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Spark Joy Book Excerpt from Marie Kondo

Ideal for anyone who wants a home—and a life—that sparks joy, this illustrated manual guides readers through the process of decluttering and organizing their homes. Kondo is a professional cleaning consultant with a three-month waiting list. Inspired by the Japanese book Throw-Out Skills and a lifelong love of all things house and home, she began her study of the art of cleaning, established her consulting business, and founded the KonMari Method. She is also the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.



Things that spark joy soak up precious memories

As I continued to teach clients how to tidy, people began to call me “teacher.” I long ago reached the point where I had just the right amount of possessions in my life, and, having stayed true to my sense of joy and practiced the rules of my trade, my closet never overflows with clothes, nor do books end up stacked on my floor. Of course, I buy new clothes and other things, but I also let go of those that have served their purpose. Consequently, I never feel inundated with things, and, confident that I can care for them well, I feel very good about my relationship to the things I own. Yet, until recently, I felt that something was still missing. There seemed to be something my clients had discovered through tidying that I had yet to find.

Then, not long ago, I went cherry blossom viewing with my family for the first time in 15 years. I had reached a bit of a block in my work and suddenly decided to call them up and invite them to go. We didn’t go anywhere special, just to a little park near my house. The fact that it’s not well known actually makes it a great place for cherry blossom viewing. The trees were in full bloom, but no one else stopped to spread out a picnic blanket underneath, so we had them all to ourselves.

Despite the sudden notice, my mother had prepared a picnic lunch, and my sister and I behaved like excited little girls. Unwrapping and opening the lunch box, we found nori-wrapped onigiri stuffed with pickled plum and grilled salmon, fried chicken, a sweet potato dish, and red and yellow cherry tomatoes. While the menu was limited, it was packed beautifully and obviously with a loving care that touched my heart. The sight of the neatly arranged contents activated the tidying freak in me, and I couldn’t help comparing it to the perfect example of a well-organized drawer.

“I want to live my life in such a way that it colors my things with memories.”

But that was not all. My mother opened another package to reveal a bottle of pink-hued amazake, a beverage made from sweet fermented rice, and small pink glasses with a cherry blossom pattern. When filled with the pink amazake, it looked like cherry blossoms were blooming in our glasses. “How beautiful!” The blossoms I viewed that day with my family were the best I had ever seen.

When I returned home, something about my apartment seemed different. Nothing had actually changed since I left it the day before. It was still the place I loved filled with all the things that bring me joy, each resting comfortably where it belonged. At that moment, an image of the blossom-patterned glasses we had used that afternoon rose in my mind. And finally I knew. The glasses that my mother had chosen showed me the precious piece I had been missing. I want to live my life in such a way that it colors my things with memories.

The glasses were an expression of my mother’s love and affection, chosen out of her desire to make that day special for us, even just a little. I had seen those glasses in our house many times and had always thought they were pretty, but they had been transformed into “those special cups that my mother filled with amazake when we went to view the blossoms.” I realized that the value of things with which I have spent precious hours alone cannot compare with the value of things that bear precious memories of time spent with other people.

My favorite clothes and shoes are special, and I wear them constantly, but they can’t compete with things that have been steeped in memories of the people I love. I realized that what I had really longed for was just to be with my family. Compared to the amount of time I spent with my possessions, myself, and my work, I had spent far less time interacting with my loved ones. Of course, I will still continue to value my time alone. But the purpose of it is to nurture me so that I can enjoy an even more fulfilling time with my loved ones, so that I can contribute even more to the happiness of the others around me.

If the glasses had been plain and ordinary, I would still have remembered the beverage my mother had brought, but I doubt that I would have remembered the glasses. Objects that have been steeped in memories carry a much clearer imprint of special times. Objects steeped in memories keep the past crystal clear within our minds. And objects that bring us joy have even greater capacity to soak up our memories. When those glasses finally break, as some day they must, when they have finished their job and the time to thank them and bid them farewell finally comes, I know they will have left the memory of our blossom-viewing picnic etched forever in my heart.

Our things form a part of us, and when they’re gone, they leave behind them eternal memories.

As long as I face my belongings sincerely and keep only those that I love, as long as I cherish them while they are with me and consciously seek to make my time with them as precious as possible, every day will be filled with warmth and joy. This knowledge makes my heart feel so much lighter.

Therefore, I urge you once again: finish putting your things in order as soon as you can, so that you can spend the rest of your life surrounded by the people and things that you love most.


Chapter 6: Tidying Papers

The basic rule for papers: Discard everything

Like clothes and books, the first step in tidying papers is to gather all the documents and papers for which you are personally responsible in one place. My rule of thumb? Discard everything.

This does not mean that the goal is to discard every single one. Rather, it means that you should choose from among them on the premise that they will be recycled. A single sheet of paper takes up almost no room, which makes it very easy to accumulate far too many before you realize it. If you don’t approach the selection process with a commitment to getting rid of them all, you will barely make a dent in the overall volume. Keep only those for which there is a clear purpose—those you are currently using, those you will need for a limited period, and those that you need to keep indefinitely.

It’s important to check each one. If there is a stack of papers in an envelope, remove them all because there may be unnecessary papers, such as advertising leaflets, mixed in with essential ones. Sorting papers can give you a head­ache, so keep yourself hydrated and plow steadily through each category.

Make a pending box

One essential item for tidying papers is a “pending” box. Place all those papers that require action, such as letters you are planning to send, outstanding bills, etc., in this box, and forge ahead with tidying. Anything that can be dealt with immediately, however, such as checking what’s inside an envelope or glancing through a pamphlet so that you can recycle it, should be handled on the spot. If you accumulate too many papers that are pending, you will be reluctant to deal with them later.  

In general, a magazine holder in which papers can be stood upright makes a good pending box, but you can also use an empty box, if you have one of an appropriate size, or a clear plastic folder if the volume of documents and papers is minimal.

If you are undertaking your tidying campaign with the whole family, make sure you have only one pending box for each person.

Course materials

Do you have materials from courses you took for career development or to obtain degrees? Or perhaps you’ve kept materials from a seminar for personal development. People tend to save these in hopes that someday they’ll be able to review them; but, tell me, have you ever done so? In most cases, “someday” never comes.

These courses have value while they are being taken, but they only have meaning when you put what you learned through them into practice. I believe that hang­ing on to such materials actually prevents us from using what we’ve learned. When you take such courses, resolve to recycle the materials when you’re done. If you regret having done so, take the course again, and this time apply what you learn right away.

Credit card statements

Credit card statements rank at the top of the list for papers that people tend to hang on to. As these statements are sent monthly, if you have more than one card, they add up quickly.

Yet for most of us, they are really just information about how much we’ve spent. Once you’ve confirmed the content and recorded everything in your household accounts, their job is done. Unless you need them for year-end income tax, put them through the shredder. Many credit card companies provide very convenient electronic statement services, and it might be worthwhile to switch over to that.

Warranties

Every electrical appliance you buy comes with a warranty. This is the most common document found in every home, and many people tend to save them properly by storing them in a folder file or in an accordion-style file. But having many compartments is actually the greatest drawback of this type of filing system. Once your warranties are each tucked into their own compartment, you are unlikely to look at them again, and, before you realize it, you will have files full of expired warranties.

The simplest storage solution is to keep all of them in a single clear plastic folder. Every time you search through this folder for a warranty, it gives you a chance to see all the others and weed out any that have expired. If you need proof of purchase, store the receipt with the relevant warranty.

Clippings

Recipe clippings that you’ve hung on your fridge but never made, tourist maps of places you have no plans to visit, newspaper articles you intended to read that are now out of date . . . do any of these things spark joy for you now?

I once had a habit of cutting out maps of Kyoto and Kamakura whenever I came across them in magazines, but when I visited those cities, I always forgot to take the clippings. In the end, I tossed them all!

For any clippings that you decide to keep, a display book with clear plastic pockets is a simple solution that is easy to flip through. If you want to increase the joy factor, a good alternative is to make your own personal scrap­book. Clippings that don’t really need to be filed, such as an article on a shop you plan to visit soon, however, should be kept in the pending box or in your datebook. 


Book Title: Spark Joy
Author: Marie Kondo
ISBN: 9781607749721 | $18.99 HC | Ten Speed Press

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Reprinted from SPARK JOY Copyright © 2016 by Marie Kondo. Illustrations copyright © 2012, 2015 by Masako Inoue. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.