Clean Slate: Your Decluttering Cheat Sheet
Because everything is energy, clutter may be taking up precious space that should be occupied by more important things. Need practical tips on letting go of things that no longer serve you? We chat with certified KonMari consultant and all-around style guru Tin Dychiao on decluttering hacks, connecting to our joy, and clearing the path to a more focused, mindful, healthy, and yes, magical, life.
Interviewed by Pierra Calasanz-Labrador
Hinhin: The hype of KonMari may have died down a bit now, but would you say it’s more of a lifestyle and not just a trend?
Tin: For sure! The practice is really more of a lifestyle and the process of going through it has been compared to "inner work" because we go back to who we truly are through the medium of our belongings.
To live a clutter-free life, we really need to practice mindfulness and gratitude daily. Make it a habit to only keep what serves us or makes us happy, and take time to really connect to how an item makes us feel, instead of mindlessly throwing it back into the closet, thinking "Sayang" or "I might use it one day" even if it hasn't seen the light of the day in the last 5 years.
In the same vein, we really do need to let go of stuff when we come across something we no longer use or need. Instead of thinking of giving away things as a loss, think of what you will gain from letting go of something you don't even use - less clutter? More space? Less things to clean? The satisfaction of making others happy?
What made you personally believe in the KonMari method—enough to get certified as a practitioner yourself? Wait, did you ever get to meet Marie Kondo? What are some of the most dramatic transformations you’ve seen/feedback you’ve gotten from clients, thanks to KonMari?
Yes! I got to meet Marie Kondo! It felt like meeting a rockstar in the flesh haha. She's very gentle and gracious, she emanated joy! I loved her energy.
What got me into KonMari was the fact that I really didn't know how to deal with clutter. My work table was in a state of, I'd like to say then, "organized chaos." I could hardly close my closet doors, and I always had a sense that something might fall on me from the overhead cabinets. The kids toys, strollers, car seats and clothes were just piling up. Food would expire on the pantry and I wouldn't even realize it until years after. You can just imagine how unsustainable the situation was. I tried buying storage racks and bins but nothing was working for me. The bigger the rack, the more stuff I filled it with. Things only cleared up and changed for me after I read Marie Kondo's first book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and put it to practice. I thought I was a hopeless case, but I swear, as the house cleared up, I also felt the energy shift at home. Her system was a method to hack into the madness.
A lot of my friends noticed the difference too and one of my friends who is a life coach/trainer asked me to do a workshop where I can teach others how to tidy. She also brought up the idea of getting certified. It so happened that I knew that Marie Kondo and her team were training people to help others to tidy. When I checked the website that same afternoon, there was a course coming up in a few weeks in New York. I took it as a sign, signed up for a slot, booked my plane ticket and the rest is history haha.
My transformation story, apart from the freed up space at home, is that I became more mindful with my purchases, making sure I was no longer bringing in "future kalat" inside the house. I used to go inside a mall and leave with stuff I didn't really need, but post-KonMari I could go inside a store and not buy anything. I learned to think purchases through and saved a lot of money in the process. Healthwise, my allergies disappeared, maybe because the house was cleaner, and easier to clean with less stuff! I also had more time to spend with my family because I no longer felt compelled to say yes to everything. My clients had more dramatic transformations. My first ever client moved to a nicer apartment a few months after tidying her old one, not to mention, her son's school performance also improved. She realized their cluttered apartment was affecting her son's focus and stress levels. Another client left a job and boss she couldn't stand to focus on her own thing. One client got promoted after tidying her home. One finally got her certification on a course she was having a hard time focusing on. One left a toxic relationship. Their stories convinced me that decluttering was more than just an organization project, it truly was life changing.
These past two years, it seems as if the general public has unconsciously been doing a version of KonMari on our own—but what is it about the KonMari method that makes the process more systematic/intentional?
I think the pandemic has shown us what is truly essential in life, part of which is a home that makes us feel safe and where every corner serves a purpose even if it's just a beautiful nook to rest our eyes on. So many people decluttered their homes to make space for their work from home areas or their kids' study areas, many more upgraded their furniture, spent on fancy coffee machines and cozy beddings or started beautifying their home with plants because they had been spending so much time at home they realized their space should bring them comfort and joy. That's what the KonMari philosophy is about too. The difference with the Method though is that it less about shopping and really more about connecting to what brings us happiness from within.
I know KonMari is much more than just physical tidying up—how do we get into the right headspace for clearing things/energies and sparking joy?
The first step really is to think of tidying as an investment of our time. Most people consider it a chore, something that you want to do only when you have time. We need to look at tidying as a priority. By taking care of the clutter now, we free up our time, save more money and focus on what truly matters in the long run. That's why Marie Kondo calls it a "tidying festival," tidying is to be celebrated because we liberate ourselves from the clutches of our clutter.
Another is to do it the Kaizen way. We don't have to spend an entire weekend tidying and turning the house inside out. Take small steps and tidy by category. Start with clothes, then books, paper, miscellaneous items and lastly sentimental items. If you have a lot of clothes, then do socks and underwear first, then do your tops and bottoms another time. I feel that committing just three hours of your time is enough to get you a decent transformation that will inspire you to keep on tidying. I didn't declutter my home overnight. It took me two months to fully declutter it to a point I was satisfied with. You know you've made it into a lifestyle when you actually find joy in finding stuff to let go of!
Could you walk us through some of your favorite KonMari—and personal!—tips for us to start the year with a clean slate?
Once you've prepped yourself mentally the next thing really is to be clear about your tidying goals—do you want to use this room as workout area? Do you need to tidy your work desk so you can actually work on it? Hold on to your reason for tidying to pull you through when things get challenging. It can be as simple as mine—I hope all my clothes fit in the cabinets and I don't have stuff falling on my head anymore.
Then visualize how you would want that space to look. You can refer to your Pinterest boards or just have that image in your head of where you want things to be. Then imagine how you would use that space, how you would feel in that space—are you chill and relaxed? Productive and focused? Visualize to the littlest detail! I had a client who said she dreamt of having her desk cleared with only her favorite oils and diffuser on it when she worked, and she had music playing in the background. She decluttered the stuff around her work area, found space to set up a Marshall bluetooth speaker that was just in a corner, and got what she envisioned in less than three hours. Visualization is key!
Another tip is not to buy storage bins until you have fully decluttered. This way you only buy what is needed and you wouldn't have excess bins to deal with after. Make sure to take measurements too and not just buy on the fly!
What are the top things we should discard in 2022?
Toxicity, self-limiting beliefs and anything that no longer serves us.
In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, one thing that surprised me was Marie Kondo’s mention of how discarding your baggage sometimes even leads to physically shedding unwanted pounds! And also, how the things you choose to keep can show your true interests and pave the path for dream careers. Have you witnessed this yourself or believe it to be true?
I was listening to Dr. Andrew Huberman's talk on gratitude and how a practice of gratitude releases serotonin as well as oxytocin on a longer time scale. So it's backed up by neuroscience and I would say, is the long answer to why magic happens when we tidy. Studies have also shown that gratitude can help with stress, immune function and a longer life. Ultimately, the KonMari Method is not just about letting go of stuff or decluttering. It's really all about connecting to gratitude on a daily basis and once it becomes a practice with our stuff, we learn to practice finding joy in our relationships, our career, in all aspects of our life. We start to make mindful choices—eating healthier, exercising, finding a good set of friends, a loving partner, choosing a fulfilling career, and so much more. Everyone I have worked with has something magical that has happened to them after tidying their space. In fact, one client I worked with felt stuck in an in-between job, something that she just did because she wasn't sure about what she really wanted to do. After she tidied her table at home to create a work from home space during the start of the pandemic, she got offered a position in a company that she dreamed of working for. She had applied before and didn't get any feedback for months. Soon after, her boyfriend also proposed to her. To get offered your dream job in the middle of a pandemic, and then get a wedding proposal just a few weeks after tidying?! It felt like when she cleared the physical clutter in her room, she allowed good energy to come in. We both agreed that was magic.
Anything else you’d like to share about how to clear our spaces/energies for 2022 and live a more joyful, intentional life?
Don't try, instead, commit to tidying!
Photos courtesy of Tin Dychiao