I am in the process of packing my family’s belongings as we prepare to move.
There is nothing particularly fun about sorting through fifteen years of accumulated objects and deciding what to give away. But according to Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo, what I am doing is more magical than it feels.
Decluttering and organizing my house, she says, will transform my life. I don’t know if I believe her. But I’m intrigued. Kondo recommends a simple test to determine what we keep and what we discard — not just when we are moving, but all the time. Gather all of one kind of thing that you own (example, shirts). Pick each one up and hold it in your hands. Ask the question, does this shirt spark joy? If the answer is no, to the consignment store it goes.
Hers is a useful philosophy for living. Keep what makes you happy. Discard what doesn’t.
Although I don’t think this is easy to do at all, I’ve already begun to annoy my children by repeatedly asking them to consider whether the clutter in their rooms sparks joy in their hearts.
“Does that raggedy notebook with most of the pages scribbled on really spark joy?” (“Mom!” )
Staring down a pile of t-shirts this past weekend, I wondered, what would happen if we applied this same spark joy test to school?
A trickier business, no doubt. School is stitched from many threads, few of which can be teased out, not to mention thrown out. However, in schools across the country — public, private, charter, parochial, home — questions about what students need and ideas about how to best serve those needs seem to be piling up. It sometimes feels hard to find the simple spark of joy amid the heaps of things to think about, things to try, things to do.
So while I’m not convinced that throwing away old socks will make me happier, I agree with Kondo that thinking about the things we hang on to and why is important in both school and life.
It’s not easy. But it is vital to keep the flame going.