The Kon of KonMari

Last January we celebrated 16 years in our house, the home we built from the ground up, selecting finishes and amenities we were sure would last a lifetime. I mean, it seemed so big then, like we would never fill it.

What morons we were.

During that time, I had three kids and apparently also birthed a tremendous amount of stuff. Now stuff is not necessarily a bad thing. But I had STUFF; bad and overwhelming piles. So I did what every Internet junkie does; I consulted Marie Kondo. This Japanese organization expert and her KonMari method make Martha Stewart look like amateur hour.

I was pumped! So sure that a little Kondo would translate into some serious Kan-do.

Yeah, well, not so much.

First of all, Kondo does not speak English or at least very limited English. She prattles on in Japanese while we wait, surrounded by our piles, for her wisdom to be imparted by a translator. So is the translator the real genius here? How do we know? Kondo could be talking about Japan’s average rainfall rates and NO ONE WOULD KNOW.

She is perky and attractive and smiles a lot. Could she be a front for some matronly organizational guru with no charm and spark?

OK, Stiles, focus. Focus on the message.

Which is: Things should spark joy or we should get rid of them.

This theory could put my children in grave danger at least once a day. I’m kidding … sort of.

Anyhoo, I was ready to face a decade and a half’s worth of possibly soulless, joyless objects with some Hefty trash bags to bolster me.

An hour later, I had filled three bags with broken bits of my son’s “must have” toys and a few broken bits of my heart, and I had fought back the big ugly cry burning in my chest.

Is this the KonKry Method?

I don’t remember a chapter about tears and trash but I soldiered on. Out went the Barney books, which realistically sparked whatever the opposite of joy is. Adios Diego and Dora: You made me miserable in two languages. Puzzles with missing pieces and cars with three wheels didn’t make the cut either.

BAM! I was kicking some Kondo butt.

After hauling eight bags outside for bulk pick-up, I posted the bigger firetrucks and ambulances on my Moms Facebook group. I mean, nothing brings joy to a new generation of moms like a wailing siren that, inexplicably, never depletes the batteries.

You’re welcome.

I was on a roll and woke up the next day totally jazzed to tackle the closets. When you have three boys, you end up with a lot of hand-me-downs. I had bins and bins of perfectly good clothing that my youngest two wouldn’t be caught dead in.

Cargo Pants = death by cotton.

Except, I did not want to part with those clothes. I could picture the boys—sometimes all three—in a particular outfit and I was a blubbering mess. I laid my head on a pile of Old Navy sweatshirts, stared at the ceiling and wondered if there was Kondo Kobweb method I should be taking advantage of.

I lamely rationalized that all this emotion must be joy, closed my eyes and put the clothing slowly into bags, saving just a few items that had significance.

Like the homemade basketball uniform that I pieced together from the 1000 City of Gaithersburg jerseys we had amassed. Only the youngest child has a treasure such as this because Mom would NEVER miss the basketball sign-up and subsequent jersey assignment with the first two kids. I begged the coach to let my son on the team, paid the equivalent of a mortgage in late fees, dyed a t-shirt brown and proceeded to glue, stitch and iron on decals to create the ugliest uniform known to man.

It was either my highest or lowest parenting moment ever. Only future therapy will reveal the truth.

This exercise was way harder than the toys. I needed a King-sized Kondo Kocktail to help me find some serious joy.

The piece-de-resistance of the KonMari method is the folding of the clothes you have deemed an extended member of the family. If anything is going into a drawer, it must be folded into itself over and over until it is the size of an envelope.

With no experience at Gap, this was daunting for me.

I was pretty sure I was going to get Karpal Tunnel Syndrome by Kondo if I kept this up. Then I remembered one little factoid in the bio of our fearless, clean leader.

She has one child, who will celebrate her first birthday this summer.


Now it all made sense. She’s not delusional (OK, well clearly she is); she is just naïve. In fact, when she developed this revolutionary, impractical method, she had no children at all.

Please, write a book when you have multiple kids, backpacks, cleats, clothes that might maybe fit if you ever find the time to exercise, endless photo albums with pictures that make you weepy and, well, STUFF.

Sometimes all that stuff is a reminder of a life well lived and the things we loved while doing it. Ms. Kondo, if that’s Klutter then Kount me in.