With three hockey-playing school-age kids, a consulting career and a dog, Margaret Kershner has a lot on her plate. And a lot of stuff in her and her husband's Edina home.
"We got to the point it was overwhelming, and we started looking for help," she said.
Enter friend and neighbor Michele Vig, a professional organizer (Neat Little Nest) and the first Minnesotan to be certified by Marie Kondo. The Japanese organizing consultant and bestselling author behind "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" took on the cluttered world with her KonMari method, a primer on paring down to possessions that "spark joy" — and letting go of the rest.
Now Vig was applying the KonMari method in Kershner's kitchen and pantry. They'd reorganized her closet, eliminating about half her wardrobe. She'd learned the art of folding so that everything in a drawer is visible. Then, they tackled her books and papers. The kitchen was the final frontier.
"We're working together, working on a system," said Vig, a former Caribou Coffee marketing executive who has been helping friends and family with home organizing for years, long before she turned pro.
After she read Kondo's book, "I was curious if it was something I should pursue," Vig said, so she submitted pictures and was accepted to take part in a three-day training seminar in Chicago, where she met Kondo. "She's very picky about her method."
The experience convinced Vig that organizing, Kondo style, was what she wanted to do. "I was so busy as an executive with two kids. I love working with families who are trying to keep up."
Vig explained that getting rid of excess stuff is only the first step. What's left needs to be organized so that everyone in the family can pitch in and help maintain order.
"Having a system really helps, so mom doesn't have to do it all," Vig said. "The kids have to help. When there's a system, they can."
But first, Vig had to see what she was working with and determine what Kershner was willing to part with.
Drinking glasses, in particular, had multiplied to an unsustainable level.
"We have enough space, but everything feels crowded," Kershner said. "We entertain a lot and keep buying wine glasses."
There also were all the plastic tumblers used by the kids and their friends, which were mixed among the fancy glassware.
"I want it to be very intuitive, so that whoever unloads the dishwasher can figure out where [the item] should go," Kershner said. "Now we're stuffing to find a spot."
Emptying the cupboards
Vig and Kershner rounded up every glass and cup in the house, and set them all on the dining-room table, grouped by category — from crystal goblets to plastic glasses with sports logos.
As Kershner handled each glass and cup, Vig encouraged her to consider how she felt about it. "Does it make your heart sing, or you can't believe it's taking up space?" Vig coached.
"I love these Waterfords! I want to keep them," Kershner said. "But I think we're done with these — they're discolored," she said of another set. "These I don't like and never use," she added, pointing to some tumblers.
"Thank them for their service," Vig said.
"They never served," Kershner said with a smile as she put them in a box to be donated.
Thanking objects for their service and saying "goodbye" is a key component of Kondo's method. And while talking to inanimate objects may seem silly, it helps people let go.
"There's angst about getting rid of things you've paid for," Vig said. Gifts and other objects with sentimental attachment also tend to linger past the point of usefulness. "It's OK to part with it. Saying 'thank you' ends that relationship and the attachment to those things. You can move on."
After Kershner had said goodbye to about a third of her glassware, the remaining cups and glasses were returned to the shelves, but in places determined by how they're used. Everyday workhorse items got accessible cupboard space, while lesser-used items such as pitchers and platters were relegated to higher shelves. Kershner's prettiest glasses were moved to the cabinets above the main-floor bar.
"We've chosen that as a showcase for drinkware," Vig said. "She can own the fact that she has a beautiful bar."
Containing the clutter
Decluttering is only the first phase of Vig's service. She also returns with recommendations for additional shelving and containers, at various price points, to create optimal storage solutions.
When the reorganization was complete, Kershner's kitchen was a model of order.
Snack foods, formerly jumbled together in one large bin, were now sorted in smaller clear containers labeled "fruit snacks," "applesauce," "bars" and miscellaneous "snacks."
"Visually, it's really appealing," Kershner said. And it's easier for the kids to grab what they want for their lunches.
Candy, on the other hand, is on a high shelf.
"I want the kids to ask for it. I don't want them to have free rein," she said.
To streamline the morning breakfast routine, there's a shelf just for cereals.
There's also a shelf for the "budding baker," Kershner's 12-year-old daughter, stocked with everything she needs.
"I'm really excited about the s'mores," said Kershner, pointing to her container filled with marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars. The family has a backyard ice rink with a firepit where they frequently entertain their kids' hockey-playing friends and teammates. "I can take them straight to the fire," she said of the ingredients.
Even the junk drawer is orderly, with 11 compartments for separating pens, pencils, batteries and other objects.
"Before it was horrible," Kershner said. "There were some dividers, but it was like a mountain exploding."
The cost of all this organized living? Vig charges $100 an hour; a medium to large house typically requires six to eight five-hour sessions.
For Kershner's project, new shelves, drawers, containers and labels added another $500.
She said she considers it a worthwhile investment in less stressful, more enjoyable daily living.
"I'm really happy," she said, two weeks after the project was completed. "It just feels cleaner." And having everything so well organized makes her feel ready to take on each day.
Her kids love the new snack drawer, so much that they show it off to their friends, and are on board with maintaining it.
"These systems don't feel threatening," she said. "We're going to stay decluttered."
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784