I’m inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s annual projects and decided to have one of my own. Read a non-fiction book every week and write about it.
Why you want to read this book:
1. You want a decluttered home where things are useful or they bring you joy.
2. You want to transform your relationship with the things you own.
3. You want to transform your life.
In my last newsletter, I wrote about insights – ideas that transform your way of thinking and behaving. The last book I read that transformed me was Kondo’s previous book, the life-changing magic of tidying up. Spark Joy is its follow-up.
A decluttered home
After reading Kondo, I donated/recycled most of the books, comics and clothes I owned. Boxes and boxes. My late father had about 10 boxes of silverware that he bought for this restaurant business and was sitting in my house for 14 years. I always dreamed about someone taking it off my hands for a good sum of money. The book made me realistic. I got my mom to call a Buddhist charity who came to take the boxes away. Now, I can actually walk around my storeroom.
The two most impactful of Kondo’s tips to me are – “tidy by category, not by room” and “spark joy” – discard the thing that is not useful and doesn’t bring you joy.
Tidying by category means you bring all the things in a category to a room to sort them out. Many decluttering books teach you to declutter bit by bit, room by room. She takes the opposite approach. Start with a category (e.g. clothes), bring them to a single location and don’t stop until you get the job done.
“Tidying up means confronting yourself” is so true. Before reading her book, I was very hesitant in getting rid of things, hence things start to accumulate. You think about the value of things and want to avert loss by not discarding them. You think they will be useful to you in the future. You think about their sentimental value.
Kondo teaches you should take hold of every item, consider it carefully and ask if it sparks joy. This may seem silly but it works for me. Go ahead and try it. Starting with an item that truly sparks joy helps. This gives you the proper perspective on value in what is a unfamiliar exercise for most of us.
Using “spark joy” as a principle to keep or discard things makes confronting yourself easier. This is not a easy process. Our tendency to avoid loss works against us but I have found two things that are helpful. When considering an object that I think could be useful in the future, I asked “Have I used this in the last 5 years?”. If the answer is no, it’s discarded. When struggling with an object of sentimental value, Seneca’s words “live immediately” comes to my mind. I would keep one item that reminds me of a certain person, event, phase in life. I don’t need more than one item. Sometimes, I don’t even keep any. Thank you, Seneca.
Transform your relationship with things
Since reading Kondo, I buy less things. This has saved me a ton of money which I spend buying experiences, e.g. travel. I also say no to many freebies. Shortly after reading her, I attended a conference where they gave out a free pair of headphones. Normally, I would have just taken it even though I did not like it. I did not this time and I did not have to struggle.
The great thing about the “spark joy” principle is you will see how other things pale in comparison to the object that brings you joy. It makes me think hard before buying. It also makes me cherish my things more. I remember cleaning my Fuji X-T1 camera and feeling so grateful for its quality and its aesthetic features. Cleaning becomes a “spiritual” act.
Kondo suggests that before you discard an item, say thank you to it. Some of you will find this strange. To me, it’s the attitude of appreciation and gratitude that has immense value. It makes your buying and using of things thoughtful, deliberate and conscious.
Transform your life
Kondo shares examples of how the lives of her clients were transformed after learning her decluttering principles and methods. For me, I have shared how it changed me in the paragraphs above. Recently, I had to make an important decision and I asked if doing it would “spark joy”.
Time in your life is as limited as space in your house. Do the things that spark joy.
What you can focus on is limited. Do the things that empower you and let go of the past. Thank the unpleasant things that happened. They are instructional and serve a purpose if you don’t let them destroy you. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Live immediately.
“Remember that you are not choosing what to discard but rather what to keep. Keep only those things that bring you joy. And when you discard anything that doesn’t, don’t forget to thank it before saying good-bye. By letting go of the things that have been in your life with a feeling of gratitude, you foster appreciation for, and a desire to take better care of, the things in your life.”
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