‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’: What Does ‘Spark Joy’ Really Mean?

“Does it spark joy?”

It’s a phrase that’s been thrown around for years now, but now that Netflix has a new show featuring Marie Kondo and her tidying methods, it’s part of popular culture in all sorts of new ways.

Surely you’ve heard either your sister or your nightly newscaster reference the mysterious concept of only keeping items that “spark joy.” But what does it mean, and why does it matter?

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Who is Marie Kondo?

If your home is so overrun by clutter that you can’t find the TV remote, then perhaps you haven’t heard about Marie Kondo yet. An indisputable expert at cleaning up clutter, her new show on Netflix is called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It follows the Japan-based professional organizer as she helps people at different stages of life clean up their homes and clear out the junk they don’t need.

Marie Kondo runs a massively successful home organizing business that she founded when she was just 19. Her New York Times bestseller, which explains her tidying principles, has sold more than 8 million copies in 40 languages. In a short amount of time, Kondo has become a cultural phenomenon and a household name.

How does Marie Kondo help her clients get organized?

The method Marie Kondo uses to clear out cluttered homes is delightfully simple once you get the hang of it.

In Kondo’s world, tidying isn’t about buying fancy closet systems or hundreds of baskets. Instead, Kondo instructs clients to focus on what they want to keep rather than what they should get rid of. By changing your mindset, you can more easily decide what’s truly important for your future.

As Kondo explained during an interview with The Guardian, “A lot of people hit a roadblock because they feel they have to throw something away, but that’s not the point. It’s about understanding what needs to go versus what’s important to you.”

What does “spark joy” really mean?

The phrase “spark joy” has become so much more than a tagline – it’s more like a movement. That’s because Kondo instructs every single client to hold each item they’re attempting to tidy and put it through a test: Does it give you a thrill of excitement when you hold it? Does it give you that little spark of happiness? If not, then it’s time to let it go from your life.

“You can also define things that spark joy as things that make you happy,” Marie Kondo explains in her book. The way she goes about getting her clients organized involves a multi-step process that involves sorting by item category rather than by room. The KonMari method madates that you only keep the items that bring you joy.

Why is the KonMari method so successful?

Not everyone agrees that material possessions can spark true joy. But if the point of the exercise is only keeping the items you’ll love using, then Kondo is absolutely right to proceed the way she does. Before donating or throwing away items that don’t spark joy, Kondo instructs her clients to thank the item for its service in a thoughtful, deliberate way. By honoring your relationship with that item, it’s easier to let it go forever.

It’s not uncommon for people to form emotional attachments with material possessions, especially sentimental things. But when following the KonMari method, everything you own – from something you haven’t touched in years to your favorite sweater – is treated with respect. And that makes it easier to let it go.

Thousands of people have taken on the challenge to declutter and get organized in 2019 using the KonMari method. Figuring out which of your things “spark joy” is the first step on your path to 100% home organization and less stress in your whole life.