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Published: Jan 23, 2019 7 min read
Ryan Soule Photography

Twelve years ago, Patty Morrissey appeared on the Today show for being messy. Then a graduate student at Loyola University in Chicago, she rarely cleaned her room because she was so swamped with coursework. When producers came to campus looking for someone who had embraced their mess, Morrissey was the perfect fit.

But the Morrissey who once pawed through cluttered drawers on national TV is long gone. These days, the 36-year-old is so neat that she sometimes has to stop herself from tidying too much.

What's more, she has an entire business based around organizing that brings in $150 an hour.

Morrissey is one of about 215 consultants who are certified in the KonMari method, a tidying strategy devised by master organizer and Netflix star Marie Kondo. Morrissey has apprenticed under Kondo for years and reached the gold level, meaning she's completed more than 200 cleaning sessions with 20 clients. She's also one of a handful of instructors who lead Kondo-approved seminars for aspiring cleaners around the world.

Morrissey, who was once called a "Jedi-level practitioner" of the KonMari method, says starting her own tidying business helped turn around her career.

And she says you can do it, too.

"It's really this muscle-building exercise of trusting yourself, getting into a habit of expressing gratitude and having confidence you can let go of things," she tells Money. "That's where the life-changing magic is. It's not in having a perfectly organized drawer."

From Vision Boards to Kondo Seminars

Morrissey fell into the Kondo world in 2016. She was burned out from her job, commuting four hours a day and missing meals with her family, when she downloaded the audiobook for Kondo's stateside breakout The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Already a fan of vision boards, Morrissey quickly became enamored with the KonMari technique, which involves tidying by category and keeping only items that "spark joy," or give the beholder a small thrill whenever they pick it up. She was certified by December 2016 and launched her lifestyle company from her home in Huntington, New York.

Last year, the KonMari company tapped her to become an instructor for its seminars, which typically cost upwards of $2,000 and are required for consultants who want to use Kondo's name to promote their business.

Morrissey's approach is deliberate.

"I really try to impart how to think about being a KonMari consultant versus the tactics," she says. "The tactics of how to fold a shirt or where to put books — you learn that on the job, and the book and the show and the community will help you — but it's much more the mentality."

The next seminar is set for March 29-31 in New York; Morrissey says there's already a 400-plus person waiting list.

But she's not worried about market saturation. She wants as many people as possible to become KonMari consultants. Because clutter is a universal issue, there's an endless well of clients.

"There's plenty of business out there for us," she says. "We can have as many KonMari consultants as we have dentists, because everyone would benefit from having one."

'There's No Hiding With Me'

Not everyone can handle professional organizing. As Morrissey likes to say, "being in your mess and being in someone else's mess are two different things."

Morrissey relies on her background in social work whenever she meets with a client. She's supportive but productive; empathetic but assertive. Whenever someone discovers an item they didn't know they were emotionally attached to, she probes them. If someone says an item sparks joy but scrunches up their face while they're holding it, she teases out the reason.

"When you're meeting with a therapist in an office, you can tell them whatever you want to tell them," Morrissey says. "There's no hiding with me."

This service comes at a cost. Morrissey offers several options for clients on her website. People are invited to start with a free phone consultation and then move onto a $750 initiation, which typically lasts between five and six hours and includes an assessment, a visioning exercise and a clothes purge. From there, they can buy subscriptions where Morrissey or another organizer will come up to four times a month for $500 apiece. If a person is moving or needs to clean quickly, he or she can also purchase a "tidying intensive" package that starts at $3,000.

Don't get sticker shock — Morrissey knows the prices sound high.

"I'm not assuming everyone can afford a $750 tidying lesson, but I help people justify it," she says. "The benefits are monetary, straight up: This will cure you and your family of a lifetime of consumption."

That said, Morrissey vows to work with anyone who's ready to work, even if that means the occasional pro bono session.

"From a business owner's standpoint, I'm trying to make money, but I feel called to this work on another level," she adds.

Why Keeping Clutter Costs Money

For Morrissey, the KonMari method is all about breaking the mold. People have to do what works for them while tidying. For example, she and her family recently dressed up as Frozen and Little Mermaid characters on a trip to Disney World. The costumes certainly weren't in keeping with her minimalist lifestyle, but wearing them sure did spark joy.

Above all, Morrissey says Kondo and her army of consultants like to celebrate progress. It’s more about changing perspectives — and folding shirts in tiny rectangles or having a rainbow-colored closet, like the show depicts, can help you along the way.

In that vein, Morrissey's advice is to consider downsizing. Be intentional with purchases and avoid falling into the "what if I need this one day?" trap, because all those batteries and iPhone cables aren't worth the room they're taking up.

Morrissey says that what some people don't realize is "there's a cost to keeping things," both mentally and physically. Clutter can stress people out and strain the wallet.

"It's the default just to get a bigger house or storage unit or expansion instead of stopping and editing and making sure they're paying for the space for things that are worth it," she says. "You don't need to be that organized for this. You just need to have less."