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Goodbye clutter: decluttering the KonMari way

By Eliza Santiago

About three years in our studio apartment, I just about had it. There was stuff everywhere- on the sofa, desks, most of the chairs and a good part of the floor. My son and I were suffocating. Our productivity was down and our moods could be better. How could we not feel this way when all we could do once we got home was traverse the single path that lead from the door and straight to bed?

It was around this time that I heard about Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I read it, appreciated it, tried to apply it and subsequently failed. I knew the concepts in my head but somehow my heart was having a hard time following, and my life remained cluttered.

Helped arrived.

As fate would have it, at the point of my desperation, my friend Christine Dychiao revealed that she had just finished her KonMari consultant training and was eager to help. With reluctance and shame at the state of my apartment, I let her in.

Our first lesson was clothes. As the book says, clothes are the first step in the KonMari decluttering process. With Christine’s non-judgmental guidance and gentle reminders on reasons why we hold on to things, I methodically went through my clothes, keeping what sparked joy and discarding what clearly did not. With the “maybe-s”, Christine asked me, prodding questions to gain clarity, urging me to either keep it or say a quiet thanks for the garment’s service to my past before letting it go. It wasn’t long before I was left with less than half of my pile of clothing and I was surprised to see that I actually had a very specific color palette. This greatly affected the way I shopped from that point onward. It was the first of many realizations that came to me all throughout the KonMari process.

The next three weeks were a cycle of a visit from Christine, going through the different categories with each visit, a whole week of me doing my “homework,” and then meeting Christine again for her to see my progress and give me insight on how to organize my home. She helped me by thoughtfully giving each of my items a place so that I could move through our space with ease. There was a point in the process that my apartment looked like it had been turned upside down. At its worst, I had an overwhelming feeling of shock at how much useless stuff I had accumulated, and I swore I would never let it get to this point again.

Organized and happy.

When Christine declared my apartment as “done,” I cried out of relief. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The apartment felt light, full of energy. It felt like home. This was affirmed when my son’s teacher emailed me, saying how he was more productive and in a better mood. She asked if anything different had happened at home. Who knew tidying up could affect us so significantly? It was that roller-coaster of emotions that make the KonMari process so different and why backsliding into clutter is almost impossible. It deals with you on a personal level, asking you the seemingly simple question of “What sparks joy for you?”

“Spark joy” made me look at myself with honest eyes, think of who I am as a person in the present, and made me look at what kind of life I wanted to have for myself and my son in the future. Thanks to the book and the gentle coaching of Christine, it’s a lesson happily learned that I will be joyfully applying for the rest of my life.

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