Marie Kondo and Baby Clothes
If you’re a parent to very young children (or you remember what it’s like), then you’ll be familiar with the astounding regularity with which everything needs to get washed over, and over, and over again.
As things cycle in and out of drawers and cupboards, sizes get mixed up and things get confused. Eventually, one morning, you’re standing, bleary-eyed, in front of the cupboard. What looks like thousands of pieces of clothing are overflowing drawers and shelves, and you yet you can’t identify any two items that would both fit and not clash. In frustration, you finally dress your daughter in fancy dress, because you’re too tired to think.
Then, one day, you stumble across the Marie Kondo (or is it Konmarie?) method, and you think, “Wouldn’t it be nice if my cupboards looked like an exercise in zen gardening?“
I tried the Marie Kondo method once before, with decent results, but maintaining it and applying it all the kids clothes is a different challenge.
That’s what it looks like, if you do it fast. I’m sure that Marie Kondo herself would find a way to make it more zen-like, but believe me, it was a massive improvement. I’d show you the “before” pictures, but you’d never take me seriously again.
The baby who’s sitting at the top left of the image (a small foot extends into the frame) thought it was particularly fun to grab items I had folded and shake them before putting them in her mouth.
The Benefits of the Marie Kondo Method
There are three main advantages to the Marie Knodo method, as I see it:
Folding every piece of clothing forced me to go through all of the clothes for each of my two daughters.
Marie Kondo likes to ask, “does it spark joy?” When you’ve slept 3 hours out of the last 48, that question sparks a desire to kick a wall. A more relevant question in this case was, “Does it fit?” I checked each size before I folded the clothing and a lot ended up in a pile I chose not to photograph.
The morning after the folding exercise, however, I was able to sleepwalk to the closet, sleepchoose the clothes for my daughter and sleepdress her before making her breakfast. I realized, after I woke up, that I had dressed her in entirely appropriate clothing, without having to go to the trouble of becoming fully conscious at any time.
The amount of space my daughters clothes now take up is about half what it was before I folded them. I’m not talking about all the clothes I stored in a box because they didn’t fit anymore. I’m talking about the clothes in the picture.
Once you’ve arranged clothes in tight little squares, you start to understand how the Japanese can live in seven square meters of space and think it’s a luxury.
This led directly to the final advantage:
No, I’m not talking about cowboys in space, I’m talking about my state of mind when I open the cupboard.
Before this exercise, clothes were stacked loosely around each other, making it impossible to see what was really there. Moreover, any attempt to get one item of clothing from the cupboard resulted in the entire Jenga pile collapsing onto the floor.
Now, the inside of the cupboard is better organised than pretty much any other part of the apartment, which is amazingly gratifying for reasons that are extremely hard to explain.
The Drawbacks of the Marie Kondo Method
It’s Hard to Maintain
I mentioned above that the speed with which kids clothes circulate in and out of both the cupboard and the washing machine is very high. To keep this level of order in the cupboard requires an ongoing diligence that’s harder than it would be for my clothes, or the kitchen cupboards.
It Takes Time When You Do It
Moreover, this is not an exercise for the time-poor. I find time every so often to wrestle the clothes back into order, but I tread a fine line between letting the chaos take over and pulling the entire project back from the brink. I don’t have convenient 20-minute slices of free time whenever the clothes are ready to be folded, so the process has to be batched according to my own spare time.
People Think You’re A Bit Weird
And can you blame them? You just invested an hour of your time folding clothes that will be unfolded within the next 3 days, just so the inside of the cupboard, which you notice for a total of 7 minutes a day, can be organised like a good game of tetris.
It is weird.
Seriously. It’s a real problem. Once the whole thing goes to hell, you can tolerate the mess even less than before.
If you have lots of time, and you want a little zen in your home, you might consider throwing away two thirds of your stuff and folding the rest into little squares.
For all of my mockery, it’s actually a very valuable approach to modern living. It forces us to take time out of our self-imposed hurry and focus on a simple, satisfying, ordered task.
The Japanese are famous (at least from a Western perspective) for their extreme attention to detail. This creates a very curated personal and professional environment that inspires contemplative calm. I truly wish I could organise my home in such a way that everything has its place, creating an absence of visual noise.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that with two very small children in the house, I will have the time to compensate for their tendency to unwrap, unfold and unstack everything they come across. Perhaps in time they can be brought around, or they can learn to contain their free expression to certain spaces in the house. In the meantime, I’ll content myself, every once in a while, with reorganising the inside of the cupboards. If nothing else, it provides an odd sense of achievement.