My family made a big change this year. We moved about 200 miles, my husband got a new job, and I went from working 30 hours a week from home (ah, heaven!) to working full time in my company’s office. The work transition, for me, was certainly easier than it would have been if I hadn’t already been in that position for five years and known my colleagues, but it was still a big change to rise before dawn, get dressed a little bit nicer than I would working from home, whisper goodbye to still-sleeping kids, commute twenty minutes, and plop down at my new desk.
I’m a homebody and an introvert. I had been perfectly happy working from home and seeing no one outside my family for days on end. Would I be miserable going back to an office?
I went in that first day with enthusiasm, but after opening my laptop and struggling with wifi (since my desktop wasn’t set up yet), the anxiety set in. What if I hate this? Have we made a huge mistake?
I got up and sought out colleagues who might be able to help with my computer troubles. . . Hey! Yes! So excited to be here!
I returned to my office, problem not really solved . . . and found a vase with pretty purple and orange flowers. Next to it, a new coffee mug with a bright pattern in apple green (my favorite color), a little loaf of coffee cake, and a sweet note welcoming me to the office.
The gesture brought an immediate smile to my face that stuck with me all day long. The bright green of the mug and flower arrangement boosted my mood every time I glanced around the office, and I determined to have plenty of my favorite color surrounding me at all times. My mug, a frame, my Bible . . . beyond that, my kids’ artwork on the wall and a photo I love on my computer desktop. The “stuff”—clutter though it may be—makes a difference in my life.
As Advent began and we got out the Christmas décor at home, there was no question I wanted to bring a few things into work to make my office festive. It felt a little silly, thoroughly unnecessary—and yet necessary—because such festivity brings me such joy.
Do you surround yourself with things that bring joy?
I have such a love-hate relationship with “stuff.” Special treasures can make one smile, but too much clutter makes us crazy. Things can make our lives more pleasant, but bring harm to the people who make them. Of my office adornments, I removed another desk item so as to not add extra clutter; the tree was a cast-off from a friend for whom holiday decorations are not sources of joy but just clutter, and my star garland was a fair-trade purchase from our old church’s Alternative Gift Fair last year.
Mari Kondo, of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up fame, says we should hold up every object we own and ask, “does it spark joy?” If not, chuck it. I don’t know if that’s always the best criterion, given that some things are simply useful. I don’t know if the basket containing our family’s dozens of sippy cups brings joy, but it certainly keeps cups and lids from getting strewn all over the floor or filling a whole cabinet. (Is the absence of frustration the same as joy? Not quite.)
Maybe joy is not the sole criterion, but not something to be dismissed either. Joy lightens our hearts and makes the ordinary extraordinary. Joy opens our hearts wider to be a source of good for other people. Un-useful objects may not be necessary, but they can still serve a beautiful purpose. Perhaps joy can sometimes be use enough.