Earlier this year I read an article about Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo, whose bestselling book is called The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up.  I bought the book, and it’s full of wonderful advice. (Excepting only Kondo’s very Japanese obsession with meticulous and intricate folding techniques – even reading about them left me feeling completely and permanently inadequate.)

Her core concept is that you take, for example, every piece of clothing you own and place them on the floor. One by one, you pick up each article and ask yourself ‘Does this spark joy?’. If so, keep it. If not, discard it.

I used the technique to great effect with my clothes last weekend, and I recommend it to anyone who needs to trim their wardrobe. it was effective, and fun. And it made it much easier to discard things – Kondo’s advice that you thank the article for its service to you, and then pass it on for someone else to love, worked a treat. (Until I went shopping to fill the new gaps in my wardrobe, that is. Hopefully Kondo will write a sequel about that…)

Then I wondered what would happen if I applied the technique in my work as well as my home? I started in my office, and found it useful for getting rid of the miscellany that hangs around me – articles that I cut out of the newspaper before I went digital, notes I had scribbled to myself years ago, and so on. I did find a limitation to the office decluttering application when it came to tax records. Do they spark joy? Decidedly not. Should I keep them anyway? Decidedly yes.

But the place where the ‘spark of joy’ idea has really captured my imagination is in thinking about my work. I have adopted ‘spark of joy’ as my highest work value for 2015, and I am now thinking about all my projects (and potential projects) through this filter.

(Those of you who are clients, please don’t worry, I am not going to ask you all to lie on the floor so I can ask myself whether you individually spark joy…) And of course, the answer would be ‘yes’ anyway.

Where it is proving to be really helpful for me is in deciding where to spend my time, especially in choosing between different projects. Should I develop this workshop or that one? Should I complete this writing project or that one? Do I want to take my business down this road or not?

I am also asking myself on days when I am in a rut, ‘What could I do now to add a spark of joy?’. In fact, I am in danger of becoming a Spark of Joy Tragic, although I hope my deeply ingrained cynicism will save me from that dreadful fate…

Could you use the spark of joy idea in your work or life?

Joanna Maxwell


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