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Spring Cleaning Series: How to KonMari with Kids

tidying upMarie Kondo’s best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is fascinating and detailed and all the YES! for moms who want to ditch the clutter.  But there’s one glaringly obvious omission in her text…kids!  The queen of decluttering isn’t a mom.   

Hello!  Marie!

If I didn’t have kids, I’d have my clutter under control! 

Seriously, though, living in a home with several other tiny humans (I have 4 kids plus a husband in 1800 sq ft), means you have to manage the stuff that all those little people need.  And their needs are constantly changing.

I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up about 18 months ago and embarked on a massive decluttering of my home.  Even though we have held twice yearly garage sales for over 10 years, we ditched tons of stuff and had a yard sale that profited over $1000!!

A year and a half later, after applying all of the KonMari techniques, I can tell you how to apply this life-changing clutter busting routine to your home, even with kids!

(KonMari is the term Marie Kondo uses to describe her discarding and organizing methods.)

KonMari with Kids

Sorting by Category

This is SUCH a great concept. 

The idea is, if you are going to clean out your clothes, you gather ALL your shirts–the folded t-shirts, the hanging blouses, the winter sweaters–don’t leave anything in boxes or drawers.  Get it all out and sort it at once. 

This is especially great when it comes to kids stuff.

Gather ALL their toys–the toys in the bedroom, the living room, the garage… the car (you know you’ve got some toys hiding under the back seat in the minivan!). 

We did this when we completed our Epic Toy Cleanout, and it was AMAZING!  I couldn’t believe all the toys my kids had!  They were shocked too! 

Sorting by category applies to everything: books, hair accessories, shoes, sports equipment, videos, games…everything!  When you gather ALL the things your kids have by group you, and they, become much more aware of the massive quantity of things they own. 

This is SO important for kids!  

When they see all their things together, they are able to visualize the massive amount they HAVE, and are not as focused on the amount they are discarding.

For example, let’s say you go through their shelves and pull out 30% of their toys to get rid of.  The kids now see a big pile of toys going away and gaps in their shelves.  

On the other hand, you divide a massive pile up into 70% to keep and 30% to discard and they think, “wow, there’s still a lot in that big pile.  I don’t think I need all that.” 

The mindset changes from scarcity to abundance.  (Pretty powerful shift for grown-ups too!)

Store All Like Items Together

All books belong on one bookshelf.  All the toys in one room.  All the clothes in one space (no jackets hanging in the mudroom). 

When we first did KonMari, we emptied 3 large IKEA Billy Bookcases that had both books and things on them and, after discarding, combined all the books onto one single bookshelf.  

I like that all the books belong in one space, but my daughter and I keep too many on our nightstands still. 

Storing the kids’  things in one place has been really great!  

All of our 2 year old’s toys go in his room.  This means he is able to put his toys away!  At two years old, he knows to take his toys to his room and put them on the shelf.  Storing them in different rooms would complicate the cleanup process. 

Whatever you do needs to simplify the hardest part of the process: cleanup.  If there’s a little more effort needed to get something out, you’ll make that effort because you want to get the thing.  If there’s too much effort needed to put it away, you’ll leave the thing out. 

Use On-Hand Items as Storage Containers

Any idea that saves you money AND gets your house organized is right up my alley!  Marie Kondo suggests using things you have on hand as storage containers rather than heading to Bed, Bath, and Beyond for some “space saving solutions.”

Y’all… little kids’ shoeboxes are the PERFECT size for sorting tiny clothes in drawers.  They keep underwear and socks divided, tights neatly rolled up, head bands from tangling up with ponytail holders…  And they come free with shoes! 

I’ve also made great use of diaper boxes; I covered one in kraft paper and added a rope handle to store blocks under the bed.  Don’t even get me started on the millions of uses for wipes boxes.   

And Apple device boxes are my favorite!  My iPhone box holds my ponytail holders in a drawer next to my hair iron, and my iPad box serves as a tray for my wallet to sit when it’s not in my purse. (yeah, I tried the empty purse every night thing!)

Spark Joy? 

This is the concept Marie Kondo is most famous for.  When you hear someone say they applied the KonMari technique to their home, they are most likely meaning that they went through and considered whether the items “spark joy” for them or not.

Can you apply this concept with kids?


Sorry… I don’t mean to laugh.  Seriously, though, doesn’t everything “spark joy” to a child?  I mean, it’s kinda the hallmark of childhood!

The truth is, most things do hold an element of wonder for your child, especially when they are new.  That doesn’t mean that the plastic dohiggy he got in his Happy Meal last week is on the same caliber as the stuffed puppy he sleeps with every night.  But it may be hard for him to understand the difference.

In our house, we have what we call “Time Limit Toys” that get discarded regularly to prevent too much accumulation (READ MORE about Time Limit Toys here.) 

The classic toys that have been a part of your lives for years, though outgrown, may still spark joy for your child or you sentimentally.  I love the KonMari method because it’s customizable to you.  Though Marie Kondo would discard the item, you get to decide what’s right for you.

You have to weigh the joy you get from reminiscing with the hassle of storing, moving, and unpacking the item.  

Some things are worth the hassle.  Many are not.

A final word about this:

Don’t discredit your kids’ ability to determine whether something brings them joy or not.  

Many times my children treasured things I would have discarded.  More often than that, they tell me honestly that they won’t play with this toy or wear that dress.  Hey, if my kid isn’t going to use it, why do I need to keep it?  

A Clutter-free Home

Is it possible?  YES!  

Marie Kondo says her method will ensure your home is never cluttered again.   I highly doubt that.  If you were single or childless, maybe you could apply her methods and curate your possessions as you acquire them, but with kids, the influx of things is only matched by the never-ending changes in their needs and desires. 

Decluttering requires a constant effort as kids grow and needs change. 

You may be able to do this routinely… I can’t.  I go through the house and clean out once or twice a year.  It has to be a project with a clear start date and a reward at the finish line! 

For me, the reward is the cash I get after one of our awesome garage sales!  

The important thing is to remember that, one day, the kids will be grown.  All their stuff will be gone. And you just might miss finding hair ties, barbie shoes, and Paw Patrol undies in weird places around your house.

Kids come with clutter.

If that’s the price to pay for the joy of motherhood, sign me up!  How blessed we are to have such abundance! 





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