For South Surrey’s Sheila Carroll, purging her home of “stuff” wasn’t about a need to clear the clutter.
Newly on her own after her husband of 30 years, Jim, had to move into a care facility, the exercise was about lifting weight – and not just that associated with moving heavy boxes.
“After he moved out, I felt the weight of a small family,” Carroll said. “My daughter had moved to Europe, my husband was moved into care. Suddenly, I was the only one in the house, but all the stuff was still here.
“And suddenly, I felt the weight of the stuff. I wasn’t really downsizing, but I just wanted the house to be my size – to not have more stuff than I could feel the weight of.”
Fast-forward three years and Carroll has turned her focus to helping others incorporate the method she used to transform her space: KonMari.
Developed by Tokyo resident Marie Kondo, KonMari – the subject of a Netflix series which returned to the screen Jan. 1 – “encourages tidying by category” and keeping only things that “speak to the heart,” according to konmari.com
Carroll became certified as a consultant at the end of 2017, following three days of training – conducted in Japanese, with a translator – in San Francisco. She is one of about 200 certified consultants worldwide, and among just three in the Vancouver area.
While applying the method to her own home was a requirement of certification, Carroll said advice she received prior to her move to Canada from Asia 13 years ago stood her in good stead for the process: “Only take it if you love it or you need it.”
KonMari breaks the process into five categories: clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous items and sentimental items.
There are also rules, or guidelines: commit, envision the desired lifestyle, discard first, tackle by category and in order, and ask if each item brings joy.
Consultants guide the process, Carroll said – assisting clients with questions that help them reflect on why they feel attached to certain items, and paying close attention to what their clients care about.
“And we keep them moving,” she said. “That’s critical because some people are quite discouraged with all the things they have to deal with.”
For Marian Moon, who began the process at her South Surrey townhome a year ago, the experience was life-changing.
“They went through every item of clothing in my house,” she said Wednesday, during a return visit by Carroll and her business partner Carmen Buchmann.
“I had a serious problem with clothing. We tackled that and that was a life-changer for me. It showed me a way to transition from everything I had of value to me… to actually being able to give it away to someone who could use it.”
Moon estimates she gave away “10 carloads full” of clothing, including many pieces designed by her daughter – hence the longtime reluctance to get rid of it. Many of the items went to local women’s shelters, she said, and just knowing they would go to good use tempered the heartbreak of letting go with an immense feeling of satisfaction.
One year later, her closet remains orderly, with items hung from light to dark, long to short, and so on, and drawers neatly arranged with rolled athletic wear, tops and pyjamas, folded socks and plenty of room to spare.
Moon said the closet organization has saved her “days” of searching for items, because “I know exactly where to go.”
Wednesday, Carroll and Buchmann helped Moon tackle her kitchen, which falls into the ‘komono,’ or miscellaneous, category of KonMari.
They started with Moon’s collection of cookbooks, before moving on to everything else. Within about 10 minutes, Moon weeded out all the cookbooks she either didn’t like or never used.
Then, with all the contents of her kitchen cupboards put in plain view – across a tarp on the floor, her island countertop and her table – she began identifying items that absolutely brought her joy. Three stood out: her Dutch oven, a cappucino maker and her juicer. Once those were carefully set aside, the trio of women continued on through the rest.
Moon described the experience as emotional, but freeing.
“What’s bringing me joy is having it gone,” she said. “To me, simplifying is very calming. When I see all of this, it’s distressing.”
Carroll and Buchmann spent five hours with Moon Wednesday, and recommended that others who embark on a similar journey ensure they plan for the toll the process can take by setting the rest of such days aside.
“The process has you going through everything. It’s physical work and it’s mental work,” Carroll said. “That decision-making will wear a client out.”
Carroll said, like Moon, every client has a story. For some, KonMari-ing is connected to loss. Others gift the service to see their friends or family find a better space – but not everyone is ready for it.
That latter point is key to success, she said.
Carroll said part of her enjoyment as a consultant is how individual every client’s journey is.
“The person is facing their stuff and making a decision about whether it makes them happy, whether it sparks joy,” she said.
“It’s about what they care about. We’re helping them focus on those things.”
There is no judgment, she added.
“All we see is opportunity,” she said.
“We don’t think your mess is you. We know it’s not the same thing. If it makes you feel bad, then we can help you. We associate being organized with happiness, not goodness.”
For more information, visit moreganize.ca