Doesn’t spark joy? Don’t toss it – yet!


March 21, 2019

Combining Marie Kondo’s “joy” while maximizing your wallet

“Does it spark joy?”

With that one question, Marie Kondo launched a mass home organizing movement around the world. By now, we’ve all heard it. Between the millions of sales of her home-organizing books and the launch of a Netflix series, Kondo’s system for cleaning out and setting up a home is seemingly everywhere. And though many people have found cleaner, calmer homes by following her tips and tricks, her system doesn’t always lead to the best financial decisions.

If you make decisions about what to keep and what to throw out based solely on the concept of “sparking joy,” you may find yourself throwing out things you actually need, or items you could financially benefit from saving with just a bit of forethought. But these and other mistakes are avoidable, in the end, with slightly more nuanced decision making. Next time you ask yourself whether or not an item sparks joy for you, consider the following questions, too:

Will you need it in a different season?

That cozy—but a little dated—winter sweater isn’t going to bring out much happiness if it’s springtime. But, winter will come around again, and you might regret not having enough warm sweaters. Plus, you don’t want to end up throwing out a perfectly usable item. Especially if you know you’ll eventually just have to go out and replace. That’s money you could spend on something else that brings you joy, instead! (On the flip side, if you have it in your budget to replace your cold weather gear every other year, don’t be ashamed. Just make sure you’ve planned for expenses.)

Can you pass it on to a younger kid—in a couple of years?

Your younger kids may like something an older one has lost interest in—but not necessarily today. Keep a box of toys and books that they can “shop” in years to come. This is even something you can take to the community level, inviting friends, neighbors, and classmates to have “swaps” where everybody brings unwanted items and then exchanges.

Are you able to use it for another purpose?

You may not like using those worn out towels, but your dog might not mind. Some of a drawer-full of Tupperware could be you used to store items in other parts of the house. Do your kids need boxes to organize their toys, beads, or stuffed animals? Could you use an old toothbrush as an under-the-nails scrubber after cooking something messy? Thinking this way has an additional benefit of being better for the environment. Repurposing plastic bags, writing grocery lists on the back of open mail, or refilling the same travel-size toiletries over and over again are all great ways of reducing waste and saving money.   

Can you sell it for more money at a different time of year?

Thrift shops often want to keep seasonal clothes in stock, and may not have a big warehouse or storage space to keep out of season clothes. You’ll have a better chance of selling your clothes (or other items) for more if you sell them in season.

Could you regift it?

Whether for a birthday or a holiday, regifting—done right—can be a great way of finding items more loving homes. Also, it can save you from the expense of buying a new present. If a well-meaning aunt always seems to pick out a not-quite-right birthday gift for your child, don’t hesitate to pass it along to a kid that will actually enjoy it.

Will you pass it on to your children once they’re grown up?

Items that are made to last may go in and out of fashion. However, if you know you want to pass along a well-made leather jacket, high-quality (adult-sized) bicycle, or family heirloom, then it may be worth holding onto. It may even gain in value. Just be sure you shouldn’t hold onto every last thing, just in case it becomes “vintage!” You don’t want to end up with a garage filled with junk nobody is ever going to want.

Do you actually, really “need” it, in the end?

Sure, maybe you’d love to just toss those eardrops the dog goes berserk over, but at the end of the day, he needs his medication! Same goes for so many other necessities, from healthy foods to basics you don’t have the budget to replace to items that keep you safe. You don’t want to be caught in the rain without an umbrella; in a snowstorm without snow boots; in a blackout without spare batteries or a flashlight.

By combining these questions with that gut decision—whether or not something sparks joy—is the recipe for a happier, more organized home, without making financial choices you might regret. There are many points to consider when weighing whether to keep or toss any particular item. Taking a moment to reflect on what makes you keep or eliminate an item is worthwhile—and good for your wallet.

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