Making The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Work for Real Moms

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Marie Kondo konmari method for a family
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As a homeschooling mom and small business owner, I know what it’s like to be busy. You probably do too. Between kids’ events and activities, work, and keeping up with household responsibilities, moms have a lot of plates spinning. (I know, newsflash of the year.) I’m guessing I’m not alone in feeling like house cleaning is usually the first thing to suffer when something needs to go.

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the book (and show) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Every mom I know has a copy on their shelf, and it is a great little book and one that was a game-changer for me personally.

Still, there’s no denying that this method seems impractical… even laughable… when you apply it to family life. Teaching my kids to fold their laundry so it stands up? Or to lovingly touch each toy and decide if they want to give it away? (I can guess that answer.) What if I can’t even find two matching socks let alone roll them?!

Luckily, you can still get a lot of value from the KonMari method even if some aspects of it don’t work for your family.

What Is the KonMari Method?

Marie Kondo, a professional organizer from Japan, teaches a very detailed method for organizing your home. Here are some of the basic tenents:

Purging Is More Important Than Organizing

The KonMari method is not about finding storage solutions. It focuses on tuning into what in your house brings you “joy,” and keeping only those items. This assumes that you will be letting go of many items that don’t give you joy and reduce inventory in your home. Marie Kondo also suggests specific ways to organize and honor the belongings that remain.

It’s a Mindset Thing

While this method is about decluttering, the main focus is in helping people acquire a mindset that keeps them from acquiring so much clutter to begin with. Kondo stresses that her clients only need to declutter once. This method also uses visualization to have the end goal in mind while you declutter.

Tidy by Category

Kondo also recommends tidying and decluttering by category instead of by location. So, instead of decluttering your closet, you get all of your clothes from all locations and work on them at one time.

The reasoning is to reduce confusion around decluttering items that are in many different locations.

Kondo also recommends a specific order in which you should declutter (clothes are first… I started with the kids’ wardrobes) and specific order within those categories (tops first).

Declutter All at Once

Kondo recommends decluttering a category of items in one go instead of in small steps. She says that doing it this way helps clients solidify their mindset against accumulating clutter again. She also recommends beginning with the easy things for a good jumpstart and mindset boost.

Does It Spark Joy?

This method focuses on the things you want to keep instead of the things you want to get rid of. You are supposed to hold everything in your hands and ask yourself if this item sparks joy. If not, you are expected to get rid of it. While holding your items you’re also supposed to talk to them and thank them for their service to you.

It’s an Individual Activity

Kondo says you should tidy without letting your family see you but you should also not get rid of anything belonging to someone else without their permission. Kondo believes that decluttering your own items will inspire your family to do their own decluttering.

The Konmari Method Is Strict

This is not a tidying method that gives you the wiggle room to make it your own. You’re expected to follow it to a T.

Kondo says that despite different reasons for acquiring clutter, the solution is the same. Kondo even teaches a specific way of folding clothing (pictured above).

How to Make The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Work for Families

Marie Kondo’s method of tidying and decluttering has changed many people’s lives, but it’s not always practical for families. Here are some tips I’ve personally found helpful and can work even in mom-life:

Ignore Its Strictness

As a general rule for this method to work for families, you’ll have to ignore its strictness. The truth is that when you have kids of varying ages you may have to make adjustments so that the method will work for you. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly. Give yourself permission to focus on the parts that do work for you and don’t worry about the parts that don’t.

You Don’t Have to Declutter in One Fell Swoop

With little ones around it’s hard enough to find any time to declutter, not to mention a long enough block of time where you pile every piece of clothing on the bed and ponder each item. Instead, focus on manageable amounts of a category. That might mean you have to work on the dresser one day and the closet the next. To keep with the spirit of what The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up teaches, keep a list of the items you are keeping from the dresser so you know what can be tossed from the closet.

You Don’t Have to Find Joy in Everything You Keep

There are many items moms have that don’t necessarily spark joy but also can’t be tossed. For example, diapers, wipes, breast pumps, kids’ clothes that don’t fit yet, pacifiers, toys that you don’t like (but your child does), etc.

Instead of thinking only about whether it sparks joy, ask if the object has a purpose and function that makes life easier.

There Is Not One Way of Folding

The KonMari method advocates a specific way of folding, and if it works for you, great! If not, don’t worry about it, use whatever folding works for you. This is one of those times where you don’t want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And let’s be honest, some days folding just doesn’t happen at all!

The point of the KonMari method of folding is that you fold and store your clothes so they are visually appealing and easily accessible. If you have another way of folding that does this, go for it!

You Don’t Have to Talk to Your Stuff

While getting really up close and personal with your possessions can help you be more grateful for what you own, you don’t have to talk to your stuff. If it feels silly and doesn’t work for you, let it go. On the other hand, if talking to your possessions does help your mindset around clutter, by all means, continue. If you figure out something else that helps you become more intentional with your possessions, that’s great too.

You Don’t Have to Ask Your Kids’ Permission!

Of course, you should be respectful of your kids’ things but there has to be a limit. I know if I were to ask my kids if I can get rid of a toy (that no one has used for months) it would suddenly become their very favorite toy (for about 10 minutes). Kids, depending on age, may not be able to separate from any of their possessions, even ones they never use. A good way to avoid this is to put into storage a toy you don’t think they will miss. If they don’t miss it after a certain amount of time, then you can get rid of it.

Don’t Be Discouraged When You Need to Declutter Again

Kondo says that her clients never need to declutter again when they use her method. But if you’re a mom, you probably will, and here’s why:

  • Kids grow fast! They need new clothes and different toys and games regularly. It’s hard to keep up with.
  • People love giving things to kids (or families with kids). The best advice for staying away from clutter is to refuse it in the first place. But many of us have a hard time doing that when we’re given gifts and hand-me-downs from well-meaning friends and family members. Gently try to guide family members to show love through experiences instead of material gifts, but if that doesn’t work, you can express gratitude and let the item(s) go.

Bottom line, it’s an ongoing process when you have kids and the smaller they are (and the more of them you have!) the more stuff they acquire. Don’t be hard on yourself about this one!

If you need some laughter to keep going:

KonMari for Real Moms

Marie Kondo has a lot of great ideas that can help anyone, including busy moms, become more organized and maybe even less stressed and overwhelmed. But there are some tactics that just aren’t practical for moms. With some minor adjustments though, the KonMari method can spur lasting change in even the most hectic home.

If you haven’t checked out The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up yet, I highly recommend it and the show is great for inspiration as well!

Maybe Marie wants to come to my house next? 🙂

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? How did it work for you?


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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


8 responses to “Making The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Work for Real Moms”

  1. Deborah Avatar

    Purpose and function IS one of the reasons for keeping things according to MK. Why would she suggest getting rid of things used? That is wasteful. Did you read both books or just Spark Joy?

  2. Barbara Avatar

    I enjoyed her shows on Netflix but couldn’t bring myself to thank my clothes. I do however thank God for the income that allowed me to have that item and the good experience I had when I wore it (if I could remember one). I read that her thanking objects possibly has to do with Shintoism, very common in Japan. Just a thought.

  3. Menteecléctica Avatar

    A few days ago, I got a video of my 2 years old nephew folding her pants following the KonMarie method. My sister was folding clothes and caught her doing it with a great level of detail. Children observe an copy so, if you find this method appealing, there is a chance they will learn with you in the process.

  4. Tara Avatar

    This is a great blog post! I personally did the KonMari method about a year ago and it was life-changing, but…I did have to make some adjustments. There are some cultural differences (there wasn’t a category for kitchen items and this was one of the main areas I needed to declutter!), and it is a system that seems to completely disregard life with kids. Overall it was great method to help me do something I already needed to do and it gave me a map of how to achieve the lifestyle we knew we wanted for our family. Thanks for putting it into a practical perspective for moms. I feel like I can share this with friends and they will be more likely to try the method now.

  5. Deborah Avatar

    Thank you Katie for recommending this book. Marie brings joy to me. I’ve started, as she recommended and plan on continuing group by group.
    Thankyou Marie.

  6. Amanda Avatar

    I’m not a mom, but I have friends who are and I also babysit a lot. I find part of the success of getting kids to do something or just willing to do it is partly in the delivery and appeal (I helped a five year old girl I babysit for clean her room by playing pirate, seriously!). When doing the method with kids, I recommend an approach that makes it a little like them. Instead of indicating they have too much stuff and they have to get rid of things, make it more like wanting to get the boring/”baby stuff”/whatever adjective that applies for them out of the way so we can make room for all the good stuff. If they’re into giving, try helping them find good homes for their discarded stuff. If they want to make money, maybe they can set up a garage sale for the things they discard (bonus math practice, organization project, and life lesson). Anything left can be donated. If they have trouble letting go, try helping then find uses for their stuff. The pile of shirts from past summer camps or events can be made into a keepsake quilt. Pictures can be put into a folder for a little book. Everyone is different and sometimes kids need more time until they’re able to handle going through all their stuff (or just part of it). Play around with it and don’t give up. (And if you can’t thank your purse for its service, thank God for being blessed to have it.) Good luck!

  7. Sharron Avatar

    I watched Marie’s show on Netflix and it really struck a cord. I’ve always been a ‘purger’ and ‘oranizer’ and while all my things don’t necessarily speak to me, her method did. I love the folding and the standing up of each item. My husband who has dozens of t-shirts always wore the same few that were on top in his draw. Now he can see all of them and even though he doesn’t care much which one he wears, he at least now has more of a choice looking straight at him.
    I’m retired and ‘getting up there’ and don’t have much in the way of clothes that bring me joy these days but this manner of organizing does bring me joy – every time I open a drawer!

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