Japan’s declutter queen expands her empire
NEW YORK — People often ask Japanese tidying queen Marie Kondo what containers they need to achieve her brand of organizational success. They expect her to “reveal some hitherto secret storage weapon,” she explains in her popular book.
Instead, she advised when “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” was first published in Japanese in 2011, “You can solve your storage problems with things you already have in the house.”
But Kondo’s thinking has evolved as she’s leveraged her massive, global fan base to expand her empire. She’s now got an upcoming Netflix show, a fledgling corps of consultants working around the world to help her fans declutter their homes, and, on Tuesday, she’s launched her first product line: six-piece sets of beautiful, sturdy paper boxes for $89 a pop.
In a recent appearance in Manhattan to announce the show and merchandise line, Kondo said she thinks lovely storage options will spark the life-changing joy she wrote about in her book, which has sold more than 10 million copies in 40-plus countries. She also hopes the boxes will motivate more people to actually complete all the steps in her laborious KonMari Method of sorting, tossing and putting things away in their right and righteous locations.
The new storage sets are the shape and size of shoe boxes. (Her book had recommended using real shoe boxes for organizing.) Smaller boxes in the set are akin to iPhone boxes (another reuse hack she recommends). All are intended to be of service on shelves or in drawers (the sets are called Hikidashi, which means “drawer” in Japanese) to hold such things as sunglasses, handbags, papers, socks, undergarments and T-shirts, the latter three lovingly folded in the flat, KonMari-sanctioned way so they stand upright.
“I’m probably the only person in the world who makes such an official occasion to introduce empty boxes,” the soft-spoken mother of two recently told a small gathering of journalists through a translator as she unveiled the containers. “These are meant to enhance your experience of the KonMari Method.”
The boxes will also enhance her bottom line. Since Kondo unleashed the best-selling “Life-Changing Magic,” including an English translation in 2014, she’s published three other books, earned a spot on Time magazine’s 2015 list of 100 most influential people and given birth to two girls, now 3 and nearly 2.
She has given birth to a new business as well: consultants certified by her and sent forth into homes in 23 countries, from Europe and the Americas to Australia and the Middle East. As for her new show, Netflix ordered an initial eight episodes of her series of home consultations but will say little else on the record.
For now, it’s all about the boxes, in pale pink, soft gray, taupe and purple watercolor designs. The sets are dubbed Wonder, Harmony, Clarity and Balance. Customers ordering the containers, for delivery in mid-September from her website, konmari.com, will receive a series of emails and other help online to guide them through the tidying process.
Perhaps more importantly, she hopes to connect devotees to one another online via her take on social networking.
“I often hear that it is very difficult to sustain your motivation to tidy when you’re doing it all by yourself, so I very much feel that having this community is very important,” Kondo said.
She has adorned just the interiors of the boxes. One set has a purple tree branch with white buds inside. Others are done in abstract swirls. The idea, Kondo said, is to “make the things that you store inside happy,” rather than merely hide belongings away. Their plain exterior design also makes the boxes easier to blend with just about any decor.
Two additional sets of boxes in smaller sizes and different color schemes are planned for the holiday season later this year.
Kondo, who is based in Tokyo, told The Associated Press in an interview after the crowd cleared out that she’s not done writing books quite yet. Her next one will focus on workplace organizing.
She is traveling less now and no longer does regular home consultations, a business she began building as a 19-year-old college student studying sociology. Working one-on-one again in homes for Netflix was a highlight of Kondo’s year.
“It was a very exciting, very enjoyable experience for me,” she said. “I’ve been engaged so much in giving lectures, doing media appearances and so on.”
She has also been engaged in motherhood, not a small thing when your passion since age 5 has been tidying. The unflappable Kondo still lives a tidy life, of course, but young kids have been a challenge.
“I try to teach them how to fold clothes. Children are very close observers so I try to make it so they can watch me folding clothes,” Kondo said. “From time to time I do feel anxious. It’s not 100 percent. It’s not perfect.”