Jennifer Grassman and her jeans were breaking up.
Standing in her closet, cradling them tenderly in two hands, she admitted that she would never again fit into the size 8 jeans.
“They didn’t bring me joy,” said Grassman. “So out they went.”
It was one small step in a big decluttering movement that is sweeping Minnesota, boosting thrift-store donations, increasing business for home-organizers and neatening homes everywhere.
The Marie Kondo tidy-up tsunami has landed, and Grassman’s home will never be the same.
“It is beyond sparking joy. It’s created balance for me,” said Grassman, as she cleaned her house in Blaine with help from a paid Kondo-certified consultant.
Home organizer Marie Kondo stars in Netflix’s new reality series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” (Denise Crew, Netflix)
Japanese author Kondo has written four books about paring down possessions that fail to “spark joy” in the owner. “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” became a worldwide best-seller in 2011, but it was the Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” that catapulted her fame in the U.S.
The show debuted on Jan. 1. Immediately, Tom Canfield started to take notice.
Canfield, who holds the rank of envoy in the Salvation Army, said employees began to report donors talking about the TV show.
On a recent Saturday, one employee at a thrift store asked every donor what motivated them. Canfield said that 75 percent of those donors said Kondo had inspired them.
Consistent with the Kondo effect, Canfield said donations of clothing were up in January, but furniture donations were down. The teachings of Kondo focus on clothing more than larger items such as furniture.
“It’s easier to give a bag of clothes than a couch,” he said.
Officials of Goodwill Industries and Savers also reported unusual increases in their January donations.
Salvation Army jumped on the Kondo-wagon. “We have even used catch-phrases from the show in our marketing. It’s very hot,” said Canfield.
The Kondo organization certifies consultants — three in Minnesota and 222 worldwide.
Damaris Wells of St. Paul, the six-year owner of DETAILS Organizing It All, is not a Kondo convert. But she has heard customers mention the book and TV show.
Jen Grassman, right, points to a future messy spot she wants to tidy as Melissa Klug, center, laughs Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Blaine. Klug is one of three people in Minnesota that is Marie Kondo-certified to her methods. (Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)
“Professional organizers have been using the same principles for 30 years,” said Wells. “We do not spend a lot of time saying goodbye to each piece of clothing.”
One of those consultants says her life was changed by Kondo.
Melissa Klug of Apple Valley lost her job after a corporate merger. With time on her hands, she tackled the issue of decluttering her house.
“It took me four months,” said Klug. “But I realized that was the only exciting thing for me. I was good at it.”
In May 2018, she started the home-organizing business Home by 11, and later received the Kondo certification. Today, she has clients in several states, and charges them $75 an hour.
“I found there are a shocking number of people who need this,” said Klug.
One of those is Grassman. Kondo specialist Klug came to her home in Blaine in February.
She and Grassman plunged into the messy bedroom of son Noah. They hung up the items that “sparked joy” in the 8-year-old boy. Everything else was separated, to be donated — about one-third of Noah’s clothes.
Children, said Klug, can be overwhelmed with too much clothing. “Kids are paralyzed by too much choice,” she said. “Having less choice makes you feel more free.”
Jen Grassman shows her clean and arranged closet after working with Melissa Klug to tidy it up. (Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)
The bed was covered with eight bins. Bins are a problem, said Klug.
“You think you will go to the Container Store and your life will change,” said Klug. But merely storing clothing — even neatly — just delays the inevitable.
“It’s like arranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Klug. “It makes your too-much-stuff look nicer.”
When they finished, Noah’s closet looked like a museum exhibit. All shirts were arranged by colors and lined up on perfectly spaced, fuzzy-textured, long-necked new hangers.
They then attacked Grassman’s closet. Klug had already overseen the removal of 19 garbage bags full of clothes.
Jen Grassman shows her husband’s neatly lined up ties in their just-cleaned-out closet. (Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)
Her husband, Dan, recently stopped wearing ties to work. So he took them out of a cardboard box, discarded 30 of them, and tucked the remainder into two boxes. They are folded and positioned on their sides, not stacked up, so he can see them at one glance.
Grassman admitted she could do this all herself — theoretically. She worked on decluttering for months. She read Kondo’s books and watched the TV show. “But it just didn’t feel right. It didn’t flow.”
She gave up. She felt like a failure.
“I am not a homemaker. I am a home-wrecker. I wrecked our home by my lack of organization,” said Grassman. “For my brain, it doesn’t happen.”
But with the help of an expert, she has become a tidy-up champ.
As she folded shirts, Klug said that tidying up is a task that gets quickly snarled up with expectations, judgments and self-recriminations.
“We feel that women should intuitively know how to keep house,” said Klug. “But we don’t. We have so many other things to do.”
In Grassman’s house, the mess is gone — and with it, the anxiety it created.
As she folded a shirt, she said she was grateful for consultant Klug. “I am lucky,” she said, “to have her here.”
MARIE KONDO APPROACH
This is how master-declutterer Melissa Klug, trained in the techniques of Marie Kondo, approaches every tidy-up challenge:
One at a time, hold every object in your home and ask: Does this spark joy? If not, discard it.
There is no goal for reducing the number of your possessions. “If you can say everything in your home sparks joy, then keep it, confidently,” said Klug.
Work through objects by category, not room-by-room.
Process clothing first — every shoe, sock, winter coat, pair of underwear or stored item. Then — in this order — books, paper and paperwork, miscellaneous items called “Komono,” and sentimental items.
Fold clothes — try not to hang them. Do not stack up folded clothes in drawers, but arrange them sideways, so you can see them all at once.
Do not merely re-package items into bins or boxes. Subject each one to the “Does this spark joy?” test.
Discarding each item is solely the decision of the owner. No one else can determine if an item “sparks joy” for the owner.