Kon mari family hack

As a personal organizer, people always ask: “Have you read Marie Kondo’s book?” Of course I have. I’m a personal organizer. Which leads to: “What do you think about it?”

The basic tenets of the KonMarie Method are as follows:

  1. Sort like items all at once by gathering them together

  2. Touch each object to see if it gives you joy

  3. Depending on the outcome of step two, you either keep or discard the item

  4. Before discarding an item, you thank it for its service

This seems simple enough, except:

  • Her directions are not all that appropriate for families

  • Not all items that you need in your home will bring you joy

  • Most people have way too much stuff to gather it all and organize at one time without feeling completely overwhelmed

I try to live a minimalist life, but let’s be real: I have three kids under the age of ten, and they also have their fair share of ‘stuff’.  Besides that, we are orthodox Jews, and there is a lot of paraphernalia that comes along with that – two sets of dishes, two sets of pots, two sets of silverware, candlesticks, challah covers and Passover dishes just to name a few.

Does everything in my home bring me joy?  Nope, not everything in my home brings me joy.  According to Marie Kondo, I should just say ‘thank you’ and donate that joyless stuff. But I need it. This may sounds like the classic line from Hoarders, but it’s true! We still eat meat and dairy, so I need two sets of dishes. We still have kids who read kids’ books, so we have some books that some kids aren’t reading right now, but will enjoy as they grow. And all my paper documents certainly don’t bring me joy, but when I want to get a new passport, or sell my house, or need to show my tax returns, having those documents will be an absolute necessity.

I agree with some of the ideas that she proposes – for example: you should organize by category. Let’s look at how her approach works with books: Take everything off your bookshelf and touch each book, decide whether you really need it or if you can let it go. Then, at the end of this process, place the books in a satisfying arrangement. If you have five bookshelves in a room, you might have anywhere from 15-50 books on any given shelf, depending on the thickness of the books. This means a total of 90-300 books per unit, and in a room with 3-5 units; this comes out to 1000 books or more. This doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that kids might have their own books in their own room: with KonMarie, you are supposed to sort all the books together.

The key thing that I always try to remind myself and my clients is this: to each problem there is a solution, and sometimes the solution has many steps.  Even if you were working with Marie Kondo in your home, the process would take several sessions. So keep in mind: it is okay to work in stages. Start by organizing yourself and your stuff, which will in turn inspire the rest of your family. This will solve Problem 1: it will enable you to learn how to sort yourself out first, so that you can then help your children.

Problem 2: Quantity. Go in stages! If your bookshelves make you nuts, fine – it is a great place to start. But if your closet is really getting to you because you “never have anything to wear”, then start there.

Problem 3: Time. Be honest about how long a task will take you, so you can really set aside enough time to complete the task. Typically, the average woman needs a minimum of 3-4 hours for a closet. And when you do get around to organizing your kids room, realize that time blocks of more than 30 minutes for small children are challenging.

I think that some of her tips are excellent:

  • Use dark bags for donation and trash so you can’t see inside them and regret what you chucked

  • Be considerate of other people –ask before you discard their things

  • Don’t try to pawn off your trash on other people unless you know they would really want it

There’s still one last thing, though … what happens after you get organized and new things cross the threshold of your wonderfully minimalist and organized home?  For the answer to that question, you’ll have to stay tuned for my next post.

Until then, happy organizing!