Declutter in 2019 by choosing joy

After nearly a decade of teaching in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Shannon Huneycutt hit pause on her career to stay home with her two children. Seven years later, as she began to evaluate re-entering the workforce, she had an epiphany: Her
favorite part of a new school year was organizing the classroom.

“I loved it, just loved it,” says Huneycutt. “I would have everything in its place. Everything was immaculate.”

But could she take her love of organizing and make a career of it?

That’s when her husband sent her a link to Japanese decluttering guru and international sensation Marie Kondo and her bestselling books: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and its illustrated sequel, Spark Joy.

Huneycutt devoured them. She loved the simplicity of Marie Kondo’s approach, known as the KonMari method. The multi-step process boils down to a core message: Systematically touch every item in your home, figure out which items that spark joy for you, discard the rest, and then create a specific place for each of the items you keep.

It’s a decluttering message that’s counterintuitive in a nation where self-storage facilities are as ubiquitous as fast food. (In fact, there are more than three times as many self-storage facilities as McDonald’s, according to commercial real estate
publication REJournals).

And there are a growing number of professionals who are devoted to culling and organizing those crowded, filled-to-the-gills storage units and their owner’s equally stuffed homes. There’s even a new Netflix show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,”
premiering Jan. 1, that captures a series of inspiring home makeovers by Kondo herself.

After applying the KonMari method to her own home, Huneycutt, 39, went through the difficult, months-long process of becoming an official KonMari consultant. She’s now one of only about 180 in the world—and the only one in the greater Charlotte region. She even met Kondo herself at a seminar in London.

Huneycutt’s consultancy, Spark Joy Charlotte (sparkjoycharlotte.com), charges from $2,500 to $5,000 for a top-to-bottom, whole-home makeover. The process is broken down to between seven and 10 sessions, each about four hours long.

In honor of the New Year, we asked Huneycutt to chat with us about the KonMari Method, clutter-clearing tips, and the power of tidying up once and for all. (Yes, that’s a thing.) Lighted edited for brevity and clarity.

The thought of getting your entire house tidy is so daunting.
When you start thinking about organizing your house, you don’t even want to do it. You think, “Oh my gosh, I have so much stuff. What do I want to keep?” That’s why we go through each category and break them into smaller pieces.

So instead of going room by room (bedroom, kitchen, living room, etc.), the KonMari method is about tidying by category. Could you explain?
There’s something about getting rid of things that’s very difficult for people. This process breaks it down into chunks. She has five categories: clothing, books, papers, komono—which is miscellaneous, a huge category—and sentimental items. The
reason she breaks it down into categories is, say you’re doing your clothes. You might think they’re all in your bedroom, but you’ll find you might have clothes in the coat closet. You might have clothes you’re storing in your children’s room or in the
guest room.

Why does she start with clothing?
She felt like that would be the easiest thing for people to let go of first. A lot of us are changing our wardrobes constantly anyways, so a lot of people are ready to let some of their clothes go. If you jump into your pictures and greeting cards, you’re going to be a mess. You’re not going to be ready to deal with them.

What falls in the paper category?
All of the papers in the house. Documents, receipts, manuals you would use for your dishwasher, your children’s school papers. If at any point my client struggles with how to move past something, and it’s too emotional or sentimental, we can pull it
and save it for the very last category.

And then tell me about komono? In Japanese, I know the word means “small items or articles.”
I have a whole checklist I go through with clients, broken down into subcategories: your makeup, your toiletries, your linen closet with all your linens and towels, your bathroom with your brushes and toothpaste, outdoor gear, umbrellas. Kitchen
komono is the last komono you do because the kitchen is like the heart of the house.

Sounds like it’s an emotional process.
It’s very emotional. Anyone can physically move things around in their house. But once you get back to “Why have I kept this? Does it really spark joy for me or am I just afraid that I might need it one day?” I ask clients: “When was the last time you
used this?” Five years ago? I’m thinking you’re probably not going to use this again.

Does the process get easier?
As you move through the process, in her order, you find it gets so much easier. By the time you get to the sentimental category, the rest of your house is so decluttered and awesome, you’re ready to let some of that go. I had a client, an artist, who had
about 100 journals. By the time we got to the sentimental category, she was skimming through her journals and letting them go. She said, “I felt so free.” She probably kept 10.

I know Marie Kondo is big on ascribing human-like feelings to items. Do you?
We are trained to carry out her method; however, I can put my own spin on it. In Japan, they are all about treating your things in your house with respect, almost as if they’re alive. I don’t feel like that. I wouldn’t say, “Let’s not ball up your socks because the socks are going to cry.” I’d say, “Here’s how Marie says to fold your socks, so that you don’t wear them out.”

choose joy, charlotte interiors, interior design

What if someone is having a hard time parting with something, even if it doesn’t “spark joy”?
I had a client struggling to get rid of a pair of boots. After having babies, she couldn’t get back into her boots. I had her take a picture of them, give the boots a hug, and let them go. That made her feel better.

Another of my clients had just had a baby. He was six or seven months old. She was working out and losing weight, so we had a section of her closet that we labeled “I will try this on in a year.”

Obviously, you’re a clutter-clearing expert. But do you have an Achilles heel?
My jammies in my bedroom drawers. I try my best—I’m going through that thing all the time, trying to fold it up like everybody else. I do it over and over again.

So ideally, once you go through the process with someone once, you won’t have to work with them again.
You really should only have to do it once. It really changes the way you think about your house, your things, and your future purchases. If you’re doing KonMari over and over again, you haven’t grasped the full process.

How do you keep from relapsing?
It changes your whole mindset. When you get ready to purchase something, you’ll think about it. You’ll say “I’m bringing this into my house. Where am I going to put it? Am I going to wear it?”

Photos by Catrina Earls Photography

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