Issa Guico Reyes of Neat Obsessions answers the quarantine homemaker’s cry on how to carve out a space that is functional as it is beautiful.
When the Netflix show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo first aired in 2019, cleaning which was once deemed as a laborious task, turned into an act that “sparks joy.” Suddenly, many of us were looking forward to folding our laundry and agreeing that a high-quality label maker is worth the investment. Marie Kondo, the petite Japanese powerhouse was responsible for it all. She created the KonMari method to reconfigure the notion of tidying and decluttering beyond mere throwing away; rather it became a way of moving on. Since then, the trend of home organizing grew even bigger, and during the pandemic, it evolved from being a coping mechanism but an essential method for survival.
CALL FOR HELP
As we remain in an endless cycle of quarantines, homes are no longer just places to relax and unwind after a hard day of work. Think how dining tables now double duty as workspaces, garages as makeshift gyms, and home offices that are also classrooms. Collectively and in solidarity online, homemakers are struggling to balance aesthetics and utility, especially when Filipinos are highly sentimental. Think of the antique glassware or wooden tables that some refuse to give away because it’s been in the family for generations, an issue that even the KonMarie method can’t solve. With cleaning slowly turning back into its dreadful old form, how can one create a pleasing but practical home? Enter Issa Guico Reyes, who turned her motherly instincts for everything neat into a full business and brand. The official home organizer who trained with Marie Kondo herself in New York shared that her road to being an intentional homemaker started with the influence of her dad. “Unlike my friends whose parents easily allow them to go outside and play, I would have to earn that playtime from my dad who asked me to clean a part of the house first,” Reyes shares. “When I transferred with my own family here in our home, I found the courage to share my passion through my blog and an Instagram page I named ‘Neat Obsessions.’”
The professional organizer is often compared to Kondo but what sets herself apart is her “Homeward Technique,” which is organizing specifically suited for Filipino homes. We are maximalists at most. Stripping things back to simplify a space might seem appealing, but it’s harder to execute. So, while the KonMarie method teaches us to let go of items immediate after one question, Reyes’ technique is a full process to help Filipinos deal with their emotions to make elimination easier. The steps are simply: sort, detach, and “rehome.” “For example, seeing all-white clothes in one category, we can then ask, how many of these do I really need to function in my life’s current season? All the rest that no longer serve their purpose can be de-owned or re-owned to another person’s closet,” Reyes explains.
From hearing video call rings left and right to having a child distance learning just a few feet away and making a mess all over the room, the threat of being avalanched in mental and physical clutter in one’s own home can be very real. Not all of us have the luxury of a dedicated room to create a home office, but Reyes says to embrace your space and look around your home with a new set of eyes. “Understand what you need. I know it seems like you need a lot of things at the same time, but it pays to separate what you feel from what you need at the moment,” she advises. Next, she says is to compartmentalize zones and set schedules to help your family clock in and clock out when needed. Take the time to study the house then, figure out where you can designate your “official” workplace and those for your family members. “Whether in a house or a condominium, having zones and maintaining cleanliness and organization builds respect and ownership,” she affirms.
A design approach to a work-from-home setup doesn’t have to be stacked boxes and bulky filing cabinets. It still should be able to speak your visual language and evoke personality. While most home organizing lessons focus on intervening “clutterbugs,” her one organization tip is to incorporate your interests. “Whether it be a coffee station or a book nook, these connect to the feeling of happiness when you organize your home,” she says. It’s a delicate dance between aesthetics and utility, for a long-term organizing plan, Reyes says to consider pieces that work as hard as you do. This could be a vintage rolling cart for stylish storage or room dividers that create separation while adding depth to a room. “When I organize open shelving, I cluster or put together items that tell a story,” she explains. Even in the new normal where disinfecting machines and humidifiers are now new home additions, it can still match the design story of the space. On one of Reyes’ YouTube videos, she shows a wicker storage box the doubles as a UV sterilizer where she used zip ties to attach the two together.
WORK IN PROGRESS
The journey to home organizing isn’t always clean and pristine because admittedly or not, we all still have the one junk drawer somewhere in the house. “Don’t be too hard on yourself when you feel like you haven’t achieved your home organization goals yet. Slow progress is still progress. Enjoy the process and learn from it,” Issa Guico Reyes reminds us to remove the notion of perfection in the process. “A home is not about the things, but about them being the center of homemaking. Manage and take control of what you can.” With a tidy blend of creative sensibility, willingness to change, and practicality, every homemaker can organize a workspace that inspires productivity and beauty for you and your family.