Declutter yourself happy: 10 simple steps for spring cleaning

Japanese author and organising consultant Marie Kondo has sparked a decluttering revolution – and a new way of looking at your possessions.

Do your possessions spark joy? That is the central question of a tidying manual that has become something of a cult phenomenon. Japanese author Marie Kondo’s slim volume The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2014) has sold more than two million copies around the world and her methods of decluttering the home have captured the imaginations of fans on social media, who call themselves Konverts, posting photos of their domestic purging online.

That Kondo’s book has tapped into the zeitgeist makes sense. As the world considers the environmental and social impacts of having too much stuff, we’ve seen a trend toward downsizing. The mindfulness movement, the act of paying attention to our moods and surroundings, causes us to question the modern methods of finding happiness: continuous acquisition, upgrades and expansion.

Photographer Nicholas Vreeland, the grandson of famed Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, did just this when he rejected a life of opulence in the social stratosphere of New York City to become a Buddhist monk. In a documentary made about his life, Monk With a Camera, he says of his decision, “I had belief there was something outside material satisfaction.”

Vreeland started taking photographs again almost a decade after deciding to become a monk. He did so, he says in the film, because a friend reminded him that photography brought him happiness. His images have since paid for improvements to his monastery. Vreeland’s possessions, his camera and his pair of shoes that he continues to shine, give him, as Kondo would say, joy.

When Kondo works with clients to declutter their homes she doesn’t ask them to throw out everything they own, only the things that do not “spark joy”. As she writes, “human beings can only truly cherish a limited number of things at one time”. If we live with only these items, Kondo believes, we will restore balance to our homes and ourselves.

1. Sort by category, not location. To truly see what you have, you must gather every single item in a particular category in one place, then consider them all side by side, Kondo argues.

2. Pick up each item and ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?” The second step is to actually hold each item in your hands and consider it anew. If it brings you joy or a thrill as you hold it, keep it. If it doesn’t, then throw it away.

3. Don’t downgrade clothes to loungewear. If you have clothes you know you’ll never wear outside, don’t let them pile up as loungewear. We’re looking at you yoga pants and old baggy jeans!

4. For unread books, “sometime” means “never.” According to Kondo there is a small window of time to read a book after you purchase it, once that window closes the chances of reading said book are slim to none

5. Recycle those piles of papers. The rule of thumb for papers is “discard everything.” According to Kondo, papers will never inspire joy. Old lecture materials, credit card statements, send them to the shredder.

6. Don’t keep gifts out of guilt. Admit it: we’ve all received gifts we don’t like. You should be able to donate the gift without guilt, Kondo says so!

7. Recycle electronics packaging. As soon as you get your new cell phone or iPod out of its packaging, recycle both the box and the manual. You can always get answers to any questions online.

8. Rid yourself of komono. This is the Japanese word for “miscellaneous items.” Spare buttons, unidentified cords, free novelty goods…clear them out and make space for the things you truly love.

9. Declutter photos and mementos. Take a deep breath and read. You don’t need to keep all those old birthday cards and blurry photos from yoru trips. Kondo promises that if you take out each photo from your album and ask yourself if it inspires joy, you’ll end up with only about 5 photos per day of every trip. They will the ones that bring back the joy of that time. Let the rest go. Ditto with old birthday cards and love letters. Repeat Kondo’s mantra: “Cherish who you are now.”

10. Storage experts are hoarders. Think decluttering means an excuse to go shopping for clever storage solutions. Think again! Many storage experts focus on stuffing as many things as they can into your closet, without stopping to examine whether they bring joy. Don’t make that fatal mistake.

Looking for more Marie Kondo inspired tips? Learn how to clean and re-organise your kitchen.

The 3 key elements of contemporary Scandi Barn design

Scandi Barn style is about simplicity, shape and refined palettes.

Our love of simple modern design has seen the Scandi Barn style become a firm favourite in contemporary design. This style is about simplicity, shape and refined palettes. The interiors reflect the aesthetic through corresponding colours and materials while accommodating modern lifestyles.

Architect and James Hardie Ambassador Joe Snell describes how The Kew House, an Edwardian period property in Victoria, incorporates 3 design features of the Scandi Barn style, as designed by Rebecca Naughtin.

1. Pitched Gable Roof

Pitched gable roofline on the The Kew House by James Hardie

The diagrammatic house shape is a must for any Scandi Barn. This is achieved with a steeply pitched roof that slopes downwards at an angle of 35 to 45 degrees, creating a gable below. Born out of necessity, this feature was first designed to help homes shed snowfall in Scandinavian winters.

On The Kew House, the pitched gable roofline is extended out beyond the wall line to create a hooded affect. However, unlike a traditional eave, this protrusion is continued along the wall line, creating the diagrammatic house outline that’s essential to the style.

2. Cladding

Exterior cladding is a key feature in the Scandi barn design. Vertical profiles, such as James Hardie’s Stria cladding offer a pared back reference to barn siding by mimicking the fine detailing of vertical joint timber.

Exterior cladding is key to the Scandi Barn style. Traditional barn style facades are distinctive for the provincial craftsmanship of timber lines and mixed panelling. For the Modern Scandi Barn, it’s essential to add to the overarching diagrammatic shape, not distract from it, so the right wall finish is a must.

Too much detail and the home will look cluttered, while too little will leave the home looking plain. Updating an exterior with large panel cladding will immediately strike the right balance. Vertical profiles, such as James Hardie’s Axon cladding offer a pared back reference to barn siding by mimicking the fine detailing of vertical joint timber, but has geometric lines and a smooth finish that allude to pared-down Nordic simplicity.

A balance between The Kew House’s heritage and the new Scandi Barn style was created with James Hardie’s Matrix Panels. This cladding harmonised with the façades original antique materials, but scaled back the detail due to its minimal joints, while allowing for a simple dark grey finish to create impact.

3. Indoor x outdoor

From construction to colour, The Kew House is a perfect example of how to transform traditional builds with updated materials to capture the modern Scandi Barn trend.

Scandi Barn inspired interiors refine the rustic look while incorporating our love for indoor-outdoor lifestyles. The basis of this style is organic textures and clean traditionalism anchored in practicality, with a deep connection to its natural surroundings. The modern interpretation takes the comfortable, relaxed barn style and focuses on creating fusion between indoors and outdoors to make the design feel effortless.

Interior spaces are created for open plan, connected living with light-filled spaces. The modern Scandi Barn interiors are defined by the steeply pitched gable roof as they create high vaulted ceilings. Infuse interiors with v-groove wall panelling, such as James Hardie’s HardieGroove, which perfectly captures the timber look with vertical joint panels, grooved ridging, and modern geometric lines.

To create a consistent look, use colours such as bright whites, warm wood tones, and dark accents, such as grey and charcoal. The Kew House completed its exterior Matrix boards, which are pre-primed and ready to paint, with Dulux Black Caviar on the front façade and accents of this were carried into the living space to create continuity.