Unless you’ve been living under a pile of clutter, you would’ve at least heard of world-renowned tidying expert turned bestselling author Marie Kondo and her innovative KonMari method. For the uninitiated, KonMari is in essence, a de-cluttering approach and tidying system and that is based on joy; users are encouraged to pare down their possessions, keeping items that “spark joy” for them.
As abstract as it sounds, the KonMari method has converted millions of clutter-prone folks worldwide ever since the release of Marie’s 2011 bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. And if the KonMari concept seems too good to be true, you can now witness Marie’s philosophy in action via her debut Netflix show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”.
From what we’ve gleaned from the eight-episode series that features Marie (who is a mother of two) introducing the KonMari method to various American households, the families she visits undergo a transformative experience that positively affects not just the state of their home, but also their family dynamics and lifestyle.
Interestingly enough, we’ve come to realise that the skills and effects of KonMari may serve the greatest impact on parents and their families. Because whether you have frenetic toddlers with what feels like a million toys, or messy teenagers who have too many clothes, Tidying Up does actually impart useful tips that are relevant for parents struggling with the day-to-day chaos that naturally comes with having kids. Ahead, we share seven quick tips observed from Tidying Up – if nothing else, these tricks might just come in handy for your annual spring cleaning.
#1 De-clutter in a specific order
When it comes to de-cluttering the house, the KonMari method recommends doing it in a specific order: Clothes, Books, Papers, Komono and Sentimental items. The Komono category refers to any miscellaneous items around the kitchen, bathroom and garage (for us local apartment dwellers, this applies to our bomb shelters or service balconies). Sentimental items are left till the last stage because they can be the hardest to part with – going through the other phases of the KonMari journey will offer new perspectives that will make it easier when the time comes.
#2 Understand just how much you own
The very first step in the KonMari method involves literally putting all of your clothing into one giant cloth mountain to sort through. The objective is not just convenience – the sheer volume will awaken us to how excessive our clothing collection really is. And hopefully, help us think twice about our purchases moving forward.
#3 Focus on what you want to keep
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Contrary to popular belief, KonMari is not just about throwing things away but also actively deciding to keep what makes you happy. It encourages people to be more discerning in choosing items that spark joy in their lives and to treasure the items that are ultimately kept. This is shown in Tidying Up, as Marie teaches the process of holding each item in her hands, evaluating its value by asking if it sparks joy (Marie’s cue seems to be a buzz-like “Ching!”).
For items that fall short, KonMari dictates that you thank the item and get rid of it either by donating or trashing it. By the time you’re done, you’ll be surrounded by only what makes you happy – sounds nice, doesn’t it?
#4 It is okay to keep sentimental items
Reiterating the previous point, KonMari beginners should know that you don’t have to get rid of everything. Parents might find it especially difficult to part with sentimental things such as baby shoes, first drawings, and family photos. But what Marie recommends, is to be discerning. For example, instead of holding onto boxes of outgrown children’s clothes or childhood items, ask yourself questions like “Does it make sense for me to keep this?” and “Do I really treasure this item?”
It’s perfectly fine to hold on to memorabilia, as long as you are comfortable with doing so. And if you’re sorting through a mountain of similar pictures or memorabilia, pick one that evokes the most happiness to represent that collection, and bid farewell to the rest of the items. By thanking each item sincerely, your guilt at chucking said memento will be significantly reduced (if not eliminated entirely).
For the items that you do decide to keep, you don’t have to hide them away. Instead, think about how you can display them as decoration around the house or repurpose them into a bigger piece of art. Moving forward, make a plan of how to care for future precious items. This will reduce the chances of you accumulating clutter once again.
#5 Fold your clothes
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Marie is very specific when it comes to wardrobe organisation. As she recommends from the very first episode, clothing should be folded and placed side by side for easy visualisation and to make it easy to retrieve whatever you want without having to mess anything up. The same goes for all stackable items – makeup palettes, DVDs, books… This also makes it easy for you to tell what you have at a glance.
#6 Give everything a home
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KonMari strives for “ultimate simplicity” in storage. In certain episodes, you’ll see Marie emphasising the importance of having a designated place for everything that stays. Be it fresh linens and household tools to your children’s toys and school supplies, everything should be given a specific place so you can easily reach for or put back when not in use. This will also be helpful when it comes to training your children to clean up their mess.
#7 All family members should be responsible for their own belongings
In one episode, Marie visits a family of four that recently downsized into a smaller apartment. The parents weren’t the only ones learning the KonMari method; the children were able to choose the items that sparked joy for them and discard the ones that didn’t. Marie emphasised respect for each other’s belongings and their respective choices. And as a result, everyone pitched in and will continue doing so – each family member plays a role in the household, and should pull their weight to keep the home mess-free.
Yes, even the little ones can be taught this responsibility. In fact, Marie shared that her young children have already started tidying up – her two-year-old knows how to put her toys away, and they all enjoy folding the laundry together. This can be achieved by letting your young child observe how fun it is to fold the laundry for example. By seeing their parents enjoy a certain task, children are likely to learn to love it as well.