The Life-Changing Mess of Having Small Humans
Like most Americans, we have a lot of stuff in our house. Toys, clothes, housewares, general items we “might need” someday – just stuff. Everywhere.
Our 3-bedroom ranch-style house is relatively small, and because it was built in the ‘60s before consumers became so consumer-y, we’re short on closet space. We’ve cleaned, reorganized, purged, reduced and recycled more times than I care to count. But the stuff? It keeps coming back, kind of like Miley Cyrus or man buns.
Therefore, when I heard about Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” I knew I had to check it out. I refused to buy the book (because-more stuff), so I put a request in from the library. A few months ago, I read through the book and tried to heed her advice.
Some of it was just plain weird. For instance, if you’re deciding whether to keep an item in your house, you’re supposed to pick it up, place it close to your heart, and ask yourself if it “sparks joy.” So, those stretched-out yoga pants you throw on while noshing on nachos during your “Game of Thrones” marathon? Those should go into the “donate pile” – “should” being the operative word.
Marie also says that you should fold your clothes and socks so that they can “rest” and empty the contents of your purse every single day. Yes, that’s right. She says to clean out your purse EVERY DAY. Uh-huh. Ok.
Despite the weirdness, my husband and I decided to try to enact her suggestions. First, we rounded up all of our clothes from every location in our house. Our lack of closet space forced us to stash extra clothes inside tote boxes, in the laundry room, attic, and so forth. She is right – once you pull ALL of your clothes from ALL over your house into one location and see the sheer volume, it’s shocking–especially when you see how much you don’t even wear anymore. For instance, here’s the pile of kid’s clothes we’d been hanging onto in the hopes of having another nugget:
We purged clothes and closets. Save for a few favorite outfits, I got rid of my teacher-y clothes because they’ve been hanging untouched in my closet for more than 4 years. I also cleared the clothes I have been hoping to get back into since I had my kiddo 6 years ago. Before we knew it, we had a mountain of garbage bags and boxes of “stuff” to donate and sell.
I’ll admit, actually having room in my closet so that my clothes could “breathe” felt good, even after my adoring husband remarked that he could see the back wall of my closet for the first time in 10 years. He’s such a kidder.
Yet, as I was reading through her book, assimilating her advice, I kept asking myself, “Yes. Good idea. But what if you have kids? Where’s the advice about having children? And all of the ‘stuff’ that goes along with caring for a tiny person or two or more?”
Fast forward a few months. I was reading a magazine when I spotted an interview with Ms. Kondo, who now has a baby.
In this article, she states, “Even though our baby is still quite young and her stuff doesn’t get all over the house, when she is about 3 years old I will begin to teach her how to fold things and give her basic tidying information.”
Now, I’m sure Ms. Kondo is a lovely woman and a wonderful mom, but: Oh, Marie.
As any parent knows, a child’s idea of “organization” is not quite the same as an adult’s.
Sure, 3-year-olds can put their toys away. We started teaching my daughter how to “tidy up” when she was about 2. She loved helping. It made her feel like a big girl.
But here’s the thing. Babies are easy because they don’t yet know how to speak and argue with you, and haven’t yet mastered the ability to DESTROY EVERYTHING IN THEIR PATHS.
Three-year-olds…and 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds and yes, even 6-year-olds…they love to put things into things. And they also love to take things out of other things. And then, put those things all over your house.
They also love to help you reorganize. Unfortunately, their version of “tidying up” and “reorganizing” is often quite different from that which you’ll find on the pages of “House Beautiful.” In fact, there’s a reason this meme has become so popular:
While I appreciate Ms. Kondo’s insistence that we rely too much on our “stuff,” try telling that to your child when she leaves a friend’s birthday party, clutching a paper sack filled with plastic trinkets that she will not let you throw away.
Or wait until her backpack is filled day after day after day with paper after paper after paper of her artwork and drawings and worksheets that she IS SO PROUD OF AND THAT MAMA HERE HANG THEM ON THE FRIDGE.
Or wait until she starts crafting. Oh, the joy of crafting. Children looooove to create things, Marie. And their idea of a beautiful craft that “sparks joy” is NOT going to represent yours. Ohhhh, no. My daughter routinely staples and tapes random objects together and hands them to me and tells me, “Here, Mama. I made you another project!” Exhibit A:
So, I think I’m going to start working on a book. It’s going to be called “The Life-Altering Frustration of Living With Kid Stuff.” It’ll come with something guaranteed to “spark joy”—a free bottle of wine for the parents. Cheers!