Is a tidy house possible with children? The best-selling author and founder of the cult Kon-Marie method reveals how…
It’s the book that launched a lifestyle phenomenon. ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo is a guide to de-cluttering and organising your home that has created a cult following. Kondo advocates a policy of a sweeping overhaul of the possessions you have in your home and only keeping items that spark joy. The success of her formula for a tidy life is indisputable, her book has sold over 2 million copies (and counting) and she currently has a three-moth waiting list for new clients. However, the question is, can her minimalistic method be applied to life with children? As every parent knows, children mean acquiring a lot of things that you never previously possessed (a nappy bin anyone?). Yet Kondo believes it can, and as a mother of two children she is more than aware of the challenges of keeping a house free of mess. Here we speak to the lifestyle expert on how to keep clutter to a minimum, teaching children to tidy up and how her own approach has changed since she became a parent.
HOW DO YOU KEEP CHILDREN’S BELONGINGS TO A MINIMUM?
Before you purchase anything, I suggest thinking about how much space you can create for your children in your house. For example, you can think to yourself: “These toys go to these two shelves, and clothes are stored from here to here in the closet.” Being specific is key.
By clearly designating space where you will store your children’s belongings, you’ll become more aware of how much you should buy. Of course, as children grow, the space required for their belongings may also increase. However, you can still avoid over-purchasing by being aware of how much space in your home is dedicated to your children’s things. Reflect on whether your home is comfortable for your family or whether your children’s belongings are taking up too much space.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE ON ORGANISING THEIR BEDROOM AND PLAYROOM?
There are two suggestions. The first is to define a fixed position for every item, and the other is to make storage as simple as possible. It is very important to decide a fixed location for everything. Small objects such as stuffed animals tend to be spread around the house, but by having a designated place for them, you can easily return them and clear up your floors and surfaces. Also, as a fundamental rule, store items of the same category together: clothes with clothes, books with books, toys with toys, puzzles with puzzles, etc. If you let your children know where their belongings are stored, your room will be easy to tidy up.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO TIDY UP AFTER CHILDREN? SHOULD YOU LET THEM MAKE A MESS OR TIDY AS YOU GO?
The best way to tidy after children is to include them in the process; but, if that becomes difficult, show them how you, as a parent, tidies. As you do so, try to narrate your actions. For instance, you may say something such as, “Let’s return the toys back to their home.” Enjoy the process of tidying. This way, children may acquire the mindset that playing and tidying go hand-in-hand. However, if you don’t have time or the mental energy to tidy up immediately after play — and I find myself in this position often — you can tidy up in one instance after the children go to sleep and before you go to bed. This will only take about five minutes
WHAT AGE SHOULD CHILDREN LEARN ABOUT TIDYING UP?
The first and most important pointer for children to tidy up on their own is that the parents, themselves, tidy their own things. As parents tidy daily, children learn what a tidied home looks like. It is also very important that parents show that they enjoy tidying up. It’s never too early to learn how to tidy. Parents can try teaching a one-year-old who just started walking to return a toy to its designated place, and it seems that some children as young as three years old are able to learn how to fold clothes.
HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE HAVING CHILDREN?
Everything has completely changed. For one, I have stopped demanding perfection from myself and from others. I used to be a perfectionist when it came to tidying my house, but it had become difficult to maintain that standard ever since I had my first child. There was a point when I became frustrated with myself, but after I had my second child, I didn’t even have time to worry. So, I told myself, “It’s one of those instances where you can’t do anything about it, so it’s okay.” Now, I am able to accept my time constraints. Above all, taking care of my children and loving them has brought me much deeper happiness than I expected, and I feel that I can be happy every day, even when I’m not perfect.
WHAT ARE THE ITEMS THAT SPARK JOY IN YOU AS A MOTHER?
The first Mother’s Day card that I received from my daughters sparked joy for me. My husband prepared the card, which had my little girls’ handprints stamped inside. My Kinchaku-Purse (Drawstring Pouch) – which I bought from a boutique in London. I now use it for my children’s small belongings when we go out. A Pop-Up Book of Alice in Wonderland. This was a Christmas gift from my mother when I was a child. I cannot show it to my girls yet because they are still too young and would tear out the pop-up illustrations, but I am looking forward to reading and enjoying the book with them when they get a little older.
WHAT HAVE YOUR CHILDREN TAUGHT YOU?
My children have taught me to be honest with my needs. They remind me every day about the preciousness of expressing desires as they naturally come, such as wanting to eat, to sleep, or to play. The KonMari Method of tidying up is about keeping things that spark joy for you, and I feel like I’m watching role models on how to live a life of joy.
Interviewed by Amanda Woodward-Brown
Image courtesy of Rebecca Sanabria
Marie’s new book, The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A MAGICAL STORY is in stores now!
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New York, September 29th – October 1st, 2017