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India

From Diwali safai to declutter coach

Most Indian homes are overflowing with thi-ngs that will probably never get used — tacky Diwali gifts from office, suitcases bursting with old clothes, plastic cutlery left over from food deliveries, greeting cards from a different lifetime, even used gift-wrapping paper and ribbons. While some of us like to hoard such stuff, others are simply too busy or too lazy to clean the mess.

Enter the professional declutterers. Delhi’s Manmeet Kumar recently hired the services of Shivani Gulati, declutter and organising coach in Gurgaon, to free up space in her cupboards and store room. “My father loves to hoard stuff — be it Diwali lights or branded clothes. He refuses to just give them away because he feels it should be done after some thought and they should go to someone ‘deserving’,” says Kumar, who got her space decluttered while her father was away in Hong Kong on a short trip.

A well-known concept abroad, professional decluttering is still very new in India. “In the first year of launching my service, I had no clients. This year I have decluttered 20 homes so far,” says Gulati.

In Mumbai, Kiran Khanna hired Organise with Ease in May to re-do the family’s cupboards. “From the outside everything looks neat in our house but if you open the cupboards and drawers you see the mess,” says Khanna, a lawyer, who says too many clothes were clogging up her wardrobe. Rohini Rajagopalan, founder of the decluttering service, worked with Khanna’s children, 13 and 9, to figure out the stuff they needed and what could be given away for charity.


“It really changed their way of thinking. Now, when we go on holidays and shop for them they refuse and say they already have this stuff back home,” says Khanna who has taken a three-month contract and gets declutter tips on her WhatsApp, and visits from Rajagopalan.

The demand for these services is higher in Mumbai because of its space shortage. Rajagopalan has serviced 30 clients since starting out last year and says she’s currently pre-booked.

In Delhi-NCR, people often confuse it with cleaning. Gurgaon-based Gayatri Gandhi says, “People call and say ‘safai karne aa jao’. They don’t understand the difference between plain surface cleaning and re-organising things to clear up and optimise physical space.” Gandhi started her company Joy Factory last year. She gave up her media job with a TV channel after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising, the bestselling book by Marie Kondo, a tidying and lifestyle guru whose decluttering style is known as the KonMari method. A certified KonMari consultant, Gandhi has handled seven clients since she started out last August.



Removing clutter from your home can cost between Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 per hour. A 3BHK, with a family of four or five, takes 20-25 hours to clear up. And professionals usually work for five hours a day.

Cleaning up somebody’s mess is not easy or comfortable. Professionals say clothes, utensils (legacy items) and endless stationary (every gifted pen, diary, notebook) are the most-hoarded items. Emotional keepsakes, expectedly, are the most difficult to get rid of and invite prolonged discussions and arguments. “Like their child’s first painting, pre-pregnancy clothes, something they got from their grandparents. What they truly need to keep, I ask them to put it in a small box. The rest I request them to be thankful for the time it was with them and to now let it go,” says Gulati.

We know that clutter takes up space and makes it look unsightly but some studies show that it can also have negative impact on our brains. Researchers at Princeton Neuroscience Institute published a study in 2011 that found that a cluttered environment restricts your focus and slows down your ability to process information. Both Gandhi and Gulati claim that decluttering leads to positive life changes, increase in time and productivity. “This is especially true for office spaces where uncluttered desks lead to higher employee output,” adds Gandhi.

Lawyer Khanna says it did free up her mind a bit. “It also unlocks the potential of a cleared-up space and makes you think of new creative ways of using it,” adds another customer in Delhi.
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