Is it just me, or is there anyone else out there who would be perfectly happy if they never again heard the phrase “spark joy”?
I’m sure you know what I’m referring to: The question “Does it spark joy?” is the ubiquitous tagline of Japan-based professional organizer Marie Kondo, who started a revolution of sorts with her best-selling 2015 book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The worldwide success of her KonMari organization method has led to additional books and even a Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
At the heart of the KonMari method is the idea that instead of worrying about what you should get rid of when decluttering your home, you should instead focus on what you really want to keep – those precious few items in your possession that truly “spark joy” or fill a need. And Kondo clearly has touched a nerve: Countless articles, TV shows, blogs, and other media have been expounding on the idea that we all own TOO. MUCH. STUFF.
Here are just a few of the expert opinions on decluttering that I’ve read of late:
- Purging our belongings will not only make our homes look better, it will also make us healthier and less stressed. Clean, minimalist spaces are soothing and calming; cluttered spaces make us anxious.
- An uncluttered home will save us on maintenance and cleaning, leaving us more time to do the things we really love (unless the thing we really love happens to be shopping).
- “Out of sight” does not equal “out of mind,” because even if our belongings are hidden neatly away, they’re still weighing on us and causing emotional strain.
- We shouldn’t be counting on our possessions to bring us happiness or to showcase our status.
- Our rampant consumerist tendencies aren’t good for the planet, because they’re causing us to use limited resources to manufacture goods that we don’t need, and to live in homes that are, on average, more than double the size they were just 50 years ago.
And on, and on, and on.
I’m not going to argue with any of this, because there’s no doubt that most of us could do with some purging to improve the look and feel of our homes, whether it’s for our own simple peace of mind or some greater worldly purpose. But for interior designers, a large part of our job is to help create storage, whether it’s through enlarging rooms, reconfiguring an existing space, or just providing more functional cabinets and closets.
Let’s face it: Sometimes people just want to find a place to put all their stuff — and they don’t want to hear a guilt-inducing lecture about why they should get rid of it.
For many of our clients, the belongings that they’re trying to corral DO bring joy to their lives. They might be amateur chefs with a kitchen full of pots and pans and gadgets and utensils that they use on a regular basis. They might be grandparents who love to surround themselves with photos of their family. Or travelers who collect little knickknacks that remind them of the places they’ve been. Or collectors of just about anything, be it teapots or cookie jars or fine art or Lego figurines. Or maybe they just like the warm, homey feel of a charmingly cluttered family room filled with toys and games and decorative items with sentimental value.
Are we going to tell them that the things they love are destroying their mental and physical health and contributing to the downfall of the planet?
No, we are not.
Instead, we’re going to help them find the best ways to store and/or display the things they love. We’re going to show them useful cabinet inserts like garbage/recycle pullouts and spice racks and lazy Susans. We’re going to tell them that using just a few glass-front cabinets or open shelves will provide visual interest to their kitchen, without putting their entire hodgepodge of dishes on display. We’re going to help them enlarge their kitchens if they want more kitchen space, or enlarge their closets if they want more closet space.
After all, renovating IS reorganizing, for all practical purposes. While design projects often stem from a desire to simply spruce up an outdated space, more often our clients are looking for better ways to make use of the existing rooms in their house. That means better organization and better function.
Also, if you’re redesigning a kitchen or bathroom, you almost always need to empty your cabinets and drawers, find a place to temporarily store everything, and then return it all to the newly redesigned space. In the process, people usually end up doing a bit of purging. They come across things they never use, or find duplicates they didn’t even know they had. And when it comes time to put everything back in place, nobody wants to sully their beautiful new design with the same old clutter. If we’ve done our job right, even if they still have a lot of stuff, they’ll at least have a place to put it.
It might not be much, but it’s a start. And even Marie Kondo wouldn’t argue that that.