A joyful home is a clutter-free zone

by Eve Wee-Ang

We are very grateful to Parents&Kids Shanghai for their permission to reprint this article

I used to wonder… why bother returning things when you might need them later? Doesn’t it make more sense to pile them up like a landfill on the table and dumpster dive through the mess? 

Five years ago, my home resembled a pig sty. I had two young boisterous children, who were age five and six and back then, had absolutely no idea about putting their toys back. And I can’t blame them because afterall they were only modelling their mother’s behaviour. And when an unexpected guest showed up I simply scooped the erupting volcano up and promptly locked it up in the guest room. I would then let it rot in there whilst growing another fresh pile of clutter until remembering months later. 

And then one day, my husband announced he was taking a sabbatical and we were moving to a tiny unit to save on rent. After having recovered from my shock I scanned my house and suddenly saw with a fresh pair of eyes the amount of junk that had magically crept its way in, laying claim over every corner until my house no longer resembled a home but…a storage shack. We have SO much stuff, what are we going to do? 

Like a light cast down from heaven, I chanced upon a book called ‘The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo. I read and executed her command like Word of God. Miraculously, we managed to move comfortably into the tiny dwelling with enough room to dance and we didn’t miss any of the stuff we donated away. It was shortly after this that I decided I would train to be a certified Konmari consultant. 

From Marie Kondo’s book I have adapted her Konmari method of fighting clutter for families with young children into an easy step-by-step guide; hope this brings your family as much joy as it did mine.

Step by Step

Step 1: Visualise your desired home and lifestyle

With children as young as five, discuss as a family and envision how they wish their rooms and common areas, for example the living room, to look like. Browse home décor magazines together for inspiration. This step is important as it sets the stage for a family goal that everyone can work towards. 

Step 2: Tidying party starts! 

Set a date and announce it excitedly! Start a family journal by taking before and after photographs to compare how far you have come together. Share with the kids the charity organisations that will be benefiting from your family’s donation.

Step 3: Declutter by category

Let’s make a mountain! Gather all your children’s clothes and lay them on a pile. Pick each item and encourage them to hold it whilst asking, “Do these jeans spark joy for you?” 

Demonstrate joy by encouraging them to pick their top three favourites. Teach them gratitude by saying thank you and goodbye to the clothes they are donating away. 

Like my daughter, as she is a bookworm and extremely sentimental, this one may be challenging for your kids. Along the same step with clothes, remove books from bookshelves and lay them on the floor. Ask them which ones spark joy and which ones don’t.  My daughter did eventually donate some of her books though not as much as I was hoping as she proudly declared to me that they ALL spark joy so… “hands off mum!”

Go through their artwork together and display the ones that put a smile on your faces and discard the rest. Don’t forget to write your artist’s name and the year they drew it so you can reminisce in future.

Anything that your children find hard to part with can be left till last. This may include toys, sports equipment or musical instruments. Please remember we are not insisting our children discard as much as they want. Rather, we are encouraging them to only keep and treasure things that spark joy and serve them in life. There is a difference. 

Final Step: Organising and Storing

Teach your children to fold their clothes into rectangles and make a game of who can build a tower. Organise and store similar items together e.g. Swim floats and water guns. And aim to store things vertically to save space and for easy retrieval. 

Finally, designate a space in your home for each child to store their personal belongings and favourite items. This gives the child a sense of ownership to keep their own space tidy. A personal space also helps a child learn to cherish their own possessions.

Eve Wee-Ang is training to be a certified Konmari consultant and credits her life-changing magic of no longer living in a pig sty to Marie Kondo.