Ever since Marie Kondo published her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve been a fan. The promise of a gentle plan to organize and streamline possessions and clutter—to get that dream closet that looks like an ad in a magazine—was irresistible. Better yet, the concept at the root of Kondo’s philosophy resonated with me: Go through articles one by one by category (rather than by rooms) and keep only the items that “spark joy.” For the ones that don’t measure up, thank them for their service and say good-bye.
Now the subject of a popular Netflix series too, the Marie Kondo method has been used by people everywhere who love her gentle demeanor and firm adherence to her plan. Patients, family, and friends who have accomplished this task report that it’s a huge effort, but unquestionably worthwhile. The Kondo method extends beyond closets to tackle clothes, kitchen, garage or basement, books and papers, and sentimental items.
Now that spring is almost here, how about applying this philosophy not simply to clutter but to all aspects of you—your health, lifestyle, self-esteem, and your relationships. We are all super busy—so much to do, so many decisions, so much to take care of—and in so little time. It’s easy to see how we can lose track of what we really want for ourselves when everything and everyone else takes priority.
The results: not joy or even satisfaction, just toleration.
So the question is, what are you merely tolerating? How can you reorganize to better serve your needs and reignite that spark of joy you so deserve?
- Your health
In my twenty-plus years in this field, I’ve observed that personal health is the unfortunate winner of many patients’ “Most Likely to Be Put on the Back Burner” award. For instance, think about your food choices—do they spark joy, or are you tolerating what you can grab while running out the door in the morning? Do you eat mindfully, or do you just consume whatever you quickly throw together at night? Or, are you one of the many who have actually lost touch with the ability to sense hunger or fullness, eat out of boredom or stress, and then feel remorse afterward? On the other side of the wrong-headed coin are people who choose diets that require much restriction—leaving them hungry, cranky, and unsuccessful in the long run.
If either extreme sounds like you, I hope you’ll find the better balanced place in the middle, that stable spot where you are eating nourishing foods and are left satisfied. You feel GOOD about eating this way. That’s the bull’s eye!
- Your lifestyle
Sadly, being too busy to find time for the things that spark joy in our lives is very common. Many patients come into my office knowing what they want to do to improve their lives but have a hard time pulling the trigger—in other words, they haven’t taken that first step. However, when they finally do, a whole cascade of positive effects unfolds!
For instance, let’s look at Karen’s experience with reincorporating exercise. She knew that going back to the yoga class she had enjoyed in the past was her best next step, but returning took longer than it might have. Once she started again, however, she was ecstatic that she had made the choice. She was hooked once more, before long feeling less stressed and in better physical condition.
The key? Make those decisions to include what you know your body wants or needs, then act on them one at a time. You’ll feel so happy you did.
- Your relationships
You and other people—this is a prime area for both tolerating unhappiness and for sparking joy. To choose the latter, learning to communicate your thoughts rather than keeping them bottled up is important. Surrounding yourself with positivity and support will usher you there—whether from partner, family, friend, and/or a practitioner. Hoping to meet someone? This spring, why not start a new activity that will bring you enjoyment. Doing so puts you in the company of like-minded people with whom to share your fun pursuit.
- Your self-esteem
One revealing indication of your self-esteem is how you view your body. Many people whom I see are not just a little unhappy with their body image; they’re actually full of shame and self-disapproval. I like to remind them that they would never talk to a friend the way they talk about their own appearance because the result is self-imposed limitation—not joy, for sure. We work together to help change that script to a more appreciative, empowering one that isn’t based on self-blame and criticism. Making the leap to forgiveness, happiness, and compassion takes trust and willingness—and I know you can do it!
- Your media
Since we’re talking about streamlining and fine-tuning, your screen time is an area to examine. How long and often are you on your computer outside of work? Do you have tablets and smart phones with apps that you don’t use? Are you subscribed to more lists and newsletters than you could possibly ever read? (Yes, that’s me with my hand up.) Let’s both embrace the intention to keep only the digital commitments that are truly rewarding, thank the ones we don’t find necessary anymore, and then press delete. It’s a great way to lighten the load of overwhelm.
Living a life by design is a meaningful goal truly worth the effort. With so many things beyond our control, let’s make maximizing our happiness where we can a true priority. My suggestion: Take some time to look below the surface of your life and decide just what sparks joy for you—and then let go of what doesn’t. The good news is that this process will free room for new thoughts and light a path to any number of ways forward. Or, if you prefer, you can just allow yourself the freedom to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Whatever sparks your joy!