5 Marie Kondo-Approved Tips for Tidying Up When You Have Kids

After she had kids, decluttering guru Marie Kondo realized she needed to make a few adjustments to her famous organizational method.

While the KonMari method, which teaches the art of decluttering and banishing anything that doesn’t “spark joy,” sounds like a great idea, it can be pretty hard (or flat out impossible) to achieve this degree of minimalism when you’ve got little ones running around. In fact, when Marie Kondo wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it was before she had her two daughters, Satsuki and Miko. So, how has having kids affected her ability to keep her home tidy? “Through my first parenting experience, I learned that I had no time to spare at all,” the bestselling author told wsj.com in a recent interview.

Here are a few of her tips for finding some organizational peace during the chaos of parenthood.

This is the way we tidy up

As any parent will tell you, kids can be very messy. Kondo says she makes sure to clean and tidy in front of her children so they see it as a daily activity, rather than a chore. “I try to show my older daughter the things I do daily. I try to do some of the washing and folding in front of her,” she says. “Sometimes my daughter starts folding hats or tries to fold placemats on the dining table.”

The game of categories

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’ve got an entire room to declutter and tidy. Instead, organize by category, not by room. Kondo recommends tidying in a specific order: “Always start with clothes, then books, followed by documents, miscellaneous, and then sentimental items.” And since time is a luxury most parents don’t have, you’ll probably find it easiest to break these categories down even further. For example, start with clothing but focus on tops one day, bottoms the next and so on until you’ve completed the category.

Find joy

Donating or selling clothing that the kids have outgrown is the easy part. Getting them to part with their toys is another story. Get the kids involved when you are sorting through unwanted items. Talk to them about how much fun they had with a specific toy and how another child might enjoy playing with it just as much. Only keep the items that bring you joy, says Kondo.

“Children as young as three-years-old can decide what gives them joy and the key principle is that each person should be making the decisions for themselves,” she says.

Frame a new masterpiece

Cards, art projects and school work fall under the sentimental category. There are some items you and your child will be fine to let go of, but there’s probably a lot you’re going to want to hold onto. Store those items in a binder, scrapbook album or rolled up in a paper tube if they’re too large, suggests Kondo. Plus, many of these items are sure to bring both you and your kids joy. Why not display handmade cards and art projects in frames so everyone can enjoy them!

Personal space

When you’ve got young kids at home, your living spaces are probably a minefield of toys to avoid stepping on. Kondo suggests setting boundaries for living areas, play areas and personal space.

“One thing that’s important to me is to figure out what people’s personal spaces are. I might say from here to here is your personal space, and if you decide to organize it, that would be great. But if [my daughter] says she really doesn’t want to organize, I won’t say anything about that,” says Kondo. “What’s really important is that you yourself can tidy up. If you can keep you personal space tidy, it gives you a calm mindset. Then even if your family is not as tidy, it’s OK.”

PLN Tip: Marie Kondo recently announced an eight-episode reality series about the life-changing magic of tidying up. The title and release date have not yet been announced but the show will air on Netflix.

Melissa Greer

Melissa Greer

Melissa is a writer, editor and new mom. She lives in Toronto with her husband, daughter and two cats.