The act of decluttering is far more than just having a clean space to live in: it contributes to one’s mental state, clarity, and happiness. This is something that New York City Declutterer Ruthie Kukoff is teaching people one mess at a time.
While decluttering is a new and popular concept thanks to Netflix exposing the masses to Marie Kondo’s “Magic of Tidying up,” Kukoff has been using her work as an interior designer to help better lives for years. Her inspiration stems from her childhood.
“Some of my early memories of my childhood is of my father cleaning out the junk drawer on an early Sunday morning. No one could pack a car trunk like him and our house was always in top shape,” Kukoff reminisced. “Everything had a place, and until he passed six months ago at almost 94, he always made sure everything we used went back where it belonged. My mom said he was ‘anal.’”
Kukoff began her career as an interior designer working for people living in high-end single-family homes in suburban New Jersey. However, during the height of the recession, she had less interior work and sought other opportunities. Kukoff became a creative arts intervention specialist for teens at risk at Mount Sinai-St. Luke’s Hospital. After the position was terminated due to a grant program ending, she returned to interior design, with a fresh view.
Kukoff is constantly re-examining herself in order to help others, taking the extra mile to individualize each of her clients. Decluttering and organizing became a major focus in her work, as she saw a great need for this type of service, creating space in the mind, body, soul, and home.
It took a lot of dedication to put clients’ needs in front of her own. Kukoff strived to create a healthier environment for her clientele, giving them the opportunity to be proud of their surroundings and homes. Most importantly, improving intimate relationships.
With the normalization of this therapeutic service, more people have engaged in the work of Kondo and Kukoff.
“I think it’s great that it is a conversation for people today, that they see the importance of living with what they need and brings them joy,” said Kukoff. “I’ve always been aware of my own stuff and how it has affected me in my surroundings. As a visual person, it only makes sense that my environment is important to me and I work at it.”
Some people become dependant on their clutter as a form of survival and security: “The hardest part is being with someone who hoards and suffers mentally, whether depression or anxiety, my heart hurts for those who struggle. In these cases, it is almost impossible to create a healthy and joyful home. The clutter they have—physically and mentally—severely impacts their lives.”
The clutter they have—physically and mentally—severely impacts their lives.
Through the ups and the downs, Kukoff has managed to maintain a clear vision of why she loves the work. She finds satisfaction in the relationships she has created with her clients. Kukoff re-lives their lives with them, as they go through their possessions, sharing memories and stories, both happy and sad. The most rewarding part of the job is seeing her clients transform and take away from the learning experience.
“The connection is what’s satisfying, and hearing about their transformation in the process of letting go: how it’s changed them, how much they’ve learned,” Kukoff said. “I love what I do and plan on continuing my work digging into the drawers and closets and creating order.”
You can learn more about Ruthie Kukoff and her services here.
All photos courtesy of Ruthie Kukoff.