By now, you’ve surely heard the phrase “spark joy”–whether that conjures up a fantasy world where all your stuff is magically where it belongs or makes your eyes roll. It’s the mantra and way of life for the Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo, who in 2011 introduced the world to the “KonMari method” through her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Now Kondo is launching a suite of products through her Bay Area-based company KonMari: a set of three boxes called Hikidashi, named for the Japanese word “to draw out,” which were designed to fit inside drawers and organize your clothes. For now, they’re aimed at the U.S. market, though the company has plans to bring them to other markets as well.
The series of boxes, which cost $89 for a set of three, are the company’s first entrance into the world of organizational products–and they represent a greater ambition to become a lifestyle brand, one that can capitalize on growing demand in the home organization market, which is forecasted to be worth $11.8 billion by 2021.
From tidying up your stuff to stuff for tidying up
Before she began to sell stuff for your home, Kondo built her brand on helping people get rid of stuff. The central idea of her method is this: You’re supposed to hold each object you own in your hands and then decide if it gives you a sense of joy or a sense of anxiety–if it’s the latter, out it goes with the garbage. On the back of this idea, Kondo has sold 10 million copies of her book that has been published in 40 countries. As well as continuing to help her own clients learn how to tidy, she has trained a fleet of KonMari “consultants” who preach her gospel of sparking joy in 23 countries around the world. Kondo’s very own Netflix series is in the works. The boxes are just the latest extension of her brand.
“This isn’t something I’ve talked about very often, but I am the greatest box fanatic,” Kondo said at a recent event, speaking through a translator in a bright, airy room in Manhattan. High-quality boxes, which Kondo calls “tidying saviors,” are easy to come by in Japan, where companies often invest more in packaging. But they’re not so common in the U.S., where stuff is usually wrapped in plastic when purchased.
Kondo had noticed another problem: Through her organizational consulting work and by speaking with fans, she realized that while many people had started her method, few were able to finish. Much to their chagrin, these acolytes struggled to keep their clothes folded and stacked as beautifully as she could. “We knew that was a pain point we wanted to solve,” says Cheryl Tan, KonMari’s vice president of product and marketing, who is leading the charge on transforming Kondo’s powerful brand into more things that people want to buy. “It’s helpful to have a divider in your drawer to keep everything lovely and lined up.”
Stealing from Apple’s playbook
But how do you create the perfect box? Step one: Poach Apple’s head of packaging materials. “At Apple, packaging is a customer’s first point of contact with a purchased product–and excitement is at its highest,” says Cecylia Ferrandon, who worked in package design at Apple for eight years before joining KonMari in March 2018. “My job was to create a seamless unboxing experience, while also ensuring that the packaging properly protected the product and was sustainable.”
Ferrandon brought her design sensibility to KonMari to become the company’s vice president of hardware design and manufacturing. Because Kondo hates plastic and believes that the countless plastic organizers out there “suffocate” your stuff rather than let it breathe, the team set out to create a fully recyclable paper box that was sturdy enough to last just as long. “Apple is obsessed with the quality of its products and the customer journey,” Ferrandon says. “I brought that mind-set to KonMari, and as a team we’ve scrutinized every detail of the product and how our customer engages with it–from the exterior packaging and unboxing experience to the branded duster bag and product inserts.”
Once Kondo expressed her desire to create a series of perfect boxes, the team created mockups made of foamcore and duct tape and tested out their sizes with focus groups and KonMari consultants, agonizing over exactly how tall each of the three boxes should be. Of even greater importance? How the boxes fit together, which would let people use the lids to create extra organization within each box. The team folded mounds of clothing to test how various sizes of folded clothes would work within each box. “We sent an intern to measure every single dresser out there that’s popular,” Tan says. “We have a document of all the dimensions of every drawer in the most popular dressers in the United States.”
The final set of boxes, which includes a small, medium, and large box, fit together with no visible seams. If I hadn’t known they were paper, I’d never have guessed it: They’re made of reinforced fiberboard composed of recycled paper and then covered with a silky smooth, luscious paper that makes me want to run my hands all over them–and all the materials are FSC certified, meaning they come from responsibly managed forests. While these boxes probably won’t last as long as plastic ones on your shelves or eventually in a landfill, they do feel structurally sound and far sturdier than most other paper boxes I’ve encountered. The large box was designed to fit T-shirts, sweaters, jeans, and other large pieces of clothing, and feels slightly bigger than a shoe box. The medium box also works for T-shirts, as well as camisoles, linens, towels, and bras. The smallest size was designed for socks, underwear, and accessories. And of course, each is designed to spark joy: While the outside of each box is white, the interiors have serene watercolor patterns and inspirational quotes from Kondo like, “Make your life shine.”
“We placed an emphasis on the boxes’ interior design because we are encouraging customers to think inside the box–to value what cannot always be seen from the outside,” Ferrandon says.
Is a box just a box?
On first glance, KonMari’s brand might feel similar to the minimalism-minded Japanese company Muji, which also sells boxes (albeit plastic ones), or the U.S. company The Container Store. But Tan insists that no other organizational brand helps you figure out how to organize your stuff. Once you order a set of boxes from KonMari’s website, you receive a set of emails that introduce you to the KonMari method. “Before the boxes have arrived, you’ve already learned how to determine your ideal life,” Tan says. She thinks of Kondo’s brand as a mix of home organization, mindfulness, philosophy, and wellness. In her words, it’s “Container Store meets Headspace.”
This is aspirational marketing at its finest. After all, it takes an incredibly strong brand to sell a set of empty boxes–especially a set of empty boxes priced at $89, which are available for preorder today and begin shipping in September. And this is just the beginning. Tan plans to roll out an entire suite of products, including smaller sets of boxes designed for accessories, and a KonMari journal that will be available for the holidays later this year.
“We’re starting with products that are in the organizational space because it makes the most sense,” Tan says. “But the journal isn’t a physical home organization product. It leads into how Marie is thinking about products that are helping to spark joy and organize thoughts and declutter minds as well.”
The Hikidashi boxes are truly some of the most beautiful boxes I’ve ever seen. Paradoxically, in my own life, I still haven’t figured out how to use them. I have some dividers in my drawers already that work fine. And to fit all my clothes, I’d need at least two or three boxes, which wouldn’t fit in my drawers. Eventually, I suspect I’ll find a use for them. But right now, they’re cluttering up my desk. How’s that for sparking joy?