We’re learning a lot from Renelyn Tan-Castillejos, who trained with Marie Kondo herself and is now helping Filipinos organize their homes for a more joyful life.
When Renelyn Tan-Castillejos was a kid, the adults around her would frequently ask her what she wanted to do when she grew up. “I want to make the world a better place,” she would always respond.
After finishing her degree in political science 10 years ago, Castillejos set out to do just that when she started working for the World Youth Alliance as their regional director and programs manager. However, while she was content with being at a post that helps people globally, she found that the frequent travel the role entails takes away precious time with her family.
Castillejos shares that leaving the non-government organization made her feel lost; after all, it was her lifelong dream.
“For some time, I didn’t know how I could use my talents and joy to help people in other ways,” she says. During this phase in her life, while searching for a new purpose, Castillejos found a passion unexpectedly while doing a seemingly mundane task: tidying up.
When she got married in 2016, Castillejos initially clashed with her husband’s minimalist style. “I wanted to have a lot of things like in the home I grew up in, while he only wanted to have the basics,” she says. “But I wanted my husband and me to have a harmonious life, even when it comes to our things.”
Castillejos then stumbled upon The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. She started following the steps to declutter her bedroom using the professional organizer’s KonMari method for three straight hours.
“For me, it was a very freeing process. When I moved into my new home with my husband, I realized that I brought in many things from my old life, like stuff from college or my past work. Then I realized I’d never look at those things anymore,” Castillejos recalls.
In the process, asking herself if an item “sparks joy” became liberating. It removed her emotional baggage and was surprised at how her physical surroundings impacted her thoughts and feelings. Immediately, she wanted to share this with friends and family and eventually offer services to Filipino clients.
“I discovered that the KonMari method matched my personality and purpose,” Castillejos shares. In 2018, she packed her bags and trained with Kondo herself in New York, but it was only the beginning of the lengthy process.
Once she returned to the Philippines, Castillejos was to do home visits to clients’ homes, submit reports, and finally, pass an online exam. She became a certified KonMari consultant in 2019 and founded her local brand Yorokobi.
“At the beginning, people would ask if I’m a cleaner for homes. I have to explain that the KonMari method is a very reflective process where you ask yourself important questions,” she shares. “You can still exist in a home where everything is cluttered. But the questions are: what kind of life do you deserve to live? what kind of home do you want to have?”
Since the method’s objective is decluttering, many of the consultant’s clients find difficulty letting go of items that invoke feelings and remind them of memories. (You can watch the problems people experience with letting go of things in Netflix’s Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.)
However, these items are considered clutter because they’re not used or even displayed. “Filipino clients are very sentimental. So for them, the last category we tackle is sentimental items. But when you follow the process of clothing, books, then more or less your sensitivity to what sparks joy for you will become honed little by little.”
With every item the client chooses to let go of, the KonMari method advises that they say goodbye with gratitude to the object.
“For every single item in your home, it entered because once upon a time it made you happy. However, in reality, these items are things you won’t touch or use anymore,” Castillejos explains. “The important rule is saying ‘thank you’ to honor that item and also to remove any feeling of guilt.”
Once clients can let go of clutter, Castillejos advises that they maintain an organized home by setting parameters for themselves. It will serve as a simple guide in their future purchasing decisions to maintain their ideal home and lifestyles.
“I remind my clients of the type of home that they’ve said they wanted, maybe it’s traditional, modern, minimalist, or rustic, they have to keep it in mind,” she says. In addition, clients must be specific with the number of things they aim to keep, including exactly how many pillows or picture frames they need, for example. If they stick to the parameters they’ve created to suit their life, they can keep enjoying a home that sparks joy.
Now in her second year of being a KonMari certified consultant, Castillejos is glad that she can still help people and still on a global scale. “The KonMari method allows us to work with other consultants from different parts of the world,” she says. “Sometimes we collaborate, and I’m still helping the world be better because now there are virtual ways, so it’s not hard for me to help Filipinos but also reach other clients in the world through Zoom.”
Castillejos mentions that even though she’s now an adult, thankfully, the idea to make the world better hasn’t escaped her. “I knew I wanted to help the world, and now it’s very, very clear how I can,” she says with a smile.