*This post was originally published 2 years ago.
A few months ago, I stumbled on a book called “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. And it was kind of magic and kind of life changing; it definitely inspired us. One thing she doesn’t touch on a lot specifically is how to go about this life changing magic with the children in our home, though a big part of her message is to only do your own things. So how did we approach it?
The spaces where a child’s things inhabit will be different from family to family (and house to house), Marie Kondo advises to keep all like things together but just as you wouldn’t take that to mean your own possessions need to inhabit one spot, your children’s possessions need not either. In our home I consider my children’s spaces as their own “house” which helps to detach my expectations of how it should be or look or what should be held within it.
It was important not to take short cuts for me. I wanted to support them in going through the process in its entirety, having them hold each thing and decide if it sparks joy. The clincher here is to accept whatever decision they make. There things, their choice.
Them having less things could never be more important than our relationship with them. We weren’t going to do something they were uncomfortable with.
You see, you could try all the well known “tricks” with kids for purging like keeping x amount or one in one out (or two out or whatever) or play off their guilt of already having so many x so shouldn’t they gift others away but it sort of defeats the whole process to focus on getting rid of things in an arbitrary and rule orientated fashion. Whilst we might want our kids to have less, surely what we want more than that is for kids to develop a mindfulness and gratitude for their things and a highly attuned joy meter. We have to accept our responsibility for things getting to this point and know that there is no quick fix for shifting the family culture; it is a long term goal best met through supporting each person’s own choices (mistakes included) and leading by example.
If we become the driving force, the commander of the process then what room is their for them to learn? And perhaps that is just encouraging hoarding tendencies because it makes sense to hold onto as much as possible lest someone or something out of your control sweep through and clear a large percentage out, you need a safety buffer. It also sends a message that our joy meter is more ‘true’ than their own and I really don’t want that. For a message to be absorbed it needs to come from within them, it needs to be internally motivated; it is a personal journey. For me, beyond that, autonomy is the priority always. It is not something I would compromise for a concept, especially with all I believe to be true of people and learning. This is my ideal, it won’t necessarily be theirs.
Something it helps to remember is that kids are less burdened by baggage and surely we want to keep it that way! I feel like it is the conditioning of a parent who continues to suggest they might need this or this was expensive or but your grandma gave you that or I like that (read often as “I like the kind of parent it helps me feel for you to own that”) that breaks down and dilutes the inner attunement to joy originally. It is a parent enforced slither that begins fear based hoarding. When you protect the option of abundance, it leaves a person safer to let go of more.
And what of our own baggage? Perhaps the most important thing is to actually work through the process yourself first. Often we have hugely conditioned fears that will be barriers to authentically meeting our child’s needs through their own process. If you are unschooling, perhaps the biggest one will be surrounding your responsibility to provide your child with abundance…. but what if we considered the abundance of time and space and detached from taking ownership of that role; particularly in today’s world with so much access to things without needing to personally store or own them, children have such ease in building their own versions of abundance — and isn’t that what unschooling should be about? Supporting their own direction!
The other thing is that kids change rapidly. Things will eventually be worn out or outgrown or outplayed naturally, without any need to control that variable. And as we move towards a more mindful approach of what we bring in as we live new truths, reduction can take place at a slower, more comfortable pace.
I think, when it comes to children, finding everything a home is what sets them up for success even if they decide to keep everything. They can clearly see then that there is not endless space without the concept being forced upon them. They also will be empowered and enabled to take better care of their things when homes are clear and specific, encouraging mindfulness. This is why I think helping home items should be the focus for a parent, they might need time to truly trust and hone in on their joy, especially if they have lived in an environment that has diminished their personal voice.
Both girls were excited to go through the process having watched us so we just followed their lead of when to start and explained the process. Our youngest who is 3 found joy in almost all of her things, she thanked and let go of a handful at most so I concentrated on helping her find them proper homes so that things could be at rest and so she had space to enjoy her room. I think what helped most for her is seeing everything have a home and feeling how it felt to be in that room – it was much simpler to play and to find things, it was much more peaceful. She still has largely the same amount of things but her room has a completely different feel to it and it is so much easier to keep in a usable state for her which is joy sparking for both of us.
KonMari was never meant to be about purging, you don’t have to get rid of a lot to feel the effect because it is about becoming more intentional with the environment you curate. Joy is different for every person, forget expectations and focus on surrounding your family with theirs!