Monday, January 28, 2019

"If it doesn't spark joy, remove it from your life." Is it good to apply this to all aspects of our lives?

There is a current wave of interest and popularity, thanks in part to both Netflix and social media, in the philosophy of Marie Kondo, an “organizing consultant and author.  This demure 34-year-old Japanese lady has her own Netflix TV series where she physically goes into the homes and lives of real people and teaches them how to get their homes organized and tidy. 

I am sure that the producers of this show went to great lengths to feature the families whose homes were particularly cluttered and messy, so that the end result would be as dramatic as possible.  Speaking no English or very little, she enters the cluttered and often chaotic homes of her clients, and carries out her “Kondo method” or “KonMari” as she calls it, where she gets the occupants of the disorganized home to settle into their own space, inviting them to still themselves first.  She then gets the occupants to empty their wardrobes of all their contents, and place them in a pile in the middle of the room. Facing this pile (sometimes it can even seem as if the occupants had created a sizeable mountain), she gets the occupants of the home to take each item of clothing and here is where it gets a bit strange – she tells them to hold each item in a very careful (almost like carrying an infant), and hold it to their heart, and the most important part comes next – to detect if the item sparks joy in the owner of the item.  If it doesn’t, the owner is then to say “thank you” to the item before putting it into a pile that is destined for either the trash bin or to be given away.  One only keeps those things or items that “spark joy” when held close to the heart. Then, from the bedroom, she does the same to the other parts of the house as well.

The rest of the KonMari method is a practical exercise of systematic folding and sorting and storing, which I must say is very useful for anyone who has little or no idea of how one should be storing things in a way that economizes space in the home.  I have tried out her folding method myself (for my t-shirts), and I must say that I am rather pleased with the way my clothes drawers are now looking.  At the end of each episode of her “reality TV show”, there is always a contrast of how the home looks in their new organized state, contrasted against their “before state”, and of course, it is an expected happy ending.

Why in the world am I writing a blog post about de-cluttering and re-organizing when the nature of this blog of mine is to help people to grow closer to God and to mature spiritually, you may ask.  It’s a valid question.  It has to do with the importance of activating our filters in life, especially when a philosophy in life is being sold and taught.  Taking anything in life lock, stock and very cluttered barrel, can sometimes lead us away from spiritual maturity, our goal in life.

I am not at all averse to being organized and tidy, and those who know me would probably not hesitate to label me as a ‘neat-freak’ myself.  But I do have great concerns when this philosophy of “sparking joy” is applied blindly to everything that we face in life.  How so?

In his teachings and life instruction, Jesus has in various ways told his disciples and the crowd that there is a necessity in life to take up our cross and to follow him. This imperative is something that many people either don’t take seriously, or would prefer not to do unless it is thrust upon them.  Yet, Jesus doesn’t give us much of a choice, does he?  He didn’t say that we can be choosy or picky about the cross in life for his followers.  If you want to be my disciple, he says, taking up of the cross is a sine qua non. What does this cross look like? It comes in many forms, but if the cross that Jesus carried to Calvary was something that was ignominious, difficult, challenging and something that required great effort, then these same qualities would be what defines many of our crosses in life.  One thing that carrying our crosses do not immediately do is to “spark joy” in our hearts – at least not in the worldly sense.  Only when we are casting our eyes toward heaven and toward our sainthood, will we see the joy that lies behind carrying our crosses. This is the ability to trust that (given by God’s grace, of course) these challenges are really our means to join with Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary, and to thereby contribute to the salvation of the world.  

If we take the KonMari method and apply it to everything in life, and more dangerously, to all our challenges and hardships that we have in life, we can easily end up not carrying our crosses, but dumping them away, like the way Marie tells her ‘clients’ to dump or give away those items in their homes that do not spark joy.  But if what Marie is teaching through her method is to inculcate a spirit of detachment in life, especially to material things, I have no qualms about that at all.

Let us never forget that in all likelihood, Jesus didn’t feel happy on the Cross on Mount Calvary, nailed to that crucifix.  He would be a masochist if he told the soldiers who scourged him to strike harder, enjoying each lash.  No, I truly believe Jesus wasn’t particularly happy or joyful on that Cross.  But without a doubt, he knew that what he was doing was something that was necessary, salvific, that was deep, meaningful and that contributed to life – your life and mine.  

There are many things that do not spark joy but that we do and continue to keep in our lives for the greater good.  I applaud Marie Kondo for teaching us that life needs to be simple and uncluttered, and I would teach anyone who is interested how to fold our clothes in a very space economical way.  Thank you Marie.  But do be mindful and try not to carry the “it needs to spark joy” to things that are not in our wardrobes.  You may be discarding the very thing that is our stepping stone to holiness and sanctity.

1 comment:

  1. There's this current trend of thinking in this age and time, whereby its much about the self : One's successes, one's happiness, etc.

    While its good to be happy and do well, the advices now advocate people (unrealizingly, perhaps?) to actually be selfish and self-serving.

    Here are some I saw on Instagram recently :

    1. If the circle of people around you are not inspiring you, it's not a circle but a cage.
    2. Keep only the people who make you better around you, and discard those that don't (or similar)

    And many more, in which the basic theme is the same : Discard people around you who are not contributing to your development and well-being and look for and keep those who directly aid you in being succesful and happy.

    The second type of similar themed messages are those which keep brainwashing and reprogramming the minds of the masses that success is everything in life, success being defined as wealth, and other other human-craving goals :

    1. Don't ever give up on your dreams, keep trying, you'll get it etc
    2. The correct mindset is everything to success, etc
    3. When famous people win awards or are interviewed, etc..the message more often than not alludes to the above as well.

    The above is all fine and good, but when in their proper contexts. But when all you hear on social media and other media has this message one's focus in life might be all mixed up.