How parenting helped Marie Kondo make room for a little chaos

I I had big plans for my video interview with lifestyle influencer and grooming guru Marie Kondo. My home office view would be perfect. the old reporter’s stacks of notebooks would be moved to the big over (in the trash), Andrew Cuomo’s gag gift would go to his forever home (in the trash), and the clean laundry hanging from the husband’s office chair I will migrate to this correct position (a heap on the bed). I would find a single piece of clothing to wear that wasn’t wrinkled. For this 30-minute interview, I promised to transform myself into a tidy person.

It wasn’t to be. My daughter Rosie was on her third day with a fever and I spent the day trying to work between screaming fits. I was finally putting her to sleep after half an hour of hard crying when my phone started buzzing. She was the face of Marie Kondo’s press, who told me I was 15 minutes late in our interview.

I put Rosie in her crib and got on my computer. It wasn’t until I got into Google Meet that I realized I still had grape baby Tylenol on my (obviously wrinkled) shirt. After apologizing a million times, we got down to why I had created this call in the first place.

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

Parenting for me has 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 have to do in a day. With the Konmari method, I teach more than how to clean and how to organize your environment. It’s really about developing a lifestyle that brings joy to each individual. So choosing not only what items 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 planned and then you had a kid-related crisis that brought chaos to a relatively regular day?

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

You recently mentioned in a different interview that having your third child created a change for you and your approach to settling down. What was the difference between two kids and three kids when it came to keeping your house tidy?

I think the biggest change with the third child is probably this spread in ages. The older child will have to go to school so we are getting ready to head out the door, but the younger one is still a baby and they are helpless on their own. So I have a lot more on my mind. It became very apparent to me that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to give the full attention that each task requires when I slightly changed my mindset about getting organized.

Maybe it’s not necessary to get fully organized every day because physically, there just wasn’t enough time or energy to do it. And instead of arranging to the point of exhaustion and stressing out your family, stressing out, waking up tired the next morning, I left a little to finish the next day. There may be a small mess or a small area that is not completely tidy. The most important thing I learned from this is to act in the best interests of my family, which means I have the right amount of time to recover. Therefore, it is never worth settling things at the expense of bringing negative energy into the family.

Are your kids tidy too or are they messy?

Of course 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 arrangement. Sometimes they can have too much fun playing or things can get a little out of hand and leave a bit of a mess behind. But the most important thing I teach them right now is to always define a so-called “home” for each object.

So what was it like for you to realize with a third child that it was okay to have little portions that weren’t neat? Because it’s a slight departure from the previous Konmari method, right?

I wouldn’t call it a departure so much. It’s really the Konmari method, the so-called “tidy festival” if you will, where you go through your entire house and take inventory of what you have: feel each object and determine what sparks joy and what doesn’t, keeping the objects that spark joy in life you and let go of the items that no longer bring you joy. But for the day-to-day arrangement, it’s more of a personal change in my mindset for me. The goal is not to always be neat. The goal is to create an environment and space that brings joy to your life.

Is there a particular thing at home with your family that just pisses you off? For me it’s my daughter throwing 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 throw them anywhere. No matter how many times I tell her to put them in her face, she somehow manages to throw them wherever she can. I find it amusing that after so many times he’s told her, “Hey, here go the socks, here’s the house, that’s what we decided,” she still somehow manages to avoid putting up the barrier.

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

Kids really watch their parents more than you think. So if it seems like kids are sloppy or not listening, it’s often because the parents’ mental capacity is really over the top. So if something is going on at work or the parents are really stressed, the kids will somehow pick up on it and reciprocate a similar state of mind. Parents’ mental state and stress level is a direct reflection of how children behave.

Do you have a parenting hack that you’ve found has made it all easier?

I teach my kids how to fold at a very young age. Children fold their clothes and return them to their designated spots. Because this same theory can be applied to many different things in life. And I think it’s really shaped their philosophy in a way and their outlook on life.

How old are we talking here?

Three years old. The simple objects. So socks, for example, or maybe a square scarf – something that’s really simple. Nothing too complicated.

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I am writing to Charlotte Alter at

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