It seems Marie Kondo is everywhere these days. Every social media account and online magazine is referencing her Netflix show, “Tidying Up”, in which she enters cluttered families’ homes and teaches them the Konmari™ method of organizing. After seeing all of my friends’ social feeds filled with proud before and afters, I decided to check out the series for myself and find out what everyone was going on about.
The Konmari™ method of organizing begins with clothes, then moves on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. A big part of this method includes keeping things that “spark joy” and thanking and discarding things that don’t. I was happy to discover that In our home, we’ve been following a lot of this prescribed organizational style without even knowing it. Although at first glance you might not think we live a minimalist lifestyle, if you take into account that we have 6 people in our home plus a very indulged dog, we are doing pretty darned well in keeping clutter at bay.
Here are some of my own “Mama” Kondo tips that have helped keep our modest home functional and organized.
1. Clothing– Keeping clothing to a minimum can be difficult with 4 children (aged 8 through 15) but we do our best by doing two deep cleans a year. The first is always in August before school, and the other is in the spring as the weather warms. Since we have three girls, this is the time when the two youngest girls are allowed to “shop” the others’ closets for pre-owned clothing. We never use the term “hand me downs” since it instinctively connotes a negative feeling. The girls are allowed to keep what they like and give away what they don’t. Every girl has their own individual style at this age, so they only pick up things they like and know they will wear. The oldest gets to shop for new clothes but her younger sister frequently helps her pick things out at the store knowing she will inherit the clothing in a year. The younger girls are never unhappy about the “hand me downs” because they are the ones who picked out clothing they wanted. I always make sure that aside from their “borrowed” clothing, they also get a few brand new stylish pieces in their wardrobe.
Once we’ve discarded the items that will no longer be used, we make three piles. One that will head to the consignment store (our best brand clothing), one that we will offer to friends and neighbors (great condition clothing), and one that will go to Goodwill or other charity (good condition clothing). With our consignment store credit, we shop for new brand name clothes (with tags mostly) at the store where we can snag the items at over half the original ticketed cost. Neighbors and friends always appreciate play clothing and we get a receipt of our donated items from Goodwill for tax purposes. It’s a win-win all around.
2. Books- There was an uproar from book enthusiasts when rumors started flying that Marie Kondo said 30 books was the most a home should have at one time. As a book lover myself, I just had to say “bless her heart” and kept on keepin’ on with my large library collection. I think what she meant was that we need to just get rid of books that no longer provide us joy and that won’t ever get re-read. Personally, I find that my oldest teen borrows from my bookcase at least a couple of times a month. For the younger girls who inherited their older brother’s collection, there is always a “new” great book to read. The only books that get discarded are the baby books that the youngest outgrows and any books that the kids weren’t crazy about to begin with. We make a trip to the used book store about once a year and the kids love getting cash for their offerings. Sometimes they choose to purchase more books, and sometimes the cash goes straight into their piggy banks. Either way, they are always happy to give up the books in exchange. Once every few years, I “Mama” Kondo my older books and do the same. We all use the “spark joy” test when deciding which books to keep. There is no one that will ever get me to discard my copy of John Steinbeck’s, East of Eden. Ah, JOY!
3. Papers- This is the toughest one for us. It’s amazing how quickly we accumulate piles of school projects, artwork, school tests, junk mail, bills, statements and more. I became a bit more adept at throwing out spelling tests and art work, etc. as the kids got older and we outgrew space.
I’ve developed methods for deciding what to “thank” and throw away when it comes to the kids’ paper piles. If someone has scored a top grade on a test or report, it goes up on the fridge to be proudly displayed to all for 2 weeks (give or take). At that point, we reflect on said paper, and either discard it or put it into their school “box” for the year. I try to never discard papers without the children’s blessing. I’ve learned over the years that papers that might seem unimportant may hold a beloved doodle, or a special memory for the child. Allowing them to decide whether to throw it out gives the kids control and the ability to move past that accomplishment and gets them excited about their next one. I encourage the kids to keep things throughout the year that they are especially proud of and at the end of the school year, the kids go through their boxes and usually decide to throw most of the contents out. Their best art work gets displayed permanently on our staircase wall. We usually pick out one piece per child a year for this privilege and our wall has made for a great conversation piece for guests.
4. Komono (Miscellaneous Items)– As a blended family of six, boy do we have lots of miscellaneous items! Let’s just say our two car garage only has room for one car. I like keeping our living space pretty clear of clutter so when there’s not time to “Kondo” items, they end up there, much to my husband’s chagrin. We consign all we can every quarter and donate a ton of items to one of our favorite haunts, the Habitat for Humanity Restores.
Our kitchen is already pretty streamlined. We keep our spices organized in a drawer, kitchen utensils are kept at a minimum and we only keep appliances on the counter that we use on a daily or weekly basis.
Older stuffed animals and toys get donated and for years now, we have had the tradition of saying “I love you, thank you and goodbye” to these treasures. Who knew I could have written a book about our family’s “tidying up” rules?
5. Sentimental Items-This is another tough one with so many special moments in our lives. We do keep items that are special to us in boxes in the attic. For items that are too big to store, or don’t make sense to store, I take a few pictures, print them out and store those instead.
For the special moments we have together as a family, we have a JOY JAR in the kitchen that gets filled up every year with concert tickets, playbills, parking stubs, restaurant receipts for special nights out, etc. After an event or as I’m cleaning our pockets in the laundry, I throw these items into our JOY JAR and we have fun looking through it and reminiscing at the end of the year.
Another special thing I do is make a video of the year’s journey in photos, set it to music and save it to share with the kids and extended family members. The kids love watching their memories on the big screen and it’s a great way to insure they appreciate all that we experienced that year, the places we traveled and the adventures we had.
My biggest takeaway from Marie Kondo’s Netflix show is thinking of the house as more than just 4 walls and a roof. Showing the house respect, thanking it for the love it houses and taking a minute to reflect on what your home means to you are all things I’ve vowed to do more of. Having respect for this inanimate object makes it easier to remove the things that don’t “spark joy” and keep our home free of piles that cause stress.
Although the house invariably gets messy every day, the laundry and dishes overwhelming, keeping our spaces as clutter free as we possibly can helps make cleaning and organizing manageable. For now, I’m happy to report, my “Mama” Kondo’ing skills are keeping our home feeling comfortable and inviting. I’ll just keep ignoring that secret junk drawer that never manages to get organized or the closet where all things get thrown when unexpected guests stop over. I mean, c’mon people. Perfect is boring, right?
Do YOU have an organizational tip? I’d love to hear it! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.