The Parent Files

Marie Kondo Was the World’s Most Organized Person. Then She Had Her Third Kid.

7 minute read

I had big plans for my video interview with lifestyle influencer and tidiness guru Marie Kondo. The view of my home office would be immaculate; the stacks of old reporter’s notebooks would move to the great beyond (the trash), the gag-gift bobblehead of Andrew Cuomo would go to its forever home (the trash), and the clean laundry hanging off my husband’s office chair would migrate to its rightful place (a pile on the bed). I would find one single item of clothing to wear that wasn’t wrinkled. For this one 30-minute interview, I vowed, I would transform into a tidy person.

It was not to be. My daughter Rosie was on her third day of a fever, and I spent the day trying to work in between screaming fits. I was finally getting her down to sleep after a half-hour of solid wailing when my phone started buzzing. It was Marie Kondo’s press person, telling me that I was 15 minutes late to our interview.

I put Rosie in her crib and scrambled to my computer. As soon as I joined the Google Meet, I realized I still had grape baby Tylenol on my (obviously wrinkled) shirt. After apologizing a million times, we got down to the reason I had set up this call in the first place.

How do you think parenting has transformed your approach to your work?

Parenting for me really taught me a lot about time management….

[Reporter’s note: At this point, I died a tiny death.]

…and how to balance how much work you should do in a day. With the Konmari method, I teach more than just how to clean and how to organize your surroundings. It’s really about developing a lifestyle that sparks joy for each individual. So choosing not just the items that you want to keep in your life, but also how to organize your time—especially with kids— because there are so many constraints.

Have you ever had a moment like I just had where, you know, you had something scheduled, and then you had a kid-related crisis that introduced chaos into what would otherwise be a relatively orderly day?

It happens all the time. When we’re about to leave the door and go out, one of my kids might spill something so we have to clean that up or they might break something or smash something and we’re cleaning that up. So there really is a bigger need for that sort of recovery time in in cases of these incidents. So taking that into account and almost building that extra space or buffer in your day has become a big part of part of my current lifestyle.

You mentioned recently in a different interview that having your third child created a shift for you and your approach to tidying. What was the difference between two children and three children in terms of keeping your home tidy?

I think the biggest shift with the third child is probably this spread in ages. The biggest child will have to go to school, so we’re getting ready to go out the door, but smallest is still the baby and they’re helpless on their own. So there is a lot more on my mind. It became very apparent to me that there is simply not enough time in the day to fully dedicate the amount of attention each task requires, which is when I slightly changed my mindset on tidying up.

Perhaps it’s not necessary to fully tidy up every day because physically, there simply wasn’t enough time or energy to achieve that. And instead of tidying to the point of exhaustion and making your family stressed out, stressing yourself out, waking up tired the next morning, I left a little bit to be done the next day. There might be a slight mess, or a small area that hasn’t been fully tidied. The most important thing that I realized through this is acting in the best interest of my family, which means getting the proper amount of time for myself to recover. So it’s never worth tidying up at the expense of bringing negative energy to the family.

Are your kids tidy as well or are they messy?

Of course they they follow my Konmari method to the extent that they can fold their clothes and return them to their designated places. But given the fact that they are children, it’s not going to be the perfect tidying up. Sometimes they might have too much fun playing or things get a little out of control and they’ll leave a few messes behind. But the most important thing that I teach them right now is to always designate a so-called “home” for each item.

So what was it like for you to come to this realization with a third child that it was okay for there to be small portions that weren’t tidy? Because it’s a little bit of a departure from your earlier Konmari method, right?

I wouldn’t so much call it a departure. It’s really the Konmari method, the so-called “tidy festival,” if you will, where you go through your entire home and take inventory of what you have: feel each item and determine what sparks joy and what doesn’t, keeping the items that spark joy in your lives and letting go of the items that that don’t bring joy to you anymore. But for the day-to-day tidying, it’s for me been more of a personal shift in my mindset. The goal isn’t to always be tidy. The goal is to create an environment and a space that brings joy into your life.

Is there a particular thing at home with your family that just gets on your nerves? For me, it’s that my daughter throws her food on the floor.

I don’t know if it really gets on my nerves. But one anecdote that comes to mind is my middle child, whenever she comes home from school, she’ll just take off her socks and toss them anywhere. No matter how many times I tell her to put them in the hamper, somehow she manages to toss them anywhere she can. I find it amusing after so many times of telling her, ‘Hey, this is where the socks go, this is the home, this is what we’ve decided,’ she still manages to somehow avoid putting in the hamper.

What do you think is the single biggest thing that you’ve learned from being a parent?

Kids really watch their parents more than then you think. So if it seems like the kids are being sloppy or aren’t listening, it’s often because the parents’ mental capacity is really over the limit. So if something’s happening at work, or the parents are really stressed, the kids will somehow pick up on that and reciprocate a similar mental state. The parents’ mental state and stress level is a direct reflection of how kids behave.

Do you have one parenting hack that you’ve found that has made all of this easier?

Teaching my kids how to fold at a very young age. The children fold their own clothes and return them to their designated spots. Because that same theory can be applied to a lot of different things in life. And I think it’s really shaped their philosophy in a way and their life view.

How old are we talking here?

Three years old. The simple items. So socks, for example, or maybe a square handkerchief—something that’s really simple. Not nothing too complicated.

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