When You Just Can’t Kondo

So, I’m not getting rid of my books.

Just kidding. I know the Kondo method is about more than the “only 30 books” online uproar, and honestly, I’m mostly reading eBooks these days anyway.

Here’s the thing, though: I can Kondo myself somewhat. But my kids? Nope, I can’t Kondo them.

Let’s go back in time a few years….

As a younger person, I had an entire apartment to myself. The space was filled with things that I used and liked. I had books and knickknacks and beauty supplies and jewelry and gadgets, all of which belonged to me and were spread across my home.

I came in and tossed my handbags and laptop bag and grocery bags on my countertop or left them by the door, all with a reckless abandon.


I know better. If my bag doesn’t immediately go on a hook above arm’s reach of my children, I can kiss it goodbye. Every single item will be on the floor, or absorbed into their personal collections. Even better, my child will do things like examine my feminine hygiene products and choose a crowded public space to ask questions like, “Why did I see a diaper in your purse? Are you a big girl? Why do you need a diaper?”

I remember fondly the days when I could take off my jewelry at my bedside table or even leave it on the kitchen counter. No longer. My engagement ring and wedding band are “so sparkly” and just waiting to join my daughter’s collection of Fancy Things. Yes, I did capitalize that on purpose, as an indication of the cultural significance of this burgeoning exhibit.

So, somehow, in a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house, my personal possessions are limited to a couple of crates in a closet, where I hide them from the threat of imminent destruction; a dresser drawer; and a partial shelf in a bathroom where I know prying hands can’t reach them.

In this age of Marie Kondo-ing everything, I’ve cut my personal possessions to a tiny fraction of what I once owned. I have no trouble weeding through my closet and tossing out things that I don’t love or will never wear again because they’re not amenable to smears of yogurt and banana goo. Even though I’m not a neat person naturally, I feel like I’ve done an adequate job of paring down my personal collections and letting go of things like purses I’ll never carry again and scarves that have seen their day in the sun.

Where can I not get a handle on the STUFF? My kids.

Oh, you know, just sparking a little joy around here.

Every toy sparks joy.




So, I fight the power by sorting into ever-increasing numbers of plastic bins. The plastic bins proliferate. I swear they’re reproducing. The plastic bins are having more plastic bins. It’s a Russian doll situation.

This bin is just waiting for the opportunity to reproduce and create dozens of tiny orange box babies

Are you in the same boat (or bin, as it were)?

While I can’t seem to completely fight the power when it comes to the toy situation, here are a couple of guidelines I try to live by:

  • Semi-rotate. I am not organized when it comes to a toy rotation, but I do try to box up toys and stash them, then wait for my daughter to ask for something. That way, we can keep at least a few items out of sight, out of mind. However, they’re also accessible enough that I can easily go get a specific doll or puzzle if it’s on my daughter’s mind.
  • Keep toys where they belong. I’m not saying that we keep all our things alphabetized and sorted by color and labeled and boxed up in the perfect place, but I do try to keep things where they are used. For example, all our Playdoh goes in a drawer in the kitchen, because that’s where we’re most likely to use it. Art supplies and games are stashed in our dining area, so we can spread them out on the table. Dollhouse characters belong next to the dollhouse. While this sounds simple, it’s an improvement on my previous toy sorting techniques, which basically amounted to piling everything into bins as a form of damage control. Then, when my daughter was looking for a Princess Sofia figurine, she might pour out five or six bins in an attempt to find one three-inch-tall doll. This way, even if we get out all the figurines in a quest to locate a PJ Mask, it still means breaching the sanctity of only one storage box instead of 30.  
  • Avoid co-mingling. I’ve tried boxing toys in several different ways. I’ve tried theming them, making a day-of-the-week box, and a few other options. What I like best, though, is just making sure that I have separate boxes of toys for each child. If I mix them together, there’s a good chance that baby toys will end up scattered everywhere as my preschooler plays. Keeping their toys separated takes a little extra time, but it’s worth it in the end, because it means less picking up overall.
  • Avoid a million little pieces. I don’t like picking up toys regularly, but I really, really don’t like picking up 52 playing cards or 1700 Memory cards. So, I just don’t. I keep things like board games and Playdoh sets and other items with a lot of pieces put away up high, so that they can be played with in a dedicated setting. Otherwise, Playdoh might be taken out and played with for 10 minutes, then left to dry out.
  • Decide on non-negotiables. Here’s my one-can’t-have-it-around toy. I despise, hate, abhor any toy that makes synthetic noise. I can deal with a friendly tambourine or a set of maracas. I can’t stand electronic beeping and repetitive singing. I’ve tried to impress this message on relatives who give gifts. However, in the event that we receive something that falls into this category, I try to stash it away to regift it (sorry in advance to anyone who ends up with a singing puppy from us). If that’s not possible, I allow my daughter a couple of days of playing with the toy. Then when she loses interest, I do something that is probably pretty uncool (but I don’t care): I hide it.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t have a clean house. I want to, but it’s just not in the cards for me right now.

So, I try to keep my house at bay by going through my own stuff and our household goods a box or two at a time, and by keeping the rising tide of toys from overtaking every nook and cranny of our little house. I may not be able to Kondo along with so many of the amazing moms out there, but I hope to at least keep the toys from taking over.

Natalie comes from a long line of Texans and has been slowly working her way down I-35, with stops in Waco to earn a degree in public relations/journalism at Baylor, and in Austin for work. She and her husband Will plan on making San Antonio the last stop on the trans-Texas tour, especially after last year’s big event: welcoming the world’s most delightful daughter, Noelle, to their family right here in the Alamo City. Natalie enjoys using her marketing and PR brain to build her husband’s law practice; keep snacks on the table and craft beer in the fridge; and generate new ideas for ACMB and her own blog To Drink and Write.