budgeting, Family Life, motherhood, thrifting

How to hack the KonMari Method with a houseful of kids

June 22, 2015

I’ve written once or twice here about my deep affection for the the slim, ecclectically-titled Japanese best seller, Marie Kondo’s “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and I’ve continued to get great questions about it since I first mentioned reading it back in the spring.

Most of those questions center on practical application techniques, namely, how on earth can this idealistic, vaguely buddhist style system of whole-life overhaul be implemented by a suburban American housewife chasing mewling toddlers and a variety of select larger children with their own personal Lego and superhero underwear entourages?

Well, it can’t be.

Not precisely, anyway.

But even though I’ve gone ahead and disregarded Miss Kondo’s principal tenant, which is to employ her method in an unyielding order and with exacting precision, I’ve still seen truly life-changing and magical results.

And the house is usually tidy, too.

I respect a lot of what she brings to the table in her little book, and I’ll share what I interpreted the basic tenants to be, and how I’ve employed them in our home:

1. Things can and do have a tremendous amount of power over your life, and those which you decide to host in your home should be items that are genuinely useful and beautiful, even if the beauty is only in their functionality. 

This concept seems to trip a lot of people up because Kondo speaks frequently of an item “sparking joy” in it’s owner’s heart and I can honestly say that my steam mop does this for me. Is it as beautiful as a fresh cut bouquet of lilies or a starched white pillowcase? Well, in a way, yes. Perhaps not in an objective sense, but it does posses beauty for what it does for me and for the way it enhances my standard of living. So the steam mop stays, even if its beauty is of a more interior sort.

Turning the tables, if an item is ugly/useless/broken…why are you hanging onto it? Because it’s “better than nothing?” Are you absolutely sure? Is it really better to have those curtains that you hate and are stained or smell funky than to have bright, open windows in a (non-sleeping, of course) room, filling the space with more natural light?

There are plenty of things in all our houses that aren’t really all that useful or beautiful. So don’t keep them around as placeholders. Make do with less and see how much lighter (and easier to clean) your home feels.

2. Are you holding on to this because it was a gift? Because you fear the future and not having what you may need “someday?” Because you’d feel guilty discarding it? Time to let go.

That’s right. Toss it/gift it/donate it. A wise friend of mine, pregnant with her sixth child, a baby boy due in just about a month now, sagely observed as she packed up all her baby girl clothes to bless other families with: “if God sends the girl, he’ll send the clothes.”

I.love.that.

Isn’t it so Christian, too? To allow ourselves to let go of the fear of not being provided for, the need to grasp and to control and to hoard because something might be useful, one day?

Now obviously I’m not saying you should trash all your baby gear between babies, or box up your never-used wedding china and flatware for Goodwill (unless you want to!), but for those of us who hang on to anything and everything “just in case,” allowing stacks of rubbermaid containers to accumulate in our already overstuffed closets for years and years, there’s a beautiful lesson in detachment and surrender here. Plus, you have no idea how much easier it is to keep a house clean if you’ve filled that house with fewer items. Truly.

Now, we don’t know what we’re having this time around, and so I have a small container of gender neutral newborn clothes and then some that are geared towards either sex. But for all our kid’s clothing, if something is worn out/beyond repair/just plain ugly…I toss it. I don’t hang onto clothes in between kiddos unless I love them so much I’d buy them again (and this is huge) in their current condition.

That leaves very few candidates worthy of retention. And I have no qualms about spending $2.49 at my favorite local thrift shop on a newer/better version of that sleeper or onesie, should the need arise. Clothing is consumable by nature, remember. Especially kid’s clothing.

3. Thank your possessions for the work they’ve done/the time they’ve served you.

So close, but not quite on target.

I have found, however, that being more intentional with what I bring into the house and with what is allowed to stay has connected me in a deeper and more grateful way to God’s providence for our family. So when I haul 5 trash bags filled with generously gifted hand-me-downs from our sweet neighbors to Saver’s? I thank God for the thoughtfulness of the mom friend who brought them by, and for the fact that out of 98 items of clothing, only 2 or 3 were truly useful to us and worth keeping, because He has provided (and I know He will continue to.)

So gratitude, not to the things themselves, but to the Giver of all good things.

4. If it does not spark joy…kick it to the curb.

Okay, this is the toughest one for anyone living with kids or, heck, other human beings period. One man’s trash is another man’s beloved broken Lightening McQueen watch.

But kid’s stuff is notoriously ugly and joyless, at least a lot of the toys and superhero themed clothing, am I right?

So what’s the solution?

Scalability.

Now, my kids are young, and I rule the house and control (most of) the inflow and outgo, so I have the freedom to choose whether or not that stupid Dollar Store tchotchke goes in the cart. And I’m the only one who can avoid the (hypothetical, at least for 6 more months!) Target Dollar Spot.

Are my kids still going to ask for stupid stuff when we shop? Of course. But I’m going to explain to them that we aren’t put on this earth to mindlessly consume, and that we don’t buy things we don’t need just because we feel like it. Plus, hey guys, we’re on a budget. Insert teachable economic moment here.

And that goes for mommy, too. (Gulp.)

I do allow each boy to keep their own freely-chosen and seemingly random “treasures” in a single dresser drawer, filled with such wondrous content as Chicfila kid’s meal toys, broken matchbox cars, anything that glows in the dark, disgusting tubes of chapstick, “crystal power rocks” (looks like a rock from the neighbor’s yard to me) and various and sundry religious artifacts. And you know what? Whatever. As long as it ends up back it the drawer, I’m not losing sleep over their Howard Huges-esque collection of broken paper airplanes.

But as for the rest of the toys – and their entire wardrobes – that’s mommy and daddy’s realm.

If the toy annoys us/makes them fight/breaks/is inherently evil, we toss it. We also have a pretty strict one in one out policy for birthdays and Christmas, so they know that they have to clean house in order to make room for new items.

To top it all off, we don’t really buy that many toys to begin with. Because they play with sticks and cardboard boxes and live bugs and 2X4’s all day long, honestly, and I’m not keeping an endless inventory of plastic in my basement in case they change their minds and want to dump a couple bins of crap on the floor before wandering back outside to spray each other with the hose.

So we have a few tried and true toys, their stuffed animals, and some Legos, but that’s pretty much it.

In the textile department, I’m a big fan of self-dressing preschoolers, so I figure if it’s in their drawers, it’s fair game. And if I hate what they come out in, well, that’s my fault (color blindness aside.) Because I’m the one who put it there.

Whew, this ended up being a real novella, but once I get started talking organizing and – more to the point – purging, I sort of can’t help myself.

If you guys haven’t read the book, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Just read it through the lens of Christianity (as we ought to be doing with everything in our lives) and see how life changing it turns out to be.

konmari

You Might Also Like

71 Comments

  • Reply Lauren June 22, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    I am trying to pare down the house. My sister-in-law remarked the other day that we needed a bigger house and I was surprised at the conviction of my response that, “No we don’t! We just need to get rid of all this stuff!” But, gosh, it’s so overwhelming. As in, I think about doing it and get so overwhelmed by the prospect that I decide instead to sit down and read some blogs. Ha! But I will say that I have a personal rule for our house that has minimally helped this effort: whenever we get a phone call about a donation truck being in our area on a particular day, I always say that yes, I will have a bag on the porch for them to pick up. Always. We can always find some things to give away and having a hard deadline like a pick-up date, makes me motivate myself at least enough to generate one bag worth of stuff to get out the house.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing June 22, 2015 at 7:29 pm

      That’s really smart. I always see my neighbors putting out stuff for ARC and I’m like, huh, that looks easier than loading up all the kids and going out myself. Slow learner I guess.

      Oh, and I know she explicitly advises against this, but I found going room by room very helpful as opposed to doing all the clothes, then all the papers, then all the …. you get the idea. It gave me tangible progress as little by little the living room, family room, master bedroom, etc. got beautified and decluttered. Kind of a like an organizational debt snowball!

    • Reply Silvie September 19, 2015 at 11:08 pm

      Lauren, if the prospect of going through your things is overwhelming, consider just getting rid of one or two things per day. We were absolutely drowning in kids toys that my guys don’t even play with anymore until I started pitching one thing and packing one thing. At a certain point, the kiddos got in on it which accelerated the process. After about a month, we were rid of all the broken toys, had donated a fair amount of stuff and had a box of nice toys which I’ve put away for re-gifting or for my someday grand kids. They have a small cupboard of items which they still like to use and the whole living area of our house feels much nicer. I like the KonMari method in principle, but for us, at least, slow and steady seemed to work pretty seamlessly.

  • Reply Tori June 22, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    I love this! I am in the queue at our library for this book, but I already went through my clothes. My closet is so much less cluttered it really does feel nicer to walk in there. And I don’t spend as much time searching for what to wear. Now I just need to do…everything else.

  • Reply Brittney June 22, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    YES! I read this book recently and loved her suggestions, even if they weren’t necessarily ground breaking. I think it gave me a little more permission and less guilt about controlling the endless in-flow of toys/clothes/stuff rolling in from our (very) generous family and even myself. If I don’t love it, it is out of here. If I don’t want it in the house, I don’t buy it. Between all of the donating/tossing and the toddlers capsule wardrobes, we are running a tight ship around here lately!

  • Reply Katie June 22, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Yes!! I’ve been working at clearing out our house, and it is so so freeing. What have you done with your children’s papers? My oldest likes to craft toys (swords, shields, armor, etc) out of construction paper. Each of these creations is his dearest treasure. We have an overflowing bin full of paper, plus quite a bit more here and there. Any suggestions?

    • Reply Sarah June 22, 2015 at 4:50 pm

      Katie, I have THREE kids who LOVE to do arts and crafts. We have a system where we put items on display for a while either on a shelf in our living room or taped to a wall somewhere; photograph the ones that are ready to be removed/tossed so there is always a digital copy and then we catalog the best ones in either a binder or an accordion style file folder. (There is also a small collection of bigger sized flat artwork on one of my storage closet shelves, and each child has ONE medium size Ikea Trofast bin for keeping bulkier projects…if the bin is full they have to make room somehow.) The same system applies to the mass of school papers they bring home on a regular basis. I only keep the BEST and photograph anything worth remembering…then as the years go by, they themselves tend to go back and empty out the old stuff and replace it with new pictures/projects they are proud of and want to keep a while. Every piece gets it’s praise worthy moment and then we all move on.

      We did a similar thing with our CD/DVD collection…went almost 100% digital. We currently own less than 10 actual DVD’s which we only use for long road trips in the car. Otherwise, I have 500+ movies on a digital drive and we can plug it directly in to a modern TV or computer to watch at any time. Plus we use our computers to upload music on mini drives, Ipods etc for listening too. We do still have about 50 CD’s but they are all a good 10-20 years old already and we have not purchased any new ones in a very long time. We also did this with most of our family photos…went almost 100% digital…BUT, once a year I put together a digital album with all our adventures and the best of our photos for the family to share in a book format. I generally do this around Mother’s Day and/or Christmas then the book/albums are super thin and sit neatly on our living room shelf for our kids to enjoy looking at and sharing with others whenever they want. (Plus if anything happens to the book, I can easily reorder it as the company I make them through keeps a digital copy online in their archives.)

      It does get better as your kids age, and if you put a system in place now that allows your child (and everyone around them) to enjoy their special creations for a time and move on the next, it becomes a pleasant cycle of new things to share and see.

      Hope this helps!

      • Reply Jenny Uebbing June 22, 2015 at 7:27 pm

        Love the ideas for photos in particular. My husband is always wanting actual photos, and I’m notoriously terrible about leaving them in digital limbo. Snapfish to the rescue!

      • Reply Jan March 19, 2016 at 9:25 pm

        I bought my boys proper art folders to store their very special artworks in, They lie flat on the top shelf of the wardrobe out of the way buy where flat storage is easy. Whenever there is a gift to be wrapped the child doing the giving selects what is to him, the best artwork for the job. It gets artwork out of the house in a respectful manner and the giver feels pretty good about doing it. They never ask what happened to it afterwards so it seems the act of doing this cleanses it from their memories – phew!

        • Reply Jenny Uebbing March 21, 2016 at 12:03 pm

          that is an AMAZING idea. Stealing it immediately. I know my 86 year old grandmother would be thrilled to get mail wrapped in a Joey original 🙂

    • Reply Caroline June 23, 2015 at 9:25 am

      Regarding kid’s artwork masterpieces, etc., I like to admire, maybe post on the fridge for a bit, then suggest to the artist that maybe Grandma,mor Grandpa, or cousin, aunt uncle so and so, might like it, and we pen a short note and send it out in the mail.

      And often it just goes in the trash, when they are not looking. If they want it later and it mysteriously can’t be found, they can just practice their art/craft skills and make another.

    • Reply Devery November 7, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      I had a box of papers per kid per school year. That is a lot of boxes. Using this method I and my child went through each box. I kept one thing that I thought represented the child and they kept a few. It worked out to one manila folder ( business size) for each child. They have what they would like to keep and I have what I needed for me. We wrote on the back of each item and put it near their baby books so they can look at it whenever. Who needs graded papers anyway?

  • Reply Therese June 22, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    One man’s trash is another man’s beloved broken Lightening McQueen watch.

    I laughed so hard. That is too, too realistic.

  • Reply Jackie June 22, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    A similar book that was life-changing for me is “Clutter’s Last Stand,” by Don Aslett–if you can’t get the Konmari book, try Don!

    • Reply Elizabeth June 22, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      That’s a great book too! and very funny.

    • Reply Lea June 22, 2015 at 8:29 pm

      Yes, this helped me start detaching.

  • Reply Elizabeth June 22, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    I think Marie Kondo’s perspective is largely Shinto-based. It is fascinating to me how closely some of those Shinto traditions are to Christian ones (like treating every home like a sacred space or temple — because isn’t the family the domestic Church after all?). Just a little more evidence of the Holy Spirit tilling the soil all over the world.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing June 22, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      So true! He’s there in each culture, if we have eyes to see Him.

  • Reply Diana June 22, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    I get super excited when I realize things I can live without or find things to get rid of, I think that’s (generally) way more exciting than buying something! We’ve been working on simplfying for years and I think it really is paying off, in so many ways. We are far from true minimalists but we still get by with much less than we used to!

  • Reply Persnickety Prudence June 22, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Tenet. Tenet. Tenet.

    • Reply Carolyn B June 24, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. The writer is good with her subject but the typos and word mis-usage (did I just do one myself?) bugged me too. Loved the subject matter.

  • Reply Lea June 22, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    I have done clothes, books, toiletries and the upstairs toys using the KM method. WOW!!! Life-changing. For me, the drawer by drawer,tote by tote method gets me nowhere long term. I’m amazed at how decluttering by category has helped me detach. I have been married for 23 years and have 7 kids, 21 down to 10 months old. Our house is 1370 square feet with a full basement. Looking around, I see dozens of items I could release. I have NEVER had success like thi. I own Flylady, Managers of their Homes, A Mother’s Rule of Life, Project Nazareth’s book, and many other decluttering books. Some have helped but none like this. I can find, most days, my keys, my purse, clean clothes, dinner at 5:30, and leaving the house is easier than ever. My teens manage their own rooms. I am using km on common areas and younger kids’ rooms.

  • Reply Theresa June 22, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    This is such a great post! I packed up BOXES of my kids toys about a month ago to see what they would do…the only thing they’ve asked for is the box of dinosaurs, so I guess the rest can go! http://www.catholickidsbulletin.com

  • Reply eclare June 22, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    I love this! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. I have an inordinate love for giving/throwing things away. Time for another purge here– I’m starting to smother, and we’re adding a 7th person to our [500 sq ft] house in a few months.

    I think I commented a few weeks ago, but I’m a new reader and just love you. The perfect combination of brain food, humor, and mom-talk. Keep it up!

    • Reply Emily January 16, 2016 at 9:20 am

      Id love to talk to you more! We live in a very small apartment (like you) with 6 people and I have a hard time with it all. Would love to hear any tricks for doing so.

      • Reply eclare January 16, 2016 at 8:04 pm

        So glad I subscribed to the comments. I would love to be in touch! It’s definitely a unique lifestyle, isn’t it?

  • Reply Emily June 23, 2015 at 6:29 am

    Have you tried this method on your book case yet?

    • Reply Cami June 23, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      Let’s not get crazy!

      • Reply Cheryl July 10, 2015 at 2:20 pm

        This comment made me laugh. I have enjoyed other comments, but this one just hit home. Thank you for the honesty.

  • Reply Cami June 23, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    I know I need this but I already see areas of confusion… Or hesitation. My clothes- I have favorites from my pre-childbearing years when I was slimmer. But since I haven’t lost the weight between babies, I live nowadays in pretty trashy clothes that are easy to nurse in but do.not.spark.joy. If I got rid of the pretty things I can’t wear now, it would be a dark and depressing wardrobe. Nothing to look forward to. As for toys, I already toss fast food toys right after the initial playtime with them ends. Yay. But we have Legos, blocks, trains, puzzles, etc that are frequently played with by my very left brained, engineery 3 yr old. And we have an easel, crayons, notebooks, play dough and other creative things for my right-brained 2 yr old. Seriously, he already draws circles, triangles, happy faces and people. And he traces. And he copies things. It’s so crazy what he can do already. We aim our toys at interests and developing gifts. So it’s hard to pare down.

    • Reply Cami June 23, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      Oh, and are there any homeschoolers out there? How do you avoid saving things in case you’ll use them to teach someday?

      • Reply Jackie June 23, 2015 at 3:12 pm

        Cami, I’ve homeschooled for 25 years now, and have been through several closetfuls of teaching materials. My philosophy is to only hang on to something that can be used in the next two years, because many curricula get updated, and I often have had to change curricula from one child to another. The only things I’ve held on to consistently are my Mother of Divine Grace syllabi, the Baltimore catechism, and an Ignatius Press second grade catechism text that every child has used for first communion preparation. I currently have one 12-inch-wide closet with bookshelves that holds my textbooks, and I purge every year or so. We use a LOT of historical fiction, and that’s scattered throughout the house, with a concentration in our game room, including one bookshelf of my favorites that I want everyone to read.

        I try to give away what I don’t need, but I’ve learned to harden my heart and toss even good curriculum, if I don’t need it any more and can’t find a good home for it.

        • Reply Cami June 23, 2015 at 8:13 pm

          Thank you, Jackie! We are just in preschool now so I haven’t collected much but I was public school teacher and I kept a few things like my kindergarten files as well as some handmade posters I was proud of and thought I might hang when I have the space. But that seems like it might go against these principles. Humph.

          • Jackie June 23, 2015 at 10:36 pm

            Cami, if you think you can use your files and posters, hang on to them! You’re in the collecting stage, so if you have the room to store your stuff, I’d suggest just waiting to see if what you have is useful to you in the future. God bless you in your homeschooling journey!

  • Reply Charlotte WM June 23, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Peter Walsh also promotes these principles. So does Julie Morgenstern. I see them show up in my inbox all the time from Remodelista for free… “5 secrets that all organized people know!” In fact, they are the basic principles of every clutter-free lifestyle. You own your stuff, it doesn’t own you. Your memories of grandma are precious, not the things grandma gave you. If you truly love something, honor it by taking care of it, not just burying it in a pile in the closet. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. Live with less, it’s easier to keep “less” clean. Only keep what you truly love, use or consider beautiful.

    The very fact that these are not really new ideas is what has kept me from reading this book (along with the advice from a friend that anyone with slightly OCD tendencies like myself might be harmed by reading her very OCD tendencies). But I get it. Keeping clutter at bay comes easy for me. But sometimes, people need something new to spark them into actually putting principles that they know perfectly well into practice. And if her book is sparking people, then great! But if it’s not what speaks to you, check out the other guys until you find someone who “speaks your language” of motivation.

    • Reply liz n December 4, 2015 at 7:41 am

      THIS!!

      Spot on.

  • Reply Therese June 24, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    There is so much that I love about this post I don’t even know where to begin. My grandmother passed away a year ago Saturday and I have been single-handedly cleaning out her entire home. It’s really been a lesson to me in how much we actually attached ourselves emotionally to our possessions. It’s no joke when I tell you I’ve cleaned out 20 bags of her clothes ALONE, that’s not to mention the numerous boxes, bags, bins, of other miscellaneous items like kitchen stuff, tools, old jewelry and other stuff. I could go on.

    At first, when the grief was still fresh I wanted to save many things. Things that I couldn’t use or wouldn’t like but I could picture her wearing them, or remember using them together with her. But slowly as I’ve gone through the house again and again and made my peace with the fact that she’s not with me physically anymore I’ve found that my desire for those items has faded. Now I only have a handful of things that hold deep deep significance and I’ve been able to make that keep it or donate/toss it decision much easier as I accept her passing.

    There’s so much about this book that intrigues me thanks to your post. I will definitely have to pick it up and read it!

    • Reply oklawoman March 31, 2016 at 11:54 am

      Leaving a house, garage, outside shed, RV, sailboat full of stuff for our only son to sort is not how I want to be remembered. As I’ve aged, I find myself buying less and less (except art/craft supplies), but we have almost 40 years worth of stuff. My problem is that I want to be able to deduct all that I donate and that means documentation. A bit of a gumption trap, but there is paper and pen by a box in the living area and by sacks in the closet. Downsizing is happening, slowly but surely.

  • Reply Rebekah June 25, 2015 at 4:59 am

    I must disagree with you on number three. It is very important to have gratitude not only for G-d but also for what he gives us. If you recall from the bible the store of David and Saul you will remember that David gets punished for cutting Sauls robe when he could have killed him. G-d punished him by making him cold and unable to get warm. So yes, it is very important to give thanks to the object as well as to the creator and discard in wanted item in a respectful methods, recycle or donate where possible, trash as last resort, at least that is what I try to do when I am organizing a client.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing June 25, 2015 at 12:59 pm

      I definitely agree w/ thanking God (as I said in the post) but if you read the book itself, the emphasis is on literally thanking the inanimate object, which doesn’t jive with a judeo-christian worldview. Thanks for, yes. Thanks to, not so much.

  • Reply Cami June 25, 2015 at 9:59 am

    One thing I did right in this department was to select “everyday China” for our wedding registry. I picked plates I liked that looked fancy enough for a special occasion but not too fancy for everyday. So we have one set. I read somewhere to not let your china sit for only special occasions and rather to enjoy it with your family on a regular basis. And I remembered as a kid watching my older family members who hosted holidays laboriously washing a delicate set and repacking it all in special China packing materials deep inside a hutch. I wasn’t willing to store all that. Sure, our dishes have chips but they are being enjoyed!

    • Reply clothespin July 10, 2015 at 2:45 pm

      I got Fiestaware for my wedding dishes – and love them. In fact, after our house was destroyed in a wildfire 4 years ago, I opted to get the same dishes again. Very few things stayed the same but that was one of the items that I knew had to be replaced just like before. I love that they are all different happy colors and when the toddler breaks them (rarely, but it has happened) I can easily get replacement pieces. I even turned down a set of family china because I just couldn’t understand storing them… We so rarely have anyone over other than family anyways – why bother??? And, I also remember my mother bringing out her fancy dishes for big dinners a couple of times a year. Crazy!

      As for getting rid of stuff… when you’ve been on the receiving end of people giving you stuff after a disaster, your perspective changes. You realize that someone else out there can use it and need it and that storing it for 10 years just in case does no one any good. My mother wanted me to keep a beautiful toddler rocking chair (that I bought used) after my baby is done with it – save it for my future grandchildren. I’m not going to do it! I’ll sell it and let another family enjoy the chair. I’d rather a series of kids use and love it than wait until a possible maybe grandbaby of mine comes into this earth. It’s selfish not to do so. And after having gone through such a thing as the wildfire, I know that I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to return the favor to others… and even then, I doubt I will have equaled their kindnesses.

      • Reply AndreaE July 23, 2015 at 7:24 pm

        Clothespin,
        Thank you for your comments. You touched my heart and helped me see what is truly important. I will be giving away all those toys I’ve saved for a someday maybe grandchild. God bless you!

  • Reply Natalie June 27, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Wow. This is incredibly useful! I love the points you make. I don’t have children, but one book that I read and loved was Living Simply With Children: a voluntary simplicity guide for moms, dads, and kids who want to reclaim the bliss of childhood and the joy of parenting by Marie Sherlock. I find it spiritually fulfilling to reject consumerism and enjoy what I have, rather than focusing on what I “need” to buy in order to feel better about my life.

    Great post.

  • Reply Organizing Your Sewing Patterns - Sew Fearless July 6, 2015 at 5:33 am

    […] “How To Hack The KonMari Method With A Hosueful of Kids” at Mama Needs Coffee […]

  • Reply MissJean August 7, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Haven’t read her book but have read excerpts of it, plus an interview with her as she went clothes-shopping in NYC. I don’t share her enthusiasm for throwing things away, but I like her advice to see and touch before buying. Internet shopping is too easy!

    There are so many de-clutter writers and methods; I always have liked the site Midway Simplicity because the host invites so many experts to share their methods, but his focus is always on finding balance.

    And a note to Clothespin: What you wrote about the rocking chair was so beautiful. I was inspired by St Basil the Great’s remark that the cloak you keep in storage (the spare or just-in-case clothes) is something you withhold from the poor. I spent many years living with a dread of running out of food, money, soap, etc. and so I would hang onto items in case I or a family member needed them. But if I focused on a stranger needing it, I could let it go.

  • Reply Judith August 31, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Jenny, thanks for writing about this! I know you probably might not be able to reply to this since you have a newborn (congratulations!), but maybe there are others here who would have suggestions? I read the KonMari book earlier this summer, and it is the first thing that really seems to have clicked with me, despite having previously read MANY books on decluttering. Anyway, I’m just starting to implement the ideas, now that my youngest recently started preschool. I have SIX WHOLE HOURS to myself every week for the first time in 9 years of raising 3 busy boys, and I’ve decided to devote them to KonMari’ing. I’m on week two of my own stuff, going basically by her order, and so far so good…

    But I’m trying to decide which rules to follow when it comes to the order. After I get out of my own closets and drawers, should I stick with her order of my own books, then down the line, or should I move on to kids’ clothes next–keeping with the clothes-first theme? Do you think it matters? She’s so adamant about her perfect order, but obviously since I’m working in 3 hour chunks here, I’m already having to adapt the system to meet my constraints. I just want to keep up my momentum and not get stuck trying to figure out what/whose stuff to do next!

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing September 1, 2015 at 7:53 am

      Oh great question, I’d just go with what is working for you. I know Marie has kind of a dogmatic religious approach to it all, but I decided to use what worked from her system and just let the rest go. So I don’t do the buddhist thank-you-for-serving-me spiel with my giveaway pile. And I clean and declutter in the order that works for me. I think it would be fine to do ALL the clothes and then ALL the books, and so on. You have charge of other people’s stuff because you’re a mom, and she didn’t have that responsibility yet when she wrote it.

      • Reply Judith September 1, 2015 at 7:23 pm

        Thanks! Yeah, I wonder if Marie will still be thanking her handbag after she has a kid throw up on it…

  • Reply 10 Tips for a Clean-Enough Home: Part 2 | Serendipity Lately October 15, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    […] through all our closets, my pantry, and several cabinets with awesome results.  I really liked this article about applying the method with young […]

  • Reply Joyful Homemaking & Channeling Your Inner Charlotte Lucas | The Catholic Wife October 28, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    […] by her assertions. Jenny Uebbing at Mama Needs Coffee wrote a fantastic approach for us Catholics itching to KonMari with a houseful of kids, making simplifying real and […]

  • Reply Beck December 29, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Well said!
    (am looking forward to my own Kon Mari-style simplification in my own home this next week!)

  • Reply Nikki E January 9, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Jenny, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, I am in lust with the the KonMari method, but had been questioning how I can implement it with my heart’s desire for Godliness present in every way possible as I begin to tidy. Here’s to setting ourselves up for successfullyfinding joy in the everyday tasks of family-dom, i.e. scraping dried banana off kitchen tile, cleaning baby poo out of clothing, feeding picky eaters, dressing and leaving for work away from our little ones, etc and at the end of the day still having energy and PASSION for bedtime prayers, hugs and kisses!
    Thank you!

  • Reply Spark Joy - Adventurer Mom January 13, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    […] A few of my favorite articles on the KonMari method: An Economist Reads Marie Kondo Why This Controversial Organizing Method is Exactly What You Need and a Christian mom take on it: How to Hack the KonMari System With a Houseful of Kids […]

  • Reply Kristy March 6, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    This didn’t explain at all HOW to KonMarie with kids in the house, which pretty much leads me to believe that my initial assumption that Marie Kondo wrote her book when she was childfree (with closets in EVERY bedroom, I bet!) was correct.

    So, anyone who has actually done this method of decrapifying your house with kids in the house, HOW did you do it, short of locking your children in a large dog kennel in the basement? (I asked the pediatrician about the dog kennel, and she told me it’s totally illegal and abusive.)

    And please don’t suggest my husband help, because I laid down for two hours to take a nap today, and my husband watched NASCAR and let the kids paint the entire kitchen and dining room in yogurt and strawberries, then dump the dirty cat litter box out over a flight and a half of stairs and stomp in the turds. So now I get to mop the floors, scrub the rugs, and take a q-tip to the crevices in the dining room chairs, all in the same week that I have to deliver a 5 page newsletter and make a birthday party for my five year old. Yay.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing March 6, 2016 at 6:07 pm

      Oh gosh I’m so sorry, that sounds like the worst possible awakening from a nap ever.

      For what it’s worth, I’m still in ongoing decluttering mode after the initial purge (done after the children were in bed over a period of 3-4 days.) I keep a big blue IKEA bag in our front hall closet and dump everything that doesn’t “spark joy” in it throughout the week and make a goodwill drop about biweekly.

      (And unlimited Netflix is the legal and humane alternative to toddler crating. I mean, fairly humane…)

      • Reply Kristy March 7, 2016 at 11:59 am

        Ikea blue bags last a week in my house. There is no lock my kid can’t pick or jimmy. My son is almost five, but after several behavior issues at preschool, we took him for evaluation and the assessment confirmed what I already knew. He has something like ADHD that isn’t, and he has the emotional processing ability of a toddler, but the intellectual capacity of a second grader. And he’s persistent to the point of exhaustion. Television bores him and does nothing to keep him from cutting holes in the walls or taking apart the gas stove.

  • Reply Kristy March 8, 2016 at 10:56 am

    So, see, her central thesis that there are two kinds of messes – Messes *I* bring into the house (clutter) and Messes that *NATURE* brings into the house (dirt) – is flawed. There is a third kind of mess parents must battle on a daily basis. The messes that children make, which can include personal property destruction, are neither natural nor purposeful. It’s a third category that she does not at all consider in any of her four books. (BTW, four books from a person who preaches minimalism seems ironic doesn’t it?)

    There is no possible way that her method could work for a family. I have not seen any evidence anywhere that her method, as she describes it, works for even physically healthy people with neurotypical children, let alone partially disabled people with slightly affected children.

    • Reply Rebekah March 8, 2016 at 11:15 am

      Kristy- I feel your pain! You didn’t say how old your children are, and how many there are. I have 3, two boys 9 and 7 and a daughter who is 7. I have been teaching them for over two years now, zero waste methods. We are finally making a dent! We talk about, taking freebies (they will just end up in the trash, cause they are cheap and usually break) and considering toys and clothing we actually need vs. something we may want… When something does come into our house, something has to go out. That being said, it is an uphill battle. The kids and I go through their toys about once a month, clean out things that are broken, and decide if we should keep the rest. I work with the boys seperatly, and then my daughter. Some months we don’t donate or trash anything, other months they decide to go crazy and donate! (usually around birthday time) I am a personal organizer, so I think it makes it easier on them that I am patient about it with them, but I have used kon marie, without knowing it was kon marie, for a while now. I don’t ask the kids if a toy sparks joy, this is a ridiculous question to ask a child, I ask them when the last time they played with it was, if they really like it, can someone else get more use out of it, do they have something similar… these questions are a lot more productive and meaningful to them. I also do it in small batches, especially for the first time, you cannot take out all the toys and put them together on the carpet. There are usually too many on the first pass. Make a monthly or every other month “appointment” with your child to go through sections of toys, stuffed animals, board games, cars, action heroes. Breaking it down into sections really helps feel less overwhelming for kids. At that time you can discard whatever is broken, or missing pieces, and donate or better yet have a yard sale that the kids run and earn profits from on the remainder. Then, whatever you keep can be organized and sorted according to the space you have. I am happy to have a private conversation with you, if you think it will help! good luck!

      • Reply Kristy March 9, 2016 at 3:37 pm

        I have no mental (emotional) problem with throwing things away – The Theory or WHY. It’s the actual implementation of the program that is the problem. The Practical or HOW. Every article/blog post titled “How to KonMarie” or some variation is actually “Why”.

        I lack the ability/time do anything that takes more than a few minutes attention off my kids. More specifically my four year old son; I bought myself 10 minutes of web surfing time by trading an hour later to clean a can of shaving cream off the bathroom walls, floor and ceiling. Plus bonus hearing my husband complain about the wet basement floor because now I hear him running the shower and spraying it onto the floor, which has a hole in it where the toilet inlet is…

        • Reply Rebekah March 9, 2016 at 6:27 pm

          do your kids go to school? and are you home while they are at school? if you work are you able to take off a little time before they come home to do this: while it may sounds cruel, take out all the toys from their room (this is where my kids have their toys) I statsched them in a high closet we had, I told them they could have a toy back everyday whatever they wanted. After a week they stopeed asking for toys back cause they didn’t even know what they had, then every week, I would say to them, hey you have this toy do you still want it or can we donate it? They almost always said donate, took a little more time on my part, but not much of theirs… good luck.

          • Kristy May 22, 2016 at 5:05 pm

            No my kids dont go to school. They’re little kids. Taking all their toys away is not going to keep them from literally destroying the house while I pee. I don’t even know what to make of your suggestion.

  • Reply How to *do* KonMari (with kids underfoot) – Mama Needs Coffee March 14, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    […] most popular posts of all time is the little how to I banged out around this time last year about how to hack the KonMari method with a houseful of kids. Except, as a few commenters have pointed out lately, it devolved more into a “why to” […]

  • Reply Danielle March 14, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Jenny (or anyone! Idk if she’s still replying to comments on this!) can you help me figure out how to handle the guilt part of holding on to gifted toys. My in laws (ok my mother in law specifically) DROWNS her grandchildren in gifts every time she sees them. It’s maybe 5 times a year so I try not to say anything too much although we have had several conversations about how we don’t have any more room for stuff and the kids have ALL the toys theory could ever need thank you. We’ve suggested gifts like zoo memberships or asked that she limit it to one gift but she has a mind of her own and joyfully can’t help herself (she really doesn’t do it to spite us, it’s just her way of showing love). A lot of the gifts are big obnoxious plastic toys that would be noticed if they went absent. And DH agrees that we don’t have room but also is worried about her noticing its absence. I don’t know what to do!!! It’s year-round!!!! So many toys! And huge stuffed animals! The kids don’t even play with 80% of it EVER!!
    Help?

    • Reply Kmoore October 20, 2016 at 10:00 am

      Guilt is an emotional response God gave us to let us know we are doing something immoral, unethical, or illegal. Discarding broken toys or donating excess toys are not any of those things.

      Maybe suggest to Grandma that her money would be better spent donating to the kids college savings accounts and limit gifts to birthdays and Christmas?

  • Reply Minimalism and holiness in the home – A Quiet Quest March 23, 2016 at 8:36 am

    […] Jenny’s got us covered with the large family/minimalism […]

  • Reply Nicky March 30, 2016 at 5:23 am

    I am trying to use the Konmari approach but am a bit bewildered as to how to do it with children under my feet!!! I do not see how it is possible to tidy/declutter all in one go. I have been doing some this morning but the children are now running around crazily and we probably need to get outside. Is the idea you just tidy/declutter a whole category rather than a whole house? We have been working on toys and have nearly done them all. A massive achievement for a morning especially with a 5 and 2 year old!!! The other question is – I haven’t read ALL the Konmari book but is the idea to only use storage that we already have? It is proving quite hard with toys as I am not sure quite how ruthless to be and its hard to ask what sparks joy – I am trying to think about what the children get out/play with the most. Any advice/suggestions would be very welcome 🙂

  • Reply Desiree May 22, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    I’m so glad you wrote this! I’m charmed by the book too – and I’m moving 10 people cross-country in two months on our own thin dime, so, stuff. Less of it. Please!! LOL I’m glad to see somebody else benefiting from it without doing exactly everything. It gives me some hope!

  • Reply Spotless would be great, but decluttered is good enough – Mama Needs Coffee May 23, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    […] think I was a minimalist before Marie Kondo was a glimmer in the NYT Bestseller List’s eye. While she grew up collecting […]

  • Reply Alyssa October 19, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Thank you for filtering this through a God-centered lens. And as a homeschool Mom of four, thank you for being realistic.

  • Reply Helen December 18, 2016 at 4:23 am

    I’ve been reading the book and thinking it’s definitely written for young singles, but really wanting to try some of it out. I googled the Kon Marie method and families and I found your excellent site. It’s very useful and entertaining. Thank you.

  • Leave a Reply