Lately people are mentioning the Japanese professional organizer Marie Kondo and her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up*. I absolutely agree that there IS life changing magic when one tidies up. It’s great that her book has helped many people, and anyone who has completed their book and made it to the NY Times Bestseller list is certainly admirable.
That said, the way we go about things is really important. Life changes and even “magic” can come in all forms, ideally through good, but even through bad. In Joumor, we set ourselves up to win. We empower ourselves in all that we do to feel clear and confident and able to make decisions. To me, Kondo’s approach of joy or nothing ironically takes the same aggressive black and white dismissive, perfectionistic and frankly inhuman tone of many fundamentalist tropes: This is the way. It cannot be any other way. Your past decisions were not good, now get rid of them.
There is a strong trend nowadays to turn to gurus and coaches and even fundamental religions. We want someone else to tell us what to do. It’s great to have mentors and people whom we respect and to learn from those who’ve done it successfully before us. However, there’s a sticky trap to beware of: once we believe that we don’t know, we can’t make decisions, and can’t handle it, we will be perpetually looking for other people’s answers. And we might dangerously believe we shouldn’t try, because it will be just another thing to get rid of if we fail.
Kondo’s idea to assess every item to see if it sparks joy is a beautiful one, but there are a couple of issues: some things are needed and useful, joy-giving or not. The other issue is the bigger one: many of the things that don’t spark joy are the very things where there is Joumor waiting to be unfolded and released. The phone number of that guy who had an interesting opportunity but we never called…that donation that we forgot to file with taxes last year, that gift card that might have some money on it…all those things we wanted to do but gave up on.
Joumor is the joy and humor that comes naturally out of the relief we feel by dealing with the things we’ve been avoiding. Joumor is the dessert after the meal. If we go for the dessert (joy) directly, we bypass the thing that truly nourishes us- dealing with that thing that has taken up space in our subconscious. When we remove what doesn’t belong because we’ve dealt with it, not because we are avoiding it, we are rewarded with dopamine, relief, and Joumor. This creates clutter-free connection with ourselves and allows us to interact with the world in a clear, clutter-free way. Now THAT is magic.