Shopping for Joy

A writing topic sparked by two recent events: I read the Marie Kondo book, and I bought some new pants.

While I hadn’t read that book cover-to-cover before, I was already pretty familiar with her method and philosophy. And in general, I recognize that the approach does mostly work for me – when I like an item and have a clear plan for how to take care of it, I tend to do a good job with that.

I fall short when there’s not a well-planned out system for everything to be put away nicely – which is the current state of my workshop and my sewing room. Kondo covers that situation nicely in her discussion.

I also fall short because, for some categories of belongings, I need to own the things but none of what I own really give me much joy. Kondo touches on that more obliquely – with the tale of people whose wardrobe was given to them by someone with different taste than theirs, for example.

What she does not say is: If there is a category of thing that you need to own, then figure out what in that category would give you joy and go acquire it. In fact, going out and buying new stuff is kind of the antithesis of what she’s trying to get people to do.

But then there’s my new pants. Which I didn’t need, because I already owned plenty of pants. But, these new pants are giving me a lot of joy. They’re a pretty fabric, and they fit, and they’re long enough, and they’re comfortable. They give me so much joy that I don’t mind going to some extra effort (such as hand-washing) to keep them nice. And even though I have plenty of other pants – I don’t want those pants. I want a closet full of pants like the new pair.

It makes me realize that there are corners of my home with disorganized piles of stuff where I simply haven’t tackled decluttering because I know, without even looking, that none of the items in the pile will bring me joy, but I can’t really function without at least some of them. For example, I have a whole shelf full of purses that I don’t especially like, but haven’t gotten rid of because sometimes (usually) you need a purse.

What if I ignored those piles for a moment, and bought (or made) some minimum functional set of purses to cover my daily needs, all of which gave me joy to use? And then emptied the purse shelf, happily tossing every item that isn’t sparking joy into the donate pile, in the happy certainty that I really don’t need them?

It seems such a ridiculously privileged way to live. But if I can afford it, it also seems like it might work.

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