“Sparks Joy” or “Serves Purpose”?


A new client and I have had a jolly time decluttering, organizing, and moving her into her new home. She has beautiful things that she treasures, and she has a beautiful home, and I must say, she’s a lovely person herself.

Her adult son was coming home, and we bumped up on some of his items (can anyone say, T-shirts?!), and she asked me, “Would you mind going through his things with him?”

“Of course!” I responded.

Then, she offered, “You may want to ask him, ‘Has this served its purpose?’ rather than ‘Does this spark joy?'”

Considering briefly that maybe she knew her son better than I, I said, “Okay, we can try that!”

But it’s been bugging me. Upon reflection, I realized that these are two VERY different questions.

Here’s a story:
When I was decluttering my jewelry, I came upon a necklace that my mother had handed down to me. It’s good quality, not an heirloom or anything, but pretty. But every time I had tried it on, it just did not work. In all honesty, it’s not my style at all. Logically, I may have told myself that this item did not spark joy. But following Marie Kondo’s advice, I held it in my hand, got quiet, checked in, and oddly enough to me, it sparked joy so it stayed.

Months later, I was invited to a 1920s gala. I was planning on buying a costume – I love the 20s. But nothing I shopped for was what I was wanting, so I decided to browse through my own closet. SURE ENOUGH, I had the entire costume, except for the headpiece. I haven’t been to a 1920s party in forever, mind you. And I had never thought of wearing all these various pieces together until this one event! And this was after decluttering like a mad woman over the years.


Looking sassy in my black necklace with life coach and friend, Virginia Bunting!

And sure enough, the necklace was an integral part of the look and got to “serve its purpose” and spark a lot of joy.

So here we go, back to the topic at hand.

Had this necklace served its purpose when I was decluttering? “No.” But that doesn’t mean I should have kept it. After all, think of all the items in your space that have not served its purpose AND NEVER WILL because it was never supposed to be in your space in the first place.

That being said, I know what my sweet client was thinking. Some items are just “tired.” They are complete in your particular household. They have done their job and need to move on.

But trust me, a tired item will not spark joy if you are being honest with yourself. So why change the question?

So, I’ll stick with Marie’s brilliant concept for now. Eliminate confusion on the “purpose thing,” and instead ask every item in your home if it sparks joy (yes or no) so that your space will REFLECT JOY.

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