Dear Marie Kondo- Welcome to the Mess of Motherhood
I read a headline recently that I originally thought was a joke: Marie Kondo admits she has “kind of given up” on tidying up after having three kids. Hilarious. But there’s no way that could be real. As a casual observer of your work, I was confused. But as a mom, there was zero confusion.
Motherhood is messy. Literally. Figuratively. All of it.
I remember first hearing about your philosophy of getting rid of items that don’t “spark joy.” I looked around my house and gleefully imagined purging all the brightly colored, noisy, plastic toys that clutter my space each and every day. They bring me no joy. But I don’t live here by myself.
My kids exist in this space too, and their joy also matters. The worn stuffed animals, the dog-earned graphic novels, the gaudy Little People school bus (and barn and airplane and house), and the innumerable Marvel action figures– they all spark joy for someone I love, even if it isn’t me. My house looks like people live here. Because we do.
I’ve grown annoyed at the perfectly curated spaces I see on social media. I refuse to have my kids grow up in sad beige bedrooms with macrame rainbows in neutral hues dangling over the crib. I won’t dress them in white because I do the laundry and I know what it looks like on spaghetti night. I give everybody the right to decorate their spaces in ways that make them happy, but my kids are not interested in grey bedding with blush accents. They want Star Wars bedding and a Minecraft lamp. And you know what? There are only so many years it’s socially acceptable to have Star Wars bedding (or so I’ve told my husband), so I’m letting them seize the day. If they want to wear Superman pajamas (with a velcro detachable cape) instead of the trendy rust and cream stripes that would look more classy in pictures, that’s not a battle I’m fighting.
The house of a mom can look like the house a family lives in. That’s okay. If you came over today, I hope you’d have grace for the basket full of Sandra Boynton board books on the coffee table and the pile of laundry on the couch. Tidying up happens in fits and spurts between mediating arguments, opening cheese stick wrappers, and helping with homework. I actually enjoy having a decluttered space. I have been known to rage clean the toilet when I’m feeling stressed. Getting rid of useless items brings me a lot of happiness, but it isn’t my first priority. And I’m glad to hear it isn’t yours either.
I heard a lot of moms rejoicing that you’ve now lowered your expectations. But I also think some of us need to thank you. There was a lot of emotional baggage that was hanging in my closet before you made me realize my things were connected to emotions. That shirt I’m never fitting back into? It’s bringing me the tiniest dose of shame every time I open my closet. I can thank it for the memories we had and let it go. The book I bought on parenting techniques it turns out I don’t care enough to read? I can pass it along to someone who wants it so I don’t keep feeling like a bad mom every time I see it on the shelf. The gift from a relative that I’ve kept because I love them, but it is not my style? It doesn’t need to take up space in my life to prove their value in my heart.
You helped me think about my things differently, and for that I am grateful. I love my home and each choice of what I keep around me now feels intentional instead of accidental or guilt-induced. You helped me see the value in having less and caring for what I chose to keep. And now you’re helping me accept the reality of motherhood, even for a professional organizer.
Our lives will be messy. Our homes will reflect our priorities. For me (as a mom of toddlers to teens) my house will be chaotic and loud and plastic and dog-earned and I will regularly forget to put a coaster under my coffee mug. My robot vacuum will be overworked and the crumbs will still linger in the corners it doesn’t quite reach. The fingerprints on the windows will remind me of the moments my littlest was watching and waiting for my oldest to come home from school.
Marie, I’m proud of you for finding freedom in letting go of the weight of organized perfection. These years are too short to spend too much time being sure the shirts in the drawers are perfectly folded. We’ll have our days for couch cushions that don’t have pen marks and curtains without jelly stains. But today, it’s okay to embrace those things that spark joy for your kids, even if you wish your house didn’t look like the toy aisle at Target just threw up in your living room.
I can imagine a day, not too far from now, when I will be tidying up my home that manages to stay mostly clean for hours in a row. I will reach between the couch cushions and find a Bluey action figure that hasn’t been played with in a very long time. And I might just cry a little. The messes are because life is happening here. The plastic basketball hoop, the fridge letter magnets, the bikes strewn on the lawn– they’re a small price to pay for the joy of loving these kids.