While the Marie Kondo frenzy may have passed since the launch of Spark Joy, there's no denying that we're still fascinated with all things decluttering and tidying up. Many of us may have gotten rid of many useless items since reading the book, but few of us could actually claim to have successfully decluttered and organized our homes in their entirety. Is your closet really free of clutter? Are you using your cupboards in the best way possible? Is your pantry as organized as Khloé Kardashian's? If anything, the KonMari book barely opened our eyes to organizing the Japanese way.
Japan is known for its tidiness and minimalism—and given that the small country is home to more than 125 million people, it's not hard to understand why. Homes are notoriously small in Japan, and the concept of micro living is not new to the country's citizens like it is to North Americans. So we turned to someone we knew would be able to shed light on the Japanese way of organizing: Seiko Kamiya, account executive of Yamazaki, a century-old family business stemming from Japan and dedicated to bringing intelligent design solutions to small homes worldwide. Ready to overhaul your organizational system the Japanese way? Take a few hours of your weekend to implement these philosophies—you'll be glad you did.
"One fundamental difference between Japan and the U.S. is that the Japanese has to make do with very compact and tight spaces quite often," says Kamiya. "We focus on folding our clothes very differently in order to take up less of a footprint in our drawers. We roll our clothes and place them vertically in drawers so it takes up less space and is easier to find." Learn the Marie Kondo folding technique to optimize every drawer in your home.
"Some of the philosophies the Japanese swear by are using space vertically when possible such as stacking items," says Kamiya. "We also use little boxes and bags to organize items, and we try to group most things, whether it's in the kitchen, bathroom, or the closet." Don't be afraid to stack things high—as long as there's a logical organizational system in place.
"The best way to keep drawers and cupboards clean is by using items such as drawer organizers, dish risers to create two shelves in kitchen cabinets, and shoe racks to create an extra row for shoe storage," says Kamiya. In other words, don't just assume that your closed storage is already optimized, and create ways to make them better suit your needs.
"Our first trick for organizing closet space is to organize your closet seasonally, and put away items that are for colder/winter weather," explains Kamiya. After all, no one wants heavy winter jackets in the entryway. "Also, we use many over the door hooks, and space saving vacuums to compress air and fit more clothes in tight spaces." When switching closets for the season, invest in vacuum space bags to keep seasonal storage to a minimum.
"I would also recommend to have an 'everything box' where you throw miscellaneous items that you aren’t currently using," adds Kamiya. No matter how small or how big—an everything box will always ensure that you'll always know where to find things, even if certain items don't have a designated space in your home.
"In Japan, the entry way is free from shoes," says Kamiya. "We hide them in a shoe rack or shoe cabinet. In fact, most houses come with these built in. You will also find many umbrella stands in entryways. Most Japanese wear slippers, so you will also find slipper racks in most houses, which include a pair for guests." Don't let your shoes overtake your entryway or closet—your shoe storage should account for each and every pair. Once you have your system in place, adopt a 'one in, one out' mentality so you'll never run out of space.
"To create additional storage in a small bathroom we use racks, hooks, and most importantly suction cups for storing items," says Kamiya. "You can install these things in cabinets and under sinks." No matter how small your bathroom is, there is a storage solution. Prioritize closed storage, but know that you can always display the prettier items in carts, on racks or on hooks.
Kamiya also stresses the importance of decluttering before organizing, a common Japanese practice. "Five things to throw away when decluttering: unused clothes and shoes; old sentimental items that no longer serve their purpose; expensive stuff that was never used but you're too remorseful to throw away; old magazines and newspapers; or paper and plastic bags," she says. By decluttering regularly, you'll always keep a tight grasp on your organizational system.
Next up: The mistakes professional organizers always notice (that you don't).