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Photo by Rebecca Tien.

A Place for Almost Everything (And Joyfully Get Rid of Everything Else)

Marie Kondo’s best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has changed more than just the lives of the hopelessly cluttered. It has spurred small business owners into action to help those that mire in their piles of clutter. 

Michell Domke has always loved organizing (save for a foray into messiness as a teenager) and was in the process of starting a professional organizing business. But she found herself in a bit of an entrepreneurial slump, feeling like she didn’t know which direction to go in.

“I picked up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, which had been sitting on my bookshelf, unread, for a couple of years. As I was reading it, I thought, ‘This is exactly what I want to do and this is exactly what I want to bring to my clients’.” 

“I fell in love with KonMari because it’s about more than just putting things in order. It’s about reflecting on your current state, visualizing your ideal lifestyle, setting your intention about where you want to go with your life, and making choices about what to keep based on what sparks joy.”

Domke utilizes Kondo’s method, called KonMari, to help her clients pare down their lifestyle. The method purports to have ripples that spread out to all areas of the user’s life. And Domke lives her philosophy as she teaches it to others. She is quick to discard things she no longer wants, but she’s not above the ebb and flow of organization versus chaos. And she takes all the phases in stride.

“My house is an active space. I live in it and run my business from it, so it fluctuates between very clean and organized, and a total disaster. It is super joyful, though. It’s full of plants, art, joyful sentimental items, small pretty things; it’s comfortable and cozy. I’m an entrepreneur, so when it’s a mess, I’m definitely in a creative, or growth phase. I won’t allow myself to clean or organize it, because that’s my distraction from doing the hard thing that I really need to do to get to the next phase.”

The KonMari method is singular in its approach to organizing. It provides a therapeutic purging process that seeks to remedy the hangover of consumption. It is a mindful approach to surrounding yourself with things that make you happy, and shedding the psychic weight of the things that are left hanging around.

“I fell in love with KonMari because it’s about more than just putting things in order. It’s about reflecting on your current state, visualizing your ideal lifestyle, setting your intention about where you want to go with your life, and making choices about what to keep based on what sparks joy. The ideal lifestyle is the roadmap for the entire journey. Keep what sparks joy and let go of the rest.”

Domke finds joy in helping people sort themselves out of rough patches.

“I meet people where they are at, and typically that’s in some kind of pain. [This can be] because of disorganization, clutter, or maybe the loss of a loved one, or the addition of a new baby to the family which is very joyful but comes with a lot of stuff! I’m 100% supportive of people where they are in their current state and help them to tap into where they want to go.”

The best part seems to be the way the method changes not only the surroundings of the user, but their internal compass, as well. 

“Typically in our culture we don’t tap into our feelings about anything, so making decisions based on what makes us happy can be revolutionary. You hone your sensitivity to joy through each category so that by the time you get to sentimental items you can look at them differently. Many of us have items that we keep out of guilt or obligation. They take up space, cause stress and really we have permission to keep or let go of any sentimental item we have.”

Sure, you might say: This all sounds nice. But what about those of us with real messes? The ones that keep certain doors in our houses shut permanently, as mess colonizes entire rooms. Or the ones who feel like their basements and attics are more deep, dark secrets, than simple storage areas?

“No one is beyond organizing,” Domke offers, benevolently. “But if someone doesn’t want to organize you can’t make them and you can’t do it for them. I get calls all the time from people who want me to fix their spouse, kids, roommates. My advice is start with yourself. Take care of your own things and maybe it will rub off on them. It happens! I’ve had spouses tidy their own things after they see the results of their partner. No one is hopeless. And you don’t need to clean or organize things before I come over. I’m here to help in the current state.” 

You hear that, dear readers? There’s hope for us yet.

To put your house and life in order, visit michelldomke.com

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