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Sparking Joy: The KonMari Method for Digital Spaces

Marie Kondo and her approach to “tidying up” is something being talked about a lot these days. It’s inspired so many of us to dig through the clutter in our homes and get rid of so many material items that are not contributing to our happiness. In doing so, we’re allowing more space for joy to exist.

I’ve gone through a few rounds of the KonMari method since her book came out a few years ago. I’ve applied it to clothes, books & miscellaneous items, each time asking myself, does this spark joy? What about it does or doesn’t? Why do I own it if it doesn’t spark joy?

With the recent release of the Netflix series following Marie as she helps people clean up their homes, I started thinking more about this concept of sparking joy. What happens when we start thinking beyond the material items in our lives? What if we start looking at other things to “tidy up” and allowing more space for joy?

Digital Property

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time on your phone. Or your tablet. Or your laptop. Or watching tv. Sometimes I think I spend more time interacting with digital objects in the course of a day than I do with physical ones. My phone is filled with apps, photos, messages, emails, and reminders. My laptop is similar, with files and software on there I never touch.

Just like with physical objects, these virtual objects take up space. They take up room in our hard drives but they also crowd our mental space and potentially our emotional space as well.

I’ve had my iPhone for a few years now. And with it, I’ve taken a ton of photos. But the thing is, a lot of those photos are meaningless to me now. They are photos of something I wanted to share at the time and many are duplicates of the same thing but I no longer need them. I was looking through them all the other day while I was searching for something specific and I realized how bothered I was by all these photos I didn’t want on there. It all felt cluttered to me. Like these photos I didn’t want were blocking my way to the things I did want to see and keep. It’s all very similar to Marie Kondo’s approach to tidying cluttered spaces.

Letting Go

What I needed was to get rid of a lot of them but it felt wrong. I can’t just delete these! What if I’ll need them or want them in the future? It was all starting to sound like my hesitations towards getting rid of that sweater I never wore or that tool kit I might need someday. But in reality, I needed to get rid of them. The photos I didn’t want were blocking all the photos of memories I love and want to be reminded of. The selfies I don’t like or look uncomfortable in, the photo of a mediocre mug of hot chocolate two months ago, the same twenty pictures of waves in Hawaii that will never capture the movement of the ocean, they can all be deleted.

You aren’t obligated to keep that photo of you at your best friend’s birthday party six years ago if you don’t like it.

You can let go of photos that don’t bring you joy and especially those that bring up bad feelings. I mean they’re probably saved in a cloud somewhere anyway if you ever need them but why be reminded of them daily? Keep all the ones that make you laugh, make you smile. Anything that symbolizes happiness.

I used photos as the main example here but this can extend to any virtual property you own. Think about all the apps you don’t use. All the emails you’ve never opened or don’t need. All of that is stuff just like the stuff you’re physically surrounded with. Make your virtual reality less cluttered by deleting what you don’t need or want and make more space for the things you do enjoy. This doesn’t mean that you have to go and delete all your tweets from 2011 (although you could – I’m sure it would feel great) but it does mean you should consider getting rid of messages from exes or friends you no longer speak to. None of that is bringing any joy to your life. If anything, it’s subtracting from it. A constant reminder of something you no longer have. Give yourself permission to let it all go.

The Presences of Clutter

It’s possible you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, my virtual world doesn’t feel crowded. None of this applies to me. And maybe you’re right. But I think it’s a different feeling than the one we get when we’re surrounded by too much physical stuff. It’s more subtle. A cluttered physical space often hinders our ability to do something or prevents you from enjoying the space as much as you could be. A cluttered digital space is a bit different. To me it feels like a presence. I know I have a lot of photos and apps and files and messages. More than I could possibly use or keep track of. I can sense them. I see small reminders of them when I go looking for something but for the most part, they’re tucked away in their own corners.

Virtual worlds are different because they have enough closets and rooms for all of your stuff. They are forever expanding to accommodate your tweets and emails and photos. But the larger that space grows, the less meaningful those things become. The less it becomes a good representation of who you are.

Spring Cleaning Your Digital Home

I want my virtual and online presence to represent who I am and what I love. Just like how I want my physical space to be a representation of the things that bring me joy. To me, that means bringing up my Facebook profile and removing friends I no longer talk to. It means deleting emails and unsubscribing to newsletters I’m no longer interested in. It means giving up on shows I started but didn’t enjoy enough to want to continue. It means deleting apps and software I rarely use, knowing I can get them back easily if I need them. It’s about creating a space for only my favourite things and it’s about giving myself room to enjoy those things.

You interact with your virtual space as much or more than you do with your physical one so it’s important to take care of it. Use the KonMari method of finding what sparks joy. Tidy it up. Open the windows, take out the trash. Hit the delete button a few hundred times and don’t look back.

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