The Heart of Homemaking
Beyond the success of Neat Obsessions, Issa Guico Reyes keeps it simple yet meaningful by finding joy in living spaces.
Homey. A simple word yet it exudes a bright and warm, pleasant feeling—exactly the environment Issa Guico Reyes wants for her house. Yet creating such a home is a different story and part of the reason why she founded Neat Obsessions, ultimately pioneering the professional home organizing industry in the country.
As a mother of three, Issa challenges the notion that homemaking is limited to one person in charge—a common setup in Filipino homes. “As long as you live in a house, you are a homemaker,” she counters. It is never about assigning a single figure to lead. She believes each member of the household must take responsibility for their own space.
Issa challenges the notion that homemaking is limited to one person in charge—a common setup in Filipino homes. “As long as you live in a house, you are a homemaker,” she counters. It is never about assigning a single figure to lead.
Be it in making household decisions or organizing the house, she highlights homemaking is about establishing ownership and intention. When one is mindful of what they have, it translates to care, empowerment, and happiness. Neat Obsessions help its clients, mostly high-profile personalities, achieve these and more.
Together with Mayfair & Co. whom she worked with in her projects, Issa says, “It’s through encouraging and inspiring people [with] platforms like these that we can spread the word to other homemakers.” They encourage people to care for their things as doing so reflects taking care of oneself and by extension, those they live with.
A Fated Path
Starting Neat Obsessions came naturally to the Konmari consultant-in-training. The business idea bore from Issa’s own nature and habit to maintain tidy spaces. “I grew up in a household where homemaking is not assigned to me; it’s assigned to all of us,” she explains. Her father instilled strict routines in the family like cleaning up the house. At that time, however, she admits to mistaking the reason behind it. It was understandable—any young girl would want to play rather than get left behind with chores. “It felt like a punishment,” she says in jest. It was to the point where throughout her childhood, “it seems like I always find myself cleaning,” she laughs.
Translating her practice into a business, fortunately, turned out to be a wise decision. What began as a personal blog grew into a company helping big names and personalities in the country. From their dressing rooms and prized collections to kitchens, studios, and more, Issa has relieved clients of the overwhelming, and at times, emotionally daunting, tasks of decluttering, cleaning, and organizing. It is a difficult process, but Issa says it is part of being responsible and taking ownership of your space.
“This is why [in our house], we don’t do general cleaning,” Issa shares. “My dad said we have to clean for five to ten minutes, but that’s it. You’re done for the day.” Throughout the years, Issa continues this practice in raising her own family: teaching responsibility while giving everyone the space to be creative.
Beyond aesthetics, Issa believes design must be carried out with intention. Whether it’s for the client’s house or her own, she keeps in mind how it should reflect the relationship among those who live in the spaces. “More than how it’s going to look, it’s about how we are going to create memories here,” she says.
“More than how it’s going to look, it’s about how we are going to create memories here,”
She prefers keeping everything simple and shares how Mayfair & Co. helps fulfill it. Issa explains, “Mayfair has a lot to do with putting inspirations to your home, and putting value into things in your home.”
In fact, Issa has worked with the brand on some projects. Both share expertise in home organizing solutions. So, it is no surprise about the wonders this collaboration can create for homemakers. “What I like about them is they listen,” Issa reveals. “I tell them honestly my review of the product. We work together on how to make it work and make it functional, and establish ownership and intention in your space.”
When she speaks of ‘intention,’ Issa refers to the way people bring things to their homes. “You should ask yourself: am I going to take proper care of it?” The suggestion can guide people to keep only those with meaning and serve their purpose. It can also help lessen the clutter in the house, creating a relaxing feeling around.
Amid the bustling schedules, Issa likes bonding with the family the most. They share a similar fondness for singing. A favorite is a Grammy-award-winning song, “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. Issa explains, “My husband and I are able to create a community within the family.” There is no need to go outside for entertainment. It is why she feels happy and relieved when they go on vacations, and her kids ask when they are returning. “I like that they look forward to going home. They like being at home.”
"Kids also aspire for a clean space even when most of the time, people blame them for the mess,...If we show them and let them feel how we care for the home, they will also learn how to do that"
The practice is one of the many ways families can create a haven for their loved ones. Aside from strengthening relationships, the very spaces where they dwell matter too. “When I want to impress [my kids], I clean their rooms [and] rearrange,” she reveals. From adding flowers to the room to getting a new side table, her children show appreciation for the small yet beautiful changes. “It’s the validation for me. Kids also aspire for a clean space even when most of the time, people blame them for the mess,” she laughs.
“If we show them and let them feel how we care for the home, they will also learn how to do that,” she points out. It is why, unlike her childhood which she teasingly claims is filled with memories of cleaning, she is lenient with assigning chores to her children. At a young age, they know not to make a mess everywhere—only in designated areas like their room.
In place of chores, she says, “What I’m able to establish with my kids are boundaries and ownership.” One example is encouraging them to come up with what they want for breakfast. “It’s part of decision-making,” Issa highlights. “It’s just breakfast, you already know what you want,” she tells them. Sometimes, however, surprise still overtakes her when she sees varying options on the table during breakfast.
“It’s the little things that help them be independent,” she says. What may be seemingly minute practices help shape the children’s character. It is something Issa feels proud of, especially when she is witnessing them grow into young men and women of good character.
Weight of Simple Joys
In an age where tight schedules appear to determine productivity, Issa learned to break this convention. “There’s a lot of things going on in my head, and I need time to quiet my mind… that’s my non-negotiable,” she shares. From reading the Bible to praying, these created an immense impact on her life. She draws strength and comfort from her faith which she eventually passed down to her children.
One important practice is writing a ‘grateful list.’ Issa shares a strong memory of when her then-six-year-old son joined the family prayer session. It went on the usual route until her son mentioned thanking God for fries and for having his parents around.
“What I’m really into is changing the lives of people,”
Adults alike typically think about the more significant matters in life like career and financial concerns. Yet her son’s (and later, her other kids’) list had Issa pausing to reflect. “If I go back to their grateful list, that’s when I realized I don’t have to try hard because my kids are really happy,” Issa recalls with fondness on her face. She keeps the list in a notebook and muses, “I’m doing this for my family, for my children. Why do I have to burden myself so much?”
Sure, Issa has numerous clients with every project posing a challenge. And yet “What I’m really into is changing the lives of people,” she says. She encourages homemakers to cherish the memories and relationships formed in these spaces.
While this is a big mission to fulfill, at the end of the day, everything Issa does boils down to asking herself, “will this make my kids proud?” It is an elaborate question, but the answer proves life need not be complicated. Homemakers can make loved ones proud with their pursuit and their home–and joy can easily fill the heart.