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Does it Spark Joy?

Originally printed November 29, 2016, Gray Matters, Times Standard

Why are we so attached to stuff? Sometimes it’s based on the memories evoked of a time or event in our lives. Or maybe the item reminds us of the person who gave it to us. Some things are status related – showing that we have been successful in our personal or work lives. Some things we have based on a moment of attraction. The things we bought on a whim to make us happy rarely do and we continue to find new items as we search for that promised thrill.

We know intellectually that things can’t make us happy, so why do we do this? Is it the tremendous marketing and advertising that says these things will make our lives happier, better, easier? Buy this item and poof! It’s magic! If we don’t feel tremendously happy after the purchase, there is something wrong. Perhaps we should buy something else? Sparking any joy yet?

Marie Kondo, a Japanese “tidying” guru, says the most important question we should ask ourselves about anything we own is, “does it spark joy?” Her method of decluttering is very strenuous and requires we handle everything we own and ask ourselves this question. People who have done it swear by its effectiveness, but say it can be difficult and emotional. Still, they didn’t regret it.

I have been watching a 24 hour news station over the last few days so I have been inundated by news of horrific events occurring around the world and in our own country. I am saddened by what I see. Then a holiday commercial breaks through and encourages me to go out and buy something to make me happy. Does anyone else think this is surreal? Do things we buy really spark joy in these circumstances?

Much of our compulsive purchases are of low quality, made overseas, and likely to be tossed aside in the not too distant future. If we stop buying scads of cheap items and purchase fewer, but good quality locally made products, we provide local artisans and companies the opportunity to make a good living in our communities, keeping money local and improving the lives of everyone.

When you give something that isn’t needed or wanted, are you putting the recipient in an awkward position of obligation to keep it in case you ever show up at their home? How many times have you wanted to rid yourself of something you don’t truly love, only to say, “Oh wait, Aunt Maggie gave me that, I better keep it just in case.”

Our clients trying to downsize get caught up in the things received from people they care about. They know they love the person, but are less clear that the item doesn’t represent that love or that person. Perhaps the best gift we can give is permission to get rid of the gifts we have given to others, if those things don’t spark joy.

Maybe we could better spark joy by spending our money to help make the world more joyful? We don’t have to look far to find dedicated people working hard to help others and to counteract the negativity that is rampant in our world today. Sure, the media gives us mostly bad news, but there are good people everywhere who are striving to lift others up. For this, they deserve our support. Whether you give locally, or internationally, give in a way that makes a real difference to others.

Instead of listing the things you want, make a list of the people and events in your life for which you are grateful. Make a list of your dreams for a better world. Put you time, talents, and treasure where it will make a true impact. Then when you look at your life, you can readily say, “Yes, it sparks joy.”

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