Marie Kondo advocates asking yourself if the things that fill your house spark joy. While I don’t live her method, there is something intriguing about asking that question about the items that fill our visual landscape. Many things in my home don’t do that (I suppose I find it hard for spoons and forks to greatly spark joy in me—yet they are pretty useful for eating), but it is perhaps more interesting to consider the things that do fall into that category.
During the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of time at home. But given this abundance of time at home, I notice that my affections continue to be drawn to particular things in my home and I find once again compelled to acknowledge that beautiful, practical (and impractical) items are so helpful for ushering joy into our lives.
For example, I have a wooden serving tray and it is perhaps odd the number of times I stop to admire the varying grains that run across and throughout the wood. Either as I’m arranging food on it or washing it off, I generally am thinking, “This is so beautiful.”
Or I have a serving bowl that was handpainted in Italy that I purchased last summer while in Assisi. The bright colors that fill the interior bring me a thrill of joy every time I fill it with salad or an array of fruit. As I use it, I frequently remember the peace of Assisi, the quiet of the streets during our time there, and the beauty of being in a place so old.
Or there is a coffee mug I purchased (probably unnecessarily) within the past year that I love to look at maybe even more than I like to drink from. The beautiful rose design, the delicate Fiat that reminds me to keep saying Yes to the Lord, and the exquisite detail captures my attention over and over again.
There are many more things I could share about: the elegant gold-embossed books on the shelf, the wooden salad servers that delight me each time I place them on a bed of lettuce, the dark brown coffee table with a burlap runner, the sturdy white mixing bowl with a classy set of blue lines wrapped around it, and the icons of Jesus and Mary that are filled with deeply rich colors and set off by golden halos. If I stop and take it in, there are numerous glimpses of beauty that surround me every day.
What is the point of all of this?
The concept isn’t too deep, but I am simply emphasizing that bits of beauty in our homes and offices enrich our lives. This doesn’t mean expensive things or excessive amounts of things. Instead, they are little, ordinary reminders that life itself is filled with beauty right alongside the suffering and trials. Beautiful craftsmanship of practical household items can spark joy into simple moments of setting the table, washing dishes, or opening your home in hospitality.
I’m not Marie Kondo and I don’t really follow or know all of the practices she advocates. But I appreciate the idea that what surrounds us should work to spark joy and bring new life into us. While my cutlery, dishwasher, and dining room chairs don’t cause me to bubble over with joy, it is good that some ordinary things do because so much of our life and path to holiness happens in these ordinary moments and ordinary activities. The Church has fashioned the liturgical year to spend most of the time not in feasting or fasting seasons but in Ordinary Time. So why not let the ordinary be filled with beauty as we walk the path to Beauty?
What in your life is beautiful and sparks joy in you?