Meet Eagle County’s Kon Mari organizing expert, Sara Emerson
Just because they call it “spring cleaning” doesn’t mean you can’t start decluttering your house any other time of year. Local certified Kon Mari consultant and Tip Top Tidy business owner Sara Emerson hopes to help all of her clients achieve peace and joy in their homes with Kon Mari.
“It gives you a different way of interacting with humans. It gives you a different way of interacting with places that you go. It gives you a lot more respect and enjoyment out of your life experiences. When your home is in order, my gosh, it changes everything,” Emerson said. “That’s exactly what it did for me.”
When she became certified in 2017, she was Colorado’s first certified Kon Mari consultant and is now the only one on the Western Slope: the rest are based in the Front Range. Since 2015, the Japanese home and life organization method has become her life.
Kon Mari’s beloved founder, Marie Kondo, outlines the method in her first book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” The author and organizer has since developed a larger American following, especially with her 2019 Netflix original series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”
Kon Mari rests on five areas to be completed in order: clothes, papers, books, miscellaneous items and sentimental items. Organizers must decide if items “spark joy” for them, and if not, thank them before discarding.
“This is one of the things that I think is really special about the Kon Mari method. It’s so respectful. When you think of it as ‘this house is working hard to not let me get cold,’ it’s doing the thing I ask it to do,” Emerson said. “This style elevates the importance and significance of the workload that your house and your items have in your life.”
In response to criticisms that the method means throwing away too much stuff, Emerson said that it’s not minimalism because Kondo never specifies how much to throw away.
“She says, ‘You need to be honest with yourself. You need to think about your life, and your goals, and what’s real, and what you want and what you’ve got. When you are willing to do that, you will come to the amount of stuff that suits you,’” Emerson said. “I like to call it less-ism.”
The start of Emerson’s Kon Mari journey began when she was a little kid. She loved making her room her own space with clothes, toys, papers and “six-month-old Halloween spiderweb decorations,” but she also didn’t keep it clean, to her parents’ chagrin. As she grew up, her messiness and inability to throw things away stuck with her until she met her husband.
He was a traveling physical therapist at the time, and as their relationship progressed, Emerson joined him on the road. They needed to pack up and find a new home every six months, so they purposely curated their possessions — bare-bones kitchen and bathroom items, snowboards, bikes, camping equipment, yard games, clothes.
“Everything that we needed fit into our truck, one vehicle, and our dog,” she said.
Having a bunch of stuff wasn’t an option for the couple for five years of their lives, but when they bought their house in Eagle County in 2012, Emerson slipped right back into her old habits. Papers, magazines, small bits of yarn and fabric from Emerson’s crafting hobby — the clutter became even more of an issue when the couple had their daughter in 2013. Emerson’s disorganization meant there were safety issues around every corner. By the time their daughter was 18 months old, Emerson knew she had to do something.
“All I wanted to do was go outside and take her for a walk. She was learning to walk, it was the cutest thing ever, and I felt guilty because I had a sink full of dishes and crap everywhere and none of it had a place to be. I was overwhelmed,” Emerson said. “How do you cope with that when all you want to do is take your kid for a walk, your little baby who doesn’t understand these internal struggles?”
On July 4, 2015, Emerson and her husband were relaxing on her favorite holiday when she saw an article about Kon Mari on Facebook. The method wasn’t well known in the U.S. yet, but she was intrigued. She started reading it to her husband, and before she finished the article, he was already ready to go.
“He got up in our cabinet that had all of our 10,000 bike cage water bottles and he pulled like 15 of them out by the time I got done with the article,” she said. “Everything about July Fourth is my jam, and then this concept of releasing all this stuff sounded an awful lot like freedom to me. It was like I had discovered freedom.”
From there, Emerson started Kon Mari’ing her own house. She bought “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and ignored Kondo’s instructions on the first page to finish reading the whole thing before starting the cleansing process. Emerson had to go back and re-do all of the work she had done, and now she helps her clients follow the strict order and logic that the Kon Mari method establishes.
All the while, she couldn’t stop talking about it to friends, coworkers, family, you name it. A friend signed her up for Marie Kondo’s newsletters and another told her that she should be a consultant. At the time, consulting was only available in Japan. As a stay-at-home mom, she wasn’t checking her emails much, but one Tuesday when she opened it, a newsletter email had been sent minutes before she signed on — there would be two Kon Mari conferences in New York City and San Francisco for Americans interested in becoming consultants.
She packed up for California, pregnant with her second child, and everything the Kon Mari representatives talked about at the conference clicked immediately. She started the application process, hoping to finish by her due date. She wrote essays and used friends as pro-bono practice clients. And on July 4, 2017, two years to the date that she discovered Kon Mari, Emerson became a certified Kon Mari consultant.
“It’s totally full circle and extremely symbolic,” she said. “Which, in Japanese culture, is a really good thing.”
She was the first in Colorado, and all others that have been certified after her are based on the Front Range. She serves clients locally, and is willing to travel: Denver, Steamboat, Durango, Leadville.
“Wherever it is, I don’t care,” she said.
And she’s able to work with clients’ schedules, whether they function best at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.
Now, with the coronavirus, she’s taking extra care to make sure that she’s respecting the fact that her job requires that she enter people’s safe spaces.
“I’m trying to be conscious of my presence with people,” she said. “Even if people are in good health, they have their loved ones. I’m trying to give at least a week between clients. I will give myself a chance to develop symptoms, if I must.”
She’s also open to Zoom sessions, but adds that they don’t work well for her first visit because it requires her assessing the space to determine how best she can help her clients.
That’s what means the most to her.
“Whatever it is I’m doing, I’m really passionate about it, and I believe in showing up for it and being there completely,” Emerson said. “I’m trying my best to enrich and empower someone to feel confident about what stays and what goes.”
For more information about Emerson’s Kon Mari consulting services, visit tiptoptidy.com.
Sara Emerson does not act or speak on behalf of Marie Kondo or KonMari Media, Inc.