Does It Spark Joy?

Before I began going through my cold weather travel clothes week before last, I told myself to go with Marie Kondo’s advice and ask myself with each piece of clothing or pair of shoes I tried on whether it sparked joy; that it, did it make me feel good and/or happy when I looked at it and thought of wearing it again. I admit to being surprised by a few items that I thought I liked but when I held and looked at them did not bring forth happy feelings or any desire to wear them again. I was equally surprised by a few items I thought would go into the discard pile that I actually loved because they now fit and look better in comparison to how they did in the past. The end result is a wardrobe that I can imagine wearing and enjoying in the future, and with enough variety that I can’t imagine needing more.

This whole “spark joy” exercise got me thinking that maybe Brett and I should apply the same tactic when we evaluate future plans and possible locations. While it’s easy to create list of things we would like to have in a possible location, if there is no feeling of joy or excitement when we think about living there, even a little, what’s the point? There’d be more than a good chance we would end up feeling miserable after not too long a time and wanting to move again. 

Hawaii, although it initially felt like an impossible dream, was a location that sparked joy in both of us back when we were discussing and evaluating retirement locations, as did locations along the Southern California coast that ultimately did not work out. The idea of doing a big travel adventure immediately brought joy to both of us, and when when we were drawing up the itinerary for our Big Adventure we dismissed locations that did not have some sort of an emotional element of excitement and wonder. We decided we weren’t interested in visiting places just to say we’d been there; we wanted to go places that spoke to our hearts and souls in some way. Japan has always been a location that brings us deep joy when visiting, a feeling that has only increased over the years. While we enjoyed every place we visited during our travels, there were definitely locations that brought more joy than others, some of them quite surprising in retrospect. There were others that didn’t as much as we had imagined they would.

So, we have added does it spark joy? to our list of criteria, and it may just be the most important of all. Kaua’i is definitely at the top of that list but unfortunately doesn’t meet many other of our criteria these days. We also noticed that a couple of other places we’d started to evaluate definitely didn’t spark any sort of joy and actually made us feel sort of miserable when we thought about living there. We just couldn’t imagine ourselves living those places or being happy there no matter the low cost of living or whatever other benefits they might provide.

I’m glad we have time to figure this all out, and to make the best decision for our future, one that will not only give us a location that meets most of our needs and wants, but bring us happiness and joy as well.


18 thoughts on “Does It Spark Joy?

  1. I think that’s a good question to add to the criteria. I know when we think about where we could live, I have an emotional no to many places. Just couldn’t imagine myself happy there, though the place may tick many positives.

    Well done on the decluttering of the wardrobe. And the weight loss – fabulous effort!


    1. It was a defining moment for us, to realize that we were not feeling any joy about many of the places we were evaluating, and instead were feeling, as you say, an emotional “no.”

      We’ve made a decision though . . . stayed tuned!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We recently had an opportunity to visit the Florida Keys…..Reminded me a ton of Kauai for some reason. Maybe that’s a bit more affordable, and certainly easy travel from other east coast cities…. (although who knows on affordable these days).


    1. I think living in the Keys is one of the things tha made our transition to living on Kaua’i easier – we knew what it was like to live on a small island, even if we could drive off if we wanted. I think though we would find the Keys very different than how it was back when we lived there (’86-’88) – I know there have been big changes. Love, love, love though the casual vibe there, the climate, and the food.


  3. This is truly an essential question. If you don’t like a place, it may be affordable and all that but you won’t find any happiness in living there. This post reminds me of our own experience. As I mentioned before, we first did a LOT of online research and one location merged as a favorite. It seemed to have everything we could think of and then some, so we planned to spend 4 days for an initial visit. After 2 days, we were so disappointed, and we couldn’t get out of there fast enough. To this day my husband is still in disbelief how something looking so good on paper turned out to be so awful for us.
    Visiting and getting to live there for a while is the right way to go when picking a location you want to move to. And yes, your heart will tell you if that is the right place.


    1. More and more each day, I am so glad we added this to our list of criteria – it made a big difference, and explained why we were beginning to feel bogged down and unhappy with the process the further along we got.

      We have had a similar experience with a couple of locations when we picked duty stations in the navy. We thankfully got lucky with our choices of Portland following Brett’s retirement from the navy, and with Kaua’i, but looking back now realize it could have been far, far different in both cases.


    1. It has already made a big difference for us, and helped us come to a decision. Still more to do, but the question helped to eliminate lots a few places.


  4. My problem is that I have so many places that give me joy and I have not beeen able to pick my retirement place….lol


    1. LOL Cindy – we also have several places that spark joy for us, but they’re mainly overseas which was not helpful. I know you’ll find the right place for you – almost everything if not everything about your decision will feel “right” as you put things together.


  5. Thank you for the reminder. I tried this idea when beginning our pack out. It got lost in the process. Since our house sold in two days and we are allowed to live in it until the end of June, I think I will be unpacking a few boxes to go through the process again. There is WAY to much packed.
    As for where we will end up, for now that is Idaho. It sparks my husband’s joy. I will learn to love it. As long as I am only 20 minutes to the airport–everything is good :)In seven years the reevaluation will start again. Home is where we hang our hat and not a specific place. I think that comes from so many military moves, don’t you?


    1. We moved pre-Marie Kondo, but our question was “do we want to pay to move this to Hawaii?” That eliminated a LOT of stuff very quickly, and in the end we came with the right amount. Same for when we downsized before our Big Adventure. We also learned that something we thought we couldn’t live without one month was something we realized we could let go of in another month. It was a process but we got to the right place and right amount eventually.


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