Published on January 19, 2019 in the National Post by Sabrina Maddeaux
I am not a ‘tidy’ person. The art of organizing, folding and generally putting things where they belong doesn’t come naturally to me. My current partner and ex-boyfriend have even bonded over legendary tales of my refusal to conform to domestic norms. And yet even I am swept up in the recent decluttering craze started by Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo.
In Kondo’s wildly popular new Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” she teaches helplessly messy people her signature KonMari method. The gist is that we should tidy by category (clothes, books, sentimental items, etc.) rather than by room, and only keep items that “spark joy” in our lives. She also shares a downright game-changing folding system and some revolutionary ideas about how to store purses and use tiny boxes.
As the internet floods with proud pictures of newly-folded drawers and tributes to Kondo as some sort of tidying deity, I have to wonder why so many of us have so much trouble keeping things neat. Sure, there are some psychological factors at play and the dim realities of modern-day work and parenting schedules, but the fundamental problem of ‘where to keep our stuff’ has also been inconveniently ignored by the people who build our homes.
It’s not that surprising, really. Storage isn’t the sexiest topic when it comes to selling homes. Particularly when it comes to condos, towers compete on flashy items like smart appliances, rooftop pools and pet spas. Ironically, some of the trendiest features designed to make condos feel more spacious, like high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, don’t functionally add any space at all. We try to trick our minds into thinking we have more room than we really do, all while cramming more and more belongings into undersized closets. Enter: clutter.
Slowly, however, things may be changing as many Canadians come to terms that living in small spaces are no longer a stepping stone, but a new way of life. Smart House, Toronto’s first micro condo, boasts an “an ultra-smart collaboration of location, space and good design.”
THE DOWNTOWN CONUNDRUM
To help residents fit all their stuff into the downtown units that start at 289 square feet, Smart House kitchens offer extra-deep counter space, fully-retractable countertops, integrated space-saving appliances. In bathrooms, there are mirror/medicine cabinets with integrated lighting and niche shelf spaces in what is usually empty pipe space. For the truly committed declutterers, there’s even a ‘furniture package’ that offers multi-functional, built-in furniture to perfectly fit the units (with extra ample storage space, of course!)
Units in Chaz Yorkville feature a new way to store items in often over-crowded kitchens: rather than use traditional tile backsplashes, the designers chose to install glass shelving with sliding doors to protect items from any wayward oil sprays. The innovate shelf space is perfect for storing small items like spices, cooking oils, tea containers and washcloths that tend to end up in cluttered drawers and cupboards.
While most condos with in-unit laundry have stacked washers and dryers that take up an entire closet, Urban Capital installed laundry units that double as a washer and dryer in their River City development in the city’s Corktown.
Most condo buildings still offer storage units for an additional fee, however their security is questionable at best in light of frequent, often unsolved thefts. These storage units are usually in remote areas of buildings, or garages with no surveillance equipment and little more than standard gym locks to keep out thieves. They’re a remarkably insecure solution for the cost of hundreds of dollars per month.
While owners and renters wait for more developers to prioritize space-saving measures, there are outside alternatives to consider. Second Closet is a Toronto-based company that will pick up and store your stuff in a facility that’s monitored 24/7, and re-deliver it at the click of a button on your phone. They even provide free, eco-friendly storage bins and the ability to keep track of what you’ve stored with notes and photos via an online “personal portal.” Toronto’s Stashbox offers similar on-demand storage services in lieu of a storage unit or, as they say, “an overpriced garage you constantly worry about.”
THE SMALL-SPACE GAME
Furniture companies are also ready to step in and help. Ikea’s wardrobe series has been popular for years, but the Swedish retailer recently upped its small-space game with the announcement of a micro-living collection inspired by life in space and designed in collaboration with NASA. Items include a redesign of the traditional air purifier, small indoor gardens, a modular tubing system that can build basically anything including beds, sofas and tables, and an entirely new super-lightweight material. The collection is expected to hit stores in 2020.
The Container Store is another hotspot, and one that’s anecdotally seen a business surge since the release of Kondo’s Netflix special, for small-space solutions. It offers everything from basic storage carts and modular makeup systems to design-your-own reach-in closets and wall racks.
Looking to the future, the answer may be robotic furniture. Ori Systems, a start-up company out of Boston’s MIT, creates “robo-furniture” that aims to morph from a bedroom to a living room to a gym or walk-in closet with the touch of a button or voice activation. In 2017, through a partnership with Bosa Properties, Ori took its “furniture with superpowers” on a 10-day test-driving tour through Vancouver. There are several condo buildings equipped with Ori robotic systems in the U.S., but so far none north of the border. You can, however, purchase an Ori “pocket closet” that expands into a spacious walk-in closet and contracts again at the push of a button for a cool US$2,650. Dropping soon, a robotic bed that conceals itself along the ceiling and reveals a couch when you’re not sleeping.
For those with larger spaces looking to downsize or even just tidy up, the prospect of decluttering may seem especially daunting. There’s help for that, too.
Setter is a quickly-growing service and app available in Toronto that pairs downsizers with an experienced “home manager” who can coordinate everything from planning to packing, backed up by a team of home inspectors, professional movers, property stagers and other experts. Ease Up is a Toronto-based team of professional organizers who will help sort through your space, set up organizational systems and “provide emotional and physical support” when it comes to downsizing and estate clearing. Basically, the closest thing to a real-life Kondo experience most of us are ever going to get.
Whatever your personal clutter situation is, it seems you’re not alone. The comfort of that realization is perhaps why, in addition to some nifty folding tricks, so many people have connected with Kondo’s show.