Marie Kondo show sparks decluttering fever among Singaporeans

Marie Kondo show sparks decluttering fever among Singaporeans

SINGAPORE - Mop the floor, wash the curtains, wipe down the furniture - that was what Ms Casey Lee, 45, always did when she cleaned house for Chinese New Year.

But this year, the housewife also cleared out one-third of her wardrobe, getting rid of 20kg of dresses, pants and work wear.

Her inspiration? Marie Kondo, the Japanese organising consultant famous for her method of keeping only things that "spark joy".

The organisational guru's Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo was released on Jan 1, prompting many Singaporeans to declutter their bedrooms, and write about it on social media.

In consumerist Singapore, where shopping is a national past time, the show's mantra appears to have resonated.

On local social media, the hashtags #mariekondo and #sparkjoy are trending, with the likes of local artiste Irene Ang posting about their decluttering efforts.

Even the Singapore Civil Defence Force jumped onto the bandwagon, writing: "Perhaps Marie Kondo got some tips from us. Nothing will #sparkjoy more in our responders than having neatly organised equipment in our vehicles to be quickly deployed for emergencies."


After watching the series' first two episodes about two weeks ago, Ms Lee, a married mother of two, soon emptied her wardrobe, and placed all her clothes on the bed.

She says: "I took a hard look at each item, and asked: 'Does this item spark joy?'. Whatever did not, I got rid of."

This included old blouses and dresses which no longer fit, were too worn, or whose designs she no longer liked. Some were special, worn for birthdays and anniversaries, but she says: "I already have the photographs to keep those memories alive. I don't need the physical clothes."

She thanked each item before discarding it, just as Kondo did on the show.

"It sounds weird, but thanking the clothes gave me closure," she says. She intends to sell the clothes, or donate them to a nearby church, which operates a thrift store.


The Straits Times checked with thrift stores to see if they had been the beneficiaries of Kondo fever.

Ms Preeya Bajaj, a programme executive at the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations, confirmed that its New2U Thrift Shop is "up to the brim" with donations and has to stop accepting donations for now.

While she said Kondo's popularity might have contributed to a recent surge in giving, this could also have been due to the shop being closed for about three weeks for the year-end holidays.

Mr Nicholas Tan, donor and customer care manager at The Salvation Army Red Shield Industries also said it is experiencing an increase in donations in-kind compared with other non-festive months."However, it is difficult to attribute or ascertain if this increase is due to the recent (Kondo) phenomenon," he said.

As for the clothes Ms Lee kept, she folded each item using Kondo's vertical folding technique, and arranged them such that each item is visible once the wardrobe is opened.

She says: "Some of my clothes - previously buried at the back of my wardrobe - have never been worn.

"I consider them my 'new' clothes this Chinese New Year, and I won't buy any more this festive season."

While the Netflix series revived interest in Kondo, fans of her 2011 book, The Life-changing Magic Of Tidying Up, have been following her principles for years.

Photo: The Straits Times

Ms Wang Shijia, owner of local creative studio Ang Ku Kueh Girl and Friends, has tidied her home using Kondo's methods since 2016.

Last month, the Singaporean, 42, started applying the same principles to her Raffles Place office, and got rid of old product samples, props and intermediate drafts of past work.

The married mother of one says: "In the past, I could not bear to throw these things away, because I always felt I would one day need to refer to them. I found it easier to declutter my home.

"But now, I realise it is important to also clear an open space at the workplace, so I don't feel tied back to products or merchandise I created in the past."

One item she kept, however, is a money plant, a farewell present from a former staff member.

"It reminds me of this sweet girl and our happy memories working together," says Ms Wang. "That's why it sparks joy."

Ms Regina Yeo, adjunct senior lecturer of marketing at the National University of Singapore's Business School, feels one reason Kondo's method resonates strongly with Singaporeans is because of its focus on one's "joy".

She says: "Kondo's key message of decluttering is to keep the things that 'spark joy' - and who doesn't want some joy in their lives?"

"I won't exactly say that Kondo's message stems from a marketing ploy... to be different from other organisation experts," she adds.

"I believe it is her amiable personality - that comes across as personal and non-threatening - that has endeared her to followers around the world."

In a world that sometimes promotes unrestrained consumerism and purchasing, she adds, Kondo's decluttering method is refreshing because it allows people to be more aware of what they own, and how items should have a purposeful, or functional, benefit to their lives.

Associate Professor of Marketing Hannah Chang, 37, from Singapore Management University's Lee Kong Chian School of Business, feels it is too early to say if Kondo's decluttering method is going to be a fad or is here to stay.

Part of the current excitement generated by the show also stems from its timeliness, she adds.

"It is the start of a new year, and the Chinese New Year is around the corner. This is usually the time when many Singaporeans do spring cleaning."

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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