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The art of magically tidying your house (with kids)

Kondo this. (iStock)

Attention parents! You may be familiar with a certain Marie Kondo and her best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” in which she tells us how to throw away everything “in one go” and live happily ever after with our joy and our bare shelves.

Busy parent that you are, you probably haven’t read it, am I right? Maybe I’m projecting here, but you probably either forgot to get on the mile-long hold list at the library or it is buried on your bedside table, unread, under a Berenstain Bears book, a plastic penguin, and a package of dried-up wipes.

Eh, it wasn’t written for you anyway. It seems to be meant for childless Japanese women living in tiny urban apartments. But why wouldn’t suburban American parents with sprawling square footage, Costco memberships, and packrat child slobs love it too?

Never mind. For your benefit, dear reader, I have kindly applied its principles to households with kids:

  1. Remove all children from the house. Has Marie Kondo come across anyone whose hoarding rivals that of a goody-bag-toting, rock-collecting, stuffed-animal-obsessed 5-year-old? Back-to-school time is perfect for evicting your children’s belongings, unmolested by pesky protests of juvenile ownership and “But-I-can’t-sleep-without-Doggy-Dog!”
  2. Pile all the toys in one room. If they fit. Ask yourself, “Does this pile spark joy?” If this unholy mess reminds you of every time your child has left these items on the floor, throw the whole lot out. (Take a tip from Kondo and use garbage bags liberally. Never donate! You will be unsparking joy for another parent who just wants to be alone with a bare floor and her OCD, for heaven’s sake.)[Practical advice when your kids have too much stuff]
  3. Collect all the children’s books resting on bookshelves, underneath the bed, and within the potty chair. Touch each one. Use hand sanitizer liberally. If there are any rips, crayon marks, or mummified boogers—or a Kindle version is available—into the garbage bag they go. Just see if that doesn’t give you a Kondo-esque thrill!
  4. Pull out every item of children’s clothing. Decide that socks are too much trouble and throw them all out. If Kondo had her own children to leave dirty inside-out socks all over her house, she’d have written it first.
  5. Meet the children at the door upon their return. Inform them that there is a new rule: They may stay in the house as long as they “spark joy.” If said children fail to “spark joy,” usher them outside until they are ready to come inside and “spark joy” again. (Hint: You might throw them a bone and let them know that tidying sparks your joy, and they can come in when they’re ready to Kondo-fold your sock drawer.)
  6. Retain one iPad, one Kindle, one television and, if you must, the children.

Sharon Holbrook is a freelance writer. You can follow her on twitter @Sharon_Holbrook.

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