Konmari with Kids: Is it Possible?

KonmariLate last year, my turn finally came on the wait list at my local library for Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I’d been wanting to read it for some time (apparently not enough to just buy a copy though); despite purging before moving halfway around the world recently, I still felt like my family and I had too much stuff. The mere thought of it stressed me out. Anytime you needed to clean (around my house, that’s pretty much anytime), you had to clean and move stuff just to clean more stuff. I felt more and more like I was spinning my wheels and something had to give.

Enter the book, and it’s brand of Konmari magic (Konmari, or KM for short, is the term the book and it’s aficionados use for the process). It’s not necessarily a book on minimalism, but more a mindset change. Basically, you have to think about every item in your life and decide if it “sparks joy” for you. If it doesn’t (and doesn’t spark joy by it’s mere usefulness, like a washer or oven might), it doesn’t belong in your life and must go.

Sounds easy, but things get tricky when you find out the rules of Konmari also state that you cannot KM another person’s belongings. Like, say my husband has a terrible old beer logo t-shirt that’s so busted the armpits now have built-in ventilation. My complete lack of joy seeing that t-shirt doesn’t mean I get to toss it. He has to decide on his own if it sparks joy for him.

Still, easy enough…unless you have kids. Kids are rarely mentioned in the book. My four-year-old is a Tasmanian devil with his clothing and the KM way of folding (yes, there’s a special folding method she recommends. Sounds terrible, but I swear it works great) absolutely would not stand a chance with him. Also, his four-year-old faculties are not mature enough to be able to go through his own toys and belongings the way the book describes.

So, what’s a well-meaning Konmari-ing parent to do? You could give up before you even start, and maybe even write a scathing commentary condemning anybody who dares suggest that keeping baby gear and outgrown clothing for future children is forbidden by this book (it is not). Or, you need to use the tools the book teaches you to work through this mindfully (and ultimately, mindfulness is the desired outcome of this methodology).

For me, Konmari and my kids’ belongings and baby gear still meant going through each item, but the joy sparking bit had to be considered from multiple angles with this stuff. Is the item broken (and if so, will it actually ever get repaired)? Do I have attachments to it for non-joy sparking reasons (I have this issue personally with items that were gifts, particularly from special people in my life)?

If it is gear that I am storing for future use, I have to consider the condition of the item as well as its practicality. Kondo reminds the reader periodically that storing items has an ultimate flaw of hiding them, which leads to forgetting the item and it never being used again. So for me, being a thrifty hand-me-down fan, I had to get real with myself with not only what I was keeping, but also if I was being realistic on its usefulness down the road, and also I had to be able to maintain some sort of system to not forget about or lose the item when it came time for its re-use.

Honestly, I think that not only does having kids NOT preclude you from applying the Konmari method to your own life, it is even more beneficial for families because we have more people living under a roof, and therefore more stuff. More stuff owned by people that aren’t yet capable of taking care of their belongings independently.

Being mindful while going through all of your belongings demonstrates just how much stuff you have accumulated, stuff that you don’t even know you had and don’t care for. This leads to mindfulness in the future as well, as you will start to think about each item you plan to buy and decide if it sparks joy for you.

For me, I found that part of the reason having so much stuff (that wasn’t being used or loved) stressed me out was because I felt bad about all of the money that had been spent on it. It allowed me to reassess a lot of priorities in my family and personal life too. It really has been a life changer, not just a change to how I fold my socks.

Meaghan Howard is a stay-at-home mom to two boys and is currently living in Japan. She enjoys running and eating (of course those two things are not mutually exclusive), and now finds that throwing out worn-out running shoes sparks joy because of all of the miles they have provided. 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.