Unpacking the “KonMari” trend: The personalization of ultra-home organizing

A tidy, minimalist kitchen in with open shelving to keep cookbooks close at hand.

A tidy, minimalist kitchen in with open shelving to keep cookbooks close at hand.

Before Marie Kondo, there was William Morris, a renowned 19th-century British designer who lived by this philosophy: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Kondo has a more stringent and less personalized approach. She encourages followers of her KonMari method to grasp each item in their hands and evaluate their body’s reaction to it. If it makes you feel uplifted, put it in the keep pile. If it causes you to feel weighed down, in the donation bin it goes. But here’s the thing — there’s no one-size-fits-all organizing method. Whether you prefer a pragmatic approach à la William Morris or Kondo’s emotionally-guided decision-making process, figuring out what works for you and your lifestyle is paramount.

Floating shelves provide vertical storage in this compact home office featuring an impressive view of the Santa Monica shoreline.

Floating shelves provide vertical storage in this compact home office featuring an impressive view of the Santa Monica shoreline.

“The method of organization should support the client’s daily routine and activities,” says interior designer Sarah Barnard, who specializes in healthy, happy, personalized spaces. “What items do they use most regularly? How do they envision the space? Having a clear goal will start to inform the plan.”

Barnard provides organizing services for clients in every stage of life, from young professionals with little spare time to retirees with reduced mobility. “One of the main reasons people ask for our help is because they are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start,” explains Sarah. “Our goal is to streamline the process by setting up personalized systems that can be easily maintained.”

A tidy studio bookcase keeps favorite books close at hand. A painting by Abby Sin, sculpture, ceramics and antiques lighten and brighten the display.

A tidy studio bookcase keeps favorite books close at hand. A painting by Abby Sin, sculpture, ceramics and antiques lighten and brighten the display.

Sarah recently tackled a two-week-long organizing project for a busy family of five. Recognizing that the experience can be quite invasive, Sarah and her team went to great lengths to ensure the family felt comfortable. Shoe covers were worn to prevent anyone from tracking in allergens, and cotton gloves were required when handling any personal items.

Very possibly the best boys' bedroom ever! Newly built walls allow for custom-made American walnut bunk beds and floating desks for each boy.

Very possibly the best boys' bedroom ever! Newly built walls allow for custom-made American walnut bunk beds and floating desks for each boy.

Clearing away unnecessary clutter was the family’s aim, and Sarah’s team employed the ‘keep, toss, donate’ method to get it all done. “We sorted our client’s clothing by season, removing the winter wear and storing it in the hallway closet,” says Sarah. “Now, primary closets contain only half the amount of items, making them more spacious and easier to navigate.”

Personalized tools for staying organized! Each boy's desk includes a utility wall with a chalkboard, pin board, metal panel for magnets and wipe off board calendar.

Personalized tools for staying organized! Each boy's desk includes a utility wall with a chalkboard, pin board, metal panel for magnets and wipe off board calendar.

In addition to freeing up closet space in the home, Sarah Barnard Design took on the organizing of a child’s craft room. “The client’s youngest son had received arts and craft gifts for each holiday of his young life,” notes Sarah. “This resulted in a wonderful collection, but also a lot of bits and pieces— to the point where the craft room was largely unusable.” The team carefully combed through his many art supplies, donating lesser-used items to create space for the most cherished ones.

An articulating desk lamp adds a pop of aqua to the teen girl's study area. Oil painting by Allie Ihm.

An articulating desk lamp adds a pop of aqua to the teen girl's study area. Oil painting by Allie Ihm.

Once an organizing project is complete, Sarah’s clients have a renewed sense of self. Decluttering is a lifestyle change, but the benefits are well worth the effort. “It often inspires a newfound appreciation for their possessions and increased productivity in the space,” says Sarah.

A creative space with a custom sofa in wool felt, side tables made of natural maple and steel and a desk chair designed by Mauro Lipparini. Sculpture by Renae Barnard.

A creative space with a custom sofa in wool felt, side tables made of natural maple and steel and a desk chair designed by Mauro Lipparini. Sculpture by Renae Barnard.

Adopting a personalized approach to organizing will spark far more joy than bingeing an eight-part Netflix series and assuming your tidying habits will change through osmosis. Decluttering is hard, both physically and emotionally — it’s not something that comes naturally to most people. Seeking professional organizing help is an investment in yourself, saving you time, energy, and unnecessary stress. And hiring an expert to create customized systems that fit your lifestyle will help you stay organized in the long-term — no self-help books required.

Written by Rachel Roth

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Steven Dewall and Chas Metivier