The poem from which the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony draws (maybe you know it), Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy, starts “Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity…”
Joy, spark; where have I heard that recently? One of the reasons Marie Kondo’s advice for tidying your home by decluttering (i.e., disposing of) items that don’t “spark joy” is controversial, not to mention tough to follow, is that sparking joy, as a criterion, is nebulous as all hell. Schiller seemed to think it involved the Divine, for chrissake.
Kondo advises, in her books and Netflix show, to hone your sense of what sparks joy by decluttering in a prescribed order: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and finally, sentimental items. The logic being, you should figure out what item-related joy feels like before you start chucking family photos.
But what about us drips for whom there’s going to be significant overlap between the first and last categories? I gotta START with clothes, Marie?
To help, I’ve developed a scale of joy sparking, with 1 being the lowest and 10 sparking hella joy.
- When you hold this item, you actually feel despair. The item extinguishes joy. It’s a shirt you thought you looked great in but then you saw the photos from that night and woo, boy.
- The item reminds you of failure. It’s a pair of pants you ordered that didn’t fit but you didn’t return them in time and now, here we are.
- An item kept for reasons of obligation that are short of sentimental. It’s a tie bought for you by someone who heard you were “into clothes.”
- Something you got a great deal on but have never actually worn out of the house.
- An item you feel indifferent about. It doesn’t meet a clear need or satisfy your exacting aesthetic criteria. It’s not ugly, exactly? It’s probably a J. Crew shirt.
- The item seems to spark some joy! Although it could be just static electricity.
- The item isn’t amazing, but you wear it all the time. Like a nice OCBD. It’s worth owning, but not really a point of distinction.
- This is in the regular rotation. It’s really flattering, and your Instagram of a fit featuring this piece was in your top nine last year.
- This one is pretty special. You feel like a million bucks when you wear it. It’s a solid leather jacket, or a pair of jeans that are finally at that perfect stage of wear between still-in-progress and crotch-beyond-repair.
- A true grail. Something you really wanted, and you got, and now you relish wearing it. Keep it? Heck, hang it on a matte black steel clothing rack in the living room.
If it’s not clear, I’m recommending chucking (or at least setting aside to see if you miss it, the half measure of the true hoarder) anything scoring a 5 or below. Now throw on some Beethoven (or maybe something cooler; some jazz?) and start cleaning house.