Mom Talk: That Time Marie Kondo Came To My House

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano
12:00 pm

For this week’s “Mom Talk” essay, we decided to get a little personal. Read on as Mother co-founder and editor Katie Hintz-Zambrano shares her once-in-a-lifetime tale of meeting the biggest icon of home organization on the planet.

So…I kind of know Marie Kondo. In fact, she has been to my house. She has sorted through my clothing with me. And she has helped me revamp my closet into a kind of dreamy situation.

This information is something I’ve tried to sneak into casual conversations as often as possible over the last year (to people I know, to strangers, and to plenty of folks whom I’ve already told my story). I think one of the reasons I have to keep saying it out loud is because I can hardly believe the fact myself.

If you’re an avid Mother reader, you might have noticed I’m a Marie Kondo fan. The first time I mentioned her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, was in late 2014, only a couple of months after it was published in the U.S., and when this site was also just in its infancy. From then to now, 10 other mentions of Marie Kondo on Mother have followed (including the birth announcements of her two little girls, Satsuki and Miko, tucked into our Motherlode).

I think anyone who has read (and re-read) her book can understand the mild obsession. Marie’s clear and concise concept of discarding anything in your life that doesn’t “spark joy” is easy enough to follow and also hard to argue with. And, for those who actually abide by her step-by-step guide to ridding yourself of the mountains of stuff you don’t need (and neatly folding the things you do keep), it can be truly life-changing.

Early 2015 was the first time I attempted to declutter according to Marie’s instructions. I threw every single item of clothing I own (step one in her multi-step process) into a huge pile in my living room. After thanking each garment for its service in my life (another Kondo hallmark), I was able to let go of and donate about 75 percent of what was there. But that’s kind of where it stopped. I never got around to formally completing the steps for the rest of my home. Little did I know nearly 3 years later, Marie Kondo herself would be standing in my living room, helping me go through the process all over again.

It was late 2017 when the marketing company Clever randomly reached out to me about a project they were helping organize. The subject line of the email read “EXCLUSIVE: Partnership With California Closets & Marie Kondo.” I did a quadruple take before writing back that yes, I was very, very, very interested.

I wasn’t the only person they considered for this project, and I will never know exactly why all the partners settled on me to be the sole recipient of such an experience, but it all truly felt like a gift from the universe. As someone who has lived in and around stacks of clutter my entire life, it’s something I’ve become accustomed to and often quite comfortable with. My favorite excuse is that sometimes creatives just need to be messy. At the same time, that mess can become pretty stressful and being untidy was becoming an unfortunate signature that I wanted to shake, both for my own sake and for my little family of three.

When I started telling friends and colleagues that Marie Kondo—the Marie Kondo—was going to come to my house, I was surprised that only half of them were impressed. The reactions would usually fall into two categories. The first would just blink a few times, then sheepishly ask, “Who is that?” The other half would shriek, their eyes bulging, and demand to know how on earth this was happening, when, why, where, etc. It was fascinating to see which camp each acquaintance fell into.

A lot of people said they’d be terrified to have Marie Kondo witness the mess in their homes and expect her to command them to get rid of all of their belongings. But I knew this wasn’t going to be the case. The KonMari method is about personal choice, it’s not about judgement from Marie or others. And, in the end, I was right.

Marie Kondo Mom Talk 3

Perhaps more nerve-racking than knowing Marie Kondo (and her interpreter, assistant, and husband) were coming over to my house, was the fact that so was a 20-person camera crew to film the entire thing. While we were only focusing on revamping my closet, the crew took over my entire 900-square-foot house, setting up a viewing room with huge TV screens in my son’s tiny room (I remember finishing some Mother articles while cramped into his toddler bed), placing my Christmas tree in the kitchen, and transforming my garage and backyard into a large Craft services station.

In the middle of such chaos, Marie’s arrival ushered in a sense of calm and professionalism. She hardly batted an eye when entering my utterly torn-apart home, instead giving me a soft handshake before she proceeded to get hair and makeup done in my kitchen, next to the misplaced Christmas tree and a sink filled with a stack of dirty dishes. It soon became clear that this sort of situation was completely normal for Marie, which put me at ease.

We ended up shooting over a couple days together, including Marie doing an assessment of my bulging closet, giving me a tutorial in her “spark joy” method, and showing me how to fold difficult items in the KonMari way. In between takes we also talked about our kids, and Marie’s husband told me about their upcoming Netflix special, which was the reason they were camped out in California in the first place. Myself and my lovely California Closets consultant Jessica Ballesteros taught Marie what a Boomarang was and helped her get her first one out into the world. And, of course, Marie was there for the final reveal of my shiny, new, and no-longer-overstuffed closet, which features a special landing dock meant to be filled with items that truly “spark joy.” For several months, I kept my autographed copy of Marie’s book in that nook.

My experience with Marie was probably not so different from the families shown on Netflix’s already cult-followed, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” which debuted on January 1, 2019. You can tell from the show how tiny she is in stature, and you get a sense of her style (black tights, little blazer, little skirt) and how warm and non-judgemental she is.

While veteran Kondo fans might not need the show (many argue that the book is sufficient), I find it promising that a new group of people are now being inspired by her “life-changing” technique of scaling down one’s belongings and creating space for the good stuff. Thanks to the show, reports say there’s been an uptick in donations to second-hand stores across the U.S., plus Marie Kondo’s book is back on the best-seller list. It’s a nice trend for the new year.

As for my house, what does it look like a year after Marie Kondo blessed me with her presence? To be honest, there are still stacks of stuff (but perhaps less of them), way too many clothes (that need to be folded, sorted, and donated), and various miscellanea that most definitely do not spark joy. Plus, I’ve got a garage in disarray and a storage unit that needs some vetting.

So, just like millions of others, I will most definitely be re-reading Marie’s book this year and hopefully moving through more steps than I’ve previously conquered. Maybe this time, knowing that I’ve hugged the iconic author (multiple times, #humblebrag), that she follows me on Instagram, and all of the other fangirl facts I hold close to my heart will help me persevere.

Wish me luck!

Marie Kondo Mom Talk 1

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