Now that the sugar rush of Halloween is behind us, and Thanksgiving is almost here, I’m ready to throw myself head-first into the holidays. Forget all that “wait until after Thanksgiving” nonsense; I’m getting my holiday on ASAP. We’re talking glittery ornaments, sparkly lights, and colorful candles.
But there is one thing I’m dreading when it comes to the holidays – all that extra stuff.
Each year, I prepare for the influx of stuff by clearing out extra toys and clothes we no longer use or need. I force myself to be intentional about the gifts I buy. And I remind family members who want to buy us gifts that we’d really prefer experiences to belongings.
And still, every year, the post-holiday clutter sends my anxiety into overdrive.
For some of us, the clutter and mess and constant influx of stuff is more than we can handle. I’m one of those people. Clutter and excessive stuff sends my anxiety into overdrive. I’m minimalist(ish) – or as much as one can be when living with children, I suppose – which is why I’ve been intrigued by Marie Kondo since watching her Netflix reality show last year.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was a bit skeptical of how “life-changing” (or practical) the KonMari method could be. Because let’s be honest, I’d pretty much be setting my whole house ablaze if I followed that logic.
But after digging into the Netflix show and reading more about what the KonMari method actually is, it was like a light bulb went off. A little “ping!” squeal-and-smile, joy-sparking light bulb.
Armed with some new tricks in my tool bag, I set out on converting my family to the KonMari method. My own belongings were pretty well under control — I don’t have drawers busting open or shoes spilling out of closets – but my family is another story.
“We’re getting rid of shit, boys,” I said. “Let’s go.” (I’m nothing if not motivating.)
Over the course of an afternoon, we filled boxes and bags with extra toys and clothes to give away. We tossed a mountain of papers and random junk. We found things that had we’d long assumed had vanished, and freed up a ton of space with the “fold it in thirds” method.
Over the past 10 months since I became a KonMari convert, our house has filled up a bit again. We’ve kept up the folding method, but over time, things have gotten a little sloppy. Excess toys and gadgets have made their way into our home, without getting rid of things. Clutter and junk has piled up in the busy chaos of our lives.
We need a refresher, that’s for sure. But even more than that, I want to find a way to convince my kids that “less is more” when it comes to “stuff.” I want them to see the magic of the KonMari approach the same way I do. I want organization and minimalism to become second-nature to us. But it feels like a constant uphill battle, because kids are nothing if not pack rats.
Fortunately, Marie Kondo has a new book out to help kids understand the why of KonMari, not just the what and how. With two young girls of her own, Kondo wrote the book Kiki & Jax as a way to share the joy of tidying and friendship to kids. In the book, Kiki realizes how all her extra stuff is impacting her friendship with Jax, and then together they set out on decluttering to her physical space so there is more emotional space for their friendship.
“I’ve observed firsthand the impact that books can have on children,” she told Scary Mommy. She reminds parents that kids learn by example and to first have our own “tidying festival” before trying to get our kids on board.
And when it comes to that clingy, hold-onto-it-forever mentality that lots of kids have, she suggests that kids understand where their things belong as a means of motivating tidying. “By returning items to their homes, children develop an awareness – and ultimately, an appreciation – of what they already possess,” she said.
Marie Kondo is also clarifying some of the common misconceptions about the KonMari approach. For instance, it doesn’t mean getting rid of everything.
“When I began tidying as a teenager, I thought it meant eliminating possessions or owning as little as possible,” she told us. “I never felt satisfied using this approach; over time, I realized that tidying is not about throwing out as many things as possible – it’s about focusing on what you want to hold on to based on whether or not it sparks joy.”
Additionally, some fear that her approach doesn’t really address our overly consumerist society and the more-bigger-better mentality.
But this isn’t what she is suggesting at all.
“By identifying and discarding items that no longer spark joy, you strengthen your ability to recognize what brings you happiness – you become more mindful,” she said. “Pay attention to the items you already own and determine what really matters. After tidying, my clients are more thoughtful about what they purchase, and they avoid buying in excess.”
Amen to that. Because nothing deters me from a retail-therapy impulse-buy like knowing that it will likely end up in that donation box one day soon and put an unnecessary dent in my pocketbook.
But the problem is more than just the stuff itself; it’s the way it impacts our own well-being and our relationships – something Marie Kondo acknowledges and addresses in Kiki & Jax.
“When a room becomes cluttered, the cause is more than just physical,” she told Scary Mommy. “Clutter is a distraction – there’s a saying that a ‘messy room equals a messy mind.’ After tidying, the way you approach your life and your relationships will change.”
Let’s be honest, tidying isn’t fun. Like at all. But for those of us who are particularly susceptible to the anxiety-inducing impact of clutter, the KonMari approach is just what we — and our kids — need to maintain a (somewhat) calmer state of mind.
Marie Kondo brings her unique tidying method to young readers in “Kiki & Jax: The Life-Changing Magic of Friendship,” a charming picture book co-written and illustrated by children’s book veteran, Salina Yoon. Available at konmari.com and wherever books are sold.
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