Location, Location, Location

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Believe it or not, this post isn’t about buying or selling a house. Or about how professional organizers can help you when you are preparing for a move or if you have just recently moved (although we really can!) But it is about real estate. Sort of. And the first phrase that comes to my mind when I think about real estate is, “Location, location, location.” When realtors use that phrase, they mean that the most important factor in determining the value of a house is its location. A beautiful house that meets all of your specifications but is located in a bad part of town is not nearly as valuable as a nice house that meets most of them but is located in the perfect neighborhood.

So how does this apply to organizing? When you are organizing, you need to keep in mind that even with objects in your home or office, there is expensive real estate and cheap real estate. Expensive real estate refers to a prime location that is easy and quick to access. Cheap real estate is a more distant location that requires a bit of effort to access. An item that you use frequently merits the expensive real estate, while an item that is rarely used can make do with cheap real estate. This is a logical principle that comes naturally to many, but you’d be surprised how much focusing on this can help you be more efficient.

Let’s use the kitchen for an example. Here are some items in my kitchen that have earned the expensive real estate: Keurig coffee maker and K cups, toaster, utensils (only the frequently used ones), flour and sugar canisters, silverware, measuring cups and spoons, and oven mitts. I consider the expensive real estate in my kitchen to be the countertop and the top drawers. Here are items in my kitchen that are in the cheap real estate section: crock pot, bread machine, wok, cake stand, deviled egg tray, juicer. My cheap real estate consists of shelves that are either up high or close to the floor or that may be several steps from the stove, sink, or island.

Peter Walsh Promo Shots

How do you determine what to put in the expensive real estate? The most important criteria is frequency of use. I love these practical tips from well-known organizer and author Peter Walsh from an article in The Huffington Post (http://huff.to/2d1LmrX). “Imagine the main preparation area in your kitchen as a triangle. I call it the ‘magic triangle’. That’s the area determined by the stovetop or oven, the sink and the refrigerator. Everything that you use most often should be in or around the edges of that triangle. Anything else should not be in that area. For example, near the stovetop should be the pots and pans you use most often; near the sink, the items you frequently use for clean-up. Just having those things in this area — a little organization — will really save you a ton of time and a ton of energy, I really guarantee it.” Peter’s One Month Cardboard Box Test is a brilliant way to help make decisions about what items you really use. Check out Peter’s one minute YouTube video on how to use this test: http://bit.ly/2cQEDMp.

This organizing principle can be used anywhere in your home or office. It can save you time and energy and make your life easier. As Peter Walsh is known to say, “What’s the point of being organized if it doesn’t make your life just that little bit easier?”

I hope this is helpful. Getting organized and staying that way is a constant struggle, but the benefits are worth the effort!

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“So, What Do You Think of that Japanese Organizer?”

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Sooner or later, every professional organizer is going to be asked their opinion about Marie Kondo. On the off chance you’ve never heard of her, Marie Kondo is a very well-known organizing consultant and author from Japan whose debut book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing became a bestseller and took the organizing world by storm. Kondo’s book was published in Japan in 2011 and has since been published in over 30 countries. Kondo was even named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2015.

Kondo’s method of organizing is called the KonMari method, (an amalgamation of her name that she invented). Her follow-up book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up is an in-depth manual of the techniques taught in the first book. Although her methods are not radically different from those of other organizers, she skyrocketed to fame in Japan and around the world by organizing thousands of clients using her KonMari method. She asserts that clients that use her method have a 0% relapse rate. Yes, you read that correctly – according to Kondo, no one who has followed her plan has returned to their former state of disorganization.

The basic premise of the KonMari method is centered on one principle: keep only things that “spark joy”. To properly use the KonMari method, you will sort through everything you own in a very systematic order, beginning with a category in which it is relatively easy to discard things (clothing) and ending with a category in which it can be very difficult (mementos). The sorting is done a category at a time, not a room or area at a time as most people tend to organize. When you are sorting in a category, you will gather all of the items in that category from everywhere in the house and put them in one pile. Then you begin the process of picking up each item individually, and deciding whether that item sparks joy. For example, in the first category of clothing, the suggestion is to begin with tops. For a shirt, “spark joy” could be interpreted as: it fits perfectly, feels comfortable, makes you look good, you look forward to wearing it, etc. If the item sparks joy, you keep it, and if not, you discard it; it’s as simple as that. Once you have finished a category, if you’re like most Americans, you should have a large pile of items to discard. Then you will decide the best place and plan for storing the remaining items.

In the KonMari method, folding clothing (as opposed to hanging them) is highly encouraged, but not just any folding. KonMari folding is an art form unto itself. You can find YouTube tutorials galore on proper KonMari folding. Why is folding in this particular way such a big deal in the KonMari method? Clothes take up less space, and because they are folded vertically so that everything is standing up straight instead of stacked on top of each other, you can see everything at a glance, and the clothes on the bottom aren’t being squashed and wrinkled. Now that you are curious, feel free to click on this link to watch Marie Kondo herself demonstrate proper shirt folding techniques: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19i7oyiKVG0.

After every subcategory of clothing is complete, you move on through the categories in this order: books, paper, komono (miscellaneous, including office, kitchen, toys, bathroom, garage, and everything else) until you have sorted through everything you own. There are many detailed lists available that further delineate within the categories so that you won’t forget anything. To properly KM your home, this organizing needs to be done in one feel swoop, and it can take hours, days, or even months to complete, depending on how much time you are able to devote to it.

In Kondo’s experience, this tidying marathon, or “putting your house in order”, can be life transforming, affecting all other areas of a person’s life. There are many stories of people who after finishing their tidying, have finally been successful at losing weight, deciding on their life’s mission, achieving happiness for the first time, and feeling free. KonMari converts abound, as millions sing the praises of this revolutionary technique. Of course, there are many critics as well who assert that one modus operandi can’t possibly be perfect for everyone. Plenty of people have tried and failed, or given up because the task was too daunting or simply wasn’t the right approach for them. Most professional organizers have very strong opinions about Kondo and her techniques. On the positive side, she has brought much attention to the field of professional organizing, and many aspects of the KonMari method are similar to what organizers teach. However, since organizers pride themselves on providing solutions that are individualized to the client’s needs, Kondo’s “one size fits all” approach is frequently frowned upon. And frankly, I think a few organizers are a bit jealous of the attention she has gotten and the money she has made.

Finally, here’s my answer to the original question, “So, what do you think of that Japanese organizer?” When I was on the fence about becoming a professional organizer, listening to Kondo’s first book flipped the switch for me. Although I draw the line at a few specific cultural practices (like audibly thanking an item for its service before discarding it), overall I am a big believer in the KonMari method and am following it in my own home. I believe that while not everyone is ready for such an extreme tidying marathon, it is the most effective way to finally bring order to a home. I am about 70%  of the way through our belongings (that komono category is a bear!) and have found that although my family tends to discard items fairly quickly, we still had way too much stuff. It has been incredibly freeing to pare down further. I love the way the folding methods use space more efficiently and allow me to see everything in my drawer at first glance.

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T-shirts, sweatpants, and scarfs folded KonMari style

I’d love to hear any comments you might have about this topic. And if you’d like to KonMari your home, I’d love to help!