Professional Declutterers in China Help Transform Houses Into Homes
SHANGHAI — Qian Yiwen, 35, was astonished when all her family’s belongings were laid out on their living room floor — so much so that she decided immediately to arrange for the professional declutterer she had found to come back on a regular basis.
“I never knew I had purchased so many things until I saw all of them,” said Qian. “It forced me to reevaluate my lifestyle and think twice before I buy new things.”
Professional decluttering, known as “home organizing,” has been around for several years in China, but there has been a jump in the number of clients recently. Wang Ziyu, chief marketing officer at Liucundao, one of China’s leading home organizing service providers, tells Sixth Tone that the rise is down to increased numbers of people working from home in recent years, which has led them to place greater importance on improving their living spaces.
Liucundao has seen the number of paying clients triple year on year to over 400,000 currently. Since 2022, the company has provided training courses for over 470,000 people interested in professional home organizing, with around half the students subsequently joining the industry.
“Clients used to just consider us as the people they’d pay to fold their laundry,” said Wang. “Now they know we provide a new way to re-examine their lives.”
Cao Qiuxia, 40, joined Liucundao in 2019 after taking one of its training courses. For her, each item in a person’s home is the material embodiment of their lifestyle, offering insights into how a family functions. For example, the types of spices and their arrangement in the kitchen can reflect a family’s tastes and cooking habits.
When she enters a new home with her team, they go through one room at a time clearing out all items stored in it. Cao engages the client during the process, discussing whether items are duplicates or how often they are used.
After discarding some items, Cao tracks how each family member uses the room, restocking items according to their individual living habits. The goal is to ensure that all items sharing the same storage space have equal visibility to the owners, promoting daily use.
By doing so, not only does the entire house become tidier, but the utilization rate of limited spaces improves, creating opportunities for new habits to form. For example, tea leaves gifted by relatives can be emphasized in a new home arrangement to help foster a new habit of tea drinking.
“Through our work, we hope that our clients know that home is not only a place where you store things but also a place that allows you and the people you love most to communicate, talk and see each other,” said Cao.
When homes are messy, often it is the mother that suffers the brunt of it, said Wang, with babies’ toys, bottles, and clothes taking up valuable living space: “We have seen too many mothers ‘trapped’ in a messy kitchen, with no room for them in the house to really ‘live’ in.”
Data collected by Liucundao shows that around 91.29% of professional home organizers are women, and more than 40% graduated from university.
According to Wang, most have similar backgrounds to Cao, a former interior designer who graduated from the leading architecture school at Tongji University and joined the industry after her two children started primary school, a common time for housewives to reenter the workforce in China.
The industry provides these former housewives with a means to reenter the workforce in a more seamless fashion, Wang added.
(Header image: A home organizer works at a client’s home. Lü Xiao/Sixth Tone)