Things That Give Us Joy

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Recently, I read Marie Kondo’s book on de-cluttering. She said keep only things that give you “joy.” I started to think beyond desk drawers.

Much in life is optional. Some things don’t give me joy (like cleaning the cat box) but I must do them. Those are non-optional. So, why do I clutter my life with optional things that don’t give pleasure? I may have enjoyed them in the past but that is no longer the case; or they never made me happy yet I still keep doing or keeping it. Why? I get one life. Why fill it with optional things that don’t give me happiness?

Let’s use an example. Quilting once gave you joy. It was fun, a challenge. Now, you have 45 quilts, a ton of fabric, and instead of a happy rush, facing the sewing machine is a chore, but you’ve been doing it for so long, you can’t imagine life without making quilts. Quit, with no guilt. Put the sewing machine in a closet and take up a new hobby. Don’t keep quilting because you’re used to it, or people will ask why you gave it up. Only quilt as long as it makes you happy.

Are you attending a group, committee, or class that no longer inspires you? Leave.

Are you reading a book that isn’t a joyful experience? Put it down.

Are you sticking with a television show long past its prime, where all you can do is complain about how good it “used” to be? Turn it off. Find a better show. Or read a book. Play Clue. Take the dog for a walk. Learn how to wood carve.

Is there something in your home, your life, that makes you angry, frustrated, or upset, whenever you look at it? Maybe it’s a 100-year-old piece of rusting farm equipment collecting weeds in the yard. Or the couch you hate. Or a porch rail falling apart. Or the old shed your grandfather installed that you think is hideous. No amount of paint can make that sow’s ear into a silk purse.

What is it and what can you do about it? Can you get rid of it? Give it away? Haul it off? Find someone to take it for scrap metal?

I keep “junk” in my life for two reasons:

1) I paid money for it so I feel I should “use” it;

2) I’m afraid to let it go.

If I spent too much on something, having it around is a reminder of that mistake. Once I give it away, I can move on because it’s no longer taunting me with my foolishness. It’s not a daily reminder that I splurged. If I have a ton of crafting stuff and no desire to craft, giving it away means it’s no longer there to make me feel guilty for not being interested in crafting anymore. It frees up shelf space.

I may hold on to an object, relationship, or hobby because I don’t know what life is like without it. What will Tuesdays be like without that group? What if this hobby is all I’m good at? Maybe it’s been there so long I can’t imagine the room devoid of it, even if I dislike it. I’m afraid if I let go, I’ll never find something better to replace it with.

I must give myself the freedom to explore and try new things or I’ll be bored and unhappy. Often, removing an object, routine, habit, or item from my life relieves me. The human psyche is complex. Things bother me without my awareness. I may not know that’s what was bothering me until it’s gone. After six years of hating a closet in my guest room, I had it torn out. Then I realized the reason I hated that room was because the floor to ceiling closet, with heavy finger-mashing doors, gave me claustrophobia. I turned the guest room into a TV room and use it every day. What made me miserable now gives me joy.

What are you holding onto that doesn’t give you joy? Is it clutter? An old tractor? A book club that is habit rather than pleasure? The unfinished novel whose presence says you’re a failure? An expensive item that keeps guilt alive? A hobby no longer fun? A relationship that makes you feel more dread than happiness whenever you meet for lunch?

What are the things that drag you down, and what can you do about them?

20 Replies to “Things That Give Us Joy”

  1. What interesting timing. I’m catching up on reading all the posts I’ve missed over the past six weeks or so, slowly, and so today I read this post of yours from almost two months ago… and just this morning, I realized that the way I was going to be able to let go of a bunch of things I’ve been holding onto is to admit, “I don’t want this anymore.” So often, I hold onto stuff because, hey, if I didn’t want it, I wouldn’t have bought it, right? And I have realized that just because I wanted something at one time, that doesn’t mean I want it anymore. This has been really liberating, and I’m figuring out some great ways to declutter and downsize, which I’m always seeking to do, both with my own things and my kids’.

    And then I read this post of yours, and it fits so nicely with my realization — cool timing!

    1. It helps me to remember we have seasons in our lives; and if we loved that item (or hobby or television show or whatever) for awhile, if it gave us joy then, it was neither a waste of our time nor our resources — but it’s fine to move on from it.

      (Serendipity! ;))

  2. About six months before Marie Kondo’s book became popular, I read it. And went through my house item by item and got rid of everything in it which did not bring me joy.

    Once out from under all of that “stuff”? I had energy. And was able to see (clearly) that we had outgrown our house. And we *hated* it. But we’d been accustomed to the house. We’d been there for over nine years. It was familiar. But (bottom line, and this is key) we hated it.

    So I did some research, narrowed the field to two choices – took a deep breath – and toured new homes.

    Upon walking in to our current home – I had cried. It was so beautiful. And so joyful! We put a deposit down (right then) and gave our 30 day notice 30 days early. (We gave a 61 day notice, actually.) We’ve been here, now, for over a year…

    It’s funny what considering what brings you joy will do! It seems such a small thing but the lessons (as you also saw) are further reaching than we imagine.

    (Luckily I had “decluttered” over 5,000 books *ahead* of moving!! I was certainly joyful not lugging all of those books over to our new place at any rate!)
    🙂

    1. I admire your courage — that’s a big step between “I hate this lamp, I want it out of here” and “I hate this house.” But it also makes sense — you might assume you hate a house, because of the stuff in it; but if there’s no stuff in it, and you still hate the house — why not get rid of it? (Or do what my parents do: build on, tear out a wall, move a door, add windows, or somehow make it into something you love.)

      1. We had long hated the house. (You might remember my mentioning information regarding that subject in a different place on the Internet…) but it was the clearing of the house which really made me see that there would be nothing that I could *do* with the house to ever make me like it. (Landlords would have frowned on me building on, tearing out a wall, moving a door or adding windows. *grins*)

        But it was interesting to go through the process and stand there at the end and say “this place brings us NO joy. Why are we here?” and then realize it was time to move on. Finally.

        A big portion of the lesson brings self-awareness (which improves self-esteem). I finally saw that we had been beaten down by our possessions. (It is, in fact, possible to own too many things!)

        So we were able to bless a church with usable items (which went to those in need in the congregation as well as some items were put up for sale in their charity shop) and we were able to move on from the items that were (literally) holding us back.

        I shared pictures with a group on FB and was surprised when the overall reaction to the pictures from the first house and the pictures of this house were “It doesn’t even look like the same family lived in those homes!” It’s true. The difference is astounding.

        It’s been nice to decorate our new home. You might remember how much I always enjoyed the personal touches you applied to your home with such loving devotion.
        🙂

        1. I think superficial stuff distracts us from the underlining problem. It’s kind of like if in a relationship, you’re sniping at each other over menial things, it’s suggestive of a deeper emotional disconnect.

          Having too much “stuff” in my guest room made me think I disliked that room for that reason; taking it all out made me realize I hated the closet. Once I got rid of that, it made me wonder — did my grandmother feel the same sense of oppression living in this room? Did it feed her paranoia and depression?

          Our homes have SUCH a huge emotional impact on us, and we’re not even aware of it most of the time. Does that color make us unhappy? Do we feel unsafe with such high ceilings? Many people hate being home, but don’t realize, it’s because they have too much stuff, or the house is laid out wrong, or the paint color makes them nervous, or being so disorganized makes them anxious.

  3. I keep things far past wanting them because I’m afraid of wanting them in the future and not having them. Coming from comparative poverty, I’m not used to being able to just go out and buy a replacement thing if I end up needing it. I also keep things because I once loved them, or someone dear to me gave them to me, so there is indeed a bit of guilt in even contemplating getting rid of them.
    I recommend to anyone in such a situation: move to another country by plane with no shipping container for household items. I moved to Belgium three months ago, and I spent the two years previous getting rid of things, and my goodness, it was wonderful. I had a good excuse to get rid of things I no longer cared about but had felt guilty about getting rid of before, and then I also had to get rid of things I was mildly fond of and then things I quite liked and it was a bit of a wrench to get rid of. I was left with a stack of boxes of books and a few other things in a storage compartment and took with me three fifty-pound tubs of assorted items, four fifty-pound boxes of books, a suitcase, and a carryon (full of books). Now I have nothing I don’t love.

    1. It seems to be a good rule of thumb that if you don’t use something in four years, it’s safe to give it away (clothes, electric appliances, kitchen gadgets, etc). Sometimes, though, we accumulate so much stuff that we forget we have something! With less stuff around, we notice what we have and may use it more (ie, the tea maker I forgot I had!).

      Goodness! I can see why such a move would force you to get rid of stuff! It’s surprising what we can LIVE WITHOUT, when we have no choice — and yes, it does lift a burden from our heart.

      Perhaps God said to “store up treasures in heaven” not merely to encourage us to avoid accumulating stuff for its own sake, but because He knew long before we did that “stuff” weighs us down emotionally. It may be broader than “worship of clutter,” and more simplistic at the same time — ie, “You’ll feel better, having less stuff.”

      Marie Kondo says keep nothing that doesn’t fill you with joy, if it’s optional — if that ragged shirt makes you happy, keep it. Wear it until it falls apart.

      You must love your books!

      I’m glad to hear from you, btw! I wondered how things were with you. 🙂

      1. Two months after your comment…Thanks! Less than a month ago I started teaching theology at an international Bible college here in Belgium. I dearly adore it. I’ve been working toward it just about my whole life.

  4. Great post, Charity. There is much truth to this. Wise words: it’s always okay to let a once-loved hobby go (if you no longer enjoy it), and sometimes we discover we have new passions. I scrapbooked for YEARS, and while I probably would enjoy it now and again today a. we no longer take random family photos (snapshots) and b. the effort of hauling out all the supplies is a bit overwhelming. Instead, now my creative personality is about writing, playing with graphic design and of course, working with jewelry.

    On a more basic level (I appreciate that you looked deeper), we’re in a serious de-clutter, let’s-try-to-be-more-organized mode. Right now it’s in its “off” phase because we’re busy with other projects, but getting rid of stuff makes is kind of like a weight off my shoulders because I love the feeling of getting rid of the things we haven’t needed/wanted or made any use off in years (sometimes 10, 15 or 20!). Once a year I go through all of my books and “unhaul” them. Now, my latest frustration is that they’re still sitting in boxes in my office (and upstairs hallway). Clearly, I still have a problem in that I’m still storing them. Too bad the used bookstore is two hours away. 🙂

    1. I scrap-booked for awhile too. I kept some of the stuff, which is good, since Mom uses it to embellish her art now — but by in large, my house is lighter for me not storing a thousand tons of paper and glitter!

      Since we live an hour and something away from town, I get the whole “burdened by give away boxes” thing. Often we fill a van full of stuff, then take it all to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, and let them deal with it. Make a day of it. Haul your books into town, and see a movie. Have dinner. Something to celebrate liberation from STUFF!

  5. Great reminder, Charity! I think I struggle most with feeling that I “should” finish the personal projects I’ve started, even if I’m not enjoying them or getting any satisfaction out of them. Because I guess I want to be known as somebody with perseverance? Or maybe I want to feel INSIDE that I have perseverance? But, like you said here, I’ve been starting to realize how important it is not to waste time on stuff that doesn’t make me happy. The feeling of “I finished it” isn’t necessarily worth the lack of enjoyment. If there’s no other reason to finish it, then it really IS okay to put it down . . .

    1. I refuse to admit defeat, that’s my problem. I try too hard, too long, and too often… and in the process, waste my time, energy, and emotions, on something that isn’t going to work in the long term.

      SIGH.

      I have to push myself to finish things, or I’d procrastinate and never do anything at all. But NOT DOING things makes me even less joyful than doing them.

      I’m reminded of Brandon in Sense & Sensibility — “Give me occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I’ll run mad.”

      I’ve had a bit too much free time lately, and I hate it. Nothing to do leaves me a total grouch.

      1. Whenever I’m bored/down/depressed (they go together), I usually end up starting a new writing project. Which always cheers me up–even if the project doesn’t ultimately “gel” the way I’d hoped it would. Just having the idea, and playing around with it to see if it CAN work, always makes me happy.

        1. It’s good you know yourself well enough to have a “quick fix,” or a way to get yourself out of a slump. Whether the project is ever finished is less important than it doing its original task — making you happy. 🙂

  6. This is good stuff. Just yesterday I was reading a philosophy book because I know nothing about philosophy. But halfway through, I realized that I had retained almost nothing and the book was very dry. So I wasn’t learning or having fun. Drop.
    I especially like what you said about buyer’s remorse, and that getting rid of the thing you wasted money on will cast out that constant reminder. Nicely done.

    1. Yeah, if it’s boring you AND you’re learning nothing… put it down.

      Talented writers know how to make a topic interesting, by finding a unique angle or way to make you remember something, but a lot of informative books are just… dry.

      Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

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