On a chilly, snowy evening in January, more than 50 people ignored the elements to make their way to a workshop in the basement of the Upper Arlington Public Library in suburban Columbus.
Who knew that a discussion about cleaning closets — and dresser drawers, kitchen cabinets, crawl spaces and more — could be so irresistible?
The organizational method known as KonMari is enjoying another moment.
Introduced to Americans by Japanese author Marie Kondo in 2014 — the year that her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” was published in the United States — KonMari was quickly embraced, with countless people organizing and decluttering based on the KonMari notion of “your ideal lifestyle.”
Five years later, interest in the technique has resurfaced, fueled by the Netflix series “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.”
The show, released Jan. 1 to coincide with the new year and the season of resolutions, features Kondo walking homeowners through her process — gathering one’s belongings, one category at a time, and keeping only the possessions that “spark joy” — which results in some inspirational makeovers.
The promise of gaining more order in their lives is precisely what drew the 50-plus people to the Upper Arlington library, where certified KonMari consultant Michell Domke explained the six basic steps of the process:
• Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
• Decide what to keep based on what sparks joy.
• Proceed by category (clothes, books, papers, komono or miscellaneous, sentimental).
• Organize last; find a place for everything.
• Create new habits
Although Domke, who lives near Grandview Heights, had scheduled her workshop (and one earlier in January) before the Netflix series was available for streaming, she credited the show with boosting attendance at her presentations and putting Kondo "back on the scene,” she said.
The renewed interest is underscored on social media, where ”#KonMari” has trended in recent weeks, humorous memes have proliferated and thousands of photo posts pay tribute to the practice.
Simultaneously, Columbus-area resale shops and nonprofit organizations have seen an uptick in traffic.
“It’s been huge since the first of the year,” said Bridget Eakins, district manager for the four Clothes Mentor stores in central Ohio.
A woman who had recently watched “Tidying Up,” Eakins said, was in the store that very morning unloading a purse collection.
“This show has driven more business, and we’ve put pictures of [Kondo] and the saying, ‘sparking joy’ on our store walls.
“People want to be minimalist.”
Indeed, Domke’s library audience seemed eager to learn more, peppering her with questions that hinted of “problems” at home: What do I do with my grandmother’s china I don’t have room for? How many books should I keep? How do I get my significant other or children involved?
Domke, 35, explained how KonMari focuses not on elimination, per se, but on the level of happiness associated with personal items. “I’ve seen memes about dumping things in the trash, but it’s more intentional,” she said. “It’s what you want to keep in your life versus what you want to eliminate.”
Domke, who works full time in volunteer services but aspires to make a career of KonMari consulting, noted that many people keep items out of obligation, creating clutter as well as an uneasy feeling whenever a visitor looks at those items.
The KonMari method, recommended for completion within six months, urges people to explore the reasons behind the clutter.
“It’s so much more than putting things in order,” Domke said. “It’s about understanding your relationship with the things you have.”
The overarching concept — Does it spark joy? — can be difficult to grasp at first, she acknowledged.
Many of her clients, Domke said, want to know what one audience member shouted out: "How do I get past, ‘I don’t feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth?’ "
She has a ready answer: “It’s a negative reminder that we spent money on something we don’t like. Let it go.”
Katie Lovera, a busy Lewis Center mother of three, was skeptical of KonMari until hands-on help from Domke made her a believer.
“I thought I needed time, but what I really needed was clarity of what is important in my life,” said Lovera, 37.
During a half-dozen paid sessions, she managed to purge significant clutter and, along the way, learn that she dislikes skirts and enjoys scrapbooking her children’s artwork.
Her husband, she said, envied her organized closet and tidy drawers. KonMari incorporates, among other things, a distinct folding method and small boxes.
“The intent was for me to go through the process, but when I did it in our closet, it looked so good that my husband wanted to do it,” Lovera said. “It feels so much calmer.”
And the benefits didn’t end there, she said.
“It started this process of continually wanting to purge when we realize stuff is creating chaos in our lives.”
After having a client identify her “ideal lifestyle,” Domke said, she has the client gather all of her clothes in a large pile.
Each piece of clothing is physically handled before a decision is made to keep or toss it. She starts with clothes, she said, because they’re the most tactile and easiest to judge.
She then repeats the process with each of the other KonMari categories, all the while choosing an appropriate — and visual — place for any remaining item to stay.
Sentimental items go last.
“You can keep as many sentimental items as you want,” Domke said, “but you also have permission to get rid of every sentimental thing you have.”
That lesson was difficult but liberating for Megan McGowan, who attended the library workshop.
She had been debating what to do with her deceased grandmother’s china, which had been passed on to her during the holidays. She and her new husband live in a one-bedroom apartment.
“I liked the input of picking out a few to keep for the sentiment,” said McGowan, 30, who first heard about KonMari in 2017 when a friend recommended Kondo’s book.
“I really like how the decluttering method is really personal to each person,” she said. “If it said, ‘Get rid of your books; you shouldn’t have more than 20,’ I wouldn’t like it.
“Instead, it asks: Does it spark joy? Does it have value? You have that flexibility.
“It’s a really simple method to get rid of things.”