Marie Kondo is taking the world by storm — again. First, it was with her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Now, it’s with the brand new Netflix show. Both forms of entertainment entail, well, tidying up. Cleaning out your kitchen, garage, and even your closet in a Kondo-like way that entails throwing everything on the floor and folding in a very specific way.
But Marie Kondo’s idea of keeping items that “spark joy” is by far the most memorable part of both the book and the show. The Japanese organizing queen tells people to hold every item individually and see if it “sparks joy.” If it does, you keep it. If it doesn’t you thank it for being in your life and put it in the giveaway pile.
While the idea is great in theory, I see it as being extremely flawed. No item can hold your joy. In fact, as Brooke Castillo, a brilliant life-coach and the host of The Life Coach School Podcast, explains, joy is an emotion inside of you while pleasure is what comes from an outside source. Basically, you are in control of your joy and pleasure is an outside force. That’s what I think Marie Kondo gets wrong when it comes to style.
Clothing does not hold or spark joy. You control your joy. Giving that kind of power to a clothing item is dangerous. It gives the clothing power over you. If that item sparks joy in you, you’ll never want to give it away. Because now you have an emotional attachment to it. You are stuck thinking that you owe you joy (even if it’s just in the tiniest sense) to that item. In reality, clothing will never give you that feeling.
You give yourself the feeling of joy.
By all means, let your clothing give you pleasure. It should! Finding your personal style should bring a great sense of satisfaction. I am a huge proponent of finding pleasure in your sense of style. Feeling that sense of pleasure in your personal style is how you know that you got it right. That you’ve found the style that best matches you.
The problem is when we confuse pleasure for joy, which is what I believe that Marie Kondo has done. Like I stated before, pleasure comes from the outside while joy comes from within. The Collins English Dictionary says that “a pleasure is an activity, experience, or aspect of something that you find very enjoyable or satisfying.”
“Seeking too much pleasure outside of yourself can be at the expense of joy,” Brooke Castillo says. “So many of us try to compensate for our lack of joy with pleasure.”
My best friend was at one point in time Kondo-ized. She would walk around the thrift store with me, holding onto items and seeing if they brought her joy. Spoiler alert: a lot of things brought her joy. She was no closer to finding her personal style and walked out spending a pretty penny. While she thought that she had joy, she really just had an abundance of pleasure.
I by no means think that my friend was trying to compensate her lack of joy with pleasure. She was, however, confusing the two. She got a great feeling from the items that she was holding, but it wasn’t joy — it was pleasure. My friend found an aspect of the clothing satisfying, but she would need to — and does — create her own joy.
Finding your personal style is no easy feat. It takes time and patience, so it only make sense that people would want to announce that something “sparks joy” to make things a little easier to hold on to. But I believe that it’s a cop-out. You are selling yourself short by looking for joy outside yourself. Instead, build a wardrobe that is so spot on that you can actually see yourself in every single outfit. The real you. The truest form of you.
Because the joy is already inside you. You don’t have to put it on every morning.
I do agree with one aspect that Marie Kondo teaches though — respecting and honoring your clothing. The act of valuing an object is important to me. Do I thank my clothing every time I put them on? No. But I do honor them enough to mend my clothing items when it tears, instead of throwing it into the landfill. That’s one lesson that I can definitely get behind.
So next time that your holding an item in your hands, don’t ask yourself if it brings you joy. Manifest that joy inside yourself, put on the outfit, and see if you can see the joy in yourself. That’s the only way to master your style.