Shannon Huneycutt came here to do two things: teach and organize.
As a little girl growing up in West Virginia, Huneycutt created an entire classroom in the basement of her parents' mountain home. There weren't many other kids around to fill the seats, but that was fine with her. She just needed the room.
"Instead of teaching, the whole time I was rearranging everything on my shelves," she recalls. "Every day I would take all of my books and re-organize them. And I always liked writing, so I would copy them, and then organize them on my shelves. It was just something that for some reason I liked to do."
Upon leaving college, Huneycutt fulfilled her dream of becoming a teacher, and taught for nine years. Seven years ago, when she had her first child, she left the profession and became a stay-at-home mom. Last year, as her youngest headed off to school, she began contemplating a return to the workforce.
She thought about what makes her happy, and her passion for organizing was the first thing that came to mind.
As she looked at the avenues she could take to become an organization consultant, her husband introduced her to Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. In the book, Kondo explains an organizing method she created called the KonMari method, which has become internationally popular since the book's publication in 2011.
- Shannon Huneycutt
While Huneycutt read the book, she implemented the method, which teaches one to go through each one of their belongings by category and discard anything that doesn't "spark joy" in their heart.
The process aims not just to minimize possessions but to inspire an appreciation for the things one truly loves.
After reading the book, Huneycutt learned there was a process through which she could become a certified KonMari consultant. She began the six-step certification process in August 2017 and finished in July 2018.
In August, she launched her own business, Spark Joy Charlotte, becoming the first certified KonMari consultant in the city.
I first meet Huneycutt through an old journalist friend who was her first client. My friend had recently left the field, but never thought she'd get rid of the countless reporter notebooks she kept as mementos.
Upon completing the process, the notebooks were gone, along with bags upon bags full of other belongings she had been holding on to for decades but without any real reason.
Just a month into Huneycutt's new self-employment, she and I sit down at a Starbucks near her north Charlotte home to discuss why this method spoke to her and why her job can be as much about counseling as it is consulting.
Creative Loafing: How would you describe the KonMari method in your own words?
Shannon Huneycutt: The KonMari method really hones on the philosophy of not just getting rid of things — not just taking things and shuffling them around in your house and organizing them.
You can hire any organizer to come to your house and put things in a certain place. The KonMari method, the whole philosophy is keeping those things that you love, and keeping those things that spark joy, and keeping those things that you're actually going to use and are useful to you in your home, and then finding a home for all of those things within your home. Everything should have a place, and not just shoved into the back of a closet or shoved into drawers that you bought at IKEA.
It's a very spiritual process. It makes you think differently, too, about the way that you purchase new things. When you get ready to buy something for your house or yourself, you have to think, do I really like this? Am I going to buy this and use it once and then it's just going to get shoved to the back of the closet because it doesn't really make me happy?
So it's a whole way of thinking about your home, your life and how to keep yourself happy in your life. Not just having things to have them. Everything should serve a purpose.
How did the KonMari method differ from other methods you had used?
I was already an organizer, but I think I did the traditional method of going by rooms. You would see that your kitchen was a mess, so you would start putting your kitchen back in order. That's not how [Marie Kondo] approaches it. Her method goes by categories instead of rooms. You go in a systematic order.
- Huneycutt (left) with Marie Kondo
There's five categories. You start with clothing. You would gather every clothing item from around the house — your shoes, your jackets, hats, what have you — and you would do that entire category first.
Then you would move on to books. You would do all the books from around the house.
Then you would move on to papers. Gather all the papers. That's everything — receipts and documents and certificates and manuals — anything that's paper-based. You collect it all. [The last two categories are Komono, or miscellaneous, and then sentimental objects.]
So by the time you're done with all of this, each category, you will have done your whole house.
With papers, it seems there would be a ton of those that do the opposite of sparking joy, but that you can't necessarily throw away.
Absolutely. When you get to papers, it's not so much about sparking joy as much as finding out, "Do we need this? Why do we need this? And where can we put this?"
If you have a pending box, tackle that every single week, because your clutter will start building right back up with papers.
You've gone through the process with two clients during your certification process. Is it a drastically different experience every time you go through this with a different person?
It really is. One client was very laid back, clear up until the end when she had to go through her journals and things. She discarded like 40-something bags. It was incredible and she wasn't emotional. It was amazing.
- Huneycutt at work in a client's bathroom.
The other client was emotional from the beginning. I don't know that she was ready to let go of anything. She was having some anxiety about the clothing category already at the very beginning. But once I spoke with her and we did two sessions together she eased up a bit, because I try to make it fun for them.
I'm pretty laid-back myself, and I go in, and there are so many questions and so many things that we can really dig down deep into the root of. What do you need to make you happy in your home? What's going to spark joy for you? Let's figure that out together. So they were very different in that aspect.
This client I'm getting ready to sign on, she has already done the KonMari process by herself. She read the book and did the whole thing and now she feels like maybe she didn't grasp what the full effect was because she feels like clutter and things are starting to build back up in her life and she's not sure why. So she's going to hire me to help her figure that out.
It sounds like a very personal process that goes beyond organizing.
A lot of the organizers that you hire, you may hire them to come into your home and they are at your house organizing while you're at work. They go in there and they will make your things look beautiful with all these custom-made things or awesome shelves that you bought or beautiful baskets and things like that, and that's great, but it's just masking the clutter. It's not really truly getting rid of the problem.
The problem is that you're having these things in your house that you don't even really want in there in the first place. So [the KonMari method] is not minimalist, it just focuses on keeping all the things that spark joy in your life and being able to discard things and let go of those things that you no longer need or no longer want. So the client is there with me. It is very personal. I am in every drawer, every cabinet. People tell me things that are just for me and are not shared with anybody. It's a very personal connection that you're making with your house along the way.
I had somebody contact me and they did not realize they had to be with me. So then they changed their mind because they work and this, that and the other, so they were kind of thinking I would come in and do it for them, but it's not my things. I don't know what makes you happy, and we have to discard first before you can truly put back everything that you love.
With all that discarding going on, is there an effort to reuse, recycle and/or donate what's left behind?
It's up to my client how they would like to discard their items. Most clients like to shred and recycle the papers, other items get donated to churches or Goodwill. I personally donated a lot of my teaching items and books to the school across the street from my neighborhood. If the items are really worn out or broken, clients typically just discard those to the trash bins.
What have you learned about yourself and your own style through your introduction to KonMari?
I am a very tidy person, but I can get lazy just like everybody else. Doing the KonMari method in the way that she has presented it makes it easier for me to go through the process versus going by room like I used to. Because if you go by room, you just sit there and you stare at everything. Where do I start? What do I even do? Where do I go next? And now with this method, it makes cleaning up easier because everything has a place.
Any KonMari-inspired pro tips for us overly cluttered folks that you'd like to close with?
Handle papers as they enter your house. I think the biggest problem is papers around the house. You've got mail coming in or, if you have children, you have all this stuff coming in from their school and things just start piling up. So I've noticed in all of my clients that I've had so far that papers are the most grueling part and everybody dreads it and the reason is because they've collected so many things over the years, they don't know what to do with it.