Do Fifteen-Year-Old Athletic Pants Spark Joy In Your Life?

I recently caught the KonMari bug. If you’re not familiar with this affliction, don’t worry: there is no throwing up involved, only throwing out. KonMari is the name of a wildly popular philosophy of household tidiness that has been sweeping through the country. The basic premise, espoused by cleaning guru Marie Kondo, is that you should only keep those things which “spark joy” in your heart.

There’s a bit more to it than that – some additional parameters, a suggested order of operations by which to tackle decluttering your home – but really, that’s the core. If you don’t love it, don’t keep it.

I’d watched an episode of the Netflix show hosted by Ms. Kondo and read a couple articles. The beautiful simplicity of the philosophy appealed to me and I found myself eyeing objects in my house speculatively, trying to gauge how I felt about them.

So one night, I decided to KonMari my closet. I piled all my clothes on the bed, as suggested by The Method – and then sorted through them. Spoiler alert: at least a quarter of my wardrobe wound up in the “donate” pile. Or the trash can.

I had expected the process to be emotionally difficult, but for the most part it wasn’t. Seeing all your clothes piled in one place reminds you of how much you have and makes it easier to part with things. Fifteen-year-old athletic pants from my college tennis days? Gone. Stretched out sports bras and worn out socks? Good-bye. Button-up dress shirts that fit really well ten years ago before I had breastfed three tiny humans? Thank you for your service. You can go now.

A few items gave me pause and I discovered that there is some grey area between “joy” and “nostalgia.” Lurking in the recesses of the closet was a beautiful dark grey pin-stripe suit. It was my power suit when I was just starting out in the professional world. I wore it to the job interview for my first real job and on the donor call for my first five-figure fundraising ask. I felt sleek and confident and kind of sexy when I wore it.

But that was a long time ago. I’m twenty pounds heavier now and I never wear a suit to the office because professional attire in the arts leans more towards funky than corporate. I spent a few minutes smiling at the memories the suit evoked, and then I let it go.

From the bedroom, I moved on to other rooms in the house and discovered that virtually nothing in my den sparked joy in my life. The den is my catchall room: the resting place for excess mediocre home décor, random books, and gift bags in quantities that teeter on the brink of pathological.

The KonMari method gave me permission to part with items that were still functional, but no longer wanted. It can be really hard to get rid of something that still “works,” whether it’s a trendy but misguided appliance or a set of beautiful but weirdly-small lemonade glasses purchased on a whim while visiting the old city of Jerusalem in 2005. They were the first ‘thing’ I bought for my home after I got engaged. Remnants of another time, another me. It’s okay to move on.

Although on that note, I do owe a public apology to the local Goodwill for foisting some crap on them that probably should have gone into the trash. After years in the social service sector, I know better. I really do. But it’s hard to shake the desperate hope that someone, somewhere might love and appreciate that expensive shirt with the ink stain on the cuff. And the lady at Goodwill was very sweet about my gift bags, assuring me that they bundled them up and regularly sold them.

Doing a KonMari cleanse of my house fits with my New Year’s resolution to be more intentional – to “mean it.” The point of the KonMari method is not to achieve a particular state of minimalism. The goal is to be aware of your belongings, to be conscious in your decisions to keep items in your home, and to surround yourself as much as possible with things that bring you joy. And if you manage to decrease the number of sweater boxes under you bed at the same time, even better.

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