How to Apply Marie Kondo's Minimalism to Parenting
Everyone seems to be talking about Marie Kondo and her minimalist principles that apply to tidying up. Whether her advice has helped you organize your home or not, the KonMari Method is actually very helpful for much more than just decluttering your home. Kondo’s advice happens to provide excellent metaphors for parenting lessons. Many of us consider parenting to be one of the most important yet overwhelming jobs out there. Here are a few ways a bit of minimalism and joy-sparking can help us make the most of parenting - both for our children and ourselves:
Marie Kondo: Declutter by category instead of by room
Parenting Lesson: Keep your focus on the larger values and priorities that are important to your family instead of nitpicking
Marie Kondo encourages us to declutter by category - clothes, books, photographs, etc. - instead of organizing one room at a time. So how does that apply to parenting? We need to stop focusing on the little things that go wrong (the rooms) and prioritize our larger values (the categories).
If almost any parent was asked about the values that she wants her family to prioritize, we would probably hear responses centered around concepts like kindness, respect, and happiness. Yet if most of us think honestly about the time we spend with our children, we might find very different messaging seems to stand out. It can be hard to admit to ourselves, but our children might hear more from us about hurrying up, cleaning up, and calming down than they do about our larger family values.
If we try to let go and relax about all of the little corrections and advice we give highlighting negative behaviors to our kids and keep the focus on the positive by modeling the values we hope to pass along to our children, we might find that they learn more about those values. Plus, we can enjoy the daily experience of parenting much more by relieving ourselves of the impulse to equate parenting with offering our children constant critical corrections.
Marie Kondo: Have respect for your belongings
Parenting Lesson: Have respect for your children
The KonMari Method suggests that we need to respect our belongings and show gratitude both for the belongings we decide to keep as well as the belongings we decide to get rid of. Similarly, we must always lead with respect and gratitude when parenting.
The best way to teach children to show respect for others is for them to feel our respect for them. We may hear that and think to ourselves that of course we respect our own kids, but there is more to it than that. We have to respect the place that our children come from: a place of innocence and curiosity and development. When we are stressed, rushed, or overburdened, it’s easy to forget how little they are - especially when they start to have the bodies of older kids. Children need our compassion and our calm, and that is often the most helpful way to show our respect for them from a parenting perspective.
Marie Kondo: Purging brings happiness
Parenting Lesson: Purge the focus on the most challenging moments, and focus on gratitude
Minimalism can bring happiness and clarity and reduce anxiety. If we look at the state of our homes as reflections of the state of our inner selves, letting go of what we don’t need or enjoy anymore can help us feel better in general. It’s the same with parenting.
Most of us probably fall asleep thinking about all of the things that we wish we had done differently that day. Maybe we wish we didn’t snap at our kids, or maybe we wish we sat down to play a game with the family instead of finishing a work assignment. Wouldn’t it feel better if we purged those kinds of thoughts and fell asleep thinking about the moments we were grateful for instead? Whether it was the extra hug your child gave you or the laughter you shared at the dinner table, focusing on those moments can bring a helpful perspective and allow us to recognize those positive moments of parenting more easily than being quick to zero in on the negative.
Marie Kondo: Fold your clothes instead of hanging them
Parenting Lesson: Fold your day into chunks rather than hanging yourself out to dry
Marie asks us to fold the majority of our clothes in a special, compact way with the intention of making our clothes happier and better organized. If only we could simply put our kids in the right place to ensure they would have a happier day, right?
Though there is no easy solution to ensuring our children’s happiness, we can be sure that it benefits both our kids and ourselves to have time carved out of our days when we can be fully present with our family. Hanging ourselves out to dry by trying to wear too many hats at once means that we are not fully present for anyone. If we can commit to creating at least one meaningful chunk of time per day when we are only spending time with our families (no work, no technology, no other tasks), we can feel like we parented with purpose that day and know that we gave the best of ourselves to our kids - at least for a little while.
Marie Kondo: Have the goal of finding what sparks joy for you
Parenting Lesson: Find what mutually sparks joy for you and your children
Marie Kondo’s name has become almost synonymous with discovering what sparks joy, and our obsession with this new concept is not surprising. Many busy parents find their days driven by productivity, scheduling, and sometimes simply survival, so it’s not surprising that an expert telling us to focus on joy would garner our attention.
Can you identify with that feeling of waiting until the bedtime routines are done to finally experience some joy through Netflix binging or the opportunity to just sit in peace with nothing to do? You are not alone! But wouldn’t it be nice to have another part of your day spark joy that involves some quality time with your kids? Take the time to discover what mutually sparks joy for both you and your children. Whether it’s taking nature walks, playing Monopoly marathons, or reading books together, the day feels so much easier and more enjoyable when you can look forward to time together that everyone enjoys.
Marie Kondo: Fall in love with your belongings again
Parenting Lesson: Fall in love with parenting again
The KonMari method provides us with the very enticing goal of falling in love with our belongings again. In a culture of excess and materialism, the thought of truly caring for and appreciating the things we have seems like a way to get back to basics in the best of ways.
How beautiful would it be if we could do the same with parenting? Imagine if we felt more of that intense love that knocked us off of our feet when our babies were first placed in our arms. Consider what parenting would be like if we spent more time cherishing and less time chastising; more time feeling grateful and less time beating ourselves up; more time being fully present with our children and less time feeling spread too thin.
Minimalism may not be the key to making everyone’s homes happier, but when we apply the concepts to parenting, we can spark all of the joy, gratitude, and peace that both our children and ourselves deserve as we move through the day to day of the most meaningful job we’ll ever have.
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