It’s been three years since I began my KonMari journey. I read Marie “KonMari” Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in January 2015. I literally kissed the book when I finished reading it. I had to do this process in my messy home- it was a big commitment and I really wanted it to happen so I decided to start a FaceBook group. The idea for the group was to create a place to share successes and challenges, especially since the book doesn’t specifically address dealing with a family home. I figured there would be a few others on the same journey. Three years later and we have thousands of members!
The magic started right away. I found out through the Facebook group that Marie Kondo would be visiting San Francisco and thanks to Stacey from the group for sharing the almost impossible to find details of the event I was able to meet Marie Kondo in person. She glows with a sweet softness and joy-sparking presence which made me love the method all the more. Meeting her made me realize that I could complete her method and that I could let go of self-criticism about doing it wrong. If we follow our joy while doing the method we are doing it right and will be successful!
Kid’s room Before
Kid’s Room After
My home is now much more organized, easier to clean and totally sparks joy! Which has been an incredible transformation, but really I have changed personally in profound ways. As Marie Kondo says, “Through tidying you will learn to like yourself.” I have found this to be true, I am kinder to myself and it allows me to be more confident and comfortable being myself, which is exactly how I want my daughter to feel.
During my KonMari session one day it dawned on me that how I felt about myself would become how my daughter felt about herself, regardless of what I said to her about how she was lovable, worthy, and capable. I struggle with feeling afraid of making mistakes, being vulnerable, not being perfect or creating perfect things. These negative feelings are not what I want to pass down to her. I want her to feel loved, confident, and capable of doing anything without fear or self-criticism holding her back. I want her to know and love herself so she can be herself. Which means my commitment must be to love myself, be myself, and share my ideas in order to model how it’s done.
I have returned to going to therapy regularly to work on my self-compassion and I have been doing the self-compassion meditations that I am always sharing in the FaceBook group. I was thinking that meditation was connected to the KonMari Method since asking the Joy or No Joy question is all about tuning into your inner guide. I hadn’t made the direct connection that learning to love yourself was an acknowledged part of the method until I read in Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo that “the greatest change that occurs through tidying is that you will learn to like yourself.” This is happening for me, slowly yet surely, and my hope is that it is happening for you too. It makes all the difference in the world- it makes joy possible.
In her talk in New York, Marie Kondo made the claim her method would lead to world peace, and I wondered what she meant. Now I understand that once we face our belongings we will learn to like ourselves, and from there we will be loving and kind to ourselves and to everyone around us.
I’m so grateful for all that I have learned over the years. I’ve even become Certified as a Simplicity Parenting Coach and a KonMari Consultant. This journey has meant a lot to myself and my family. And now I’m helping other families transform their homes and lives. I offer a group and individual program, Creating Calm Life Transformation Program helping moms become Tidying Queens themselves, which has just started this year and we are already feeling the magic that happens when women come together. You are welcome to join the waitlist for the next gathering that will start in September. Come join the fun and follow my Facebook Page where I regularly share tips and inspiration for your Creating Calm journey.
If you are ready to make KonMari Magic in your home your first step is to download free instructions and checklist (which includes a kid and baby section)! It will help you organize your organizing.
When trying to involve children in the KonMari process, Marie Kondo’s advice – to simplify your own belongings and hope that your family will follow – wasn’t enough for me. Marie Kondo also said that once you’ve finished all your own categories, you can teach them the folding method. As good as my toddler was at folding, I needed to take a more active role in clearing the clutter for her.
Leading by example is essential, but it’s not the only way to approach simplifying a family home. Kim John Payne, who wrote Simplicity Parenting, agrees that parents must lead by example. However, he suggests that children under 8 years old should not be involved in culling their belongings. He says that young children need a safe and nurturing environment; too much decision making can undermine that sense of safety. Read: permission to be the authority in your home, or Queen if you prefer ;).
That having been said, when I started the KonMari method, my daughter was 2 and a half, and I did involve her in the decisions to a certain extent. I hadn’t read Simplicity Parenting yet. She was really clear about what brought her joy without me having to explain. Also, she is good at letting things go.
After reading Simplicity Parenting I realized that I didn’t need to always involve my daughter in the process. Now, I make most of the decisions of what toys and clothes of hers we keep, and what we don’t.
As a mom who works part-time, I spend much more time at home now than I did before I became a mother. For this reason, it’s very important for our home to be calming and joyful, both for my mental health and for the benefit of my family.
During the KonMari Process here are some of the strategies that I used with my daughter.
Joy/No Joy game
We call it a game, because it becomes more fun that way! It is about focusing on the positive after all. I didn’t explain anything- I just piled one category on the bed or floor at a time and would hold one item up and say, “joy or no joy?” She was a natural. She wouldn’t have a long attention span but she would say joy to things I knew she liked and then no joy to things she wasn’t interested in. For her, it seemed that the connection to knowing what her heart felt about an item came effortlessly- she didn’t have a long attention span for the game so it would take several sessions to complete. She was involved in much of the process but I would make the final call on her choices.
My daughter did enjoy the folding method, though wouldn’t be expected to fold much. Now that she is four and a half she shows the “proper” way to fold. She is constantly changing her clothing and will throw her clothing on the floor (she knows exactly how to push my buttons!) So honestly, her drawers are often not folded nicely, but at least there isn’t too much in there. It’s about what works for you and your family.
As I said she was pretty natural about letting go of things that didn’t bring her joy. Once I threw away a string and she saw it and said, “you are so annoying! So annoying!” but she left the string in the garbage. I try to respect her wishes with her things while balancing that against my need for simplicity.
Choosing her favorites
Another strategy I tried was asking her to choose her favorites out of a pile of stuffed animals and that was successful. It’s easier to think about what your favorites are and again it’s about supporting a positive perspective of surrounding yourself in joyful belongings that you will be motivated to take care of properly.
Appealing to her compassion
During the time of our simplifying process there was a large fire in a neighboring town. I asked my daughter if she would like to go through her toys to see what she would like to give to the children who had lost their toys. She was generous in her letting go that day!
Observing Closely and Letting Go Quietly
I take notice of what she plays with and doesn’t play with. What she loves and plays with most. I have had success with hiding away things that she doesn’t play with. Especially the things that get dumped out but never actually used. Then I wait for a few months until I have a chance to clear out the stored away items. This has worked for us, after a few months without her asking for the items I donated them and she never noticed. She is still young so I imagine our days of doing this are numbered, but hopefully she will develop an understanding of having the right amount of things and taking good care of them.
Using the Power of Story
Story telling is magic. There is nothing that motivates my daughter better than an appealing story- we reach her through her imagination. Reaching children playfully and through their imagination works wonders.
Now that we have completed the KonMari Method in our home, this is how we deal with my daughter’s stuff. We have designated homes for all my daughter’s belongings. I remind her to put things where they go and help her with a regular cleaning routine (and after she goes to bed my husband and I make sure her things are put away). We tell inspiring stories about tidying and cleaning. One of our favorites is Tidy Teddy from Susan Perrow’s book, Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior. We talk about the importance of taking care of our things and the house. We lead by example as best we can. When I’m sweeping up and her stuff is out I ask her if there is anything she wants to keep and to come get it now before it goes in the trash. This may sound like a punishment, though it doesn’t seem like my daughter gets stressed. She comes to see if there are things she wants and gets them. It feels very matter of fact. We don’t buy much and we do our best to keep gifts simple and hand-me-downs “joy checked” at the door. When we are given a bag of clothing or toys we immediately do the joy check and don’t bring the no joys in. We express our gratitude for all that we have regularly, especially our gratitude towards one another.
Adults don’t have limitless capacity to care for stuff; children have even less. I want to give my daughter the gift of less. She and I have worked together, and reduced her total amount of belongings. I put toys in books into storage for rotation. I also hide things away, and if she doesn’t ask for them for a few months, I donate them. Only once has she asked for backpack that was gone and I simply offered one of her other backpacks.
My daughter gets creative in a bit of a destructive way some times, so I throw a lot of paper clippings and dried up playdough, etc. away. I love supporting her creativity, and it is important to me to let her have freedom in her process – but once she has completed a project, it’s clean up time. She says the mess on her art table doesn’t bother her, but when I let her leave it there for a few days, she doesn’t engage in art. Once it’s been cleared, she begins creating again. I can see that I literally create space for her creativity by clearing the clutter.
One from her Joy Sparking series of paintings that made the biggest mess you’ve ever seen!
This is all done with kindness and love. It’s not about punishment and taking things away, it’s about creating the home and life that works for all of us. I’m the one that has to deal with her stuff on a daily basis, so it has to work for me. A cluttered space makes me stressed; a simple and clean space helps me stay calm. This, in turn, keeps the family running smoothly and happily.
It’s important to make sure that the home environment is joyful for mom. Sometimes that means helping my daughter put away her belongings and sometimes that means quietly removing her uncared for ones.
A therapist once told me that I have, “a high tolerance for depression.” I wish I’d asked her what she meant; at the time I assumed that she was saying I was accustomed to feeling depressed because I was surrounded by family members suffering from mental health issues. Perhaps she meant that depression was normalized in my family. I suppose I’ll never know why she said it, I think I didn’t want to ask her because I didn’t really want to know.
The truth is that I do feel depressed on occasion. I’ve been seeing therapists regularly for many years to heal my childhood traumas. I’ve turned out to be a highly functioning, hardworking and caring adult. Becoming a mother has brought a lot to the surface from my difficult childhood. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing the things I need to do. Especially when there are big and uncertain changes happening in the wider world.
Recently, I’ve been struck with a distinct lack of motivation or energy for doing much, particularly the daily chores to maintain my family life. My last blog post was about how we get motivation from self-care. I’ve found that even with increased self-care, that alone doesn’t always bring the motivation I hope for. Sometimes I need more.
The good news is that you can do what needs to be done, even when you don’t want to. Here are some ideas that help me when I need to get stuff done, but I’m not feeling it.
Notice your warning signs.
We all have habits that we either take up or stop when we start to feel depressed. I exercise less, and eat more. It gets harder to fall asleep. I stop meditating. I don’t reach out to friends. Basically all the things that I need to do to feel well, physically and mentally, I stop doing. What are your signs? If you can notice them it will help in you to stay mentally strong. The first step is to notice, to become aware. With practice you will be able to notice and make a different choice about how you respond to your thoughts.
Put your energy where you have influence.
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes: “proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas–Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.” When you start to get overwhelmed by the world, take a step back and remind yourself to focus on the things you can take action on. This practice will help you use your limited energy wisely. The good news, for those of us on the KonMari journey, is that creating the home environment we want is largely under our control.
Interrupt your negative thought cycle.
Once you are aware of your negative thoughts, take action. The mindfulness practice of R.A.I.N is key. Recognize the negative thought as it occurs, Allow it to be as it is, Investigate how your body feels and Nurture yourself with acceptance and kindness.
Don’t wait to feel motivated.
When you feel down, the motivation you are hoping for is not going to magically show up. You have to force yourself to take action, to do the thing you don’t want to do. Tune out that voice that tells you to keep sitting on the couch. Turn on positive, high-energy music to get moving. Remind yourself that you’ll feel better once you’ve accomplished the task. Celebrate each accomplishment.
Shrink your to-do list, then start with the easiest thing.
Your “to do list” is probably too long. Look at what has to get done today, and what can wait. Get rid of everything that is non-essential. Do the easiest thing first. Learn to say, “no” to additional invitations and responsibilities, even the ones you want to say, “yes” to. It is important to be realistic about what you are capable of doing so you don’t overwhelm yourself.
Take decision making out of the equation.
Write up a weekly schedule and set up each day in advance. Establish your routine and don’t question it when you are feeling down. If you are doing the KonMari Method, you can schedule an hour a week to the do small subcategories to keep up with your progress.
Treat yourself with loving-kindness.
Talk to yourself as you would to a dear friend. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to them. The more loving you are to yourself, the more able you’ll be able to do. And more importantly, you’ll feel better. Treat yourself with loving-kindness, and you’ll forgive yourself for not getting everything done.