Marie Kondo, Japan's Queen of Clean, has almost nothing to say on the subject of children.
It's spring-cleaning time and I've been re-reading her two bestselling books for inspiration: The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up and the sequel Spark Joy, in which she advocates that readers take each object in their house and hold it close to their body to feel whether it "sparks joy" or not. She is very keen on throwing things out but conspicuously circumspect on the topic of how to cope with the most disorganizing life experience of all: choosing to spend one's life with small irrational beings with zero respect for radical minimalism and Zen-like order.
In the new book there is one paragraph on the importance of teaching children to fold and another on what to do with all your kid's artwork ("thank [the artworks] for helping your child to grow and discard them guilt-free"). Otherwise, she has nothing to say on the value of children themselves, never mind their tendency to be mollified and delighted by objects that could not possibly "spark joy" in any sane person with even a fraction of good taste.
Given this void of advice, I have taken it upon myself to adopt her voice to create a new set of rules I think of as "the KonMarie Method for Parents."
1. Commit yourself to the project of ignoring your children.
"From the perspective of the larger entity that is your home, your things and everyone else's things are all equally its children." I would add one major exception to this rule and that would be actual human children, who unlike joy-sparking objects such as a white china tea mug or the perfect square flower vase tend to be loud, unpredictable and difficult to store in drawers wrapped in tissue paper.
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
In your mind's eye, you are a tiny, flawlessly dressed Japanese woman living alone in a 600-square-foot Tokyo apartment who eats a small bowl of fish and seaweed each night before retiring in silence to her tatami mat to count her enormous book royalties on a paper-thin smartphone. If caught in close proximity to children, you press your lips together and breathe deeply through your nose until the feeling of panic subsides.
3. Discard any offspring.
I know it sounds extreme, but I cannot tell you how many clients have thanked me profusely after I persuaded them to finally get rid of the children destroying their dream of having a tidy home. Despite my assurances, most skeptical parents will initially object to this advice by saying, "But Marie, what if they come in handy at some point? After all, I put so much work into raising them this far, don't I deserve some kind of payoff?" This kind of thinking is taboo and, moreover, a sentimental hold-over from our outdated and utterly useless instinct for biological continuity.
The truth is, children disrupt tidiness from the moment they appear (wailing, sticky, on their own schedule). From that moment on, they do everything they can to keep us from effectively tidying up, whether dumping Cheerios on the floor or destroying a painstakingly arranged seasonal shoe storage system.
Therefore, finally getting rid of your children is your payoff for raising them. Don't be afraid to reward yourself in this way. After all those years of chaos and disorder, you deserve a break! (There are many charitable organizations that will take spare children, see back of the book for details.)
4. Tidy kid stuff by category, not by location.
Once you have successfully discarded your children, the hard work is done. It's time to get rid of the ugly crap they brought into your life – all of it! Collect all the assorted brightly coloured junk from every corner of your house (be sure to check behind sofa cushions and under beds) starting with the clothes, followed by papers, toys, toiletries, snack food and eating utensils.
Finally, only when you are fully committed to your task, approach "sentimental items." Keep a couple of baby pictures if you must, but only by scanning them and storing them on your home computer. Do not give in to the temptation to spend hours mooning over baby booties or pressing your face into a Spider-Man pillowcase whilst sobbing inconsolably. These are the amateur mistakes made by those who lack the stamina and spiritual fortitude to be truly tidy, inside and out.
At this point you might be tempted to give your former child's things to charity, for apparently there are "needy" children out there (no doubt living in hideously unkempt homes) but in my view this is insufficiently cleansing for the soul. What you need now is a grand ritual to celebrate your new child-free self being reborn from the ashes of kid crap. Take the mound into your backyard or nearest park, douse with gasoline and light with a match. Stand back and experience the calming joy of watching a vomit-encrusted IKEA high chair swallowed by the flames.
6. Enjoy your new tidy life.
Now that your house has been successfully purged of disorder and chaos, walk through each room and pick up the remaining objects – all of them neatly arranged and dust-free – and ask yourself whether they "spark joy." If you feel a terrible, roiling black emptiness in the pit of your stomach accompanied by a ringing in the ears, do not give in to the urge to collapse in a heap in the middle of your immaculate kitchen screaming for your lost child like a dying animal. Instead, take a single white china mug from the cupboard and thank it calmly for the service it provides. Fill with green tea and drink.