When a Space Organizer Meets a Counsellor (Part 1)

When a Space Organizer Meets a Counsellor (Part 1)

One narrates the beautiful meaning of “decluttering”, the other recounts the priceless memories of “keepsakes and reminiscences”. When a space organizer meets a counsellor, they share seemingly opposing stories, yet the essence of those stories resonates together. This isn’t a debate, but a harmonious and beautiful encounter. The space organizer says, ” Decluttering is not about discarding that memory”, while the counsellor says, “Some Love and memories will one day transcend material possessions.”

The term “space organizer” doesn’t originate from modern times

Some people think that a “space organizer” is a profession that has only emerged in recent years, especially after the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Japanese organising guru Marie Kondo was translated into multiple languages and promoted through online media, sparking a craze for tidying up and organising material possessions. As a result, the profession of “space organizers” has received high levels of attention.

“During the 2020 pandemic, as people spent extended periods of time at home due to MCO, they had more free time and began to pay attention to the cleanliness of their living environment, leading to a surge in tidying and organising activities,” recalled space organizer, Jaq.

Jaq is a Malaysian space organizer certified by the Sawa Method Advisor Housekeeping Association in Japan. She was once invited to be a guest on Astro Xiao Tai Yang’s a TV Programme, called “MY KIDS CAN ORGANIZE,” where she shared her knowledge of tidying and organising spaces.

She added that the profession of a space organizer is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, as early as the 1980s, there is the rise of capitalism and consumerism in the United States, so the demand for space organization increased. The establishment of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) in 1985 in the United States brought a more systematic view of the profession of space organizers, marking an important milestone in history.

Consumerism is one of the keywords. As human living standards and economic capabilities improve, the desire for a comfortable life and material possessions continues to grow. Consuming and purchasing have become natural habits, and the distinction between “needs” and “wants” has become blurred. It is easy to end up buying more than necessary without much thought, yet we rarely assess these behaviours in ourselves.

“Have you noticed that from the moment we were born until now, our possessions have been increasing? We have more things, but the space in our homes is decreasing, and our living environment doesn’t seem as comfortable. Therefore, the solution to the current problem is regular tidying and organizing, and even decluttering. Only by letting go of unnecessary items can the space truly flow freely.”

A space organizer is not a cleaner

In that case, if someone hires a space organizer, isn’t it just asking them to help tidy up and organize? Jaq immediately corrects this commonly misunderstood perception. “A space organizer is not like a cleaner; it’s not just about one-sided cleaning and tidying up, and the client doesn’t need to be present. On the contrary, a space organizer requires the client to be fully involved throughout the process, as it is the client who spends a lot of time in that space, not the organizer, and they cannot always rely on other’s help.”

Therefore, with each new commission, the first step for the space organizer is not to immediately start organising, but to first meet with the client, engage in conversation to understand each other, and establish a relationship of trust based on mutual agreement. Once this trust is established, the space organizer will then personalize a suitable organising method for the client based on their understanding of the client. (Refer to the picture below)

“There are many different organizing methods, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Moreover, everyone has different lifestyle habits, so if you don’t find an organizing method that suits you, you’ll quickly revert back to your old habits.”

“Everyone has different goals. I once had a client who said he felt very stressed, so he wanted to find a space organizer to help tidy up his chaotic living space.”

“During each session of space organization, the greatest beneficiary is not the space organizer, but yourself. This is because through the process of organising, you will gain a deeper understanding of yourself, access your life needs, attitudes towards possessions, and even find a sense of solace on a psychological level.”



Don’t know how to start? Begin with classification

Although organizing methods vary from person to person, Jaq also provides some more universal and common methods, allowing friends who want to start trying space organization to have some reference directions. “If you don’t know where to start, I suggest starting with the 6-Level Classification Method to categorize items, and then take the next actions.”

Each level of classification is based on the individual’s frequency and usage of items, from most commonly used to least used, and so on for categorization. Afterwards, create a unique ‘home’ for these items of different levels.

“The most frequently used items can be placed in areas along your most common pathways and most convenient locations, then gradually progressing to the least used items which can be stored in areas along the least travelled pathways and less convenient spaces. After establishing their respective ‘homes’, remember to put them back in place after each use.”


Give yourself time to figure out the pending items

It is worth discussing that for Level 6 items, if you are unsure about them and do not know their usefulness to you at the moment, we can allocate space in a box to store them, label them with an expiration date, and when the time comes, you must open the box to reassessing the value of these items to yourself.

“For example, the calculator purchased for math class during secondary school may no longer be used or used less frequently after graduation. If you are unsure if it will have any other use in the future, you can place it in the Level 6 box. For instance, set a deadline of 6 months later. When the time comes, ask yourself if you needed to use it during those 6 months. Or you can use phone to do calculations instead?”

After reassessing, if the Level 6 item is still useful to you, you can categorize it between Level 1 or 5, then return it to its designated “home”. Conversely, if these items are no longer useful to you, once prepared, you can proceed with letting them go.

“Letting go” doesn’t necessarily mean just discarding items; it can be treated as resource recycling, or they can be resold second-hand or even donated to give them a new purpose with a new owner.

In any case, the 6-level classification method provides a good reference point for friends who are looking to start organizing their space for the first time. However, organizing space is not a one-time solution to permanently solve the issue. Life requires developing good habits, regular tidying up and organising to maintain space, so that the problems will not happen always.

“Many people mistakenly believe that hiring a professional organizer for one session is enough. This is why I strongly recommend that clients must participate in the organising process because maintenance is also crucial. Even if the organizer is not present in the future, clients can independently tidy up and organize regularly.”

There are many methods of space organization, and in practical application, different needs and issues may arise depending on the individual. For example, when faced with sentimental items given by important people, how should they be classified and organized? When dealing with items left behind by deceased loved ones, what methods can be used? In the next PIETY BLOG, we will have the participation of registered and professional counsellor Tan Qin Ru to share more. The meeting of two different professions will continue to discuss topics such as creating a Memory Box, classification methods for items left behind by deceased loved ones, digitalize methods, creative re-creation of items left behind by the departed, and transcending material memory connections… (to be continued)

When a Space Organizer Meets a Counsellor (Part 1) – Short Video version

Editor's Note:

"Space organization" has gained popularity in recent years, partly due to its alignment with the new generation's emphasis on "environmental conservation". Storage, organization, and decluttering can be considered as one of the methods for individuals to address current issues. However, the key point lies in the initial mindset of consumption - whether there is a rational balance between our “needs” and “wants" for items, reducing the potential future accumulation of useless items and making maintenance work easier. By practising proactive pre-planning from the beginning, we can be prepared for the future. When items are organized and space is tidy, the extra space can be utilised to accommodate more meaningful things.