Can you spark joy in your life by tidying?

  • Family
  • Thursday, 18 Jun 2020

KonMari'ing brought Jo-Rushdy (right) and her family to Malaysia two years ago. Photo: Spark Joy & Flow

“Does it spark joy?” is a question that the Japanese KonMari method of tidying encourages people to ask themselves, and that’s what the whole method centres around.

But, more than just a system of tidying, it’s a way of life, says Malaysia’s first certified KonMari consultant Rebecca Jo-Rushdy.

“The KonMari method helps us align our core values and live life in a more meaningful way, ” says the 33-year-old with a host of experience in retail consulting, events and public relations.

According to her, KonMari’ing helps us cherish things that spark joy in our life, and let go of things that no longer do. By doing so, we free up space in our lives for what really matters.

Jo-Rushdy is very hands-on in bringing individuals and families through the KonMari method. Photo: Spark Joy & FlowJo-Rushdy is very hands-on in bringing individuals and families through the KonMari method. Photo: Spark Joy & FlowBut the bubbly consultant doesn’t just guide people through the KonMari method, her life is an example of its many benefits.

“I’m a reformed shopaholic!” she confesses, revealing that she used to receive packages that she didn’t even realise she had ordered.

“Sometimes, we shop mindlessly just to fill a void in our lives, and by KonMari’ing our belongings, we’re able to confront and deal with it, ” she explains.

“The best part is we save money when we buy less, shop smarter (by buying only what we need) and avoid impulse buying.”

But, not only does KonMari’ing help in financial management, there are many other benefits.

Decluttering our physical environment improves cognition, emotions and behavior, and positively affects our decision-making and relationships, Jo-Rushdy says.

Showing gratitude for our belongings – by acknowledging and thanking them for their service, even the items that no longer spark joy – also helps change our outlook on life.

“This practice of gratitude - which is the foundation of the method - is scientifically proven to improve mental and physical health, ” she says.

“KonMari’ing also improves productivity because a tidy space frees up our mind to focus, process information and reduces procrastination, ” she adds.

“But, KonMari isn’t about minimalism or getting rid of everything, ” Jo-Rushdy says. “It’s about surrounding yourself with belongings that bring you joy so that your home becomes a sanctuary that brings out the best in you.”

Founded by Marie Kondo, a Japanese tidying expert who also authored New York Times bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, co-authored Joy At Work, as well as hosted Netflix show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, the method is said to have “extreme side-effects”: people end relationships, change jobs, go vegan or even move countries like (like what happened to Jo-Rushdy).

What had started out as a hobby for Jo-Rushdy five years ago after reading the bestseller and KonMari’ng her friends’ homes for fun, turned into a life calling when she saw how it changed lives.

Jo-Rushdy (left) in action, tidying a bookshelf. Photo: Spark Joy & FlowJo-Rushdy (left) in action, tidying a bookshelf. Photo: Spark Joy & FlowSince February, she has been running her business Spark Joy & Flow.

Jo-Rushdy, who laughingly says her family is somewhat “rojak”, is a third generation Chinese born in Los Angeles (USA) and raised in Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai (China) and New York (USA) due to her father’s work.

The mother of two girls, aged four and six, came to Malaysia two years ago with her family.

“Reading the book led us to KonMari the city we lived in. We took a year-long sabbatical to do some soul searching and decide where we wanted to raise our young family,” she reveals.

Together with their children, Jo-Rushdy and her British-born husband of Irish-Egyptian descent, spent about a month in different places – Taiwan, Japan, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Kenya, several parts of USA – when her husband was suddenly offered a job in KL.

Even though it wasn’t in their plans, after a week checking KL out, with a few days in the tranquil jungle, they decided to take the plunge and stay.

The KonMari method is something that the whole family can do. Jo-Rushdy demonstrates to her child how to fold properly. Photo: Spark Joy & FlowThe KonMari method is something that the whole family can do. Jo-Rushdy demonstrates to her child how to fold properly. Photo: Spark Joy & FlowJo-Rushdy says the method is excellent for families.

“My kids have been KonMari’ing since they were two years old!” she enthuses.

While KonMari’ing with our family, we first need to look inwards and deal with our own clutter before looking at other’s issues because decluttering can be a very personal thing.

“Often, family members feel inspired seeing the effects of each other’s tidying,” she says.

For couples, it’s best to declutter separately and then come together to share their results with each other.

For parents of young children, it’s best to “create a home for every item” because it’s easier to put things back where they belong and saves time looking for items later.

But, the method is not without its challenges.

“One of the biggest challenges people face when trying to KonMari is commitment, ” she says. “But this is also the #1 rule of the method, and that’s what I’m here for – to help people overcome procrastination and be their accountability buddy.”

While 'Tidying Festival' is the foundation work of KonMari, 'Joy Check' is the maintenance where you check in and declutter periodically.

“Once you KonMari your home, you won’t need to do so again, except to Joy Check, ” she says.

“We Joy Check every three months, and at the end of the year when we reflect on what to leave behind and what to carry forward into the New Year,” she adds.

Before the MCO, she thought that her business would revolve around private home visits.

But the past few months have seen her hosting virtual corporate sessions and guiding private clients from around the world online. Jo-Rushdy currently offers private online sessions on a donation basis to benefit Dignity for Children (a school for the underprivileged) where she volunteers.

“The last three months have been a time to Joy Check and reflect on what we want to carry into the new normal,” she concludes.

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