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Clean "Slate" Of Mind: The Art Of Organizing And Decluttering According To Issa Reyes Of Neat Obsessions

Believe her, it's easier than it looks.



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It doesn't surprise Issa Reyes that the words "cleaning," "tidying up," "organizing," or, heaven forbid, "letting go of things you don't need anymore" send chills down the spines of many people.

The professional organizer knows all too well that the misunderstood task of decluttering is intimidating to most. It's a dirty job after all, and it requires the cleaner to come face to face—literally and figuratively—with the untouched corners of their cabinets, overturn dusty boxes, or reach downwards to the very bottom of their bauls that haven't seen the light of day in years.



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It's seldom a pleasant process, but she assures us all that the discomfort it brings is well worth the payoff: you don't just end up with a more organized, livable space you can enjoy, but the positive effects of a pleasantly arranged bedroom, study, kitchen, closet, or den can also do wonders for the mind.

"This is really a process, an editing process that they have to do regularly. Once the habit is there, minimalism is not anymore a concept, but a state of mind," Issa explains.

To start the process of cleaning up and to turn it into a habit, Issa, the founder of professional organizing business Neat Obsessions, lets us in on where to begin and most importantly, how to keep it up.



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Step 1: Sorting

According to Issa, a Psychology graduate, what she tells most of her clients when they enlist her services is to first pick out the things that make them happiest, then everything else can be let go of. This first step of sorting proves to be the most important and impactful, as it paints an accurate picture of how much of one's belongings is still being utilized versus how much has, unfortunately, become a waste of space; what follows after this step is simply fine-tuning.

But what happens when a person claims that they love every single thing they own, and can't seem to let go? (We've all been there).

"Instead of throwing or giving away everything out at that moment, I would encourage my clients to put [these items] in a separate place or bin which they can still see. They will have to condition themselves that this item or set of things will be out of their lives soon. If they can't do it, then return; I really don’t mind. But I will always remind them to check again next month and do the same process over and over," she suggests.



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It's a neat trick to keep in mind especially when one counters an object they know they haven't used in quite some time—and might never use—but can't give up. If it's in that bin and you forget that it's in there after some time, you know what to do.

And finally, when the bin has been emptied and a space has been cleared, the next line of business is to categorize.

The beloved items that made it through the grueling sifting process must be systemically organized and relocated to the appropriate places (read: no more stashing random pens in the nearest drawer in sight; those all go to one's workspace, where the rest of the writing supplies are stored).

To guide you through this is the quote "a place for everything, and everything in its place."



Check out this gallery showcasing what spaces look like after Issa has gone through them


Step 2: Storage

Before embarking on the next step of this (not so) perilous journey of decluttering, give yourself a pat on the back! The toughest part is actually over, and this can, indeed, be considered a major accomplishment.

What matters now is to ensure that a cleaned up space stays that way; it wasn't tidied up just for it to return to its original state in a few weeks' time. When it comes to this part of the process, Issa has one word and one word only, and no, it isn't magic: storage—or more specifically, storage bins.

"Storage bins should set the maximum capacity of your space that way you’ll know if you have too much or need to replenish. Storage is key to both organizing and making sure everything is in its proper place, but also in making sure that they get to see how much they have, and how much they really need. More often than not, people buy things because they don't know they have them already," she explains matter-of-factly.



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Liken one's storage habits to that of an infinitely growing goldfish (they exist!): under the right conditions, the popular water pet will continue to increase in size, growing non-stop to fill its environment.

In this case, imagine that the goldfish is your belongings, the bowl your storage bins, and the "right conditions" the ability to discern whether one has enough things and can (or should) still purchase more. If one can gauge well and self-manage, the figurative goldfish is kept at an optimum, non-frightening size, and will remain proportioned to its environment.



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Essentially, the bowl, or rather, storage bins coupled with one's self-control should and will dictate how well things stay organized.

Best of all, the search for the perfect storage bins adds a little fun to the process as they can do double duty as cute home decor. There are numerous places to source them and endless designs to choose from depending on whether one is looking for practical options or statement pieces.

Issa, who has tried and tested many brands, says, " If they want affordable ones they can go to Japanese home stores, or they can also recycle boxes at home. If they want unique items, they can check out the selections in specialty stores or imported shopping places." 



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Step 3: Making neat an obsession

While technically already done with the cleaning process after setting storage bins in place, Issa's story of how she came up with her business might inspire many to keep up the good work.

Originally a financial advisor who mastered adulthood and motherhood as an inherently neat person, she never thought that her business would boom the way it has. She was previously just lending a helping hand to friends—mostly other mothers who shared the same concerns as her—who needed her expertise with their own homes. Eventually, word got around and those in need of a fairy godmother for organizing had their prayers answered.

Uncluttering, as it seems, is something many need professional help with.



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As a testament to her awesome profession, the likes of actresses Neri Naig and Kim Chiu, model Mikaela Martinez, woman of style and substance Xandra Rocha Araneta, and her fellow supermom and wife, Cheska Kramer, have all admired and thanked her for her work. (Aside from her A-list clientele, Issa is happy to help anyone and everyone from young couples making a home for themselves to septuagenarians wishing to continue a lifelong hobby). 

In fact, after all that she's done and continues to do, Issa may even be called a pioneer in her field and a trailblazer in the country's professional organizing industry. It's not only something she takes pride in, but also one she takes seriously, and takes to heart.

"I got a certification and membership from International Association of Professional Organizers of IAP in New Jersey USA, and I am currently working on my NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers), certificate. Hopefully get a seat in the 2019 KonMari Consultant Seminar. I’m really glad I did all these knowing how much joy I bring to other people’s lives," she reveals.



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Step 4: Passing on the habit

As a mom of three energetic tots, she admits that it isn't always easy to maintain a strict standard of tidiness. Playfully describing herself as "OC," she assures that her compulsion to be neat is simply a switch she can turn on and off, as that's simply the way life is.

What she truly wants, however, is to teach her kids what she's successfully taught her clients when it comes to being organized. In this day and age, when many children grow up privileged to be able to call on the assistance of house help without doing any "bona fide" house chores, it might be a little more challenging.

But as someone who's witnessed the incomparable effects of a successful clean up, Issa knows that the challenge is worth it. Aside from the compliments, what she considers most satisfying about a mission accomplished is her clients' realization that they do still have space to breathe and live in, and on occasion, developing genuine friendships from what were previously just business transactions.



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Most of all, Issa will continue to teach others, her children included, the value of staying organized as the benefits reaped are not just physical or aesthetic. When a room is cleared, a space's energies can flow more efficiently, and in an instant, feel refreshed.

These effects are mirrored in the hearts and minds of those who work and live in a reinvigorated space: they become happier, and generally feel more positive, energized, and excited to go about their day.

And really, who doesn't want that?


Photos from @neatobsessions