Four ‘Must Haves’ that will save your New Years Resolutions

bookThe confession: I’d heard about this book, but when I started to read it while waiting in a long check out line in December,  it went from being a Christmas gift for my Mom to one of those books that altered the way I saw life. The book is The life-changing magic of tidying up-The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” The writer, Marie Kondo is described in the latest issue of In Style as the Queen of Decluttering. She is only 31 and finds herself in bestseller land. With over 5 million books sold she recently released her second book “ Spark Joy” which is an illustrated Master class in tidying.


As I discussed in my January appearance on North by Northwest on CBC Radio One, where I’m the resident Life Coaching columnist, this book was an epiphany on much more than tidying up for me. Knowing many clients and friends had loved this book, but had failed in execution, I decided to figure out what tripped them up.


To do this, I started working my way through the book, and as my family and I hit roadblocks, I began to see how we all self sabotage the very changes we wish to make.


Whether it is that self help book you always loved but couldn’t seem to ever manage to stick to or your New Years Resolution that needs mouth to mouth resuscitation, these four must haves for change I believe are just what you need to power up change that sticks.


The Four Must Haves are…


1. Does it spark joy?

Author Marie Kondo says in her book that you aren’t looking for what to get rid of, you are deciding what to keep. And to make this decision she tells the reader to “take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does keep it, if not, dispose of it”. This isn’t just a good idea for deciding which socks stay and which ones go. You should apply this to your goals in life too.  What trips us up is that we get in our heads about ‘joy’.   Joy is something you feel. It’s an experience.

Try this: Rediscover what joy feels like with this exercise.


Think back in your life to a time when you were really happy.   Maybe you were on vacation, or at a party, or in nature. Close your eyes.  Remember that moment. See it in your mind’s eye.  You were so happy.  With that movie running, stop and notice how your body feels. It’s very personal, so there is no wrong answer here. Maybe you feel lighter, warmer or just sense a smile.     Whatever you sense, that’s what you need to remember. That’s your benchmark for what ‘sparking joy’ is for you.


Now, think about your goal- Ask yourself: Does it spark joy? If you literally aren’t feeling it, it doesn’t.


2. Follow the Instructions

Kondo gives very clear instructions in her book, even insisting on a certain order of tidying. Clothes are first, memento’s last. She tells people to get all their clothes out and lay them on the floor. And she means all of them. You have to empty every drawer, every cupboard or rubber maid container in the garage. People are pretty resistant to her techniques, as I found reading some of the comments in Goodreads. A sample reads:  “Do you like talking to furniture? Do you believe shirts have souls? Are you insane? This might be the book for you.”

But, if you are going to take a leap with a goal and you take the time to get some expert advice, then follow it. Someone spent time researching and testing this out and offered you their wisdom.  You owe to yourself to follow the instructions to the letter for a reasonable time. Anything else is a form of self-sabotage. I followed her instructions, and it was hard and sometimes it felt ridiculous, but I can tell you this, she was right. It worked.


If you follow her instructions, your drawers can look like this!

If you follow her instructions, your drawers can look like this!


3. Ban the ‘Justifier’


We are really good at making excuses and justifying.

  • I should get a day off my diet. I was good yesterday.
  • I’m totally deserving of TV time. I had a hard day.
  • I need that drink. I earned it.

Your inner Excuse Dept works overtime.   It’s good at coming up with reasons why you should ditch the things that matter to you and go for the easy road. The Justifier voice tells you the 101 reasons why you should quit, or not even start.   Watch out for your Inner Justifier. He gets around.  When I was cleaning out my books with the Kondo system, I met The Justifier.  I found a book that I never finished reading. My Justifier said- Forget the ‘sparking joy’ thing, you paid good money for that book. You have to finish what you started no matter what.’ But the truth was, I had lostban interest in it.   Why not just admit that and let the book go? The Justifier used one of his many weapons, guilt, to make that a pretty hard thing to do.





4. The Big Picture

When you thought about that happy memory that sparked joy, you probably recognized a deeper level of happiness and satisfaction then you feel most days.  This powerful feeling can help you make change and a great way to stay connected to it is to look at the bigger picture. Imagine it’s your 80th birthday. Take a look back at your life. How did this goal/resolution impact your satisfaction from the front porch of turning 80?  Every change you make today will manifest in the big picture of your life.  This is where making choices that ‘spark joy’ make their home. In your future.

The Big Picture of Central Park, NYC

The Big Picture of Central Park, NYC


What do you think?

What helps you make change and stick to it? Did you try this book out? What worked for you and what challenged you? Where do you get stuck in making changes?

I’d love to hear from you on this topic, so leave me a comment. There is so much support for making positive change these days, and yet most of us still struggle with it. I’d love to collect your insights and share them with others on the journey of change.  Drop me a line.kondobook

2 Comments Four ‘Must Haves’ that will save your New Years Resolutions

  1. Lois Toogood

    SO enjoyed hearing your chat with Cheryl this morning on North By Northwest. I have been removing items from my home for a long time, since my realization that my Mom and Dad’s belongings are not them…they are just things they used to own! It has been a very uplifting and freeing
    experience for me, although my husband can’t understand my apparent disconnect from their stuff. I continue to de-clutter as much as I can while my husband is at the office or travelling for work!

    Years ago, I was joyfully hurling junk into the recycling bins at the dump when another woman and I made eye contact. After heaving an item into the bin beside me she yelled, “Husband away?”, with a cheshire cat like grin on her face. I replied, “Yes…yours?”, and she said, “YES!” With that, we high fived one another and continued our rapturous recycling. Talk about sparking joy!! 🙂


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