How decluttering can help maximize small spaces

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It’s a wise choice to employ philosophies similar to KonMari when 75 percent of 30,000 pre-selling condo units are studio and one-bedroom units, with unit sizes ranging from 18 to 90 sqm, some even as small as 15.5 sqm. Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Like many Filipino households, children leave a majority of their belongings in the house their parents live in. If they currently live in a more highly urbanized area, they would sometimes opt to send their old things to the province. The parents then have boxes of things that don’t belong to them take over their storage.

This practice is something frowned upon by Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant who created the decluttering method called the KonMari method.

She believes that when we declutter, we must utilize our storage wisely, and responsibly discard our belongings in a way that will give us joy rather than guilt.

The method also practices tidying by category rather than by location, focusing primarily on your belongings. Starting with the first category of clothes and then ending with the fifth category of sentimental items. The key element to this method is the universal question that we must ask ourselves when we are confronted by our belongings: Does it spark joy?

She raises this question in order for us to realize what we really need in our life, not based on what we are told by our intellect, but by what our heart dictates based on a feeling. It’s not a familiar question in the business of organizing space, but it is a practical question that can simplify your life and purchasing choices.

When I began tidying, I started with my own space. I did the order given by Kondo: clothes, books, papers, komono or miscellany, and sentimental items, as prescribed in her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It took one whole afternoon to finish organizing clothes, but when I got to the next category, I was on a roll. It became very satisfying looking at clean counters and evenly spaced hangers instead of a jam-packed closet full of clothes I rarely wore.

In Manila’s crowded urban setting, affordable real estate is limited to a few square meters of floor space. For a population of 12 million, there is higher demand for available spaces that are 50 sqm or smaller.

 

The method dictates to only focus on your belongings. I used to share the room with my sister, and when she got married and moved out she took everything she owned. But that isn’t always the case. Some of my siblings had moved out as well, but had left their clothes, comic books, trophies and boxes of office documents. What do I do with their belongings since they took up valuable space?

I attended a KonMari Certification Course in Chicago in 2017, and I am currently training to become a consultant to help others use the method. To qualify to attend the course you must show that you have applied the method to your home through photos. I had finished my room, but at that time there were piles of belongings owned by my brothers and father.

I needed to convince my dad to invest at least three hours in the morning to tackle his categories. The most enjoyable and numerous was minimizing the book collection. When we were through there were six balikbayan boxes filled with books and shelves that looked relieved to rest.

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In Manila’s crowded urban setting, affordable real estate is limited to a few square meters of floor space. For a population of 12 million, there is higher demand for available spaces that are 50 sqm or smaller. It’s becoming increasingly popular to limit your belongings to only a few items due to this statistic. What could be so wrong in finding satisfaction in the bare minimum and necessary when you can only fit so much in your home?

It’s a wise choice to employ philosophies similar to KonMari when, according to an analysis from 2015 by property company Lamudi Philippines, 75 percent of 30,000 pre-selling condo units in the major areas of Metro Manila (Makati CBD, BGC, Rockwell, Ortigas Center, Eastwood City) are studio and one-bedroom units, with unit sizes ranging from 18 to 90 sqm, some even as small as 15.5 sqm.

Size matters and small seems to be the trend for Metro Manila’s condo market. In the same study, a real estate consultant head, Jose Romarx Salas, said that 200 units in one condo tower was unheard of until the late 1990s. He added that “it has become the norm with some developers going as far as launching projects with 30 units per floor, or essentially 1,200 total units in a 40-story high rise.”

In Lamudi’s property inventory, there is a significant percentage of the total condo units being of the “shoebox” variety — one that is the most prevalent in populous cities in Metro Manila. As such, a substantial amount of Filipinos who are living in this set-up could employ the KonMari method when moving into a small space.

I have a client who lives alone in an apartment with limited space in Bonifacio Global City. She hired me as a consultant because she yearns for a neater home. Although she is organized, she could never find the time to give her closet more room to breathe.

When we went to work on decluttering her space, we took all her clothes out of her closet, and laid them on her bed. I then asked her to pick up one item of clothing at a time and I asked her, “Does it spark joy?” She would answer, “Hmm, I’m not sure … I just bought this,” or “I haven’t worn it enough,” or “I might lose weight and wear this again.”

My client asked me a question at the end of the clothing session. We had just fixed her underwear drawer, then she observed it wasn’t as crowded after everything was neatly folded.

She asked me, “What if I end up with too much space?”

“Well, that does sound like a good problem to me,” I replied.