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Written by Paige Mitchell
The start of a new year plus the debut of Marie Kondo’s Netflix series is a double-whammy for the ultimate detox. If you’ve jumped aboard the KonMari bandwagon (Marie Kondo’s method to decluttering), then you’ve certainly begun critically thinking about each and every item around the house, picking it up, and asking yourself—does this item bring me joy?
After holding 50 dusty knick-knacks and deciding no, this A+ paper I wrote in high school no longer brings me joy, then, you’ve likely reached a breaking point and decided to purge it all in one fell swoop. Now, a minimalistic lifestyle has its benefits indeed, but I’m here to play devil’s advocate and tell you that finding joy in seemingly ordinary objects is a mere matter of perspective. Here are eight ordinary objects and daily chores that can bring anyone joy with a little help from the heart.
If you don’t believe that gardening can bring you joy, just look to the American Horticultural Therapy Association for proof. Getting your hands dirty in rich soil is a humbling practice. The refreshing smell of dewy grass is enough to wake up your spirit even on a rainy day. Witnessing new growth and change every day can be a real blessing and nurturing a weak little leaf back to life is truly fulfilling. And the satisfaction of harvesting your homegrown bounty at the end of each season whets your pride’s appetite
Whether you’ve harvested your own edible garden or you’ve just returned from the supermarket, fresh produce can stimulate each of your five senses—if you let it. With your eyes, take in the colorful sight of the farmer’s market ablaze with tricolor heirloom tomatoes, punchy yellow lemons, and the delicate pattern of the heart of a beet. Create a vibrant still life arrangement in a dull corner of the kitchen with your week’s worth of veggies.
Drown your thoughts out by listening to the rushing water as you rinse your produce and as a vegetable stew boils nearby. With your hands, wash each fruit and vegetable by hand to prepare it for your next meal. With your nose, note the sweetness of a banana or the crispness of an apple. Break a stalk of celery and smell the soil it came from before taking a bite. With your mouth, try to decipher each and every flavor. Is it missing something? What does it remind you of? You might discover new pairings and recipes just by letting your taste buds guide you.
For many of us, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction we get after deep cleaning the house. One seemingly small chore leads to the next and before we know it, the house is truly spotless. It’s the detailed art of cleaning the grout with a toothbrush. It’s the thoughtfulness to wipe the banister clean for the first time in a year.
The patience and consideration needed to clean a house are rewarded by the mere simplicity of being able to sit down at the end of the day and scan the room without the nagging call of dishes in the sink or laundry piled high.
There’s always that one catch-all area of the house that has become so unwieldy that you’ve eventually decided to look the other way. But soon, your bills are late and your kids are asking where their permission slip is. What if I told you that you could find joy in this mile-high pile of stuff?
The first step is to take all of it—the whole heaping pile—and spread it out on the floor or table. Now, go piece by piece. Decide what is junk and what isn’t and make a pile to keep and a pile to throw away.
Next, go through the “keep” pile and sort it by whatever method makes the most sense. If you have children, sort this pile by person and delegate the task of organization to each member of the family. If you’re left with mostly mail, sort it by category—personal letters, coupons, bills, etc. Then, address each one of them. Display holiday cards, toss expired coupons and put the rest in your wallet, and pay your bills.
Then, put everything else in its place. Hang keys, purses, and coats on designated hooks. Corral shoes and backpacks. Toss receipts and sign permission slips. This might take the good part of a half hour—or more—but by the end of it, you’ll feel accomplished, organized, and ready to take on the next pile of, well, crap.
Now, tune into the daily soundtrack of your home. Take your morning coffee on the porch and you might hear birds chirping, leaves rustling, a neighbor cutting their grass, or cars passing on a nearby highway. Take a moment to listen to your kids playing together, creating imaginary worlds, and serving stuffed bears tea on a Sunday morning.
Perhaps the most mundane, but soothing noise is the hum of an appliance. The whir of your laundry drying or the swish of your dishes washing is enough to put some people into a light afternoon siesta. For others, the white noise is a productivity tool. Listen close and take not of any unpleasant sounds that could be subconsciously keeping you on edge. Take the time to address these disruptions by calling your local contractor or home repair insurance. Sometimes, something as quick and easy as a phone call can bring joy in knowing that everything is running smoothly in your home.
Temperature plays an influential role in finding joy at home. It’s the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book next to a warm fire. It’s the refreshing wave of cool water that wakes our sleepy eyes in the morning. Without these fluctuations, our daily activities would be incredibly dull. You can be proactive in this sense by drawing the curtains on a sunny day and choosing to read the paper in a chair by the window. Or you could position a box fan closeby as you rep out 30 minutes on the rowing machine. You can wrap your hands around your coffee mug rather than gripping it by the handle. You could step out into the grass with bare feet and wiggle your toes on your way to the mailbox. On a deeper level, these feelings sometimes prove our very existence. Roll down the window on a crisp autumn day just to feel cold just because you can.
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Do you ever get a whiff of something that transports you to a memory? Taking joy in the smells around us is more than lighting a candle or dosing our bath with a few drops of essential oil. Do more—smell more—by taking the time to smell your food before taking a bite. In fact, smelling your food could actually open your tastebuds to more flavors. In fact, the aroma of our food sends signals to our brain that makes us more conscious of our perception of taste, according to Brain Facts. The messages of taste and smell come together and help us detect more flavors.
Smell goes beyond food of course. You can practice aromatherapy by smelling clean linens fresh out of the dryer. If you’re traveling, the smell of your packed clothing could smell like home. In the garden, use your hands to gently tap or rub herbs. This activates the oils, which strengthens the scent of lavender and basil. When you hug your partner or child, take a deep breath and find joy in the unique familiarity of your loved one.
One last simple joy in life is simply how colorful it is. Let everyday colors stimulate you more by describing them in your head, taking a closer look, and noticing their dimension. Notice the countless shades and highlights of the wood grain that makes up your dining room table. Stop seeing sunsets through the lens and filters of your camera and witness it with your own eyes. Squint harder at faded black and white photographs from your grandmother’s collection. Let the vibrance of your stovetop tell you a dish needs more herbs or when it’s fully cooked rather than relying on a recipe or a timer.
Finding joy—among other emotions—through color is not just a nice sentiment, but rather a chemical reaction embedded in our minds. According to psychology, color affects the way we feel. Yellow can make us angry while red activates our appetite. Orange can excite us and purple can soothe us. You’ll see color psychology used in many marketing schemes to subliminally persuade consumers to purchase goods—be it fast food or clicking “add to cart.” Fortunately, we can be as intentional as these corporations by opening our eyes to the world around us, processing it, and choosing to find joy in the ordinary.
Paige Mitchell is a freelance writer who enjoys sharing practical advice to make our homes healthier and more functional.