Book Review: Spark Joy

I couldn’t manage to borrow a copy of the acclaimed KonMarie book “The Life-Changing Method of Tidying Up” but found a copy of “”Spark Joy” from the National Library instead.  This book is indeed inspirational too!

Whether as a FTWM or a SAHM, I have often feel that our house is always overly cluttered.  Our 3-room HDB flat often seems overwhelmed with soooo many things that every once in a while I’ll buay tahan to the max and complain to Dear1 that I want to do a spring clean.  Indeed, at every new milestone, like when just before Baby1 was born and the “maternal instinct to clean out everything” suddenly kicked in; and same thing when just before Baby2 was born; when we chased Baby1 and Baby2 out from our bedroom to their own children’s room; or when the storeroom seems to be filled to the brim every now and then.  After reading , I found out that this urge to “spring clean” is actually more philosophical than purely just spring clean!

Basically, a tidy house:

  • Reflects your tidy life, and your tidy character.
  • Makes you understand what you really want (ie your material needs and wants)
  • Makes you ponder on what you want in life too. “Tidying orders the mind, while cleaning purifies it”.
  • Makes cleaning easier.  When there’s less things in the house, faster cleaning means more time for play.
  • Makes finding things easier. Because every item has it’s own place.
  • Of course means you spend more wisely since you’ll be cautious of what you add to the house.
  • Leaves only items that “spark joy” in your house.  If you see items that spark joy everywhere in your house, naturally you’ll feel happier.
  • Makes you discard all the items that don’t spark joy for you. When these dreaded items are out of sight, they’re out-of-mind, so there’s nothing to spark unjoy.
  • Enables better air flow.  When there’s no stagnant qi and better flow, everyone’s supposed to feel better!

Reading the book, it seems there’s already a large part that I have employed in my own life all this while (perhaps I can be a consultant just like KonMarie, giving lessons to other people, writing books, all merely passing on to other people what I do on a daily basis.  ;p).

1) Tidy by Category

Whenever I do spring cleaning, clothes is always the first category to be axed.  I often noticed that when my wardrobe is much neater, aka when I can better sight the clothes that I’ll wear, and sell to karang kuni those that I won’t wear anymore, this alone is very therapeutic. Or rather, the sense of over whelmness will absolve very fast.

KonMarie also advocates clearing the clothes first, followed by books, papers then komono (miscellaneous).  Her rule of thumb is, only keep those that “spark joy”.  This is where I come short, because very often, you tend to keep certain clothes that are barely worn, for “just in case”.  KonMarie says that this is a no-no, for if that time really comes (ask y0urself, really got?), you can always find a substitute from your existing pile.  Also, because it’s an item that “sparks joy”, you feel happy during this once-in-a-while usage too.

Clearing papers has been part of our habits too (but one that Dear1 and I only discovered in recent years.  Perhaps this is part of us maturing and gaining more life experience over the years?)  Like her, we have decided to discard most papers nowadays.

KonMarie also says always to tidy by category, and never by location, ie tidy bedroom first, then living room next.  You run the risk of transferring your garbage from one room to the other if you do that!

2) Keep Similar Items Together

This is also a rule of thumb when I keep things at home. Batteries and cables in 1 location, spares toiletries in 1 location.  Sometimes when Dear1 asks for a random item, I can usually retrieve it easily even though I can’t remember it’s exact location most of the time.  Because similar items are stored together, the random item will usually be found where it’s peers are!

3) Tidy Komono and Sentimental Items Last

The rule is, you tidy the easy ones first, and leave the tricky ones to the last.  It’s easier to settle all the easier clothes, books and papers category first; this gives you more confidence, more peace of mind, and more time to handle the supposedly more time-consuming ones.  For komono, aka miscellaneous items, every one may have different categories, for instance kitchen tools, hobbies (sewing, robots, art and craft etc), so tackle each sub-category one by one.  Again, the rule of thumb, discard those that do not spark joy, and keep only those that spark joy.

4) Kitchen as Ease of Cleaning

KonMarie refutes the common conception that the kitchen should be designed for ease of use.  Throw this concept out of the window!

Ever since we have our own house, my philosophy is to store all condiments, pots and pans and as much as everything within closed doors.  Finally there is someone who agrees that this is the better method, as compared to having a “ease of use” method.  While having to open and close cupboard doors and drawers frequently when cooking every meal, I find that a neat kitchen stove is more appealing than an oily-looking one. And KonMarie aptly coins this as the “ease of cleaning”.  Wah, what a revelation!

5) Fold and Stack Clothes

We converted the deep Toyogo drawers to shallow Ikea drawers when Baby2 came along, and started to store the clothes in horizontal rows rather in vertical clothes so that all the clothes are easily visible, and easy to extract.  A neater wardrobe is so pleasing to the eye!

“Spark Joy” also sheds a couple other points that are new to me:

1) The Annual Spring Clean is to Clean, not Tidy

How often have I felt overwhelmed and extremely exhausted whenever I do spring cleaning.  Because I have been doing it the wrong way!

KonMarie says cleaning and tidying are not the same thing (ermm, so obvious, but yet not so obvious, right?).  So when you do Spring Cleaning, means you only clean.  But tidying first then clean is definitely much more efficient and less daunting, so please always tidy first!

2) Praise your Spark Joy Items, and Bid Goodbye to the Rest

KonMarie really appreciates all her items.  For those that spark joy and remain, she’ll praise them for bringing beauty to her, or being a great helper, or for bringing joy to her life (isn’t this what all of us should do, being appreciative to what you have in life?).  For those that she decides to discard, she’ll thank them for being part of her life once, or for having served it’s function, and keep these out of her life forever (again, isn’t this reminiscing the good times before and being grateful, but resolve to remove them when they become an obstacle?).

3) Dorn your House

KonMarie must be a super feminine lady; she dorns her house with many pretty things and stores all her things in nice pretty boxes, even all the underwear. I think this must be their Japanese culture where Japanese craft is always so delicate and pretty.  And when you see many pretty things, you’ll naturally feel happier too?  She arranges all the bras in color code, with the brighter ones in front and the darker ones at the back.  For underwear, each and every piece is folded and wrapped like a candy, exposing the front detailed laces.  Seems very elaborate, but perhaps seeing all your under garments arranged so prettily and colorfully really brightens your day, and wearing these cherished pieces in the inner wear really makes you feel cherished and confident too?

4) Compare

KonMarie says the best way to know if something sparks joy is to compare. When we cling on to too many material possessions, this tip becomes so useful!  All these pyjamas are favourites, but between this and that, which one sparks more joy?  Or when there are too many art pieces by Baby1, choose only the top 3 to keep.

5) It has to come from your Heart

If someone wants to tidy, it has to come from within.  In the book, the example is, you can’t get someone to tidy if he doesn’t want to, because he simply does not have your same perspective that things are not in order.  On this, I have to acknowledge that I finally understand why Dear1 does not always see the need to do spring cleaning, because things did not seem out of place from his perspective….

“Spark Joy” has been very enlightening. I’ll be trying to incorporate some of these ideas in our home, and in our life.  It’s also especially heartening to know that my minimalist personality and lifestyle actually have been recognized by some to be beneficial.  :)

– Dear2

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