“Does it spark joy?” isn’t the only question

Everybody’s tidying up, which is great.

People are talking about “Marie Kondo-ing” (which seems to be a verb now.)

You’re seeing this everywhere too, right? Not just all over social media, but in your inbox.

Marie Kondo’s message: “You can improve your life by keeping only those possessions that spark joy.”

Decluttering can bring a ton of fresh energy.

I know. I’ve been a fan of the practice for years, and have taught it to clients — it’s a life-changer. I’ve written about decluttering in its many aspects here, here, and here.

Simplify your relationship with things

Asking yourself questions to help you evaluate whether to keep something is useful, but it’s not the only way to simplify and improve your relationship with your things. (More on other ways to approach decluttering soon.)

Here’s why you shouldn’t ask yourself just the “spark joy” question.

Marie Kondo suggests that you ask “Does it spark joy?” Don’t stop there. Widen your curiosity. Go deeper.

Ask also, “Am I actually using this now? Will I in the next three months?” Ask, “Does this thing have special meaning for me?”

A thing can’t spark joy. When you say that, you’re putting your ability to feel joy(ful) on a thing.

Okay. Hang on. Before you jump into the comments to tell me that I’m wrong, listen. I’ll say it again, more accurately.

A thing can’t spark joy all the time/infallibly/reliably.

A thing isn’t responsible for your spark. Nor is it responsible for your joy. And that’s excellent news.


Depending on what’s going on in you at any moment, your thinking about an object can be different.

I made a handy illustration for you.

spark joy

When you’re fully present, and in your moments of highest awareness, you know that you and that object you’re looking at and every other thing you see and feel and hear and breathe are all one. Different manifestations of the beautiful divine star stuff we are all made of.

And in every other moment?

You’re gonna have thoughts about the object. An array of thoughts. A parade of thoughts. Neuroscience teaches that humans think 50 thoughts per minute (or thereabouts). That’s 3,000 per hour, or 70,000 a day. If that’s true, or even half true, you can be sure that your response to “Does this thing I’m considering spark joy?” will vary. You can probably count on a different response every time you look at your collection of cat calendars and ask yourself this question.

But wait. What about joy?

What is it really that sparks joy?

And what if joy doesn’t have to be sparked?

Maybe what the poets (or whoever came up with the phrase) meant was this:

Your spark is ever-present. And so is joy. They’re there as long as you’re breathing; it may be that your spark is breathing you.

Your spark is the breath of the divine energy that is joy, love, creativity, generosity, gratitude….

But. While your appreciation of a thing and the happiness you feel about it can be present at the same time, sometimes, the joy isn’t being given to you by anything but you yourself, settling into yourself in a moment of true appreciation and unity.

Which is a huge goddamn relief. Because mugs break. Things get lost. You lose stuff. You downsize.

More on this to come. I’m creating the first Simplify Your Life calls and email course. If you’d like to be the first to know, comment below, or reach out by email, and I’ll make sure you get notified.

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I’m a barely tamed hippie, sage, seasoned, sarcastic (not all the time any more, but still). I’m a mom, a daughter, sister, a neighbor, and a friend. I’ve been on this meandering journey — like you, probably — seeking a better connection to and experience of peace, harmony, and fun in every bit of life. I’m single, quite good at it, and mostly love it. I’m here for the conversations I get to have with you, which these days center on exploring the mystery and beauty of life, work, health, aging, and creative expression. Want to know a little more about me and my journey? Explore the site. Read the blog. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

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