KonMari for Homeschooling Moms

March 22, 2017 @ 3:20 pm | Filed under: ,



This is going to be terrible, so start with something easy. Let’s say: board games. Collect all the boxes from the playroom shelf and put them in the middle of the floor. Go through each box. Have an old Tupperware container handy; you’ll need something to hold the stray buttons and loose change you’re going to find rattling around each box. (Don’t worry that the Tupperware is missing its lid. You’ll get to Tupperware lids in Step 13, That Box of Miscellany in the Garage.)

Collectively, your board game boxes will contain seventeen dice, forty Pictionary drawings, six Mousetrap pieces, eleven paper squares from Caves and Claws, some D&D minifigures, and 1 1/2 actual game boards. Add the minifigures, dice, and Caves and Claws squares to your Tupperware container. Throw everything else away. I know, I know, the rest of Caves & Claws is long gone and saving random game pieces is pointless, but you’re just getting started here and your heart hasn’t hardened yet. Give it time.


Next up: art supplies. This step will be easier than you think, as long as you steadfastly refuse to let your brain access budget records.

Paint in tubes and bottles: If item was first opened more than six months ago, toss it.

Brushes: If they came from a Crayola or RoseArt paint set, toss them. If your toddler dipped them in glue, face the fact that you are never going to get around to soaking it out. Toss them. All other brushes go in an empty mason jar. Place this jar on a centrally located shelf. Consider artfully leaning your old tin of beeswax crayons behind it. This display will afford you feelings of satisfaction. You will need to summon those feelings in moments of despair as you work your way through subsequent steps.

Crayons: Gather all loose, blunted, and broken crayons from around the house. Place them in a clean five-gallon ice-cream tub. (You’ll find two of those under the kitchen sink and four more stacked on the dryer.) Dig your hand into this glorious collection of crayons. Bring up a fistful and gaze upon them, recalling to mind all the times you resolved to melt them into wonderful homemade crayon balls, blocks, and tapers. As you gaze, ask yourself the one crucial question: Does this spark guilt? Of course it does. Throw them all away. Ignore any lingering pangs of regret. Ten minutes from now you’ll remember it’s your turn to bring a snack to your child’s Little League practice. The ensuing waves of panic will obliterate any memory of the broken crayons.


Delete your Pinterest account.


Glance at your kitchen. Realize people are in there making snacks. This will never not be the case. You will never KonMari your kitchen. Move on.


If, however, you open a cupboard one day and find a refillable plastic cup from the local zoo—it will be giraffe-colored with an accordion-pleated straw—discard it immediately. You are never, never going to remember to take it with you for the 20¢ discount.


Toys. One does not KonMari toys. That way lies madness. You can’t pick up every single toy and ask a question about it. That process would spark many feelings, and none of them would be joy. Anyway, most of the time the question would be “Why is this sticky?”

Here is what you do with toys: gather assorted large cardboard boxes or, if you are one of those fancy types, Rubbermaid storage bins. Dump random armloads of toys in these boxes/bins. Label them Box 1, Box 2, and so on. Allow only one box into the house at a time. Three weeks from now when your children are bored, make them refill Box 1 with all the toys they’ve dumped out in the interim. Swap it out for Box 2. They’ll greet its contents like long-lost friends. Repeat this process, rotating through boxes, at monthly intervals or on the third day of a rainy streak. Store the other boxes in your garage or attic. Your children can deal with sorting and purging these items when they’re grown. I mean, you can’t possibly be expected to remember which My Little Pony is the one that must be kept for all eternity.

Eh, while you’re at it, stick the lidless Tupperware container from Step 1 into one of the toy boxes. There are probably at least three other Caves & Claws pieces in there somewhere.


Look, those nondescript rocks and pebbles are VERY IMPORTANT to someone in your home. If you do not understand what Marie Kondo means when she talks about things “sparking joy,” ask your seven-year-old if these are his rocks and observe the expression on his face. That’s the feeling you’re chasing here.


Clothing. There is no point in attempting to KonMari your children’s drawers and closets. Those places are subject to particular laws of physics which cause any neatly folded or hung matter to expand and accumulate in untidy heaps. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does your child’s sock drawer. Who are you to alter the laws of space and time? Move on.


Craft supplies. (You can distinguish these from art supplies because they exist in a different room of your house and usually involve thread.) Outfit yourself for an archeological dig, because that’s what this stage will be: an expedition through the strata of your previous selves. A dozen fabulous iterations of you will be unearthed as you work your way through the layers. You, the erstwhile quilter. You, the maker of beaded jewelry. You, the needle-felter. You, the handstitcher of faceless cotton dolls. You, the…wait, what’s quilling?

Do not lament the incomplete manifestations of these past selves. Each of them was awesome for at least a week, maybe a whole second trimester. Also, each one of them undoubtedly sparked an enthusiastic blog post which inspired some other woman with more follow-through to actually become accomplished at said pursuit. I mean, that has to count for something, right? Right?

Anyway: here’s what you do with all these craft supplies. You say airily, “Oh, hey, [insert name of nearest child], any interest in [random craft]?” Rotate through children’s names until someone gasps with delight. One of them will, and you’ll look extremely cool for having all the materials on hand already.


You knew it had to come, sooner or later. The homeschooling materials. Brace yourself. This is just a warm-up for your books, which is where the real pain lies.

First, assemble all packaged curricula. If an item is intended for second grade or younger, box it and give it to that sweet-faced young mom at park day, the one with a kindergartener and two babies. She’ll be delighted and will leaf eagerly through the instructor guides, each item sparking joy. As a courtesy, strongly advise her not to use any of it, just as you wound up not using it. She’ll ignore you, and this coming September she’ll suffer through one impossible week in which she tries to “do school.” Then she’ll stuff it all on a shelf and avoid looking at it until her oldest is in college, at which time she’ll repeat this time-honored cycle. This is a necessary stage in the metamorphosis of a homeschooling mother. In inflicting these materials upon her, you’re simply participating in an inevitable, natural process. I mean, really, it’s the same thing as planting milkweed.

Survey your remaining materials. You will be surprised to find that’s it’s all good stuff that your family actually uses. That’s because you successfully emerged from the homeschooling-mother pupal stage about the time your fifth kid was born, and also you were too broke to order anything new.

Have someone sharpen all the stray pencils and put them in a jar next to the paintbrushes. Post a picture of this on Instagram. We’re sparking now!


Who put all these pigeon feathers in the linen closet??


You’re getting kind of bored with this and anyway, Lent is almost over. You know you have to deal with the books. It’s impossible, but there’s no avoiding it. Marie Kondo says to begin by assembling them all in one place. This is good advice. Gather every single book in the house into one place, preferably the living-room floor. You’ll be bombarded with emotions as you handle each book. Do not, repeat DO NOT, stop to flip through Brambly Hedge or Swallows and Amazons. It is acceptable to sing “Bed in Summer” while adding A Child’s Garden of Verses to the pile.

Complete the process by placing your copy of Home Comforts on the top of the heap. At this juncture, your floor will collapse under the collective weight of your family library, and your entire house will be swallowed into the abyss.

Congratulations! You’re now a minimalist!


Footnote: you’ll notice this guide, and your Kon Mari endeavor, ends before Step 13, the garage. You’re welcome.


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39 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Sarah says:

    This is fabulous! And also brought a few chuckles on a night when half the children are in stages of the stomach flu, the other half have colds, and they’re all swapping illnesses. If you can make a mother laugh through that you’re doing something right

  2. Nancy says:


    You’ve read this, yes? It’s brilliant, makes me laugh, and hits me a little uncomfortably in the gut.

    • Joann says:

      Oh my, Nancy! I cannot breathe from laughing ! Lissa, loved this! I will not minimalist the library. The grandchildren are reading the things the children didn’t. The grown kids now pick from the once forbidden top shelves which hold all the most beautifully bound or old, tattered beloveds. They can toss whatever else they want and sit on stones and lentils, but the books stay.

  3. Penny says:

    I’ve made peace with my stuff. I give away bushels, and will continue to do so, but I’m done feeling guilty about stuff. I’m just going to feel grateful instead.

    That *might* be the passive aggressive way of avoiding the job however….


  4. Kortney Garrison says:

    We’re knee deep in spring cleaning here too….not even attempting any of the *hard* stuff. There’s plenty of outgrown, used up, moved on to get through first. 🙂

  5. Alice Gunther says:

    Where do I begin? There is just too much to love in this post. I want to comment paragraph by paragraph. (I’ll call tomorrow and do so in fact.) The whole house falling into the abyss under the collective weight of the books left me howling. Oh, if only–it would save me a lot of trouble! ❤️ Off to search for the strata of my former selves!

  6. Melanie Bettinelli says:

    This is brilliant.

  7. mb says:

    oh how i loved reading this. <3

  8. Rachel Merrill says:

    Bless you for writing this.

  9. Karen Edmisten says:

    Where’s the “Sparked Joy” button?

  10. Christina says:

    Can we just be best friends already?

  11. Jennifer says:

    Best. I love this. But I’ll add a step and say set Holy Comforts on fire.

  12. Erica says:

    Crayons. Baseball snack. Bahahahahaha!!!!! You know I am pretty good about clutter, but what is it with the box of crayons!? And we’re missing whole practices over here, but it would be a thousand times worse to forget snack (in someone’s mind anyway)! Thanks for the big laughs this morning.

  13. Tamara says:

    I have finally emerged from the pupal stage! Hooray!

  14. Sarah Mackenzie says:

    I am dying. “This is a necessary stage in the metamorphosis of a homeschooling mother.”

  15. Rosie says:

    This is amazing. And I’m really glad to know I’m not the only one with feather problems… I just found a bunch in my 6yos pajama drawer!!! Why?!?

  16. Jessi says:

    Thank you for the laughs and making me feel normal!!

  17. Constance says:

    Every line is true! So happy to read that it’s not just me (especially the curriculum and littles part).

    We spent a day last summer doing the garage. It lasted maybe a day and a half and I’m only left with feelings of regret about that lost sunny day. Don’t even bother unless you’re putting your house on the market!

  18. tee+d says:

    Darn it, you’re probably right about the crayons… you’re never going to sort them by color and melt them into huge wedge crayons that you can donate to a preschool, are you?

    …are you?


  19. Gina says:

    With every point my grin grew wider. I just finished reading the Magic of Tidying book last week and was wishing for a big of reality. You gave it in a huge dose.

    Thanks for giving joy to this homeschool mom.


    P.S. I don’t think I’ve ever commented here but I’ve sure gotten many great book recommendations from you. Thanks.

  20. Pippi says:

    Number 11! Oh my goodness — our kids are kindred spirits. Every time I clean anywhere I come across numerous important stray feathers.

  21. Jen B says:


  22. Shvetal says:

    Lol! I loved this!
    I don’t have a Pinterest account so I’ll just quit while I’m ahead 🙂

  23. Mikaela says:

    Oh my goodness, the rocks – they are everywhere! My 5-year-old is currently lobbying for how many rocks* she is allowed to take ON THE AIRPLANE with her when we move overseas in 10 days. (Answer: None – there are rocks in Poland, too. Okay, maybe one small rock. Not more, because they will make your backpack too heavy and then I’ll be the one carrying rocks through the airport. Will TSA even let us take a rock through security? You can put some rocks in the boat shipment.)

    *Yes, the dirt-covered rocks picked up from the playground or yard and stashed in her pockets.

  24. Lisa says:

    The whole piece sparked joy!

  25. Elizabeth says:

    This is so funny…and so tragically true, all at the same time! I’m pretty sure you must have seen my house.

  26. Karen says:

    Gripping my sides, tears flowing, trying to muffle side splitting laughter so no one thinks I’m insane: Oh this is too good!!!! HA! You nailed it! Please read this, Ms. Kondo! THIS sparks joy!!

  27. priest's wife @byzcathwife says:

    I’m so proud of myself- I thrifted ‘Home Comforts’ a few years ago:)

  28. arielle says:

    Oh my gosh, what are you doing in my house?!? This is just the best.

  29. Carrie Willard says:

    The bit about the crayons… and the preschool curriculum… yes, all of it!!

  30. Erin says:

    Giggled away, and definitely agree with deleting Pinterest.
    I Konmaried (adapted version) last year and came to the conclusiong that it looks vastly different in a large homeschooling family and I wasn’t being a cope out by saying that.
    Mind you a year later I feel we’re back drowning in stuff again, the nature of so many people with so many interests.
    However I did manage to cull our library, 800 books went!! such a satisfying feeling. Perhaps I won’t mention I’ve been to 3 book sales since (were the children’s books are free!) so many have been freshly acquired

  31. Jeanne Faulconer says:


    I’m in my last semester of twenty years of homeschooling. I’ve moved an average of every two years during that time. My mom died a few years ago, and we had seventy years of her being at one house to divvy up — while we were living in a temporary apartment and before we moved into our current home. Then my mother-in-law died and . . . .

    The other day, I found the hat to my childhood Jane West doll (which had been stored in my mom’s attic and which none of my kids ever played with) on the floor of my bedroom closet. I have no idea where Jane is or how her hat became mixed with my more or less current shoes. But Jane is nothing without her hat, so I have to figure out how to reunite them. Or, I could file taxes and do laundry. The question becomes — do I just push the hat toward the back of the closet, or officially bend down and pick it up so I can put it in the drawer of my bedside table with the half-peeled crayons?

  32. Elizabeth H. says:

    I never comment on blogs any more but this is an absolute CORKER.

    Nodding and chuckling through every paragraph here.

  33. anneleisa says:

    this. is. golden.
    spit out my drink at the end of number one and didn’t stop laughing till the end.