How Do You See Joy?

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KonMari Insight Blog Series


Did you ever think about how there are different levels to what makes us happy? I really hadn’t until I decluttered my home and life through Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing magic of Tidying Up.

“Does this spark joy?”

It seems like a simple question. You would think you would just “know.” These are basic feelings: happy, sad, joy, anger.  I mean, we know what  feelings are, they’re ours, after all. So it should be obvious, right? The fact that so many people struggle with this question tells me the answer is: no, not really.

What I discovered in my tidying journey was that I wasn’t sure how I felt anymore. I was overwhelmed. Everywhere I looked I just saw stuff. And I had so much stuff it made me numb. What I really wanted was have all of it magically go away and leave me with a clean slate so I could just start all over again.

But that wasn’t going to happen and I really needed to get a handle on why all of this stuff was in my life. I asked that question:

“Does this spark joy?”

At first I said yes to everything.  Then an interesting thought came to me: “If all of this stuff individually brings me joy, why am I overwhelmed?”

I didn’t know (then), until I asked more questions: Where did I get this? Who gave it to me? Does it bring back a good memory? Do I  really  want to repair this? What would happen if I let it go? Does my nephew really want this? Does this thing really reflect who I am? Do I have time to take care of this?  Do I even want to take care of this? Does this really spark joy?

The more questions I asked, the more clear the answer.  A few times it was “Yes.” But most of the time I heard a resounding “No.”

I began to realize that there were different levels of joy.

There was the joy I felt when I was with my husband or friends; an all encompassing feeling of comfort, rightness and oneness. That is the ultimate joy sparker and one I never get tired of.

There is the joy I feel when I’m  out for a walk in nature, relaxed and aware. Feeling the vastness of the world compared to the smallness of me.  These times are thought provoking and soul searching.  I get wonderful ideas on my walks and I tend to see the possibilities of life.

There is also the joy I get from volunteering. Whether it is watering the plants and searching for missing books at the library, or helping my neighbor rebuild our community mailboxes, I love the feeling of helping and participating in something outside of me.

These were my top three joy sparking processes.  None of them really required “stuff,” interestingly enough. They were experience related, and I was always up for more. They energized my spirit.

These next three are different.  While they can seem like they are authentic joy sparkers, the feeling isn’t  lasting. It is very easy to overindulge in them, thus creating that feeling of being overwhelmed.

For instance, there is the happiness I feel when I have my favorite treat at the yogurt shop; very yummy, but too much gives you a stomach ache.  This is one of those things where a little goes a long way.  It’s easy to overindulge because it tastes so good.  But the joy is fleeting and is quickly replaced by a feeling of overload.

Then there is the joy I feel at looking at what others have created, appreciating at their hard work and skill. So many times I would look at those things and think, man I could do that. I should do that. I will do that.  I’ll buy all of the tools I need to do that and save tons of money by doing it myself!

There is also the admiration of pretty things. We all love beautiful things. A single beautiful thing is special, but surround it by too many of the same beautiful type of thing, and it becomes lost in crowd.  It’s no longer unique.

So much of what I had, that I thought sparked joy, fell into these three categories. My feelings of joy were muddled. I had too much. Things that I thought were special, were lost in a sea of the same. I had too many projects, too many choices of things to do.  So many of them no longer interested me because my tastes had changed. While I still thought they were pretty, or useful or fun, they didn’t represent who I was now.  I wasn’t the same as when I bought them. So they were a backlog reminding me that I had somehow failed. So no real joy was left. It was the remembrance of past joy.

Once I realized how I perceived joy, it was much easier to see it in among my stuff. And much easier to remove those true non-joy sparkers from my life.  Looking at joy this way has also changed how I bring new things into my life. I find myself asking some of those same questions I asked before.  If it doesn’t make the grade, I appreciate it for what it is, allow myself to enjoy the experience and move on.

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