“She (my daughter) watches me have so much fun tidying all the time that she just learned from me.”
Oh, same here, Marie Kondo. Same. Here.
No joy, no magic
I’ve been watching the neatness expert’s new Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and got an unexpected wave of frustration from the Tidying with Toddlers episode.
Here’s a couple with two young children, who struggle to keep their house neat. We can all relate: how, exactly, can we find the time and energy to keep on top of the toys and clothes that kids accumulate and then grow out of so fast, as well as the kitchen clean amidst constant use and the washing up to date(ish)?
And then, like magic (albeit magic that was heavily pre-arranged by the show’s producers), in comes Marie Kondo.
In some ways, she’s just what you’d expect: neat looking, quietly spoken and with an enthusiasm for cleaning that’s almost contagious.
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Tidying with toddlers
Except that I was so distracted by the familiarity of the conversations between the couple that I could barely focus on Marie. Rachel’s overwhelmed by the number of domestic chores she has to do, while Kevin’s frustrated that the house is always a mess. He’s willing to ‘help’ keep it tidy, but there’s more below the surface than just pitching in.
There’s the fact that, when he finally gets home from work, his wife doesn’t actually want him to fold washing. She wants him to engage with the kids so she can have some much-needed time out, or sit with her and have some adult conversation.
There’s the bit where they feel like all they talk about is washing and dishes and the logistics of parenting, and they know their relationship has changed because of it.
And there’s the part where him saying that the house is always messy feels, to her, like a personal criticism. Because when you’re home all day and you’re responsible for the bulk of the domestic work, and when you spend much of that day trying to keep on top of it, to have someone come in and say it’s not good enough is soul crushing.
It’s all so achingly familiar.
Do we really have to enjoy cleaning?
And then in comes Marie Kondo, telling them that all they have to do is fold their kids’ clothes into tiny rectangles, put the kitchen utensils into boxes within the drawers and – voila! – life changes.
She tells them that they should involve the kids in tidying the toys and clothes because, eventually, they’ll catch a love of cleaning. (Except that all my kids catch at clean-up time is the ability to creatively procrastinate.) (And more practise at their eye-rolling technique as I shout, “I’m going to chuck it all out if you don’t clean up soon!”)
It just feels like, not only do we have to do all this stuff – and yes, as adults and as parents, we do have to keep things relatively clean – but now we have to enjoy it.
We have to find sparks of joy as we tidy up.
And if we don’t, it’s yet another way to feel like we’re not measuring up to the ideal.
We’ll do our tidying up, but don’t try to guilt us into forming a hobby out of it.