Saugerties woman a Kondo-certified consultant in clutter elimination

Joanna Black

Devised in Tokyo by the now-iconic Marie Kondo, the KonMari method of tackling clutter has reached the Hudson Valley. The crux of the philosophy is this: only keep belongings that “spark joy.” (Tokimeku, the word in Japanese, directly translates to “flutter,” “throb” or “palpitate.”)

Curating Simplicity, a personal organizational service founded in 2017 by Saugerties resident Joanna Black, will bring this method, recently reinvigorated by the hit Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, to locals looking to streamline their material possessions.

Black said she has never been faced with homeowners that weren’t receptive to her multi-faceted approach, a re-imagining of Kondo’s tenets that combines strategy, support, meditation, breathing techniques and a Himalayan salt bath.

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“I think that they respond to it for a few different reasons,” said Black. “First of all, with everything that is going on in our world right now, people are overwhelmed, and they’re ready for a simpler way of life with fewer distractions. Maybe they want to be distracted to what is going on in the world, and have something to focus on. This process is very meditative and it helps us get back to what’s important to us — we’re all in search of that. … The other takeaway is that, as humans, we respond best to when we’re shown a path or blueprint as to how to achieve an end result. The KonMari method is a simple approach, but if you follow it, it works. … Even if you just want to organize your clothing, if you do A, B, and C, you will have a beautifully organized and clutter-free closet.”

Black, who is one of just 213 KonMari certified consultants worldwide, first read Kondo’s guide, The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, while pregnant and preparing her home for the arrival of her child. The process of becoming certified to walk others through the KonMari process took a year — after reading Kondo’s book, would-be consultants must organize their own home using her method and provide photographs of the finished product. That’s followed by seminars with Kondo herself, supervised practice cleanings of at least two homes and a final written exam.

Throughout her training, Black suffered from post-partum illness, Lyme disease and adrenal fatigue. “I think [the method] really resonated with me because simplicity has always been on the top of mind for our family,” said Black, who now has two young children. “Since I met my husband, we’ve been working to simplify. I’ve always been very intrigued with the Japanese culture, and the way that they do things … I had studied how to do furoshiki wrapping, which is when you beautifully wrap your presents in a piece of cloth. When I heard of the Marie Kondo book, it felt natural. This was a method that was tried and tested, and it fit in with what I was trying to achieve in my life.”

Curating Simplicity, she said, was founded to provide a resource for those who need support in the decluttering process, and specifically to alleviate the stress that women face in maintaining a household.

“Clearing clutter is stressful in itself, and for women in particular there is a lot of shame in a messy house,” said Black, who also founded SheWorks, the first exclusively female co-working space in New York City. “They feel inadequate that they haven’t maintained their home. There’s so much pressure these days, through social media alone, to be that perfect person. We’re in an age where you’re comparing yourself to others. I tell my clients that their goal is being the best version of themselves — spending more time with your children, living a healthier lifestyle, whatever that might be is most important.”

How it works

The first step for a KonMari specialist is to “greet the home” that they are about to appraise. On her Netflix show, Kondo kneels with closed eyes and a placid smile, seemingly feeling the energy of the home. Black lights a candle in the home’s foyer and asks the client to write down their intentions in tidying their home, which is sealed into an envelope; the candle is lit until the session is complete. To KonMari an entire home takes, on average, five or six sessions, each of which lasts about four hours. Black estimates that, in total, she has conducted 50 such sessions for families, individuals and even in corporate settings. These sessions can be conducted online, which costs $175 per, or in person for $375. Her website, http://www.curatingsimplicity.com, is slated for a revamping, but for now provides visitors with simple tools for stress management, and even guides to things like nutritious eating.

Black removes unwanted clothing from the home, removing another stress factor entirely; clients are given the option to hand over ill-fitting and underused garments to Curating Simplicity, who will sell them to consignment and donate the proceeds to children’s charity Softkin.org. Other destinations for the clothing, including local shelters and the newly opened Table of Woodstock charity, are also presented.

Starting in February, Black said will accept applications for additional cleaning experts to add to her expanding tidying team. To book a session, apply for a position or keep up with Joanna Black’s other ventures, visit http://www.curatingsimplicity.com.


Some quick tidying tips

Joanna Black offers a few steps families can take right away to improve their household organization.

• Have a drop-off point for all the thing you need on a daily basis — your keys, your purse — have one place that you keep them at all times.

• People with kids and families, they’re never too young to start leading by example, to show them how to be tidy and to hold them accountable. Put a basket in the house, one for each child, and have them put their toys in them at the end of the day. It puts them in the motion of tidying up. Try to make it part of that daily routine. A lot of the younger ones learn the clean-up song at school, but once they get a little older that song doesn’t resonate with them anymore. They need more tools.

• Have a designated spot for toys rather than “toy sprawl” when toys start overtaking the entire house. I find that when I work with families and find one space where children can go to play with their toys and store them, it helps them out. I find that if you designate one toy zone, it makes it easier to maintain.

• An everyday practice is to really be aware of the clothes that you’re wearing on an ongoing basis. If you truly love something, wear it and enjoy wearing it. It doesn’t have to be for special occasions. That goes for items in your house — you could use your special occasion china every day. It doesn’t do anything stuck in a closet. For instance, in our house I have our royal Dalton china that we use on a daily basis. My children use it too — I don’t have good china and everyday china.

• Try not to store all of your soaps and shampoos and conditioners in the shower — it’s great to create a zone from them under the sink or in a drawer, and you take what you need. Especially with families, showers can become a clutter of containers. For my clients, you can do it under the drawer and have a little shower basket.

• Finish everything — in our consumer-driven economy, we often buy new food, shampoos and products before using the ones we already have.

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