Can toilet paper spark joy?

Pretty much everyone has heard of the Konmari book about minimalism and cleaning and only keeping things that “spark joy.”

Detractors often say that some utilitarian things are just not going to ever spark joy.  Now, we believe in small well-made tools to the extent that we’ve recommended people give tweezers and pencil sharpeners for Christmas.  These little luxuries really do spark joy for me whenever I have to sharpen a pencil or tweeze an errant hair or open a jar or what have you.

What, of course, makes them spark joy, is the memories of using pencil sharpeners that don’t sharpen right, or tweezers that take a lot of effort.  Or jar openers that take too much hand strength.  And on and on and on.

Often people will say, “Toilet paper will never spark joy.”  And I submit that those people did not grow up with crappy toilet paper.  One of my guilty pleasures in life is buying really nice quality toilet paper.  Toilet paper that doesn’t melt upon contact with water.  That doesn’t scratch.  That doesn’t take handfuls and handfuls per use.  (It’s a guilty pleasure because I know it’s not the best choice for the environment, but I buy it still!)

So… how to make sure even your mundane objects spark joy?

  1. Use crappy cheap versions of the object
  2. Find the best version of the object
  3. Use that instead
  4. (dispense with the crappy versions if you’re Konmari-ing)

Joy sparked!

Of course, if you haven’t suffered, you’ll never know the joy.  I suppose that if you do get rid of everything that doesn’t spark joy then you’ll have a lot of unsharpened pencils until you get a new sharpener, at which point, its eliminated absence will cause new joy to be sparked.  So…

Ah, the cirrrrrcle of hedonic adaptation.

Do mundane objects spark joy for you?  Which ones?


33 Responses to “Can toilet paper spark joy?”

  1. Miser Mom Says:

    Actually, I *love* our pencil sharpeners (as you know: thank you for recommending them).

    Not exactly related: ever since my mom was suffering from the juxtaposed troubles of dementia and constipation (ugh, poor woman, but also, poor dad!), I’ve tried to remember to be grateful for every good poop. I think I have different TP aesthetics than you, but I *totally* appreciate the sentiment of the post.

  2. The frugal ecologist Says:

    Something that serves a purpose but also looks nice and is stored neatly sparks joy for me. And yes to using nice versions of everyday items (good pens, soft sheets come to mind).

  3. gwinne Says:

    Toilet paper isn’t high on my list. But I do get your point.

    I have an orange Le Creuset dutch oven. Totally overpriced. But I love cooking with it in a way that I don’t love cooking in my old pots. I’m sure I have similar items that are utilitarian and also beautiful/whimsical/something more. Not necessarily higher in price, but more deliberate in choice? I need to think more about this…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Not overpriced at all! We, in fact, bought one with our first graduate school paychecks (along with a mattress and not much else) since I could not imagine living without one (plus, with their lifetime warranty, my father got his replaced for free after *decades*, though I don’t think they have that anymore). Expensive but a high priority.

  4. rs Says:

    Talking about toilet paper, what really sparks joy to me is the Bidet in our toilet so I really need a very small amount of paper in the end to dry. Water is so much more pleasant than paper. Check it out:

  5. Leah Says:

    I am a fan of the everyday luxury. I am also consciously trying harder to use my “nice” items regularly and not save them for a rainy day. I suppose, in a way, I am trying to let every day things spark joy by using nice versions. But I also do get joy out of using my preferred toilet paper, or by using a rag or cloth napkin instead of a paper towel (paper towels are reserved for the ickiest messes or cooking bacon — we go through a roll perhaps every 6 months).

    We use 100% recycled TP from Trader Joe’s. It’s not the most luxurious feel, but I like it for being affordable, enviro friendly, and not uncomfortable. It doesn’t disintegrate and performs well in 90%+ of circumstances. I do enjoy the extra cushy TP at my MIL’s house, but I don’t enjoy it enough to spend the extra money and enviro guilt.

  6. Catwoman73 Says:

    I’m with you on the toilet paper thing. Particularly after a night of Mexican food and margaritas. :)

    I LOVE my good knives. Every time I cut into a red pepper, and the knife slides through like butter, I get a little surge of joy. There’s nothing worse than having to saw away at something that should be simple to slice. And I absolutely adore my potato ricer. Perfect mashed potatoes- with no lumps- every time. Now that I think about it, pretty much everything in my very well-stocked kitchen sparks joy. So I suppose I will just have to tolerate my slightly cluttered cooking space.

  7. bogart Says:

    Great post. Reminds me of touring the barn where I boarded my last horse (when deciding where to board), the barn owner showed me around, apologized for the lack of (installed) bathroom facilities and pointed out the porta-potty. I thought, “A porty potty?! Woohoo!” We did not have those fancy things at most barns when I was growing up.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m not in to TP. But my mom recently passed along a pair of gloves (hand-me-down, she did not like them) that I *adore* and yes, it brings up exactly this issue. They are actually fairly expensive/good quality gloves compared to what I usually own but more to the point they are just “right” for me (which they were not for her).

    Relatedly, she is downsizing and I have after much thought declared that I do not for now want the baby grand piano — that I would rather it be lent to someone who will really appreciate it (we do know such a person). It’s remotely possible that if I welcomed it into our home, it would get used and appreciated, but pretty unlikely (and of course it takes up a sizable chunk of floor space); better it be with someone who will use it.

  8. Leigh Says:

    I [heart] fancy toilet paper. I like our silicone kitchen utensils. And my wonderful bedding. Wall colors. My nice desk.

  9. Ana Says:

    oh man, our summers as a kid in India where he had to do the hole in the ground & a bucket of water made me really REALLY appreciate toilet paper. (shudder)
    I love everyday luxuries or just plain old well made functional items. Garbage bags & paper towels that don’t tear, knives that cut, pens that write smoothly, spatulas that flip, etc…
    Like above, I’m trying to be better about not “saving up” things like nice lotion. In the past I’d save it for a time that never came and it would eventually get all goopy and disintegrated and end up in the trash. Or clothes that I never get a chance to wear before they are completely out of style and I don’t like them anymore.
    I’m in the market for a good pencil sharpener, so thanks for the link!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m a little torn on the clothes thing. If I weren’t so hard on clothes it would be easier, but occasionally I do need say, a shirt to wear for tv with minimal notice and I’m glad I haven’t worn that one nice shirt except for special occasions. It’s either that or have even less of a minimal wardrobe.

      On the other hand, I have this wine-colored button down shirt that I love so very much that I can’t wear anymore because my breasts are too big. I wish I hadn’t saved that up for special occasions as it’s still nice but I can’t wear it. :/

    • Leah Says:

      I spent $35 (eep!) on fancy lotion this weekend. That’s three bottles of stuff from Bath & Body Works. I feel a bit guilty about the splurge, but it is so decadent and nice, and I really love the scents. Plus, one bottle is a gift. Now that I’ve decided to use the nice stuff people are giving me, I definitely enjoy giving myself the little splurge of buying the nice stuff.

  10. chacha1 Says:

    I find the whole “but how is [insert mundane tool here] supposed to spark joy” objection a very typical example of the very annoying Internetism wherein a heated but ultimately trivial debate about *how something is stated* is used to avoid dealing with the actual *substance* of the statement.

    Using a good and proper tool is most definitely a joy, even if that tool is utterly mundane. Give me a good kitchen knife, a good vacuum cleaner, or good toilet paper and my quotidian existence is improved. Joy =/= glamour.

  11. middle_class Says:

    Totally agree with chacha1. And yes, good toilet paper can spark joy, just as absence of good toilet paper can be very upsetting.

    • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

      I was going to comment that perhaps it should be a two part guideline: does the object spark joy, OR would its absence spark misery? (See also: screwdrivers, etc.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Interesting. Absence of misery after misery is a good way to spark joy… But one could get rid of that misery step (followed by the joy sparking step) and stick with your rule. “This object would spark joy if I had to be without it for a length of time, therefore it can stay even though I don’t fully appreciate it now.”

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        True! And, joy aside, the replacement cost of various tools we own outweighs the irritation of storing them (Dr.S’s woodworking things, my very expensive-to-replace antique sewing machines, etc.) This may be a variation on ‘without this for extended period of time.’

      • bogart Says:

        Yes and, agree on the “length of time” part WRT my current life (pretty stationary — obviously relocating would change the joy/annoyance equation).

        Something else I’ve come to realize is that the amount of joy an activity brings me can relate inversely to the amount of joy (or non-annoyance) the tools need. Assuming basic safety conditions are acceptable, I can derive joy from riding pretty much any horse in pretty much any saddle (overstatement, but you get the gist). OTOH I don’t derive much joy from food prep, so any tools that simplify that bring joy. Took me awhile to work this out and realize that I needed to spend more money on equipment for activities I don’t enjoy.

  12. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    My favorite objects are these wine and cordial glasses from the Habitat store. I paid maybe 50 cents apiece, so part of the joy is I don’t have to feel so attached to them and can use them without fear of breakage. And the tiny kiddush cups for my kids- their joy brings me happiness. (The four difficult to replace blue wine glasses, bought at the factory in Ohio 15 years ago, that I smashed by accident while pregnant…. those I miss.)

  13. Debbie M Says:

    I really like your point. Though I’d say you don’t even have to get the best–just getting something better can still spark joy. So for me, two-ply, recycled, unbleached toilet paper sparks joy because it’s not the thin, single-ply crunchy kind (nor is it paper towels, which I’ve used in emergencies). It’s not as soft as the stuff you like, but it’s good enough.

    Since I learned to cook at camp, I appreciate a lot more kitchen tools than regular people do. Cheese graters instead of knives! Can openers instead of knives! Sharp knives instead of knives that have been used to open cans! (Seriously, I’ve used knives where the back was sharper than the front!)

    Also, socks that don’t fall down–all the way into your shoe!

    I also like to hope that just reading about worse alternatives (germy water, leaves for toilet paper, menstruation huts instead of pads or tampons) helps me appreciate pretty much every single thing in my life. Admittedly the effect is not as strong as when I’ve suffered through the worse alternatives myself.

    But then there’s the reverse issue. When does having superior items ruin you for regular life? My mom has trouble finding non-sleazy hotels with waterbeds, for example. When I’m around super smart people a lot, I have trouble tolerating regular people. I am a wimp about temperature change because of A/C, heating, clothing. My boyfriend is spoiled for a lot of normal foods like yellow mustard (only brown mustard is edible, even though he admits that yellow mustard has no bad ingredients). Can we ever go back (happily)?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Absolutely you don’t have to get the best, just better.

      And I suspect if I try, say, driving the “best” car, it may ruin lesser cars for me. So no test drives there. And I definitely remember how nice hotel rooms became “meh” instead of luxurious after we moved from crappy city apartments to a nice big house.

      • Rosa Says:

        Car is the one where, for me, anything above “I’m afraid this won’t start/the wheels will fall off”, I *think* it will make me happier but it won’t. What actually makes me happier is not driving, in general. But that is a hard lesson to remember.

        But all sorts of other things make me really happy. Having an undercabinet radio in the kitchen (and a CD player in the car! That was definitely worth the upgrade!). Good scissors. Chocolate soy milk that’s not homemade. Taking the bus instead of walking!

        My tactic has always been to keep going cheaper until we hit the level we actually don’t like, then go back up a step. So I basically never skip the “misery” step and our hedonic treadmill has ramped up very slowly.

  14. First Gen American Says:

    For durable goods, I will always go for the more expensive can opener or whatnot. In fact, I appreciate Amazon for that because sometimes I want a can opener that is more than $5 that I can use longer than a few months before it is dull.

    For certain items though, I’d rather buy the cheap version and not worry about the consequences of abusing said item. China and crystal come to mind. Dry cleanable clothes as well. It’s a must for suits but I try to avoid dry clean only clothes for everything else no matter how cute the item…because It sits in the closet and doesn’t get worn because it’s too much work and cost to use it. Then I get mad for buying an item I am not using.

    That could be a ask the grumpy post. Favorite low cost luxuries.

    Here’s My partial under $20 splurge list… Puffs with lotion when you are sick, a nice pen, stainless steel measuring cups and spoons, smart wool socks, real maple syrup, a fresh beauty product, a new notepad. Also, for a person who hates shopping, I try whenever possible to buy things that will last so I have to shop less often. I would pay a lot of money for a pizza cutter that lasts. I have bought way too many pizza cutters.

  15. eemusings Says:

    Yes oh yes. Nice TP!!! And really good bread. And a can opener (because they always seem to die so quickly)

  16. jjiraffe Says:

    I know this method is all the rage, but “sparking joy” seems like such a random way to qualify what to keep. Why not “I use/wear it often”? But then again, I am a natural minimalist who hates clutter and often goes the other way (getting rid of too much stuff). And what I always miss when I give too much stuff away isn’t “joyful” things but warm old sweaters that were unflattering but cozy.

  17. Random Passerby Says:

    Good writing utensils spark joy: 0.5mm mechanical pencils, Dixon Ticonderoga #2 soft regular pencils (HB = ptooey), Zebra F-301 ballpoint pens, and Sharpie fine points. Also, really old 100% cotton sheets found at retiree garage sales that are MUCH thicker and softer and yet more crisp than modern wishy washy flimsy 600-thread count sheets. Also, non-clingy tunic-length shirts that actually cover my torso so I can write on the board without flashing anyone.

  18. Revanche Says:

    Soft tissues with lotion are heaven now that we are Germ Central. Anything that doesn’t make the sick baby bawl because hir nose is raw is top of my list.

    Mattresses are not a low cost luxury but since I have only bought one in adulthood and it’s key to my being able to function daily, I love it.

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