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If you haven’t done it by now, you need to buy a copy of “The Life-Changing Joy of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and read it in its entirety. I’ll wait here.
Done? Doesn’t KonMari make living a tidy life sound so relaxing? Doesn’t she make the process of sorting through your junk sound like the biggest possible stress relief? I have a news-flash for you: She makes organization sound easy and amazing because it is easy and amazing.
However, if you have a young family, you might be laughing. A clean, tidy home might be possible for those people whose kids are old and grown or adults who (wisely?) decided not to have children, but for you, it is an utter fantasy. You have far too much stuff and too little time to create order from your chaos. For at least another decade or two, the tidy life will remain a fantasy — unless you can get the kids involved.
Get Your Kids Involved
The younger your kids are when you involve then in cleaning and tidying, the more accepting they will be of those chores as they age. If you wait until your kids are incalcitrant tweens before you ask them to organize their rooms, you will only receive sullen looks and sighs. However, little kids tend to be eager helpers, and they can do more than you might expect. Even toddlers can pick up toys and use dusting cloths — the trick is to help them enjoy the activity of tidying so they want to participate often.
There are several ways to make tidying up feel fun for kids. Here are a few options to try with your young family:
- Play dress-up. With the right costumes (or strong imaginations), everyone can transform into maids and butlers working for princes and princesses at a fancy castle.
- Assign missions. Special agents often have strange and interesting assignments. Your spy-kids might be tasked with organizing their closets or emptying the dishwasher.
- Give personalized tools. Most kids want to emulate their parents, but they lack tools with appropriate proportions. You can find kid-sized cleaning equipment or minimize your existing tools to fit their small stature.
- Compete. Can your kids separate their toy box into wanted and unwanted toys before you can do the same with your closet? You can promise a reward to the kid with the largest giveaway pile.
It is possible to convince older kids to participate in tidying up, too, but they require more complicated incentives. You might encourage your tweens and teens to tidy up and donate belongings for an opportunity to win a free vacation. Alternatively, you might develop an agreement: They help sift through the garage to donate belongings in exchange for a more lenient curfew or more computer time.
Follow the Rules
Once you get the kids involved, it’s time to execute the KonMari Method. Marie Kondo has strict rules regarding tidying up, and deviating them is a recipe for disaster. While many of the rules might seem counter-intuitive or inconvenient, they will ensure that your home looks and feels lighter for longer. Here are the primary KonMari rules to abide while tidying with the family:
- All or nothing. You can’t spend a few minutes here or there to tidying and expect your progress to stick. Marie Kondo suggests devoting about six months of dedicated effort to tidying your entire home; other projects can wait.
- Ordered organization. Instead of moving from room to room, you should tidy based on category. KonMari dictates a specific order: clothes, books, documents, miscellaneous, and sentimental items. You can find greater descriptions of these categories in Kondo’s book.
- Personal decisions. It is imperative that no one choose to keep an item that belongs to someone else. Just as you don’t want your partner sifting through your closet, you shouldn’t rifle through your children’s toys without their consent.
Perhaps the most important rule of all — in life and in tidying — is remembering to feel and express gratitude. Marie Kondo advocates thanking each item for its service before you discard it. This provides a sense of closure that many children need before they are truly willing to give something up.
However, more important than gratitude for things is gratitude for people. When you are cleaning up with your family, you should be grateful for their effort. Even though they share the space and are equally (if not more) responsible for the mess, they are working hard to make your home cleaner and more comfortable, so they deserve thanks.