In an age of prioritized self-care, Marie Kondo swooped in with her decluttering philosophy and taught us that an organized space is inherently tied to our happiness. But is there really a science to the KonMari trend?

“Studies have shown that clutter and unfinished home projects are correlated with increased cortisol levels—the hormone responsible for stress,” shares Robert Grigore, a registered clinical counsellor and certified EMDR therapist who practises in Vancouver. “A home needs to provide us with a feeling of safety or security.” There are two ways people will respond if they come home to a messy environment: “They’ll either use their downtime to tidy and clean, which increases cortisol and requires physical and mental energy, or sit in the clutter, which is likely to perpetuate feelings of failure, hopelessness, apathy and powerlessness.”

Grigore admits that Kondo is on to something in her quest to spark joy—so how can you bring the same joie de vivre to a condo, where storage space is sparse?

iiiPhoto by Kyoko Fierro.

First Things First

In his practice, Grigore has instituted the concept of “productive procrastination”: delaying the completion of a large, daunting task by focusing on smaller organizational tasks—like cleaning the garage or finally organizing that bookshelf. But whether you’re organizing to procrastinate or not, where exactly should you start?

“From the ground up,” says Nicole Sjöstedt of Live Modern Agency, who, alongside business partner Christina Tan, provides home and wardrobe styling. “Anything that can be thrown on the ground or under the table—kids’ toys, books, that sort of thing—has to get tidied first.”

jjjPhoto by Kyoko Fierro.

Kitchen Dos and Don’ts

From cookware and equipment to food itself, the kitchen can make organizing... agonizing, to say the least. Luckily, less so with these simple pointers.

DO: Reconsider what goes into which cabinet. “Make space for the things you use every day by moving things like your casserole dishes to lower and upper cupboards that are less convenient to reach,” advises Sjöstedt.

DON'T: Hold on to things that don't serve a purpose. “The best piece of advice I ever got was from a girlfriend who served me coffee using her wedding china,” Sjöstedt shares. “She said to me, ‘I only have so much space for dishes. Why not use them every day?’”

DO: Ensure that large items serve double duty. Bram Sawatzky, one half of Willow and Stump Design Co. (our 2018 Western Living Furniture Designers of the Year), uses the kitchen island as the perfect example: “In a condo, it likely serves as your dining room table, too.” To ensure neither purpose is ever off duty, any storage should still be accessible, even when you’re sitting down for a meal.

DON'T: Leave things out on the counter. “In so many kitchens, you can’t see the marble countertops or gold faucets past the coffee maker and toaster,” says Sjöstedt. Instead of a knife block, she suggests a magnetized strip on the side of your fridge.

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Mastering the Master Bedroom

Got monsters in your closet or under your bed? Turn your clutter nightmare into a dream come true.

Find sneaky storage. “Choose a bed with nesting storage underneath,” recommends Kaly Ryanof Willow and Stump Design Co., who adds that drawers don’t always work in a small space. “A headboard with integrated lighting can also replace the need for bedside tables.”

Blow off some steam. Condo closets are often, well, condo-sized. And that means sometimes you have no choice but to fold your clothes. If that’s the case? According to Sjöstedt, “Steaming is usually better—and easier—than ironing.”

yyPhoto by Kyoko Fierro.

Simplify your decisions. “A lot of us pick our clothes or linens based on how we feel in the moment,” explains Sjöstedt. “A colour-coordinated closet is always the quickest to sort through.”

Condo-sized Solutions

Our pros weighed in on the pieces they find themselves recommending time and time again.

Muuto bins. “One of my clients has two young boys. We gave each boy a basket and told them to fill it with everything they’d left lying around—games, artwork, Lego. It looks super-neat and tidy, and super-stylish, with nearly no effort.”—N.S.

iiPhoto by Kyoko Fierro.

Fluyt bench. “The top lifts up, creating a large storage footprint for big items like blankets, bags and coats. It’s great for your entranceway or even under a television.”—K.R.

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Horizon light. “These art pieces double as shelves for precious items that should be on display. Marrying function and form is really important, and activating a wall space is one of the best things you can do in a condo.”—B.S.

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Expert-approved Hacks

These three don’t just talk the talk.

“In my closet, I only use white wooden hangers to keep everything feeling light. And you’re going to laugh, but I keep at least two inches between every hanger.”—N.S.

gggPhoto by Kyoko Fierro.

“One of my favourite pieces is a wall-mounted key holder by the front door. It’s a place to dump the dog leash, my keys, my wallet the minute I get home—it’s amazing how easy it is to lose those small items!”—K.R.

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“I recently added our modular unit Superstruct, to my living room. I wanted a nice big slab coffee table, but it’s a small space and I couldn’t block access to the patio door on the other side of the room. The flexibility is perfect.”—B.S. 

willowWillow and Stump. Photo by Carlo Ricci.