Bring home the clutter-busters
Cast away worn-out memories to make room in your life with the help of professional home organizers
If you have a home like mine—where wardrobes perennially burst at the seams and no amount of storage space ever seems enough—it would take nothing short of a spell to locate things. While you could exercise a Harry Potter summoning charm (Accio, anyone?), a far simpler option exists these days. You can dial a professional home organizer and entrust your apartment, and your mess, to them. They will then set out to bust the clutter ghosts hiding in your house.
Last week, I accompanied one such clutter-buster to her client’s home in Mumbai. Rohini Rajagopalan, a mother and a former marketing professional, launched Organise with Ease with the awareness that “Indians love excess". Since she set up her service a little more than a year ago, Rajagopalan has single-handedly attended to 30 homes across Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru. “Many people are well-travelled these days and know that services like mine are available to get their house in order. But hiring a home organizer is still a personal choice," she says.
Rajagopalan’s newest client is a young couple living in a high-rise in Pali Hill. Sonam and Kunal Kataria, both in their early 30s, have approached Rajagopalan to start with their elder daughter’s cupboard. Veda, barely two years old, is the star of an Instagram parenting blog that the Katarias run, which means that her wardrobe is akin to a celebrity’s. What’s more, the couple has recently welcomed a son into their lives, and, as new parents will often testify, the house is a minefield of dolls, nappies and games. Spring-cleaning is on loop here. Between feeding and attending to both children, Sonam admits that she would rather use her 15-minute breaks to catch up with friends as opposed to continually tidy-up the house.
The concept of hiring a professional home organizer, Rajagopalan explains, is that you envision the end goal collaboratively. “When I organize the house, owners are able to finally see the amount they are hoarding. Many of them get overwhelmed with this feeling that ‘I didn’t know I had so much’. But that doesn’t mean I can command them about what to keep and what to discard. It has to be a space that works for them," she explains.
True to her words, Rajagopalan sets about arranging Veda’s wardrobe and two chests-of-drawers. At every step of the way, she consults Sonam—does Veda really need frocks that she has outgrown? Can swimming costumes and floats go in one bag? She remains firm but considerate. Eventually, a discard pile is formed. Rajagopalan’s plans for the pile are to donate the clothes to Tata Memorial Hospital’s young cancer patients, and to donate the toys to an NGO called Toy Library.
The professional home organizer is not a mass service in India, yet. However, considering the long working hours and stressful lives as shown by surveys of urban Indians, there is much scope. Like Rajagopalan, Delhi-based Gayatri Gandhi also ventured to set up a service in 2017, called Joy Factory. Gandhi conducted her own survey of 200 respondents—all of them young Indians over 25—and concluded that 70-75% are open to hiring a professional to help them organize their homes.
Gandhi says over the phone that currently she is the only Indian professional to be certified in the KonMari method. KonMari, advocated by Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo, is better known, in a nutshell, as the “spark joy" method—if an object fails to trigger a sense of joy, it is best to let it go. Gandhi, a former media professional, took a sabbatical in 2017 to learn more about Kondo’s philosophy of minimalism and observes that “Indians are primarily hoarders. Hand-me-downs and ancient things are stuffed into our homes, and many of these have a lot of sentimental value as we are a close-knit community."
In Gandhi’s process, clients have to first understand the whole “joy check" method. It’s a time-consuming affair, and can take anywhere up to a month, depending on the client’s decision-making skills. Following the KonMari method, Gandhi says the process is not based on rooms but on categories, such as clothes, books and papers, and miscellaneous items, such as kitchenware. The idea is to progress step by step through these categories, until one reaches the end, which are sentimental items. Try discarding an old letter, and we know how hard that is.
Gandhi calls it the “decluttering festival" and encourages clients to categorize things into three piles—the direct throw, the direct keep, and the toughest of the lot, the maybe pile. “I give clients three months to understand whether they want to keep the things in the maybe pile or not," she says. She follows the spark joy method in her own life, and says that clutter leads to emotional clogging. “Once you are mindful of what you want to retain in your house, you are able to welcome new experiences and new emotions in your life," she says.
Rajagopalan charges roughly ₹ 15,000 for doing a wardrobe, which can take about 10 hours. Gandhi charges ₹ 1,500 per hour. The rates may seem steep, but their work is meant to last a lifetime, if you apply the tips they have to offer. Besides, if it can help you toss away the letter that you have been hoarding for the last 20 years, then why not?
The home organizers’ pro tips
Every day is an occasion: Rajagopalan suggests bringing Veda’s festive wear, mainly voluminous frocks in tulle, out into the open and hanging them in the wardrobe vertically in full view. This way, when the parents open the wardrobe, they’d be able to think of more occasions where Veda can sport her burgundy princess gown. It’s a tip that adults can also follow, says Rajagopalan.
Don’t add to the cart: Both Rajagopalan and Gandhi say that online shopping is a major reason why clutter has increased in our homes. People shop through the day, even during office meetings, and don’t wait for a special occasions anymore, says Rajagopalan. Gandhi recommends that you touch and feel things before purchasing, thus applying the spark joy method.
No more rainy days: In Gandhi’s experience, the kitchen is one of the toughest rooms to tackle, especially in joint families. And it’s not crockery alone but also rations. It is only while decluttering that people realize how much extra rice and sugar has been sitting in storage.
Seeing is believing: Both home organizers recommend bundling your casual clothes and stacking them horizontally rather than vertically, and keeping them at eye level. This way, you can see your collection better, rotate your clothes and understand what you have no use for anymore.