Last week, I attended an intimate workshop about the Konmari method with Christine Dychiao called “Tidy Your Space, Transform Your Life.”
Christine Dychiao, in case you didn’t know, is the founder of Spark Joy Philippines and is the first and only Konmari-certified consultant in the Philippines. The workshop was held at the Third Eye Wellness Center at Bonifacio Global City.
What is the Konmari Method anyway?
For the uninitiated, the Konmari Method is a trademarked approach of tidying up created by Marie Kondo, a Japanese tidying expert. She has been tidying up since she was very young, and has created this internationally renowned method to decluttering and organizing one’s space and belongings.
To become a Konmari consultant, one would need to attend the official certification course, complete the required number of hours and clients to do a “tidying festival,” take an exam, and do an interview. It’s a pretty rigorous process, which ensures that consultants are adequately prepared to help others go through the Konmari method.
Who is Christine Dychiao?
I first heard about the Konmari method when Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” was first published and gained under-the-radar popularity in the Philippines some years back. I know quite a few friends who Konmari’d their own spaces to great success.
Christine Dychiao is one of those few Filipinos who decided to try the Konmari method in their own homes. After successfully Konmari-ing her home and spreading the “spark joy” method to her friends, she decided to get certification in 2017.
Our workshop with Christine Dychiao was basically a crash course into what the Konmari method is all about and how we can apply it in our own lives. Prior to attending, I hadn’t read the book nor did I research anything about it. All I knew about it were based on several episodes I had seen from the Netflix show, and second- and third-hand information passed on to me by readers, fans, and critics alike.
To be honest, a lot of misconceptions surround the Konmari method, and I know of a lot of people who swore not to get into what they think is “just a trend.” And as the method apparently is deeply rooted in the Japanese belief system called “Shintoism,” some people think the “spark joy” method is a little “weird,” or (better or worse?), “woowoo.”
So I attended the workshop not really knowing what I would learn, but I did keep an open mind. I consider myself pretty flexible when it comes to accommodating new and different beliefs, so I was very excited to learn more about the Konmari method from Christine Dychiao, the only certified person in the entire country to do so, basically!
Why I wanted to learn the Konmari method
Many of my clients hire me, thinking that an interior design intervention in their homes would set them on the right path to clutter-free existence.
It’s not always the case, however. While my projects have hopefully led to better and more enjoyable spaces for my clients, maintaining a clutter-free home is really a practice in perseverance and discipline.
In my own home, clutter is not absent, what with two very young kids and a Shopee-obsessed husband (peace, hubs!) always making things, erm, “exciting.” (Ha.)
So I know the stress that my clients experience when they are driven to get in touch with me. Most of the time, they know they want to live in a better-looking space, but it’s also because they feel at wits’ end when it comes to keeping the clutter at bay in their homes.
Knowing this, I wanted to learn about a tidying method that I could possibly use in my own home, and to impart the same knowledge to my clients.
And now, to the meat of the matter…
What I learned from the Konmari workshop
1. Konmari-ing—and decluttering in general—requires a disciplined mindset.
When Christine asked us about our own reasons for attending the workshop, she emphasized the fact that mindset has a lot to do with the success of our own implementation of Konmari in our own spaces.
Just like anything we want in life—dreams, goals, ambitions—we need a healthy dose of openness, discipline, and willpower to achieve them. The Konmari method is no different.
It’s not a fast-action, get-organized-quick method. It doesn’t promise instant results. It is only as effective as you will it to be.
Yes, it requires muscle work, i.e., carrying all your clothes into one area and folding each piece the Konmari way. And yes, it requires a lot of mind work i.e., constantly reminding yourself that you will be happier when you are surrounded by only the things you love and that spark joy.
This is in contrast to having #allthethings you think you need in your life, and consequently, all the nega vibes that clutter brings with it.
2. The Konmari method is rooted in a belief that deeply respects objects that add value to our lives.
I’ll be honest. Marie Kondo’s Shinto roots hooked me in. I love that the Konmari method has a spiritual aspect to it. I’m not sure if it’s me being Filipino and coming from a superstitious culture that I find it so appealing.
A lot of the backlash I had heard against Marie Kondo was centered on the fact that she acted strangely around material objects, treating them as if they were alive and she “waved her fairy wand” to make them disappear.
I love this excerpt from an article by Huffpost (and half-Japanese, half-American) writer Margaret Dilloway explaining Konmari’s Shinto roots:
Kami are Shinto spirits present everywhere — in humans, in nature, even in inanimate objects. At an early age, I understood this to mean that all creations were miracles of a sort. I could consider a spatula used to cook my eggs with the wonder and mindful appreciation you’d afford a sculpture; someone had to invent it, many human hands and earthly resources helped get it to me, and now I use it every day. According to Shinto animism, some inanimate objects could gain a soul after 100 years of service ―a concept know as tsukumogami ― so it felt natural to acknowledge them, to express my gratitude for them.
“Tell the kami-sama what you’re grateful for,” my mother would say to me, referring to God or the supreme kami, “and what you want.”
I had my mother in mind when I watched Marie Kondo’s Netflix show “Tidying Up” for the first time. In each episode, Kondo, a professional organizing consultant, instructs her clients to identify the objects in their homes that “spark joy” and devise a plan to honor those objects by cleaning and storing them properly.
She also encourages people to part ways with the objects that fail to spark joy, but not before thanking them for their service. The way Kondo pledges gratitude for the crowded houses she visits, and thanks the clothes and books and lamps that serve so much purpose for the families seeking to declutter their homes, struck me as a powerfully Shinto way of conducting life.”Margaret Dilloway, “What White, Western Audiences Don’t Understand About Marie Kondo’s ‘Tidying Up’”
As a young girl, I wasn’t exposed to Shintoism, but a mix of Catholic and pagan-Filipino superstitions. Without knowing about the Shinto belief in “kami,” I practiced it. I treated objects in my possession as if they had life-like qualities, requiring as much respect as humans.
I made sure to use all ballpens in my pencil case, lest one pen would feel kawawa for not being used as much as the others. Whenever my mom would force us to do our quarterly “spring cleaning,” I felt a certain sense of loss in giving up things that were already dilapidated and worn, because they had given me so much joy. A toy that had been lost to the deep, dark nether portions of my bed is received with as much celebratory cheer as the day I first received it, as if it were the prodigal son, come back to his father’s home to give honor to his name.
I know. “Woowoo,” you’re probably thinking.
But it is this belief that makes Marie Kondo’s method so effective. When you respect the things around you, you become more mindful of their existence. They’re not just there to be of use to you, or to give you temporary happiness. They were made to bring joy to your life—in whatever means joy is present in your life.
If a gadget you had bought from the O Shopping channel is what gives you endless joy, then so be it. You make sure it is often used. You store it properly in its own box or spot in the cabinet. You take great care in making sure it’s not plugged to the wrong outlet.
If one book or 100 books all give you that warm fuzzy feeling akin to being around loved ones who appreciate you, who give you pleasure and great happiness, then by all means, keep and respect those 1 or 100 books.
But all the rest that don’t ever cross your mind, those that you’ve never used in a long time and don’t even think of using, thank them for having come into your life, and pass them on to someone who might find more value in them than you ever did.
3. The “joy spark” exists for everyone, whether you believe in Konmari, Shintoism, or not.
I like the exercise that Christine made us do during the workshop. She asked us to look among the things we brought with us, and identify which item sparked joy the most.
Naturally, a majority (3 out of 5, LOL) of us picked her mobile phone.
For me, my mobile phone is extensively important. It keeps me connected to people I love, people I work with. It gives me access to things I need to know about, specifically when I’m on the go. When I’m out or on a trip, I call my kids on FaceTime. I watch videos of them when I’m in transit, or while waiting for a client.
I use it heavily in my work, not just for obvious reasons. I have apps that I use in my interior design business—SketchUp Viewer, Asana, Compass, Lightroom for Mobile, Pinterest, Instagram, even Boysen Paints, and Smart Tools, an app that converts units of measurements.
Not to mention the convenience it gives in carrying out simple but exhausting tasks or errands, like depositing at the bank, buying groceries, or paying bills.
“How do you feel when you touch it?” Christine asked us.
I feel…well, naked without it. Mawala na ang wallet, huwag lang ang cellphone. I sort of felt ashamed for feeling that way for a material object, so I asked Christine if that was bad.
“It’s not so much about the dependence you have on your mobile phone,” she explains. “But it gives you an idea of what that ‘joy spark’ is. Use that feeling when you Konmari your own space.”
There are things we own that we feel naked without. That we feel a thrill running through our fingers when we hold them. Think of that one thing that you own. It could be an old and worn ticket to a train ride you took for the first time with your then-boyfriend, now husband. It could be the hospital bracelet your firstborn wore when she first came into the world. It could be a Cross pen you purchased with your first sweldo and had your name engraved on.
It could be anything. Anything that—you guessed it—sparks joy for you.
That same feeling exists with anyone, whether you believe in Konmari or not.
If and when you do decide to do the Konmari method on your own things, remember that joy spark. Every item that passes into your hands, ask yourself: Does it spark joy in the same way that that one important object you recalled sparks joy for you?
If it does, keep it, care for it, and show it the same respect as you would any precious object you own.
If it doesn’t, thank it (or, if you don’t like thanking objects, thank God or the Universe for allowing you to afford it, or to own such a thing), and pass it on to someone else who will cherish it.
There you have it. It’s really made me think deeply about what I own and what I have—in my life, to be honest. I like how the Konmari method isn’t just a simple tidying-up method. It’s an outlook that I feel we all could benefit from.
With that, I’m scheduled to Konmari my own stuff this coming weekend. Christine taught us to focus on our own things, and not to force the people we live with to do it. If they see it working for me, then perhaps they will also feel and appreciate it themselves.
I would love for you to do the Konmari method too, so I’ve reached out to Christine to tie up with Gal at Home Studio! I’m so excited about our plans and we’re still ironing out the details, but do follow us on social media for the announcement! I’m here, here, and here, and Christine is on IG as well.
What do you think? Is Konmari for you too? Do you have any apprehensions or doubts about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!