It’s the beginning of a new year, the perfect time to purge. It seems like everyone is organizing and getting rid of clothing and household items to make way for 2019. This year, people have a new enthusiasm for it thanks to Japanese organizing phenom Marie Kondo. Her KonMari method first gained popularity with her 2014 book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which espouses discarding items that don’t “spark joy,” among other helpful hints. But the recent Netflix series Tidying Up is what’s really pushed Kondo’s fame over the top — and has finally gotten mainstream Americans into organizing the Kondo way. But what about parents — can we KonMari our children’s things? Sure, Kondo describes her little ones jumping in enthusiastically, but what about American kids? Will it really work for their lives — not to mention their amount of stuff?
I tackled my kids’ shared dresser to find out. And it turns out kid minimalism is possible. Yes, even in the U.S.
In Kondo’s Netflix show, Tidying Up, the spritely Kondo arrives to tidy the homes of various unorganized Americans. And it’s delightful. Viewers can watch Kondo put her methods into action, which has inspired a lot of organizing and purging. Thrift stores are reporting tidal waves of donations attributed to Kondo’s influence. “We can hardly keep up with it,” Florida Goodwill employee Brian Edwards told NPR. And newly purged homes have newly organized drawers: Kondo’s rectangular clothes-folding approach is taking over. She advocates folding items in thirds lengthwise, then folding them twice, creating a small rectangle that can stand up on its own. All the rectangles go back into the drawer facing up.
The result is a tidy drawer that displays all your clothing. Plus, clothes are less wrinkled since they’re not stacked on top of each other. It’s genius! I was hesitant to learn a new (seemingly complicated) way to fold, especially since I’m not great at folding to begin with. But it worked, and I really liked the results. So I started thinking that maybe I should tackle the messiest dresser in my house: the one my kids share. Could the KonMari folding method work on my kids’ overstuffed drawers? As it turns out, yes, and it’s awesome.
KonMari’ing my kids’ clothing wasn’t easy in the beginning. I started with my daughter’s clothes, and getting a 5-year-old to help organize is not a simple task. I dumped everything into a big pile as I’ve seen on the show. (And it was a huge pile because I’m a bit of a shopper.)
Then I needed to see if various items still fit Ruby, but getting my daughter to try things on for size is something I loathe because she fights it. But somehow, I got her to oblige (OK, a candy bribe was involved). Once we had a pile of everything that fit and Ruby was happily munching on Swedish Fish, I went through things with her to see what “sparked joy,” the condition Kondo describes. If the item makes you happy, you’re supposed to keep it. If it doesn’t inspire, toss it.
Aside from getting Ruby to try things on, I was worried my kids’ already cramped drawers wouldn’t accommodate all those clothes folded into rectangles. I actually couldn’t have been more wrong! Once they were KonMari’ed into place, there was room to spare. It was refreshing to look at. And Ruby is into it! She asked me to show her how to fold the rectangles and even watched Tidying Up with me. She knows to carefully select her clothing items so as not to disturb the organization. (Her 3-year-old brother, on the hand, is a work in progress.) Each kid’s side of the giant dresser took about a day, on and off. Since children don’t let you work on things for long, there were many breaks.
Ultimately, having drawers of visible clothing is so, so worth the folding effort. We saw things we had previously ignored simply because they were at the bottoms of shirt stacks or crumpled at the back of a drawer. Now, everything is out in the open waiting to be chosen and worn. This is weirdly freeing and just so satisfying. No more grabbing what’s at the top of the pile. Now, everything gets a fair shake.
Having more room in the drawers is fantastic too. I hated jamming things in there and seeing everything cramped. Before they got KonMari’ed, my kids would rummage around searching for things and everything would get rumpled. No more! Now that shirts, pants, dresses and even underwear are visible, the need to throw everything around is gone. Does it get messed up sometimes? Yes. But I’m hopeful that the more I show them this new way of storing clothes, the better they’ll get about keeping their things neat. At this point, I can’t turn back. I love these little rectangles too much! Next stop: the linen closet.