Through the series Creativity Chronicles, we catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse behind the work and vision of the creatives that together shape the collective and what it represents.
I sat down with Julia Barker - founder of Zen With Julia - and discovered what it means to be Malta’s first KonMari decluttering consultant.
Tell us something about yourself, something not related to your project/design or business.
I have two rescue greyhounds at home and they’re perfect pets for us – snuggly, lazy and just cheeky enough to make you laugh!
When was the first time you had any idea about your project/design/company?
I’d signed up to Marie Kondo’s newsletter after completing the process in my own home. My wife caught me reading the article about training in New York to become a consultant and really encouraged me to go for it! Her can-do attitude is one of the things I really respect her for.
Does your project/design/company have a significant name? If so, what is the meaning behind it and how did it come about?
Zen With Julia emphasises the fact that I don’t declutter for my clients like some professional organisers – instead I coach them in techniques that allow them to continue making good shopping and home decisions long after I’ve said goodbye. I’m working with my clients, not for them. The ‘zen’ part emphasises the need to focus on the task at hand and use intuition.
Did you gain a formal education in creativity? What, do you feel, played an important role in your creativity?
Absolutely not! Throughout my education I was drawn to science subjects, and later education. Growing up watching my mum sew and create gave me an interest in where our ‘stuff’ comes from, and an appreciation for each garment I own. Having made some of my own clothes with varying degrees of success I admire the complexity of a well designed and flattering garment.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I have a growing interest in minimalism as a lifestyle choice and am particularly inspired by Japanese interior trends. By necessity furniture is designed to make the most of a small space and is often multifunctional while being beautiful to look at. Ookkuu (Oh-ku) are currently on my ‘love’ list for their hand crafted yet smooth finishes.
When you first started thinking about your project/design/company, did you think you would be in the place you are now? Is it where you hoped to be?
I think I was a little naïve about acceptance of what I do. I’ve always been very open about my home (even when I wasn’t a tidy person) as it is quite common in the UK, but I underestimated the influence of tradition here – that it might be seen as a weakness to employ someone to help you to tidy your home hadn’t really occurred to me as a significant factor. The expression of shame at having somebody see your clutter or mess is something that I’ve experienced more than I expected to.
Have you won any awards, recognition, etc., for projects/designs?
What has been the most highlighted event/milestone for you, so far?
My first paying client. The road to being a fully certified KonMari consultant can be a long one – understandably, Marie has made the process rigorous in order to ensure that any consultant working with the method is doing so to a high standard. There have been times where business has been slow and I’ve wondered whether I’ll ever complete my training, but to my first paying client was a real boost to my self-belief.
Do you still feel that same passion about your business as when you first started, or when you had the initial idea?
Absolutely! I definitely feel like I’m on my own personal journey of discovery as I continue to read into different approaches to having a balanced and peaceful home. Every time I visit a client for a session, or open my laptop to do admin, I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to make a living doing something I’m so interested in.
What most helped you get to where you are now and what helped you follow through with your ideas?
As I alluded to, my wife has been brilliant in supporting me through my training period. She’s a great sounding board and always happy to discuss ideas for future projects such as workshops.
If you could start the project over again, what would you change or do differently?
I’d certainly be more assertive in talking about what I do. Up until the beginning of 2019 I felt like I was a stay at home mum first and a Tidying Consultant second. That was reflected in how I introduced myself and I was almost shy to say that I was working in this field. Changing a few things around at home meant that my answer to ‘so what do you do?’ is now a proud ‘I’m training to be a KonMari consultant – I help people to regain and enjoy their homes by teaching them to declutter’. I’m able to structure my days and appointments in a much more business-like way and that definitely changed my mindset and degree of success.
What is the one thing that you want people to come away with when they see/use your design, purchase your product, or get to know of your company?
When my clients approach me they often feel hopeless or even embarrassed about their home or workspace. My aim is for them to leave our sessions feeling empowered. Empowered that they can take back control of their possessions, empowered to look forward to the day when they can truly relax in their space, and empowered to continue on their tidying journey.