Tidy up like Marie Kondo

Updated: Mar 15, 2020, 09:03 IST | Anju Maskeri | Mumbai

We got a declutter specialist to organise the 'messy' home of a self-confessed hoarder. Here's how it went

Rohini Rajagopalan segregates products on Smriti Notani's dresser, according to category. All lipsticks are placed vertically in a holder, while miscellaneous items are tossed in an "everything" box. Pics/ Shadab Khan
Rohini Rajagopalan segregates products on Smriti Notani's dresser, according to category. All lipsticks are placed vertically in a holder, while miscellaneous items are tossed in an "everything" box. Pics/ Shadab Khan

A wall frame that hangs above podcaster Smriti Notani's desk reads: Bless this mess. It's a nod to the pockets of clutter that Notani has created since she moved back into her artfully done-up home in Khar, earlier this year. "I've grown up in this house. But, after my father passed away, my husband and I decided to leave our apartment and move here to be with my mother." Although it is familiar territory, the 32-year-old, who hosts the podcast Real Talk with Smriti Notani on Hubhopper, confesses feeling overwhelmed by its storage capacity. "It was no longer just about accommodating my stuff, but also my husband's, which is negligible in comparison," she laughs. The "catchment areas" include the drawers, dressing table, and work desk, all of which are in the master bedroom.  

Rohini Rajagopalan, a declutter specialist and space organiser, has worked on over 70 projects across India. A former marketing professional, Rajagopalan launched her firm, Organise with Ease, in November 2017, after acing online courses with Japanese organising consultant Marie Kondo and the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). Sunday mid-day facilitated a meeting between Rajagopalan and Notani with the mission of Marie Kondo-ing her mess.

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The session kicks off with an assessment of Notani's dressing table, which is a tangle of make-up essentials, including lipsticks, BB creams, brushes, cotton pads, perfumes and hairclips. "It doesn't help being a beauty blogger because I get inundated with products to review," she explains. By her admission, Notani is a hoarder but, over the years, has learnt to keep out seemingly useless items. "Initially, I was of the opinion that you either have this quality [of organising things], or you don't. But after moving two homes in three years, I've become better at it."

Notani’s work desk is piled up with books, paper bags, folders, all of which Rajagopalan stacks up on the glass shelves above  Notani's work desk is piled up with books, paper bags, folders, all of which Rajagopalan stacks up on the glass shelves above - Before

Depending on the nature of the task, Rajagopalan carries with her an ammo of clutter-busters such as transparent trays and baskets to group miscellaneous items. At Notani's home, she starts by taking each product out of its package, because "when you actually want to use them, you're spending less time taking it out of the box and putting it back". She then goes about segregating them according to category. At each step, she consults Notani on frequency of use. All lipsticks are placed vertically in a holder, so they take up less space and are easier to find. All miscellaneous items are tossed in an "everything" box. Soon, a pile of empty bottles, trash and lipsticks nearing finish is formed. As a culture, Indians love excess, Rajagopalan believes. "It comes from what you have gone through as a community. Let's say, if your grandparents or parents have seen war or drought, you tend to store for 'rainy days'. It's something we have imbibed while growing up."

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Notani's problems are not unique. She cleans up the mess at regular intervals, or when it gets overwhelming, but fails do it consistently. "What to get rid of?" is usually the toughest question. "As somebody dealing with anxiety, I feel clutter can sometimes play trigger. It can also be an effect [of it], because when you have a bout of anxiety, you're unable to fix your surroundings," says Notani. Rajagopalan agrees. "Having worked with people with depression and mood swings, I can safely say that clearing clutter can help you calm down quickly." The dresser is tidied up in 30 minutes, with all the essentials stacked category-wise in baskets. "When you have the stuff sorted according to sections, it gets easier to clean. I tell clients that it's better to spend five minutes cleaning up every day than three hours suddenly." We move on to Notani's work desk and handbag, each of which is cleaned up in a jiffy, given that it's more about arranging the contents than giving it an overhaul.

Rajagopalan's verdict and advice

"Smriti has a lot more things placed out than she needs on a daily basis. As a rule, I advise clients to discard an item at the very moment they think they don't need it. 'I will put this away later' never works. You need to focus on what to keep. And most importantly, buy less. This is something I tell myself too: space is not the problem, our inflated consumption is."

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