KonMari with kids
We did it—we KonMari-ed the playroom. It was both more and less painful than I thought it was going to be.
It was my six-year old's idea to do this—she woke up one Saturday and was suddenly all about tidying up the playroom. She had witnessed me go through my own stuff and wanted to follow suit. (No pun intended.) Which proves Marie Kondo's theory that "To quietly work away at disposing of your own excess it actually the best way of dealing with a family that doesn't tidy." Because this shit's contagious! (Caveat: n = 1. Not statistically significant. No p-values were used in the making of this assumption.)
So she pulled out All The Bins of All The Crap and All The Crap from All The Bins, and made one big pot of toy soup. Then, we sorted into the following taxonomy, temporarily putting things into the bins we had just emptied:
- Their accessories
- Smaller figurines and their accessories
- Dress-up clothes and their accessories
- Play kitchen items and accessories
I explained to her again the joy metric—that is to say, that you keep something only if it brings you joy.
Pretty much right out of the gate, she and I started to butt heads on what to keep/let go of. For me, there's something about seeing ALL THE THINGS that makes me want to get rid of everything. Which is odd, because it seemed to inspire the opposite reaction in my kid because EVERY. THING. brought her joy. Which brings me to Tip #1: Consider having a third party intermediary participate, someone who can diffuse tension or divert a battle of wills.
As things started to escalate, my husband pulled me aside and calmly pointed out that if we're going to do this, she should have ownership of the process, otherwise it won't really be productive. Which is true—the whole point of using Kondo's process is to reach your set point with your belongings on your own, without someone telling you what to do. So, we (and this is Tip #2) set some ground rules beyond joy/not joy to make the process a bit more concrete. (Because, really, joy/not joy can be hard to qualify, especially for kids. BECAUSE ALL THE THINGS BRING THEM JOY. Everyone knows that!) Together he and I explained to her that 1) she gets to decide what to keep, but! 2) she can't keep everything. Making those expectations explicit clicked for her—and for me—and we were able to proceed with our sorting and purging a lot more easily.
Kondo writes that you wind up having a dialog with yourself as you tidy, and it was interesting to observe and engage with her as she went through her stuff. Sometimes we would ask why she wanted to keep or discard something, or one of us would share a memory around that thing, which was fun. Sometimes we would point out that a particular item was “something for babies or little kids” (which I admit was used to appeal to her Big Girl self, in order to divest more). In a few cases, she wanted to get rid of things that had been mine but shared that she felt guilty about it because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings (I KNOW!). I was able to assure her it that it was OK to let the item go. So Tip #3 is to accompany your kid as they sort, and, in the most non-challenging way, dialog with them as they dialog with themselves around their stuff. You will also likely find yourself dialoging with yourself, maybe noticing feelings about them getting rid of their baby stuff. I’m just saying. It’s possible.
In the end, she willingly parted with more than a laundry hamper’s worth of stuff, which, I think is pretty impressive, considering where we started. Hashtag small victories.
How We Did It, Step by Step
This is the framework we used for doing KonMari with our kid’s toys:
- Take out ALL THE TOYS and put them in a big pile.
- Plan to accompany your kid in the process, but consider having a third party intermediary participate to diffuse any tension or battle of wills that could potentially ensue.
- Explain the joy/not joy metric and qualify with any ground rules that would help your family. For us, it was helpful to explicitly state that she gets to choose what to keep but that she can’t keep everything.
- Sort the toys (and detritus—beads? paper clips? scraps of paper? why?) into an appropriate, broad taxonomy based on what you’re working with (Legos, art supplies, games, etc.) To keep things on track, you may need to repeat with exaggerated calmness that YOU'RE JUST SORTING, NOTHING IS GOING AWAY YET. Unless the kid wants to get rid of it, in which case, have a recycle bin and/or garbage can and/or giveaway box at the ready. Regarding the sorting process, you might choose to sort then make choices, or make choices as you sort. We did a combo. And I may* have gone through and purged the detritus whilst home alone mid-process.
- Dialog with your kid as they work. It is interesting and fun and helpful for both of you. Notice your own internal monologue as you go—what are you holding onto?
- Put the sorted items into bins or other storage containers so they are easily accessible. Think of it as reintroducing your kid to their own toys—the ones they forgot they had because there’s so much other stuff on top of them.
- Throw out, recycle, and give away the not-joy items.
- Take a picture of the finished product.
- Feel smug. You earned it!
- Try not to judge or get annoyed that your kid is totally messing up your neatly sorted bins over the course of the next week. Because it’s so much better than it was!
*I totally fucking did.
This picture is post-sort, post-purge, pre-put away. For the record.