Helen Youn has trained under Marie Kondo herself€”get ready to declutter and spark some joy.

When Helen Youn first read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she found it to be just that: life-changing. “I just became so passionate and talked about it all the time to anybody who would listen. I would recommend it to strangers at bookstores—I was kind of that crazy person who wanted to share the message!”

And now, after training with grand organizational goddess Kondo and her team, Youn is doing just that, as the prairie’s only certified KonMari consultant. Get a head start on organizing for 2019 with Youn’s tips for decluttering, organizing and, yes, changing your life.

Sort all your dishes at once. (Photo by Brooke Lark.)

Tip #1: Tidy in categories

Instead of tackling your organization one room at a time—a situation that often just leads to shuffling objects from the bedroom to the living room to the dining room and back again—gather all of your items from one category (books, for example) and deal with them in one fell swoop. “There’s an order to it—you start with clothing, then books, then paper, then miscellaneous items, then the sentimental ones,” explains Youn. “Having this order, it’s kind of like going down a checklist and actually seems achievable. When you view it as one big process it overwhelms a lot of people.”

Tip #2: Decide what kind of lifestyle you want to live

“Before you start decluttering, you need to find out where you want to be,” says Youn. “What lifestyle would make you really happy?” There are plenty of items lurking in all of our closets that we’re hanging onto “just in case,” but Youn advocates for being intentional. Figure out what your ideal life looks like, and edit your belongings to fit that vision—it’s much easier to decide what to keep and what to let go when you actually have an end goal in mind. “I think that’s a step a lot of people skip but that’s important. As you go through each of your items you have to envision—is the ideal version of me someone who would be enjoying this food or wearing this loungewear and reading this book?” says Youn. And your new, aspirationally organized home might just actually accommodate the life you’re dreaming of. You may not actually need a big new shelving unit once you declutter. (Photo by Tu Tu.)

Tip #3: Make your Ikea trip after you declutter

It’s a mistake we’ve all made: fired up and ready to get organized, we head out and stock up on cute bins and new shelves…before we’ve even figured out what we need storage space for. “You have no idea what you’re going to keep so it’s kind of dangerous—if you put things neatly away, it creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved,” says Youn. So declutter first, organize second.

Tip #4: Reconsider “joy”

One of the most quoted concepts from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is that one should only keep objects that “spark joy.” This may seem ridiculous when faced with sorting through a cluttered kitchen drawer—how, exactly, does a wooden spoon spark joy? Where does necessity come into play? Youn, however, views joy through a different lens: “We think about a joyful purchase as something exciting, you’ve been wanting for a long time, like designer shoes. But even something as simple as a wooden spoon, there’s different sizes, there’s different weights, that feel more pleasant in your hand.” There are knives you reach for constantly, and ones you don’t…so why keep those that are just cluttering up your drawers? The effectiveness of a practical tool can also spark joy in its own way, Youn reminds us. “Even something basic like a can opener, you can appreciate a good one that makes your life easier. I don’t want to struggle or be frustrated. Having good tools makes jobs (and life) easier.”

Tip #5: Be prepared to learn a little more about yourself

“One thing that struck a chord with me with the book is that cleaning confronts nature and tidying is an act of confronting yourself,” says Youn. During a serious decluttering, you’ll find yourself really analyzing yourself—asking, how did this item come into my life, why did I keep it, how should I keep it?—but ultimately, that’s a good thing. “We identify who we are with our belongings, and it’s important to realize that we shouldn’t hang on to things because we have fear, because it adds up and that’s changing your entire living space if you have a little bit of fear everywhere.”

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