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Feb 26 2019

Marie Kondo and the furniture industry

Tidying expert Marie Kondo has done more than just spark a short-lived trend with her best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the millions of copies she’s sold. Combined with minimalism, her systematic approach to decluttering is having an impact on the furniture industry. 

Marie Kondo is a phenomenon: the Japanese author and businesswoman has metamorphosed into a global guru for decluttering devotees everywhere. Things have gone so far that her surname is now a verb: “to kondo” means to create order in the home. This wild enthusiasm hasn’t come without ridicule: IKEA Singapore poked fun at Marie Kondo in an advert and proposed a simple bin for decluttering activities. But the furniture supplier should be one to welcome the trend – after all, the Swedish company offers a wide array of products for those in search of order, from basic boxes to complete storage systems. Other retailers and manufacturers also have suitable solutions at the ready.

Turning tidying up into a major hit

Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is based on the KonMari Method, which she developed. More than seven million copies have been sold worldwide. Kondo has filmed an eight-part Netflix series and appeared on countless TV shows. She provides consultancy services to businesses and is considered the world’s most-famous expert in the art of tidying. Radical decluttering has become a trend thanks to Kondo. It is practised everywhere, from private homes to offices, from city apartments to country cottages. But what’s made Kondo such a huge success is much more than a simple method for clearing out: she has built a whole philosophy of life around it. She doesn’t just want to show her followers the path to tidy living rooms and neat bedrooms – she wants to show them how to live happier lives. Radically clearing out your home, so the idea goes, changes your whole life. “The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life” writes Kondo in her book.

But she has achieved something else as well: at just the right moment, she’s come up with a practical guide to an issue that goes hand in hand with decluttering. Our lives are filled with heaps of stuff and plagued by sensory overload. It’s hardly surprising, then, that many yearn for a simpler existence that follows the adage “Less is more”. Whether it is called minimalism or downshifting, this attitude fits in perfectly with the KonMari Method, which allows us to start where we personally can control things best – in the home.

Retreating to the sanctuary of the home

But there’s another reason behind Marie Kondo’s success. Retreating into a private sphere of one’s own has become especially attractive in an age of social and political uncertainty (think Trump and Brexit). It’s within our own four walls that we have a chance to create order in a world where elsewhere chaos seems to rule. Best-selling German author Werner Tiki Küstenmacher has been preaching his “simply your life” concept since the end of the 1990s and calling on people to get rid of unnecessary junk. So in this respect, Marie Kondo hasn’t come up with anything really new. But she has still sparked a trend that is significant for the furniture industry. How to clear out and simplify our lives are questions that don’t just appear in books, YouTube videos and blogs – they are also vitally important in design and in the furniture industry as a whole. They are reflected in the increasing popularity of plain, linear forms and design worlds, but also in the growing importance of the particular product’s function. We are asking much more frequently what does this product offer me? What can it do? Furniture that promotes minimalism and order in this way is absolutely of the minute.

Using the trends in practice

There is something else that the furniture industry – and other sectors – can learn from the tidying queen’s success: the speed with which trends suddenly start to influence consumer behaviour is simply breathtaking. Marie Kondo’s book had been on the market for two years when the craze surrounding her organisational method erupted. All at once, online portals and established print outlets alike jumped on the bandwagon. React quickly and learn from consumers’ interests and behaviour are the key takeaways. Naturally, existing product lines cannot be completely modified or subjected to in-depth scrutiny because of a mere trend. Instead, it is a question of presenting them in a new light. Marie Kondo herself didn’t invent something new; her method is just clearer, more radical and more holistic than the existing approaches.

For manufacturers and retailers of the right products, such trends will always offer opportunities – in most cases, the right products for organising, tidying and storing have been around for a long time. Often what is needed is the right guide to using them properly with an end goal in sight. The product and its operating instructions alone cannot achieve this – a coherent story surrounding the product is needed. This is exactly what Marie Kondo has created and why her decluttering philosophy appeals to so many. Some may shake their heads in bemusement at the craze, while others will learn from it.

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