by Zofiya Acosta
January 24, 2019
If you’re a fan of home improvement-type shows, then you know the basic format. A pair of mildly attractive hosts (they only come in groups or pairs, home makeover shows don’t have huge personalities like nightmare chef Gordon Ramsay or Oprah’s messenger angel Iyanla Vanzant) visit a person or family in distress (often out of their own doing, but many tears are mined if the reason is beyond their control). They talk, see what’s been going on, maybe give someone a haircut, and by the end of the show Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk has rebuilt the entire home from scratch (the division of labor on that program is insane). Many more money-earning tears are shed, and the hosts bid farewell. And if you’re like me, you take a glance at the pile of mess that’s scattered on your floor just a week after you’ve had your place cleaned and wonder, “But what happens after the hosts leave?”
This is why Marie Kondo’s new show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has been so refreshing. She comes into a home and instead of renovating it, she teaches its residents the simple magic of cleaning up, staying for as long as a month. She doesn’t clean it. You do. And, unlike what a lot of people think, Kondo doesn’t force you to throw things out. It’s all up to you. For the persons she helps, the joy at the end doesn’t come from having a home renovated, but from actually taking the time to sort out your life and seeing it all pay off, and you can tell that they plan on keeping at it.
It’s such a novel thing that, when a coworker told me about “a real life Marie Kondo” (which says a lot more about Kondo’s larger-than-life-ness than my coworker’s spatial awareness) living in the Philippines, I jumped at the chance to see her.
That’s how I met Issa Reyes, the woman behind Neat Obsessions. Calling herself a “professional organizer,” she explains that the job is “in between a interior designer and a professional cleaner.” Interior designers design your place and see which things would best suit it, “but they won’t help you move in,” she elaborates. Meanwhile, professional cleaners will do the heavy work of cleaning (scrubbing floors, disinfecting sinks, polishing windows, the whole shebang), but they’re not going to change the layout of your space, nor care about your aesthetic preferences. “My job is to check if all items are in place, [making] sure that everything has a specific place for everything.”
To do this, she comes in to a home and teaches the owners how to efficiently use their space. She has cleaners in tow, too, to clean while she organizes. If you doubt her credibility, check it: she’s a member of the International Organization of Professional Organizers, and she’s had online interactions with Marie Kondo herself.
Her job sounds simple enough, almost to the point of being unnecessary, until you think of all the people whose homes, after their interior designers or professional cleaners leave, quickly devolve into chaos (guilty as charged). A quick glance at her blog, where she goes in depth about organizing projects (you can easily tell it apart from her other blog posts—the ones about her clients all follow a “The One” naming convention in the title, kind of like in Friends), shows how much work she puts into helping people.