The life-changing magic of tidying up: parents' edition

It's not that easy keeping the house clean when you have kids.
It's not that easy keeping the house clean when you have kids. Photo: Getty

When I bought Marie Kondo's bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last year, I was more than ready to jump on the whole tidying-up bandwagon.

But as I tore through the book, an odd thing happened. I began to notice just how much her writing did not apply to me.

And then it clicked: Kondo doesn't have toddlers. She has one child who is yet to turn one.

Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo 

This is obvious in numerous parts of the book.

A big one that stood out for me was when she wrote about coming home every day and emptying her entire bag, putting away all its contents, before repacking a bag again the next day.

As a mother of three, I'm far more likely to be used as both a human tissue and garbage bin than I am to unpack a bag that is only destined to be repacked again the next day.

But I'm not saying the book wasn't lovely. It made me swoon to think of a house so neatly organised that anything could be located at the drop of a hat.

That said, I must admit I struggled to relate to a lot of it.

For anyone who felt the same, I give you this:


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Parents' Edition

The chapters are as follows (please note, they're titled according to the actual chapters in Kondo's book):

1. Why can't I keep my house in order?

I can summarise my theory about this in one word: Children.

Wherever there be children, there be mess.

That is all.

2. Finish discarding first

Oh, this would be so easy if all the decisions regarding throwing things out were mine alone!

Unfortunately, children have a different idea of what is 'necessary' and what can be discarded.

For my kids, the rule is quite simple: Anything that is currently in our house is 'necessary' and therefore cannot be discarded.

If my kids even think that I'm considering getting rid of any of their possessions, they will protest that their lives would be ruined if I dare even think about throw out their masterpiece/piece of plastic junk/old apple skin.

3. Tidying by category works like magic

Kondo was onto something here.

While she tidies according to these categories – clothing, loungewear, books, etc – us parents of older kids have other categories to consider.

These include:

  • plastic pieces that belong to a set that may or may not still be in your house
  • art your child made recently
  • art your child made a long time ago
  • pieces of pieces of art that have since fallen off (like icy pole sticks, pipe cleaners, googly eyes etc.)
  • stuff (I'm pretty sure most of the things in my house belong in this category)

4. Sorting your things to make your life shine

Here, Kondo recommends designating a place for everything, along with other pearls of wisdom (like emptying your handbag every day).

Oh, how I'd love to designate a spot for everything in my house – and have it stay there.

Unfortunately, while my toddler is big on the eating or throwing of things, she doesn't really care about things having a designated area.

She's much more into the 'leave it where I dropped it' method. Not helpful.

5. The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

I'll be honest; I love a good tidy. It makes me feel more organised and more in control of this mess we call life. (Sometimes I even stay up late at night to tidy in secret.)

However, when you have small children, I find that trying to keep your house constantly tidy is a recipe for disappointment.

The real magic, for me, is accepting that my house won't be tidy, and getting on with things anyway.

Like trying to make dinner while helping my big kids with their homework and holding a grumbly toddler.

If anyone writes about how to do that, I'd buy that life-changing, magical book in a heartbeat.