kon-mari, round #2!

January 11, 2018

I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up in 2015.  I’m not tired of it yet.

For one, I still fold all of our clothing the way she suggests.  That idea alone, in my opinion, is worth the price of her book (though of course there are now 9432 pinned pictures and YouTube videos available to get this advice for free!).

Secondly, I still CRAVE that light feeling that arises when a category is really and truly tidied (which to me means pared down to what is truly needed and/or wanted).  The process and outcome really does make me happier, somehow streamlining my thoughts and actions in a deeper, more meaningful way.  What can I say — I guess I just really believe in the power of Tidying Up!  At least for me.  I know there are people that could care less about what is in their closets (both of my parents!  And I think my podcast cohost, too, even though we are similar in many other ways.  Laura, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!!).

However, I am sad to say that I have found several flaws in the famous Kondo plan.  I actually have no objection to the hippie-dippie stuff, and I like the whole idea of thanking items and deciding what sparks joy.  My issues are as follows:

1) Corralling every single item from any given category is hard to do all at once in a house with multiple rooms and 2 floors.  We do not live in a huge house (we have ~2100 square feet, 3 bedrooms total, very little storage space, and no basement).  But it isn’t a tiny Tokyo studio, either — which I suspect is where she tested/perfected her methods.  I have my clothing, the kids’ clothing, Josh’s clothing, etc.  It isn’t as straightforward as she makes it sound to gather everything in one category all together.

2) She promises that once you do this, it’s done.  Nope — not for us.  I’m not sure what the right interval is to repeat the process . . . yearly perhaps?  A January tradition?  Maybe it’s the fact that we have kids with ever-growing-and-changing-collecitons of stuff, or maybe it’s just that we’re WEAK and bad minimalists (possible), but things accumulate.  And what was once perfectly Kondo’d starts to feel cluttered again.  We are definitely in that zone now.

3) Given that I have children and a job and many more time constraints than Marie had when she was writing her book (I’m sure she’s much busier now with 2 young kids and a decluttering empire!), it is hard for me to get this all done in large chunks as she suggests.  IE: a full category daily isn’t necessarily going to happen for me right now, even on maternity leave.

4) There are some methods that do clash with my desire to be efficient.  I am NOT emptying out my purse/work bag/diaper bag daily (though I could probably be convinced to do it, say, weekly).  It is not realistic for every flat surface to be clear — that coffee maker is staying on the counter!

Therefore, I am not going to go through her methods exactly as she lays out, nor am I going to expect them to be permanent.  But I still have an intense desire to go through the process again, in my own way.  I have decided to create a list of categories (see below).  However, I then decided that this still isn’t granular enough to get done realistically during leave.  So, what I’m going to try is 30 minutes/day of gradual progress.

Multiply it times 50 days or so, and I think I can get a LOT done.  I have already done C’s toys, A’s clothing, and today I’m about to start on my clothing (which is daunting given that there is a hideous melange of maternity / post-maternity / not-really-quite-fitting regular-stuff all tangled up in there).

Oh!  And I am guessing some of you are wondering how the kids do with this process.  I think I’ll do a whole other post with pix, but the short answer is — shockingly well.  Annabel especially.  And C doesn’t seem to care (or notice) enough to really resist.

What else is going on around here:
– Both kids actually ate the zesty kale and sweet potato bowl!  And I looooved it.  So, recipe recommendation right there for you!  (Annabel did not eat the quinoa or sweet potatoes, but whatever, close enough).

– Growing wayyyy too fast.  With luscious lips . . .

Four Tendencies done,  Bel Canto started.  My to-be-read list is now officially out of hand due to so many great recommendations and end-of-year-lists!

* we use “Kondo” or “Kon-Mari” as a verb in this house regularly; it means to weed through things and eliminate what does not spark joy.  I don’t feel that another real word describes the process adequately.


  • Reply Laura Vanderkam March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Yep, as suspected, I’m just not as into the minimalist/clean aesthetic. It’s not that I mind having a clean house – I love having a clean house. And I like it when our kitchen island counter has nothing beyond a vase of flowers on it. That said, I’m not going to spend a ton of my time in pursuit of a perfectly decluttered house. Given that I have five other family members bringing stuff into it all the time, it would drive me crazy and take time and energy I’d rather devote to other things. As for Kondo, I really dislike the thought that life begins when you put your house in order, because I suspect it’s a message women in particular tend to absorb more. You could devote that hour to working on your resume to get a better job…or you could declutter your closet. Women already do more housework than men, and spending less time in this category would open up space for other things (work, family, leisure). Which is why I think for many people there is life changing magic in NOT tidying up! But to each her own. One of the biggest laughs I get in my speeches is when I note that some people tell me they can’t relax if their house is a mess, so I tell them to clean one room, shut the door, and sit in there. I think there are temperamental differences with people who can relax if there is stuff out of place and people it will just bug. Maybe we need a personality framework for this!

  • Reply SusannahEarlyBd March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Thanks so much for posting your thoughts and process, I love hearing how others manage a house full of the things that come with 5 people! My greatest daily task is just managing the constant influx of potential "clutter." The boys come home with so many various things from school–projects, artwork, notices, etc. Then add in our mail and ongoing projects, etc, and the most important area in our house is what we call "the information center." I sort out everything into folders that have to be acted upon immediately versus the long-term stuff. And the hardest long-term stuff for me to keep organized is the boys’ clothes, since we hold onto everything so as to pass down through each child. It’s a lot of clothes for each size and tough because each of the boys is a somewhat different build/size so what fit one at 2 is too small for the next. ANYWAY, thank you!

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      i would think you just need bins for each size!? but omg what a lot of clothing to manage!!! in our case it’s much less – A destroys her frequently-worn clothes faster than she grows out of them unless they are really quality items – so that limits what is saved!

      i’m ruthless with artwork. unless it’s a favorite i just take a picture and toss. i also have bins for each kid where ‘special’ stuff goes. it can pile up SO FAST i agree!!!

  • Reply Emma March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Have you ever listened to the Organize365 podcast? It”s like Konmari and more for traditional American homes with kids. I love them both, because I”ve realized that physical clutter leads to mental clutter for me, and I need a clear mind for my work.

  • Reply Emily March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    I honestly do not know how anyone with kids could KonMari once and be done with it. I think it makes total sense you’d have to do it periodically just for the sole purpose of clearing out kid clutter, especially since kids outgrow clothes basically every year and also outgrow toys/books/interests fairly quickly as well. I am an underbuyer and don’t tend to accumulate huge amounts of clutter but even so I still feel like there’s so much kids stuff.

    I like what Laura said about not prioritizing cleaning and housework over other pursuits like work, family, and leisure (and how the KonMari message probably exacerbates the gender divide in housework division of labor), all of which I prioritize MUCH more than how my house looks or how cluttered it is. When friends ask me for advice about how to manage having kids and working full-time (or how to go from 1 to 2 kids, etc.), I always say my #1 piece of advice is "lower your housekeeping standards." Less laundry, less cleaning…it’s really okay 🙂 I do love the aesthetic of less clutter but what truly sparks joy for me way more than a clutter-free house is time with my kids (sometimes!) and time to myself to read, workout, see friends, etc.

  • Reply Adele March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    I hadn’t really thought about the flaws of Kon-Mari, but you’re absolutely right, some things just don’t generalize as well. I love how you’ve made it work for your family. Do you think along Kon-Mari lines when you acquire new stuff? I’ve been trying hard to really think about whether an item (a blouse, pair of shoes, etc.) "sparks joy" before I buy it. It’s actually helped me to avoid buying stuff that I only ~80% like.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      YES, and the downside to that is that I hate getting gifts of extraneous (#*$&@ that I never wanted in the first place. I will actually have an anxiety attack if pressured to accept hand-me-downs I don’t want (and usually, I don’t want unless it’s something really special!). I really wanted to write "no gifts please" on C’s 4th bday invitation and only stopped myself because I don’t want to disappoint him in that way, but I’m already dreading the incoming pile.

  • Reply coreebrown1984 March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    I love konmari, I”ve tried to do a bit as I”ve been off in leave. The baby stuff makes me overwhelmed. I had a carload of donations and had. good luck listing things for free on a local Facebook page. Someone came to pick up the bookshelf and gave us a bottle of wine. I keep a box next to baby”s changing table and drop in clothes as they are outgrown.

    I”ve lived in Europe too long, my eyes bugged out at 2100 square feet being small. I totally had a little daydream about leaving my yoga mat and the baby gym out instead of putting them up each night …. we are in a 700 square foot two bed!

  • Reply Shelley March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    I too love having my house decluttered and organized, and I love getting rid of things (although this isn’t always a good thing, as surely some things are wasted, even if donated, sold. etc.)! I do this with some regularity, and I actually find this helpful, as something that arguably sparked joy the first time around doesn’t anymore, so it goes. My current struggle is kid stuff — both in saving baby stuff in case we have another and politely discouraging family from loading us down with stuff. I’m so tempted to immediately get rid of stuff my baby outgrows or that someone gifts to her that I don’t want, but am reluctantly hanging on to it for now.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      (bigger ticket items we had to rebuy: car seat (but old one was expired anyway), rock ‘n’ play, bjorn bouncer, breastfeeding pillow. . . that was pretty much it as we still have our crib as C’s converted bed!)

  • Reply Emilie Yeh March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Happy to know the Cooking Light recipe is a hit! My husband flipped through and picked that out for this week 🙂

  • Reply Brittnie March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I am in somewhat of the same boat as you. I LOVE me some decluttering and organizing, but our house is smallish (same, 2100 sq ft) and I have young kids in two totally different developmental stages (due to the special needs of Clara, this will always be a thing). I have done this method in my home and it’s not once and done for us either. It’s a continual thing. I just make it a priority to declutter in small ways regularly and then a big sweep once a year. Works for us. Also, agree about the clear counters. While I don’t love counter clutter, coffee maker and a few other items are always out. 🙂

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