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I might have a mild obsession with books that promise to be life changing. I believe every one of them. I get sucked in. I do all the things they tell me, then convince other people that they need to read them too. I’m always slightly disappointed when other people don’t experience the same earth-shattering revelations that I do. They should!
When I reflect on some of these books, I realise that not all them were maybe sensible. With many of them I did not need my life changed in that way. It was actually fine already. Most of these sorts of books are not even good. Some of them are short, poorly-written and with little substance.
One book is different though. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo did actually change my life. Well at least it changed how I view things (and I mean all things) in my life.
At its absolute core it is a book about how to tidy up your house. The author Marie Kondo talks you through her programme to tidy your home. There are several elements to the process and a series of activities to complete. The end result is a tidy house that never needs tidying again. Great eh?
The book breaks down the mammoth task of organising your home into categories. You start with clothes and work your way through to sentimental items. Unlike other tidying up books this one recommends that you work in categories rather than rooms, so this means gathering up all the cushions from your entire house and then deciding which to keep and which to let go. And you do that with everything!
Despite being a practical guide to tidying up, it is underpinned by the idea of keeping only the things that “spark joy.” And that phrase is the most powerful part of this book. Stop now and just look around you. Do the things around you make you happy? Do you love all of them? If not, why have you got them?
When you start to analyse your possessions like this you realise that you will not settle for second best. It is not OK to accept a life surrounded by stuff that you don’t love. There is always a version of that stuff that you would like more. There’s a version that you would love!
No! For one, when you declutter your home I recommend selling as much of it as you can. It might not “spark joy” for you but that doesn’t mean that it won’t for someone else. I made hundreds of pounds when I Konmari’ed (that’s what its called) our house. I sold clothes, furniture, toys, books, all sorts. I then used this money to fund replacements for anything that I felt I needed but was not sparking joy.
Once you get going with the process, you will find the Konmari spreads into all areas of your life. You look not just at physical things but at everything. For example I Konmari’ed my email inbox. I was getting emails from every company I’d ever bought something from and those emails annoyed me. I got rid of them. I unsubscribed. Now I don’t have to look at them any more. I did the same for my finances. And saved loads!
Well, I looked at everything that I was spending. I looked at the variable costs, all the little treats I was buying myself or the impulse purchases and decided whether spending that money on those things brought me joy. I decided that at the time they brought me a small amount of happiness, but afterwards those purchases just made me sad. Either I regretted buying that item or I had already consumed or used it and retrospectively I’d rather have had the money instead.
When I look at my fixed costs it was a bit more difficult. Paying my water bill for one, does not spark any joy at all. But I realised that I could get some joy from trying to reduce it. Therefore I worked hard to try and bring this cost down and found that achieving that goal was where the joy could be found.
With other fixed costs I found that there were ways that I could get rid of them. Subscriptions were an easy one to review. I looked at our entertainment subscriptions and considered each one and the amount of joy it brought to our family. There were some that we had been holding on to but weren’t using so I cancelled them. The money brings me joy in new ways.
If every time you go to spend money you ask yourself “does this spark joy?” you’ll find that you’ll be very reluctant to let that money go. You’ll actively look for ways to make your money go further so that you can keep some of it and still have the things in your life that make you happy. But surprisingly, I found that I just wanted less stuff. More stuff does not equal happiness.
Well that’s not true. But it is not just about tidying-up STUFF. It’s about evaluating your life, deciding what is worthy and only letting those things in your life. When you do this throughout your life, you’ll find that there’s a lot more joy sparking moments.
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent financial advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.
Looking After Your Pennies is an eco-friendly personal finance blog written and managed by Charlotte Jessop.
I write on a variety of topics including frugal lifestyle, eco-friendly living, money making ideas and generally how to make your money go further.