You may have been living under a rock if you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo. She’s the cute, petite woman who’s been popping into people’s cluttered, messy homes for the past month on Netflix (longer, if you’ve read her book, The Magic of Tidying Up) encouraging people to ask, “Does this spark joy?” before deciding whether or not something is worth keeping or getting rid of.
My readers and I who just finished up our 30-Day “Junk-Free January” Room Makeover Challenge have been asking ourselves this question a lot lately (which is why you may not have seen new projects from me recently–I’ve been too busy re-doing my basement. You’ll see our room makeover reveals later this week!). As we sorted through piles of junk, unused craft materials, and “someday” DIY projects, we attempted to get rid of things that no longer made us “happy” or “sparked joy.”
During the challenge, a poignant blog post was published from The Guardian criticizing Marie Condo’s advice and beliefs. Gasp!! Criticizing?? Who could ever think that tidying up your home was a negative thing?? However, the author points out that this method of just getting rid of things that don’t spark joy anymore means that discarded items ultimately end up in landfills (yep–even if you donated it, it may very well be trashed by the thrift store since they only sell a portion of what is donated) and third world countries. The resources used to produce it get wasted, too–the water, the energy, the labor, etc.; all the things we don’t seem to think about as consumers.
Essentially, the author of the article claimed we’re promoting a “disposable” culture if we simply get rid of things that no longer make us happy. The solution, she claims, is to stop buying so much stuff, not getting rid of things.
I read the article and thought, “Yeah, I can see her point…but I still can’t have all this unused clutter sitting around! It’s got to go somewhere!”
If you don’t believe me, look at what I was up against in my basement office for our January Room Makeover challenge: messy, cluttered, and in my opinion, an excess of stuff.
Some of it just needed better organization. But there were clearly pieces that needed to go because they “no longer sparked joy” for me.
What you may not notice is that little red mid-century modern table amongst the clutter. It’s the very first piece of furniture I bought back in 2002 after buying my first condo. I bought it from one of my favorite thrift stores for a mere $6.00. I remember spray painting the brown laminate top a brilliant red, proud to have found such a gem. While I was very proud of the piece, it never seemed to quite “go” with anything in my house the last 10 years of the 17 years I owned it.
But it was time to let it go. After all, Marie said that if it doesn’t spark joy, just let it go. Despite its sentimental value. Despite how cool it was. Despite the memories of my middle son, at the age of 2, climbing up on it and falling off, landing in Urgent Care with 2 stitches to his ear. Despite all the coolness, the memories, and the perceived value of a mid-century modern table like that, I was prepared to let it go because it didn’t pass the test of, “Does this spark joy?”
My husband has a way of sifting through my “DONATION” piles to see what he can salvage. As much as he complains about me bringing too many things home, he is also quick to complain when perfectly good things are given away (which makes decluttering difficult at times!). Well, he peered through my donation piles to see the little red table about to go to the thrift store. He pulled it out, took it upstairs to the family room, and placed it in some random corner of the room, advising me to, “Just keep it. You never know when you might need a table to set some drinks on.”
Fast forward a couple weeks later to the end of the room makeover challenge and my basement was coming along, looking cozy, clean, and decluttered. I realized that I needed a side table for the love seat and chair seating area I had created after all that clutter was removed. It didn’t make sense to go and buy another one, so I lugged that little red table back to the basement, slapped a new complimentary coat of paint on top to go with my new color scheme (and I’ll admit–a new lamp from Target), and what do you know–it sparked joy again!
I shouldn’t be shocked at this concept of making something new again. After all, that’s what I do here at Thrift Diving. The uglier, the better is my motto. Decorating your home on a budget and reusing what you can was the basis of how this blog started. But even I am a victim of consumerism. Just because I tend to go thrift diving for many of my furniture items, doesn’t mean my consumerism is better than the next person. What matters is that I was going to buy something else that sparked more joy; something that “matched better” to my basement office for the room makeover I was doing. I was going to discard something because just because it didn’t spark joy anymore. And that, my friend, was the wrong thing to do.
Just imagine how many pieces of furniture that someone discarded because it no longer sparked joy for them…pieces that I picked up from the thrift store and made them look amazing again. Do you think if the donators had imagined their piece of furniture could spark joy again that they would have given it up? Maybe not.
….like this $10 French Provincial vanity from the thrift store that I made over…
….or this $30 mid-century modern dresser that I stripped and refinished!…
One of my readers pointed out something great: it’s not about asking, “Does this spark joy?” but rather, “How can I reclaim the joy?”
I’d like to take that question even further with these questions:
- “If I paint or stain this a different color, would this spark joy again?”
- “Could I use this in another part of my house?”
- “Could I repurpose this into something else?” (Read this article to get some creative ideas!).
- “Would this spark joy for a friend or family member instead?”
- “Could I sell this to someone?”
- “Could I list this item for FREE online?”
If we ask ourselves these more detailed questions instead of just asking, “Does this spark joy?” then we could save ourselves a lot of money (by reusing what we have)…do more for the planet (which prevents overfilling landfills)…and making more mindful purchases from the beginning!
I’ll admit that even as much as I love making things over, asking myself these questions won’t stop me from ever making another purchase again. And it won’t stop me from donating to my favorite thrift store (which does help the communities the thrift store supports). But it does make me pause to think about each purchase and whether I really need to bring that home with me or if I can reuse something that’s already in my home.
The author of that article is right: if we just learn to buy less stuff anyhow, maybe we wouldn’t even have to declutter and ask ourselves, “Does this spark joy?”
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And if you enjoyed this article, check out popular furniture makeovers:
- $10 French Provincial Vanity Makeover from the Thrift Store
- Mid Century Modern Dresser Makeover Stripped and Refinished
- Eat-in Kitchen Table Makeover: BEFORE & AFTER
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