It’s time to talk about Marie Kondo, and it’s kind of a sticky subject.
‘Cause on one hand, I think she’s doing some really important work. Helping people deal with their clutter and organize their worlds, all the while making it trendy and mainstream? I’m down with that!

All the “sparking joy” bullcrap though? I’m not so down with that. I don’t have anything against joy. Good lord, we could all use more joy and hope and love and positivity in this tumultuous world that we live in! But, her sparking joy approach?

I don’t get it and more than that, I don’t get how it helps people.

I remember organizing my toys (as a way of coping, says Adult Nicole) all the way back to when I was a five-year-old. But five-year-old’s don’t have stress, right? Uh,YESSS SOME OF THEM DOOOOO! I did. And when I did, I’d teeter off to my room and zone out in front of my doll house. For the next hour or so, everything would come out of the doll house and then everything would, in a different order, go back in. Obviously, I didn’t “know” what I was doing from a soothing, psychological perspective but at the time I must have known, on some level, that it made me feel calm and like everything was okay. (You can read more about that here.)

At age 19, I had my first paid organizing client. My mom sent me to work with her best friend who was going through a wicked divorce, made worse by her youngest daughter departing for college. She was now an empty nester with no husband and a big house full of memories in what now seemed like another person’s life. She’d been bed ridden with depression for a three month period and was jolted out of this dense emotional fog with the news that she’d have to sell her beloved home. She was heartbroken but, there was nothing she could do. That’s where I (literally) came in.

Okay—so pause for a sec, consider that scenario and tell me: Had I come knocking on her front door and starting pointing at her things, all the while chirping, “DOES THIS SPARK JOY? DOES THAT SPARK JOY?” do you think, just maybe, I might be seeing seen some sparks of something as she smacks me up the side of my head?

My work is this: meet people where they’re at, in their place of pain or joy or anywhere in between and help them discover how they feel about what is taking up space in their life. I work with clients who simply want help organizing their office, I work with people we call “hoarders”—a very serious issue and I work with people anywhere in between the extremes.

It doesn’t matter if something sparks joy or not.
What matters is how your stuff makes you feel.

Recently, I was stuffology-ing my online phone album and as I scrolled up, I landed on a photo that instantly made me weep. I just sat there, looking at the photo, unable to move off of it and I cried and cried. I guess you could say that this picture did not spark joy.

But you know what? I kept the picture. I kept it because it instantly took me to a time and a place that was hard to see but that I cherish mightily. It made my heart hurt but dammit, I want to feel the hard stuff sometimes. I want that memory and I want to remember my life, what I’ve been through, choices I’ve made, the good, the bad, the ugly. That’s my life right there!

After some hearty emoting, I then decided that I didn’t need 25 pictures of that memory. Two were enough. I could hold that. And that felt good and that felt right.

I could be wrong, but I’ve read Marie Kondo’s book and I’ve watched (a wee bit) of her Netflix show and SHE’S NOT WRONG but what I just described with the picture? I don’t see her go there. And I need to go there because that place where I feel the range of emotion that leads to inquiry that leads to a decision that feels so good—that’s where I find my joy. That happens to be where my clients are asking that we go too.

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