What Does 'Sparking Joy' Mean? Marie Kondo's Method Explained

Marie Kondo has made a name for herself internationally thanks to her famous KonMari method.

For those unfamiliar, the KonMari method is made up of her core principles approaching tidying and decluttering your home. These teachings are featured in her global bestselling books The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Spark Joy, and Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Kondo's latest project Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo is out on Netflix on August 31. This will see her applying these principles to help people who struggle to balance work and home life.

The most elementary of the rules that make up the method is the idea that you must only keep and make space for items that "spark joy."

Newsweek spoke to two KonMari consultants to find out what "sparking joy" means and how you know when you feel it.

What Is 'Sparking Joy'?

In the first episode of 'Tidying Up with Marie Kondo', speaking via her translator, Kondo explains: "The ultimate goal of tidying is really to learn to cherish everything that you have."

When decluttering, Kondo encourages putting all of your items in one place so you are confronted with just how many you have, and then keeping only those that spark joy.

She describes this in the show as feeling like your "cells are rising."

Joanna and Marie Kondo on Sparking Joy
Joanna is helped to find the items that 'spark joy' while tidying with Marie Kondo on new Netflix series 'Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo' Netflix

"You feel it when you hold a puppy, or when you wear your favorite outfit," she continues. "It's a warm and positive feeling."

Speaking to Newsweek, KonMari Consultant at Spark Joy London Katrina Hassan explained that it's a unique and personal experience.

"The concept of 'spark joy' is at times, a difficult concept to understand. What sparks joy for one person doesn't necessarily spark joy for another," she said.

"Joy is a very personal feeling. My clients keep items because simply having them and observing them in their home is a source of happiness. They also keep items because of their practicality. Therefore, people have their own joy criteria or 'joy spectrum' when considering all of the items that fill their home."

For some this can manifest as a feeling of peace, comfort, nostalgia or excitement. Often when people working with Hassan experience this feeling they begin to tell her that item's story.

The feeling can be different too depending on the item, according to KonMari Consultant at The Organised Home & Life, Mimi Bogelund.

"The spark you feel when choosing your favorite sweater, dress or coat that you always look and feel your best in, is different from choosing your battered yet totally dependable, much used and loved Le Creuset pot," Bogelund said.

"Something can spark joy because of what it allows you to do – say a laptop that earns you a living, a screwdriver that helps you fix things and so on."

Ignoring practical considerations like how much you paid for something and listening only to your feelings can be difficult for many in the beginning, but as Kondo explains "your sensitivity to joy will be honed through the tidying process."

Marie Kondo appears in her Netflix show
Marie Kondo appearing in episode three of her new Netflix show 'Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo' Netflix

Hassan called the uncertainty over whether something sparks joy the "tidying wall," and suggested putting these items aside and returning to them later.

You can also try comparing similar items that have sparked joy with those you are unsure about.

In the KonMari method, tidying always begins with clothes. Bogelund agrees that these are a good place start and find what sparks joy for you.

"Don't overthink it and keep in mind there isn't a right or wrong way to learn, just keep on practicing. Think about how something makes you feel. You could also ask yourself further questions to help you before it's instinctive.

"When did you last wear it? Does it fit well and is it comfortable? Can you wear it without giving it a further thought or are you constantly adjusting it? Is it easy to get dressed wearing this? How many do you have of this? Would you buy it again?"

What Do I Do If Something Doesn't Spark Joy?

If an item doesn't spark joy for you, then according to the KonMari method it's time to say goodbye.

When you do this, you must thank or express gratitude to the items you won't be keeping.

If you struggle with decluttering, doing this can help bring some closure.

"It's just a small moment to show gratitude for having enough, for something that has 'given good service', for something that has taught me not to buy on impulse or on sale," Bogelund said.

She recommended having an "exit plan" to make the process as easy as possible and trying to dispose of things sustainably by recycling, donating or selling unwanted items and only discarding as a last resort.

"Plan to get it out of your home on the same day if possible and allocate time on the day to deliver it or have a collection arranged."

All episodes of Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo are available to stream on Netflix now.

Marie Kondo cleans a box
Marie Kondo cleans a plastic container while appearing on her new Netflix show 'Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo' Netflix