United Way
of Whatcom County

SPARKING JOY. Will the KonMari Method change the world?

April 18, 2020

Staff Writer: Tera Contezac

My co-worker, Lisa, and I were recently connecting over best-selling author and Netflix sensation Marie Kondo. If you aren’t yet familiar with Kondo, you owe it to yourself to make “Tidying Up” your next Netflix binge. KonMari is more than a method; it’s a lifestyle – a lifestyle that boils down to one thing: choosing joy.

Kondo asks her clients to go through their belongings and to keep only those items that spark joy. There’s more to it than that, of course. Her method has specific rules for categorizing items, the order in which items should be sifted through, specific organization techniques, etc., but, the purpose behind all of it is to lead a more joyful life.

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As millions of KonMari fans, like Lisa and myself, haul non-joy-sparking items to donation centers by the carload, we can imagine the possibilities our new focus on joy will bring. What if this simple act of committing to a life with less things can change not just individual lives, but entire communities?

Come along for a fictional walk through what could very well be one person’s KonMari impact:

Jane finishes sorting through her clothing. She takes the clothes that no longer spark joy for her to YWCA’s Back-to-Work Boutique. Meanwhile, Erin has been trying to find work for several months following an unexpected lay-off that turned her life upside-down and left her unable to pay rent. She finally gets an interview, but doesn’t have anything professional to wear. Her former job required a uniform, so she never really needed business attire. Thanks to Jane’s donation to the Back-to-Work Boutique, Erin is able to pick out an outfit that helps her look the part and gives her the confidence she needs to put her best foot forward. She lands the job and is able to get back on her feet.

When Jane gets to her camping gear, she decides the older of her two sleeping bags no longer brings her joy. It’s in good shape, but she really loves her upgrade. She schedules a donation drop-off with Northwest Youth Services and takes them the sleeping bag. They give it to Ben, a young adult recently aged out of the foster system and now experiencing homelessness. Ben can now focus on other basic needs and worry less about keeping warm at night.

Staff at Northwest Youth Services organize clothing donations for redistribution to youth in need.


Jane’s an empty-nester. While going through her kitchen items, she comes up with a whole box of bakeware that sparked tons of joy while her kids were still at home, but just doesn’t have that same effect anymore. She packs another box with dishes. Jane takes the perfectly good items to Goodwill and to Wise Buys, a thrift store run by Lydia Place. The items are sold to families who want them and the proceeds help fund Goodwill’s Adult Basic Education and Job Training Program and Lydia Place’s housing and parent support programs. Amanda utilizes supports from both programs. She and her toddler live at Lydia Place while she relies on Goodwill to prepare her for her GED test.

Jane’s last task is to go through sentimental items. Her late husband was a photographer. She decides to save his very first camera, which sparks joy for her. She boxes up the rest of his equipment and sends it to Mighty Good Things Foundation. Mighty Good Things sells donated items online. All proceeds go to the donor’s selected charity. Jane selects us as her charity.


Jane finishes tidying her home. She feels calm and joyful. What’s more? She feels refreshed by her new outlook.

When her birthday rolls around, she decides she has everything she needs and that a new sweater from her son or a new tote bag from her friend really won’t bring her more joy. She hops on Facebook and launches a fundraiser asking her friends and family members to donate the money they would have spent on a birthday gift to charity instead.


Jane’s Facebook fundraiser wraps up, and the photography equipment she sent to Mighty Good Things Foundation has been sold online. Facebook and Mighty Good Things send us the funds raised and the proceeds gained. We invest them in our Community Impact Fund. Jane’s simple acts now help support our network of local non-profit programs providing services to more than 50,000 Whatcom County Residents.

Replace the names. Change a few details. This story could be you. The people helped could be real people in our community. Even if the full KonMari method isn’t for you, you can make at least one donation or start at least one birthday fundraiser. When you live joyfully, others will too.