiness by employing a central tenet: keep only the items that “spark joy.” Appropriate, considering my life’s motto is #OnlyJoy. So, I thought it would be appropriate to tie these two philosophies together and present another side of the equation: as you rid your life of possessions that don’t “spark joy,” try to fill your life with the things that do. I like to think of this move as the “reverse Kondo.”
What things in my life spark joy, you ask? Here are some of the material possessions that I pursue to make me happy, and hopefully they can inspire you to curate your own joy collection.
It’s no secret that I’m an avid art collector. However, what most people don’t realize when they see my home is that my art was thoughtfully and intentionally acquired rather than curated by a professional consultant.
My artwork brings me joy because of the meaning behind it. For example, my pieces by Graham Atwell remind me of a vacation to Australia I took with my son. While I was lost in Sydney one day, trying to make sense of Google Maps, I stumbled upon a gallery with a digital print of a hare that drew me in. I ended up “adopting” three of the animal prints, and now they serve as a reminder to let myself get lost every once in a while.
Likewise, I acquired my pencil drawings by Chinese artist and activist He Youzhi as a result of another happy accident. While wandering the streets of Shanghai, I was drawn to a gallery with laughter emanating from the interior. I walked in, and the feeling of joy in that gallery transcended our language barrier. I walked out with a collection of drawings that depict everyday life, reminding me that even though our cultures are different, the human experience is universal.
Did you honestly think I could get halfway through this blog post without mentioning clothes? I think of my clothes as wearable art – just as artists bare their souls on their canvases, designers pour their hearts into their garments.
In fact, it’s heartbreaking for me when Marie suggests people give away their old band t-shirts or well-worn pairs of jeans. Those pieces have such sentimental value! Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s important to donate clothes once you’re through with them, but just because you don’t wear something anymore doesn’t mean that its life with you is over.
Case in point: scarves. A while ago, I was de-cluttering my home and came upon a drawer filled to the brim with old scarves. While I donated a few of them, there were others that had sentimental value that I couldn’t part with – so I repurposed them! One is a stylish halter that I created for my niece, and another is a top that I kept for myself.
The way I see it, there’s no shame in expanding your wardrobe, especially if what you add makes you, and those close to you, happy.
Let’s get one thing clear: to me, pets aren’t things. In fact, they are family. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t surround yourself with animals. Pets spark joy in a way that art, books and clothes can’t. They love you unconditionally, and caring for an animal opens your heart.
So, if you have the time and the resources to support a pet, do it! Adopt a dog, cat, hamster – or maybe two or three! – and be amazed by how including these little guys in your life can fill you with joy.
The way I see it, Marie Kondo gives good advice. It’s emotionally clarifying to purge the things from our lives that don’t matter, but I also think it’s good for the soul to pull a “reverse Kondo” – and intentionally fill our lives with possessions that do.