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Decluttering isn’t ‘one size fits all’

A weekend TV show binge turned Tammy Johnson-Trell’s life completely upside down.

“I threw everything I owned onto my bed and then lost my mind,” Johnson-Trell said. “I didn’t know what sparked joy or what I really needed to keep so I could go to work without wearing the same joyful outfit every day.”

Since the show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” dropped on Netflix on Jan. 1, it has inspired a wave of home organization. Known as the “KonMari” method, the simple organizing technique seems straightforward. Hold each item in your hands, and if it sparks a sense of joy, it might be neatly folded and returned to a designated space. If it does not spark joy, then toss it.

The Japanese lifestyle guru sparked a yearning for organizing with her 2014 book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” The TV show has built on that first wave of adoration by an American audience. Kondo folds clothes into tiny, stiff squares, shakes books to wake them up before sorting and tells clients to honor memories by displaying them in the home rather than a plastic tub or buried in a closet.

After watching a half-dozen episodes, the entirety of Johnson-Trell’s closet lay lumped on her bed and overflowing onto the floor.

“It’s a shock,” the 43-year-old hotel employee said. “I couldn’t believe how much clothing I had. The number of black shirts alone could have clothed an army of sad middle-aged women.”

She began sorting, folding and thanking each piece of clothing.

“It felt really good,” Johnson-Trell said. “Then it turned into night and a second night. I was dazed.”

In a final, more desperate than joyful move, she packed it all up and thanked her old clothes in bulk as she carried them to the car in bulging bundles of black garbage bags.

“My closet looks great, feels great and I have rainbows of color,” Johnson-Trell said. “And it cost me a fortune. I had to go out and replace all the stuff I gave away. But I only bought one new black shirt and got it in red, blue and yellow. I have a few skirts and slacks for work, and I can find what I need.”

She had wanted to Kondo the entire house, room by room, in a week.

“It’s too much,” she said. “I see the point, but it’s too overwhelming.”

The Kondo effect, as it is known, has ramped up the stress of more than one motivated homeowner, said Melanie Walker, owner of Neat Method, a luxury professional organizing company.

“I love the concept,” Walker said of the Kondo effect. “It’s very minimalist. She has sparked a lot of organizing efforts.”

The Kondo effect has affected Walker’s business with calls from clients who started the process and quickly became buried in stuff.

“Piling all your clothes on the bed in one swoop is particularly overwhelming,” the longtime local home organizer said. “As a professional organizer, we would never do that to someone. They can get overwhelmed and come to tears sometimes.”

Organization requires a more individualized approach, not a one-size-fits-all technique.

“People have different attachments to their things,” Walker said. “I have friends who can get rid of it all and go buy another one (with) no problem. Then I have someone who holds onto everything because they find meaning in everything they own.”

While the Kondo effect has helped many get organized, the process typically isn’t a quick and simple one.

“It takes them forever to do it because they are on their own,” Walker said.

The detritus that piles up has taken years. It can take more than a week to whittle it down considering all of the chaos of daily life that will more than likely interrupt your cleaning endeavor. Add on the emotions that can pop up when unpacking all you’ve stocked in drawers, closets and the storeroom, otherwise known as the garage, and a good intention turns into a chaotic mess.

“We as professional organizers come in and can take care of what people have been stressed about for a year in just a few days,” Walker said. “We whip it into shape, and it becomes clear and easy about what stays and what goes.”

Walker and her team of professionals bring bins, baskets and other organizing materials to reshape a closet, pantry or garage into a more manageable space. They then start with a quick sort of items that is elegant in its simplicity.

“We have a method that happens fairly quickly and is super transformative,” Walker said. “We can see what can work better for your space and how you can use your space to its maximum potential.”

The results are quick and the method simple with a professional organizer guiding the process.

“My clients report to me, ‘My life is more deliberate now, I make more deliberate decisions. I don’t waste money on things that I don’t need,’” Walker said. “They reduce their grocery bill because everyone can see what they have to eat and things aren’t shoved in the back of the pantry. An organized home saves time, money, and you feel empowered.”

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