Sparks of Joy

The emerald green color had faded. The hem was somewhat frayed. The sleeves were a little tight. The old shirt stared at me as I was working my way through the closet and picking out things to give away. I knew there was no point in trying the thing on for the hundredth time – it hadn’t gotten less tight or old with the years. I had really liked the shirt at one time and worn it a lot but it really should have gone to the ‘give-away’ pile years ago.

I tried to figure out why the shirt was still in my closet. I had read about home organization guru Marie Kondo and her approach to cleaning and tidying – so I thought I would try. Kondo maintains that foundationally, we have relationships with our belongings, and we should spend some time figuring out which ones elicit strong feelings in us and which ones do not, so our lives don’t become cluttered. She calls it “sparks of joy”. I closed my eyes and held the old green shirt in my hand. I envisioned myself wearing it. No sparks of joy. Ok then, easy – throw-away pile it is. My hands were strangely reluctant and nudged the shirt back toward the closet. Interesting. I closed my eyes again and ran my fingers over the shirt. Ragged edge, stitching…slightly different stitching. I opened my eyes. There it was. My Mom had mended the shirt when she was visiting me, perhaps 10 years ago.

It’s not like I never see my Mom – I talk to her on Skype all the time, and I see her when I visit my home country every couple of years. We have a good relationship. She sends me things, so there is no need for the old shirt to remind me of her.

When I thought about it further, I realized there was more to it. My Mom, while still in relatively good health, no longer likes long travels. She has told me on more than one occasion that she doesn’t expect to undertake another trans-Atlantic journey from Europe. It has made me strangely sad. I don’t think it will change the frequency of me seeing her. But she will never again go through my closet and give her opinion on the clothes I wear. Or pick oranges from my tree. Or mend another shirt that I like but has loose stitching. Or plant new flowers in my garden.

I miss the thought of my Mom in my house. So, I compensate. I take my iPad to the garden when we Skype so I can show her how my avocado tree has recovered from the frost and how big the rose bush has gotten this year. I call her from the store to ask if I should buy a particular piece of clothing. I hold up the phone if she happens to call me when I am out with my friends so she can say hi (she really hates when I do that).

At the end of the day, I put the green shirt in a different pile in my closet. This is the pile that I keep for my nieces – in case they want to wear anything from there in the future. And I am keeping my own stitching skills alive – so I can offer to mend their clothes when I visit them.

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Self-care tip: Allow for things in your life to have a relationship with you. They don’t replace people but may paint richer shades to your life.

Question: Have you noticed that some things you own have more meaning besides their functionality? Any objects that attach to a special person in your mind? Tell us your story.

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3 thoughts on “Sparks of Joy

  1. Allow for things in your life to have a relationship with you.

    Reminds of the animism of indigenous peoples of North America and Africa. All things, even inanimate, have soul and we share the earth with them and interact with them. They are not objects of capitalism to exploit.

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