Marie Kondo-style decluttering helps stressed-out UAE expats spark their own joy

Does everything in your closet spark joy? Want it to? Then consider entering the  world of Marie Kondo. This celebrity tidying consultant, bestselling author and star of Netflix’s Tidying up with Marie Kondo has changed the game when it comes to home organization and decluttering. And now the UAE has its own professional certified in Marie Kondo’s trademark KonMari method: Maureen Lim.

Lim found joy and simplicity just when she needed it the most, explains the UAE resident. She stumbled upon Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying in late 2015, just a few months after her third child was born.

“I was constantly exhausted, so I began reading and exploring different options to help me find more joy during motherhood.”

That’s when everything changed, and Lim started to learn about joy. “When you become mindful about the concept of finding joy and what brings you joy, it’s easy to bring joy to your life,” she says.

“Tidying my things also made me reconnect with myself again,” she adds.

Often when something is not working or we are unhappy, the tendency can be to purchase another product or add a new shiny thing. Even activities can fill that void.

“I realized that all I had to do was mindfully look inside of me and look at the joyful things inside to find happiness and contentment,” explains Lim. “Essentially I learned I don’t need a lot to be happy.”

Lim was so inspired that she trained in Marie Kondo’s trademark tidying method, joining 227 certified consultants around the world. To become a KonMari consultant, Lim did a three-day consultant course in Chicago in March 2017. Next came hands-on training with practice clients over nine months, during she was assessed by a central team. After the practicals, Lim took and passed an online exam. The course is a mix of how to run a business, teaching Kondo’s tidying and decluttering technique, and more.

Today Lim is working with people across the UAE to help them find their own joy.

Declutter to feel better

In a culture of consumerism, it can be incredibly important to have a simple home, notes Dr Salifa Afridi, PsyD, clinical psychologist and managing director of The LightHouse Dubai. “Many people buy things they don’t need or that don’t ‘spark joy’,” she says.

Instead, this kind of consumption can lead to feelings of stress, restlessness or agitation.

A study by Dr Darby Saxbe, assistant psychology professor at University of Southern California, echoes these sentiments. Female subjects who said that their homes were cluttered were more likely to also say they felt depressed than those who reported tidy, decluttered homes. This group also had higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

“It can be very overpowering and heavy to come into a home that doesn’t have space and every bit of it is filled with things,” Dr Afridi adds. “Just as there is no space at home, the mind is overwhelmed and has no space to be creative, joyful or light.

Too much stuff can also bog you down emotionally.

“Your environment impacts your wellbeing.”

“In this time and age of information, it is difficult to tap into your own perception of things and what gives you the real feeling of joy,” says Lim. “When you simplify and decrease your possessions using the metric of whether an item sparks joy or not, you are more comfortable with the choices that you make in your life.”

It’s about finding and setting your own standards, rather than relying on what society says.

This is a sentiment Dr Afridi echoes, pointing to the internal chaos caused by a constant flood of information and technology. This can lead the mind to feeling full and an overall sense of anxiety.

“We live in a time where people feel overwhelmed with the noise in their heads due to the distraction of information around them,” she says. “Kondo’s spirituality, simplicity, order and organization contains the anxiety of people.”

Having a tidy, decluttered home is even linked to health goals. Consider the example of someone who says they want to become healthier and lose a bit of weight. “You go home having the intention of cooking healthy food. You open the fridge, and then you see all this sugary and processed food. Your intention is there, but the space you live in doesn’t align to your goals,” says Lim.

As an added bonus, the physical act of cleaning can be beneficial for your mental health. “A lot of what we do these days is on screens. We’re typing, thinking and living in a pretty abstract world,” says Dr. Saxbe. “The idea of doing something that really uses your body, I think does put your mind in a different space. Just like exercise or going outside, it can give you some reframing.”

How to Marie Kondo

Start with any one of Marie Kondo’s books, watch her Netflix series, and allow yourself to look for joy. In broad strokes, Kondo’s method involves separating items into categories (ex: books, clothes), then examining each one, asking if it genuinely brings you joy. If it doesn’t, it’s out. There are some exceptions, like screwdrivers or funeral clothes, but in general happiness is required.

During this process, allow yourself to tap into your intuition, says Lim. “The most insightful person you can ask is yourself.” Focus on things that make you happy, that are functional or useful, that are beautiful, or that add value to your life, she continues. “Let go of the rest. When you do this, your home will be tidy and you will create a space for more joy and happiness to enter your life.”

The decision-making process itself can be therapeutic, but if it all sounds too difficult to do yourself, then consider hiring a pro.

“Most of my clients already know about the KonMari method,” says Lim. “Some have read the book or watched something, and sometimes they have started tidying their homes but found it difficult to move forward.”

Most of her clients want to make a change not just to their homes, but to their current situation and lifestyle.

“They just don’t know what to do, or why the clutter kept coming back no matter how hard they tried,” says Lim.

When it comes to client success stories, Lim points to one woman who enjoyed the process so much that she began waking up 30 minutes earlier to tidy things away.

“Because she is able to maintain a tidy home, she no longer feels that everything is just temporary,” says Lim. “She is now planning to invest and buy her dream house. She said it feels good to have a plan and a purpose.”

The journey toward a tidy, clutter-free closet and simplified life may not be simple. Yet when done correctly, the benefits, Lim notes, can be incredible.

“Your home will be tidy and you will create a space for more joy and happiness to enter your life.”

Featured photo KonMari-method certified Maureen Lim, with Marie Kondo/Photo courtesy Maureen Lim is for every body and mind in the UAE. This magazine is all about moderation, making small changes, little additions and the odd subtraction.



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