Ordnung trifft Japan
Das Skript

Hello, my name is Mayumi Takahara. I’m the founder and the president of the Japan Association of Life Organizer, JALO. I founded JALO in 2008 as Japan’s first association for training organizing professionals.

After graduating from college, I worked at a department store as an interior coordinator. At that time, I had many customers who struggled with organizing and storing things, but there was no one to help with their problems, and I was not very good at organizing myself.

As working parents, my husband and I were busy with housework and raising a child. We were constantly cleaning up during our free time and this caused us to have more arguments. These experiences led me to start research on organizing. This was 20 years ago, back in 2003.

There were housekeeping services at the time, but when someone else does things for you, you soon go back to your old habits. Also, if you try to copy the organizing methods of famous people on TV or in magazines, their solution is to “just throw it away.” If people could just “throw it away,” there wouldn’t be a problem to begin with.

That’s why we wanted a professional who would carefully consider our lifestyle, what we care about, and our values. Then they could help find ways to reduce the stress of organizing and storing things. Specifically, what to put where and what storage solution to use. Also, how to organize not only our space but our lives, like how we use our time and manage information.

Then in 2005, I first learned about professional organizers as a profession in the US through a book. I was inspired by the concept and wanted to spread it throughout Japan right away! However, even if I acquired the knowledge and skills to start my own business and worked hard, the number of clients I could support would be limited. Even if I hired employees, training them would take time, effort, and most importantly, money. At the time, working as an everyday company employee, I didn’t have the resources in terms of manpower, goods, and capital.

I wondered if there was a way to increase my network of colleagues who could provide the kind of support that I envisioned. My idea was to establish an association to train life organizers,  support them after certification, and provide services to optimize people’s lives while solving their organizing problems. I wanted to create a system that ensured the quality of such services. 

In the early 90s in Japan, people started recognizing the need for organizing and storage solutions.

A book introducing the “Ultra” Organizational Method” by an economist became a bestseller. It suggested that to be organized, you need to know how. 

Before that, the word “organizing” was almost synonymous with “cleaning,” and only appeared in a few pages in books on housekeeping. Naturally, there was no specific category for “decluttering” or “organizing” in bookstores.

Starting in the mid-90s, charismatic pioneers in the organizing industry appeared in the media, as they did in other countries.

Sharing new storage techniques became a boom. It was like a competition to see how to store things most efficiently or how creative one could get in turning impossible tiny spaces into storage. The gap between appliances, for example.

In the 2000s, a different trend emerged in contradiction to the previous storage boom. A book discussing the art of discarding became a bestseller and inspired a “throw away boom” in Japan.

It spread as positive elements representing a uniquely Japanese concept, “isagiyosa” that is loosely translated as “purity” or “grace with pride.” The “minimalist” movement, which began in the U.S. then, followed the trend and became popular around the world. 

As a Japanese, I see Germans as people who own only what they need and lead a rational, minimalist lifestyle.

Miele dishwashers, for example, are very popular in Japan for both their design and performance.

For some Germans, Japan may project a similar image.

But as I said in my video, if you have been to Japan, you know that it is one of the most difficult countries in the world to be organized.

That is why it is both challenging and rewarding for us as professional organizers.

Professional Organizing emerged in the mid 90s in Japan, with experts first appearing on TV and in magazines.

It was not until the late 2000s that it was widely recognized.

However, at that time in Japan, organizing services were confused with housekeeping services, so I founded the first association in Japan to train professional organizers.

The population of Japan is around 125 million. I don’t have an exact number, but my research estimates that there are about 1,000 professional organizers in Japan. It might be a bit higher if part-time workers are included.

We are planning to conduct a survey before this year’s World Organizing Day to obtain more accurate data.

The requests from clients vary. Some are area specific, requesting closet or kitchen only. Many are whole house projects.

What we need to develop more is support for people affected by chronic disorganization.

Although there are an increasing number of professional organizers with more than a decade of experience, the profession has not yet become generally recognized.

First, we are aiming to be recognized as a professional service that is accessible to anyone. I am also one of the representative directors of the Japan Council of Organizing, which was established in 2018 as an industry association. So I can safely say that I represent professional organizers in Japan.

In Japan, education in the organizing field is a rather mature industry. There are more than 35 groups and organizations where people can learn about organizing. In addition to programs for becoming a professional, there are also many programs for the general public.

Marie Kondo and her approach have made contributions to the professional recognition of professional organizers, and I’m grateful for that.

However, I don’t believe that her rise to fame doesn’t mean the growth of the profession. This market is just beginning to grow, and we have much work to do.

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