A couple of weeks ago I wrote about successfully using the Konmari method to declutter and organise my 11-year-old son’s room. Easy, you say. Just wait till he’s a teenager.
It’s true. Teenagers are deeply attached to their stuff and there’s usually a lot of it. And most of the time it lives on their bedroom floor in ugly , mouldering piles. You can often smell a teenage boy’s room several furlongs away. The smell is a beacon saying ‘enter at your own risk’.
Well, this week I’ve been working with my 16-year-old son to declutter and organise his room, and I have to say, the Konmari method is the best I’ve found for working with kids because it gives them ownership over what they keep and toss. They only need to keep things that they love. And my boys are very open to that.
What is the Konmari Method?
The Konmari Method was created by Japanese organising expert Marie Kondo and is described in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing*.
Kondo’s theory is that we are happiest when we are surrounded by things we love. The Konmari method consists of gathering together everything you own and then keeping only those things which ‘spark joy’. You hold every item before you decide what you want to do with it, and items that are not kept are thanked for their service, which, believe it or not, makes it easier to let things go. Key points in the Konmari method include decluttering by category and using efficient storage methods.
Decluttering by Category
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up espouses a specific order of decluttering by category. You begin with clothes, then books, then papers and finally Komono, or miscellaneous items such as CDs, skincare products and electrical items. You finish up with photos and other sentimental items because they are the most difficult to part with.
Efficient Storage Methods
Marie Kondo advocates carefully storing items so that they are well cared for and easy to find. For example, she suggests folding clothes so that sit upright in your drawers and allowing socks to rest by not rolling them up into balls.
Here’s a short video of Marie folding an underwear drawer.
Using the Konmari Method With Teenagers
As any parent of a teenager can tell you, teenagers can take mess and disorganization to a whole new level. Keeping a tidy bedroom is often a much lower priority than discovering life, socialising and keeping up with schoolwork.
The benefit of the Konmari method for teenagers (as for the rest of us) is the empowerment it gives. Being told that you only need to store or take care of things you love is a game-changer. Here are my tips for using the Konmari Method with teenagers.
Make participation their choice
You can’t make someone participate in the Konmari method. A grumpy, unwilling teenager is not in the right frame of mind to seek joy in their possessions. Instead, go through the Konmari process with your own possessions and with other family members first. If your teenager still doesn’t want to participate, then leave him or her be.
Let them make decisions
I have found that my kids prefer an adult to help them through the Konmari process, but that doesn’t mean I make any decisions. The ways I help are by putting all their clothes, for example, in one place so they can go through them, then helping them put the clothes away afterward. As recommended by Marie Kondo, I encourage my kids to hold the items one by one and make a decision about what they love.
Break it up
Teenagers are busy, active, social people and most won’t want to dedicate a whole day to Konmari. With one son I worked continuously a whole afternoon and evening to go through his things, my 11-year-old needed two sessions over two days, and my 16 year old has taken nearly a week, interspersed with school and other activities.
What about useful items they don’t love but can’t be replaced immediately?
We all have items we need but may not love: a mattress, a chair, a tube of toothpaste. Your teenager may have a winter coat they don’t like but which can’t be replaced until it’s outgrown. In a Reddit Q and A session, Marie answered this question as follows:
Even if they are not sparking joy, they are helping you every day. They are making your days go by – meaning, you have not realized that they are making you happy…. So you should convince yourself that they are sparking joy, and you should prioritize their status, because they are making your day, everyday. Then, gradually, you will start seeing some sparking joy concepts from those items.
How often to Konmari with Teenagers
Marie Kondo suggests that you only ever need to use the Konmari method once, because after that your things are easier to take care of and you won’t buy things that don’t spark joy. My feeling is that growing kids could use Konmari more often, perhaps every 6 months before the summer or winter season. Teenagers are growing and changing fast, and more regular decluttering will help to keep their stuff under control and ensure that they are continually surrounded by things that truly ‘spark joy’.
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