We find out how to clean up for CNY with the kids, Marie Kondo-style.

Children bring spontaneity into our lives. They remind us that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously; that there’s always time for play and laughter. However, with spontaneity comes mess – and *drumroll* – clutter.

With the Lunar New Year fast approaching, it’s time to get the mops and brooms out and prepare for yet another round of annual Spring Cleaning. This time, get the kids to do their part to help out.


Impossible, you say? Not if you do it Kondo style. Yes, that’s Marie Kondo, Japanese decluttering guru of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying fame we’re talking about.

Kondo, who has two children under two, reveals in recent interviews how she’s managed to keep her house free of clutter even with kids! Best of all, you can start with kids as young as two, she says. Here’s how to do it.

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1. Tidy by item, not by room

In the Kon Mari method, Marie Kondo puts a spin on conventional decluttering wisdom. Instead of cleaning room by room (like we’re usually inclined to), she advocates cleaning by item.

How to do it: Start with clothes, followed by books, documents, miscellaneous items, and lastly, sentimental items.

What the kids can do: Gather the kids around whichever pile you’re working on, and get them to thank their items before getting rid of them. This is the key concept in the Kon Mari method.

How to do it: Hold an item close to you to see if it “sparks joy”. If it does, keep it. If not, thank the item for the joy it has brought you, then let it go.

Does it work with kids?: “Rubbish!” I hear the more cynical among us say. “You think my fickle child with ever-changing tastes could ever decide what brings her ‘joy’?”

But wait. Have a little faith in your little one. In fact, Kondo believes that children as young as three can decide what gives them joy, and hence, what they should keep. As she told The Australian newspaper, “It’s never too early to learn how to tidy up. You can let your children take on a challenge when they turn about one year old, after they learn how to walk.”

Ultimately, she believes, this process inspires us to express gratitude for what we’ve had in our lives (while helping with decluttering, of course).

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2. Decide what to keep, not what to get rid of

Next, Kondo advises us to choose what to keep instead of deciding what to get rid of. The key principle here is that each person should make the decision for themselves.

But what if my child decides that she would rather hold on to that grubby, stinky ‘chou-chou’ and get rid of her nice, new – insert item here? Let her.

Forcing someone to keep or give up an item could possibly have a negative effect on how they view decluttering or cleaning in the future. And you want your child to be able to eventually let it go, remember?

(See also: Spring-clean Your Kids’ Medicine Cabinet)

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3. Keep school work and art projects to the last

School work and art projects belong to the “Sentimental Items” category. Deal with these last. Gather Kiddo, and allow him to keep anything that continues to – yes – spark joy in him.

The work and art projects that children complete give them a sense of accomplishment – which they shouldn’t be forced to relinquish. In fact, if your children take great pride in any particular works, display them for everyone to see, Kondo advises. This will inspire confidence in your kids to continue creating, she says.

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4. Create a store-away area

One easy way to introduce the concept of cleaning to children is to create a store-away area for their items. Make sure they keep their items in the agreed upon location, and that it is always stored in that place.

“What a parent can certainly do with children is to make sure that they understand that for each item they own, there should be a place in the room,” Kondo told Real Simple. “And that after an item is used, it should be put back in its proper place.”

Kondo was surprised to find her own daughter Satsuki, aged two, placing her books, stuffed animals, and toys back in their assigned spaces more precisely than she expected. By instilling this sense of responsibility in your child, you could be pleasantly surprised too!

(See also: Spring Cleaning 101: Get Your Home Spiffy The Natural Way!)

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5. Create a ‘Hall of Fame’ for kids’ books

Dealing with your child’s growing library can be a headache. Kondo suggests creating a ‘hall of fame’ for their most treasured books. This can include their favourite bedtime stories, most-read books, or books that they enjoy that can be read again in the future.

Let kiddo ‘thank’ the other books for the joy they’ve given her, and let her know that by parting with them (you can donate them to the Book Exchange Corner at various public libraries in Singapore), they’re allowing the books to bring joy to another child.

By reinforcing this concept of giving thanks, the kids will (read: are supposed to) learn to be grateful for all that they have. Furthermore, they’ll learn that by having a spirit of giving, they’ll be able to bring joy to others, too.

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Time to Declutter like Kondo with the Kids

With these five tips from Marie Kondo on how to get your kids started on decluttering, you’re all set to tackle this year’s Spring Cleaning with them!

Remember, this should be a collaborative process between the adults and the kids, and each person should have deciding power over their own items.

By starting your children early on this path of decluttering, you’ll be instilling a sense of responsibility and gratitude in them. And guess what? The house will be clean, clear, and ready to receive abundant prosperity in the Lunar New Year. Win-win. And of course, huat ah!

Featured image: huyen
Header image: breather