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Beyond the Kondo Craze: Real Organizing vs. Reality Tidying

The Netflix hit “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”  has unleashed a first-world decluttering frenzy. Viewers are attacking their closets like zealots, casting out clutter and filling thrift shops with their rejects. As a professional home organizer,  I applaud the attention to the very real stress-making potential of clutter, but I’m skeptical of this truncated version of Kondo’s 2014 best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  

I worry about what will happen when the hyper-motivated high of this kind of purging subsides. If you’re one of those viewers whose piles of clothes have failed to diminish or whose life hasn’t changed dramatically after a Goodwill drop, you may well feel the frustration, self-blame, or despair that keeps you from trying again. The right way.

For real and lasting clutter control and organization, some introspection is in order. Before you even label your “keep” and “toss” boxes, take the time to look inward and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do the things I own belong in the past or present?  Think about your past values and interests. Which have faded and which do you still cherish? Do your belongings reflect who you are now and who you want to be going forward? When you clarify your values and interests, you have a foundation on which to base your decisions about keeping things or disposing of them.
  2. What are my goals for a newly-organized space?  How do you visualize your ideal home? How would you like to feel when you’re there? Does your vision mesh with the reality of where and how you live? How can you achieve that vision or a version of it? 
  3. How will I maintain my newly-organized life?  Once everything you own has its own home, you need to make sure it returns there after you use it. Easy to say in theory, but what about when life gets crazy? You need a maintenance plan that’s realistic for you and your life-style. You may also want to examine your acquisition patterns. How do you end up with stuff? Can you impose limits? Do your shopping habits mesh with your values? 

A professional home organizer can support you in making real changes. We can motivate and educate you. And we can provide resources, tips, and techniques customized to your individual needs and goals. 

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Tiny House Principles for All of Us

Although we may find tiny houses fascinating, many of us do not plan to actually live in one. Still, there are many lessons they can teach us about design and organization no matter the square footage of our homes.
Here are 5 ideas inspired by the Tiny House movement:
  1. A Place for Everything.  Everything you own needs a home. In a small space, especially, interior “real estate” is valuable. Evaluate your possessions – those you already own and those you think about buying – through this lens. Make sure all your things are space-worthy!
  2.  Use Space Creatively. Tiny House designers know that necessity is the mother of invention. They can inspire you to think out of the box, and you can glean plenty of ideas from the many books, social media, and TV shows the movement has spurred. It’s good to get a reality check, however, so, if possible, consult an architect, builder, designer, or organizer to see if and how these ideas can materialize within your space and budget.
  3. Recycle and Repurpose. For the sake of the earth and your wallet, look at what you already own or can get used before you build, remodel, or reorganize. My godson, Eli Shanks, repurposed a school bus to make a home for himself and his family. On a less ambitious level, you might use wood from your old kitchen cabinets to refigure something new. All kinds of things you already have or can easily find can be used for storage from orange crates to vintage suitcases and lunchboxes.
  4. Think Vertical and Multifunctional. Take advantage of wall space. Use one tall dresser instead of two wide ones, floor to ceiling bookcases, modular wall units, and wall-mounted bedside light fixtures.  If Tiny House sleeping lofts inspire you, you don’t have to build a new story to accommodate one. You can build or buy a structure with a bed on top and room to put furniture underneath or even one that includes a built-in desk and storage.
  5. Beware Clutter Creep! Clutter can make a tiny house impossible to navigate, but even in homes with a larger footprint excessive clutter can crowd and overwhelm. Assigning a place for everything (No. 1) is essential, but returning everything to its home is necessary too. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, a professional organizer has strategies that can help you cultivate this habit.