Why decluttering is about more than just chucking out your old handbags

As tidying guru Marie Kondo launches her latest quest to spark joy, we learn more about her methods from our course creator Hester…

Remember a few years ago when everyone went nuts for Marie Kondo? For about half an hour in 2018, we all had perfectly curated knicker drawers and felt pretty smug about it. But then we bought more stuff. And more stuff still. And suddenly we were back where we started… only worse, because WE WEREN’T ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE HOUSE. 

With the walls closing in during lockdown, many of us have felt suffocated by our own possessions (and families, but that’s a whole other article). New ways of living and working have meant we’ve struggled to find time and space to spark much joy because we’ve been too busy reshuffling our homes to accommodate desks and arguing with our partners about the sudden presence of an ugly computer monitor in the bedroom. 

A lot of people have reacted to this by moving house, or throwing money at loft extensions, but if that all sounds a bit expensive and stressful, bringing a bit of KonMari wisdom back into the home could be the key to restoring some work/life equilibrium (and if you get rid of that greying bra with the snapped underwire in the process, it’s a bonus).   

So, with impeccable timing, Marie is back, with a new show on Netflix, Sparking Joy With Marie Kondo, this time, focused on helping businesses declutter, rather than homes. And these days, there isn’t just one of her, but a whole army of professional declutterers, trained in the KonMari method, all over the world.

One of them is Hester Van Hien, a founding Discoco course creator who, like many others, was forced into a career flip during the pandemic (she previously worked in travel). Now she helps people both in person in south London and internationally over Zoom to sort their lives out by decluttering. If it sounds scary and overwhelming, a few minutes with Hester will reassure you – she’s much more fun, friendly and laid-back than one might expect a professional neat freak to be! 

Hester Van Hien 

We recently chatted to Hester over Instagram about her new business, Tidylicious (you can watch the full video here), while she coached Lucy to part with some neglected clothes from her drawer of shame, because this is always the best starting point. “You always need to start with clothes,” Hester explains. “And you can make subcategories because it can be overwhelming – it’s all about tidying by category rather than location. You finish one category and then you move on to the next.”

One of the things we learned from Hester is that it’s not really about getting rid of stuff, but focusing on the positive by thinking about what you actually want to keep – yes, that’s where the whole “sparking joy” thing comes into it. “It’s quite important that you focus on what you want to keep because you are focusing on the positive,” she says. “‘It can be quite hard letting go and it makes it a bit easier when you focus on the good things.”

Hester also says we should visualise how our life might look without the clutter. “What happens now that you’re not happy with, and what would go differently if you had a tidy home? Get a picture in your mind of your ideal lifestyle so that it makes it a bit easier to make decisions.”

It’s not just about what you keep, but how and where you keep it too. “Once you decide to keep things, you decide how you want to store them,” explains Hester. “Folding is a big part of it. In the KonMari method you try as much as possible to store everything standing up – not just your clothes but even in the fridge! Marie Kondo apparently has all her carrots standing up in the fridge!”

We’re not sure we’ll go quite that far, but the idea of being able to clearly see the things we care about is appealing – not least because the work/life/kids/Discoco juggle creates a lot of mental clutter which seems to spill over into physical clutter too. And this is where decluttering isn’t just about fine-tuning your belongings; it can help you develop in different ways too.

Hester says, for instance, that many people who embrace the KonMari way of life become more frugal as a result, because they only buy things that bring either beauty or purpose to their lives, which then means they have more money to spend on life-enriching experiences, or to save up for things they really love and need. They also become more grateful for the things around them, because they can see and enjoy them with clarity, and some devotees have even credited KonMari with helping them overcome anxiety and depression. So it turns out what might sound trivial, or like a luxury, can actually be quite key to wellbeing. 

We’ve never been sure if a tidy house comes before a tidy mind, or vice versa, but it’s beginning to dawn on us that by actively using techniques like KonMari to force the first one, we’re much more likely to feel calmer and more in control too. Even if our carrots won’t stay upright. 

Check out Hester’s courses, DIY Declutter (a short taster) and Organise Your Home here.

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