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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

The things that don’t spark joy

We’ve all seen Marie Kondo and her organization wizardry on Netflix, preaching her secret key to not being a hot mess: if the object doesn’t “spark joy,” throw it away. I am a hot (arguable) mess, and I hold onto things that spark sadness, frustration, nostalgia and humiliation. 

For years, I’ve obsessively preserved souvenirs from defining moments and memories, not in the form of postcards and magnets but random trinkets that I would declare as “sentimental” according to my arbitrary, melodramatic discretion. 

Up to this point, I view my decisively uneventful timeline in a series of peaks and valleys, and the valleys somehow seem so much more monumental than the peaks — and so, sorry, Marie, but I’ll be holding on to the things that remind me of all my existential crises and crying sessions to Frank Ocean. 

If, hypothetically, all of my possessions were to be in one place, and that one place was to catch on fire, I would want all of the below objects to be salvaged. Not just the things that spark joy. 

The orange dreamcatcher my middle school friend made for me when I was moving away. We haven't been in touch for years, and I’m sure she has no idea that it’s dangled from the window in every single bedroom I’ve slept in since. 

The one pair of wired headphones I keep in my backpack even when I have fully charged AirPods. The same headphones that drowned out Seoul subway announcements and New York City traffic.

My diary from my junior year of high school, pages filled with what in retrospect read like an extensive nervous breakdown. This was my most unapologetic, uninhibited version and she was someone I would love to find again.  

The battered, pink golf glove I still have in my stand bag from when I took lessons with matching pink kiddie clubs. 

The copy of “The Sun Also Rises” that I like to bring on flights, recommended to me years ago by a boy who I no longer speak to. The underlines and folded page corners still remain from when I first read it, scouring for insightful comments I could make to impress him. 

My grandmother’s gold ring that I haven’t taken off my right ring finger in years, somehow enwrapping my skin perfectly like lock and key. 

The hotel keycards from my favorite high school trips: Paris, The Hague, Singapore. Remembering the stifled laughter behind those doors and how we snuck out the fire escape and had to prop up a water bottle to keep it open for when we’d return at dawn. 

The recording microphone I have from the one week I was convinced that I was meant to be a songwriter. Quick abandonment came after realizing that my limited vocal range and knowledge of five guitar chords equated to a blatant lack of talent. 

The empty Kodak film canister that I turned into a keychain, dangling from my car keys, now a hollowed shell that reminds me of the best summer I ever had and the photos that were developed to tell the tale.

All my nametags and placards from past Model UN conferences, back when my favorite hobby was dressing up in heels and debating world issues with little to no idea what I was really talking about. 

The sweatshirt from my dream university that I kept even after the pure devastation of that rejection email because it is as much a token of my teenage ambitions and efforts as it is of my redirection.

The classic, comfort teddy bear that I've had since I was five, with its green Harrods ribbon still miraculously intact.

The plane ticket from Frankfurt to Seoul the morning after I graduated. I sat in my window seat and watched as my city turned into a tiny speck, distorted by the clouds, and I waited until the cabin crew was gone to let myself sob. 

In her consulting program, Marie shares that “to put your things in order means to put your past in order, too.” I choose to keep my past a part of my present, in convoluted disarray of the objects I arguably have no use for anymore. These are the tactile reminders of my past twenty years, and I love nothing more than shuffling through them whenever I’m home on break. My cabinets may be overflowing, but there is plenty of room for decades more of clutter to come. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore studying finance with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and 80s playlists at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.