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Decluttering Consultant Says It's Easy to Teach Kids How to Clean Up and Shows Us How
PHOTO BY @sparkjoy.ph/Instagram
  • The idea of a clean and organized home when you have young kids seems laughable. So parents comfort themselves with articles about how the mess kids make engages their senses (we're boosting how he learns!). But the clutter also offers you a teaching opportunity to help your child develop critical life skills like responsibility, decision-making, and independence, all based on the lesson of tidying up.

    One person who believes this strongly is decluttering guru, Marie Kondo, who puts her famous "KonMari" method to work in real homes on the Netflix show called Tidying Up. In the first episode called "Tidying With Toddlers," the mom is surprised at Kondo's suggestion that she lets the kids help her fold clothes. The idea sounds preposterous at first because her kids are under the age of 5. Well, the joke is on us because Kondo lets it slip that her daughters, also below the age of 5, fold clothes with her, a habit she describes as akin to reading a book because they do it before bedtime.

    "Of course, when I fold clothes my daughters crush [the clothes]," Kondo, laughing, says in her halting English.

    "So what do you do in those times?" the mom asks.

    Kondo replies, "I do scold them."

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    The KonMari method focuses on looking at tidying as a special event, changing one’s mindset about tidying, and asking yourself if an item you own sparks joy. While it seems impossible to teach kids this method, Kondo believes kids as young as 2 years old can be trained to do it.

    “Teaching our kids how to tidy is a valuable life skill that will definitely serve them well into adulthood. Exposing our kids to the KonMari method early on is the best way to teach them about tidying,” says Christine Dychiao, a mom of three and the Philippines’ first and only licensed KonMari consultant.

    “Personally, I started doing KonMari when my kids were 5 and 2 with another one on the way. As I look back now, it was actually the perfect time for me to start since my kids grew up familiar with the method and they have been ‘trained’ to take care of their things this way.

    “My daughter knows how to do the KonMari fold and her drawer has little boxes, compartmentalizing her hair accessories and other little things. They also have no problem letting go of their things,” she explains.

    How to apply the KonMari Method at home when you have kids

    Address the struggle of tidying up

    How do you clean up your room? Do you often look back at the memories attached to the items in your closet? NBC News Better writes that “our desire to hold onto piles of old mementos can often be blamed on nostalgia.”

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    Christine points out, “We are a sentimental lot and dealing with sentimental items is a fairly common trouble point.” The KonMari method has tips on what to do with photos, gifts, and items with sentimental value.

    Set a good example for your kids

    “Walk the talk, and they will have no other way of knowing how to manage their belongings but through this way. What’s amazing is that when the kids see their mom tidying, they also want to do the same, no fail,” the consultant shares.

    Turn tidying up into a bonding experience

    “As a mom, the show reinforced Marie Kondo’s philosophy that tidying is a personal matter, and that taking care of our home is a family effort. Everyone has to be responsible for their own belongings. We can’t solely put the task of tidying on one person,” Christine explains.

    It is a good way of teaching kids to be responsible for their belongings. From knowing where to keep their toys to fixing their cabinets, there are baby steps you can take that teach the value of tidying up.


    Tidy by category

    When tidying with kids, Christine suggests doing it by category: begin with clothes, then books, papers, miscellaneous items, and items with sentimental value. Trying to accomplish so many things all at once will only leave you exhausted and frustrated if you aren’t successful at the end of the day.

    Categorizing their things can make it easier for you to go through piles efficiently. “There are toys or blankets that kids are attached to. Treat these as sentimental items and save them for last when tidying by category,” she suggests.

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    Do not project what you want onto your kids

    Christine notes that it’s easier for kids to let go of their toys and it’s the parents who are sentimental about letting go of some. “You’ll be surprised at how easy it is for kids to declutter. A friend told me her son was willing to give away toys, but it was her husband who had a hard time letting go,” she shares.


    Let your kids learn how to let go and manage their own belongings.

    Guide your kids through the process

    Remember that you cannot tidy for your kids. “Young kids know what makes them happy. Let them tidy and when guiding them, talk to them in a language they’ll understand. Instead of asking them ‘does it spark joy?’ ask them if they enjoy wearing it or if a toy makes them happy,” the consultant suggests.

    Start with small chores

    Cleaning can be overwhelming, especially for the young ones. Like how adults do it, you can begin with small chores like cleaning their toy box or fixing their cabinet. Turn it into a fun, bonding experience wherein you’ll get a treat after the cleaning session. “Involve them in the task of tidying and teach them that it is not a chore to dreaded, but a celebration of taking care of things that bring them joy,” she shares.

    One mom we've featured finds kiddie-sized tools to teach her toddler responsibility. Read about her story here.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Cherdyn Mojica

    Have a home for everything

    “Assign a place for their clothes, shoes, books, and toys. Train them to return their things to their proper homes. Clutter often adds up because of the failure to return things to where they belong. Teach them this and you’ve won half the bottle,” explains Christine.

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    You can KonMari your kids' artwork, too

    Who would want to discard a cute drawing their son made for art class? How about that doodle that has been on your refrigerator for months? Christine says, “Don’t keep things because you think that by letting go of them, you are hurting their feelings. Unless your child asks you to specifically keep something, be honest in asking them if they want to keep a doodle or a drawing. More often than not, they will say it is fine for you to let go of it.”


    Commit to tidying up

    Tidying up isn’t a one-time, trending challenge that you need to do just because Marie Kondo is on your social media feed lately. It takes commitment, and you’ll be surprised at how other families are taking it seriously.

    “Tidying is a commitment that reaps immeasurable benefits. Make time for it. I have clients who took time off from work so they could tidy once and for all. I believe that investment of time was worth it because after tidying, it did not only help their kids focus better in school, but they also went on to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves.”

    Christine works with families and different clients by guiding them through their KonMari journey. Follow her on Instagram @sparkjoy.ph or join their support group on Facebook Spark Joy Philippines.

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