Discerning Joy

I am standing beside a pile of discarded clothing on my bed. I turn and take the next piece of clothing, a shirt, from my closet. I loved this shirt when I bought it. The fabric is crème-colored, tissue-thin cotton with colorful embroidery.

I hold the shirt in my hands, close up against my chest. I close my eyes. I turn inward. Do I feel any joy from it? What feeling is there?

I can tell immediately that I want it to—I WANT it to still bring me joy—but does it? I realize and finally admit, a bit reluctantly, that the honest answer is no. A small but not quite indiscernible hole has developed in the hem, and I feel how I am making do when I wear it. And then I feel the fear that I won’t have enough if I get rid of it. It is suddenly very clear that is why I’m holding onto it (as turns out to be the case with several other things too). And then I feel a pure, clean sadness that it no longer brings me joy.

Photo Credit: Loren Kerns via Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Loren Kerns via Creative Commons

It is freeing and peaceful to acknowledge all this. A weight lifts that I didn’t even know was there.

Once I get to my true feelings about the shirt, I notice how different it feels from the items that do bring me joy. The new, airy blue shirt that I bought last summer. The yellow shirt that I have had for a few years that I still feel delightful wearing. The woven summer shoes that are also old but still make me smile when I see them.

It isn’t about old or new. It isn’t even about the condition of something – holes or not. It is about whether a possession brings you joy. This is the essence I have gleaned from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I haven’t read it but have heard a lot about it. And so I am going through my possessions as she advises: one type at a time (all your clothes, all your books, all your CDs, etc., instead of one room at a time); picking up each item, holding it, and discerning if I feel a spark of joy. If not, I pass it on in the world by donating it. (And some of the stuff is quite nice—there is a really good chance many of these items will be joyful finds for others.)

The process is astoundingly liberating and eye-opening and cleansing.

I encourage you to try it. Hold at least one of your possessions in your hands and allow yourself to get quiet and still. Does it bring you joy?

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4 Responses to Discerning Joy

  1. Scott Misenti says:

    In addition to this is the enhanced happiness that I feel many people experience after the weight of these material possessions are removed. I believe that the long term happiness that can occur from the shedding of material things far outweighs the short term joy provided by the consuming and holding on of things.

    • I totally agree, Scott. I have felt a lightness (and yes, a joy!) in the process of shedding these items that I have never felt when I did the yearly or so typical cleaning out of clothes. I had no idea there was so much heaviness lurking about in my closets! I remain amazed, even now when I’m pausing in the process, at how much different I feel overall, not just about my clothes. I find myself looking at many choices with the same eye. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and sharing your thoughts.

  2. Candyce says:

    I love the way you describe this process. I’ve heard about the book, but wasn’t moved to try it until I read what you wrote. Thank you.

    • I am so glad the sense of how it feels came through in my description and inspired you. I was surprised at how much insight emerged in the process and how much emotion was able to flow more freely. I can imagine that you might find it to be similarly profound. Thank you for taking the time to read and share your response, Candyce.

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