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Q&A: Helen Youn on the joy of cleaning up using the KonMari process

Helen Youn. Certified KonMarie consultant. Calgary, Alberta. 2017 Calgary Fall Home Show

Who doesn’t want more time? More time to pursue our passions, follow our fancy or just unwind in a relaxing, serene environment. But life always seems to get in the way. Paid bills are piling up on the desk, the clutter-collection drawer is crowded and you’re not quite sure where to put the family’s new board games. While this scenario may be all too familiar, there are ways to tackle untidiness and Helen Youn believes she found the best approach.

As Calgary’s first certified KonMari consultant, Youn is passionate about getting organized. She should be—the process helped transform her life. A few years ago she and her partner moved from Toronto to Calgary and, in the process, downsized to a small condo. Shortly after the transition Youn and her husband learned she was pregnant. As she recalls, “quite soon after the birth of our child, our condo started to feel like a play school. It was a colourful mess, but still a mess.” That’s when Youn realized three things: She wasn’t passionate about her office job. She intensely disliked living in a state of constant mess and she and her husband didn’t want to upsize their home.

“Normally, when someone has a child they look to upsize their home. People talk about outgrowing their space. But we didn’t want to upsize and I just wanted to feel truly comfortable in my own place.”

That’s when she stumbled upon Marie Kondo’s unique approach to cleaning and organizing (the process is known as KonMari and it’s outlined in Kondo’s famous book, “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up”). Rather than cram items into our homes that are “good enough” or kept “just in case,” the KonMarie approach is to only surround ourselves with items we love and bring us joy.

We had a chance to chat with Helen Youn, right before her scheduled appearance at the 2017 Calgary Fall Home Show. Here’s what this passionate KonMari consultant had to say.

Helen Youn. Certified KonMarie consultant. Calgary, Alberta. 2017 Calgary Fall Home Show

Q: Why the KonMari approach?

Helen’s Answer: Because it changed the way I view everything! It taught me a much more positive way of looking at my life, at my belongings and about how I want to spend my time. For too many, decluttering feels like an unachievable goal. A process of perpetually tidying up. That’s not the case with KonMari. As a consultant, I help my clients systematically go through all their items and help them get rid of whatever items don’t bring joy.

KonMari is about defining your ideal lifestyle and then realistically achieving that ideal. It teaches us how to make all our decisions from one perspective: What brings me joy? It’s not just about having a tidy home. Certainly, a tidy home is a benefit, but it’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to live surrounded by joy and create time and space to enjoy.

Q: Is there a connection between an organized space and a serene mind?

Helen’s Answer:  Our home and our environment affect every aspect of our lives. We all have a physical reaction to clutter and it’s not usually a good one.

When our space is organized, we don’t have to spend time tidying up and this lets us devote time and energy to our passions. Then, you can truly live your ideal lifestyle.

Q: How do you work with clients to help them overcome obstacles?

Helen’s Answer: I’m the personal trainer of tidiness. By helping my clients organize through a very specific process, I help them overcome their own stumbling blocks. Quite often, we don’t realize how difficult the process of decluttering can be. Just like a new exercise routine, we either take on too much, too soon, or we feel discouraged. Quite often it’s because we see the process as one big project. It’s not. I help my clients see that by breaking down the process into specific categories, their ultimate goal—a joyful life—is achievable. My job: To help each client stay motivated and to complete each step in this process.

Q: What are some of the sticking points for today’s homeowners when it comes to organizing and decluttering?

Helen’s Answer: We need to rethink how we declutter. Rather than organize room to room, we need to declutter by category. When we only tackle our clothes or only our electronics we begin to realize how much stuff we are keeping that we just don’t need or want. Neglect this step and we end up shuffling our clutter from one room to another. To declutter my living room, I’ll move everything I’m uncertain about to the dining room and, eventually, the kitchen and then back to the living room.

Through the KonMari process, we really get to see how much stuff we accumulate in each category. It’s not about finding the right de-cluttering solution, but the cause of the problem. There’s no point in going out and buying the latest organizing solution or the next fancy box if we don’t even know what we are storing. Rather than asking ourselves if we need something, we need to ask: Does this bring me joy?

Q: You are scheduled as a guest speaker at the 2017 Calgary Fall Home Show, what insight will you be giving show attendees?

Helen’s Answer:  Truthfully, just about everyone who goes through this process is shocked to see the big mound of stuff. Many begin to wonder, “How do I have this much clothing and yet nothing to wear?” You realize how much stuff you held onto that really didn’t bring you joy, that didn’t motivate you, that didn’t fit into your ideal lifestyle. That’s where I come in, I can remind people that by dedicating time and energy to the process, you can finally de-clutter once and for all. Imagine: Getting organized just one time and then never having to think about it again.

Check out Calgary’s only KonMari Method certified organizational and tidying expert Helen Youn on the Urban Barn Main Stage on Friday, September 22 at 3 p.m. and Sunday, September 24 at 2 p.m.

For those interested, Youn is booking free 30-minute consultations for October and November. Check out her site for more information.

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Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, real estate expert and the current Director of Content at Zolo. Romana has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and The Toronto Star. Among her achievements, Romana won silver for her annual Where to Buy Now real estate package in the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015, she won a SABEW Business Journalism award. When she was editor of CI Top Broker, Romana helped guide her team to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and in 2011, she was part of a small team that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards.