My Kids’ Room’s Got Me Tearing My Hair Out

Jul 19, 2020 | Blog, The Tarry Life, Tidy Living

My kids’ room is the one area of the house that I just can’t get a handle on. You know in books when there’s an illustration of the child’s room and it’s perfectly cheerful and sparse? Like the room in Goodnight Moon. A small book shelf with a few books, a baseball glove or doll and a handful of blocks. Oh it brings me such calm and joy. Then I walk into my kids’ room.

To show how clean and organized a child's room can be,

What a nice, sparse bedroom!

Or this sweet room from my childhood ABC book.

We live in a very small house so my two children share a room with bunkbeds. As a KonMari consultant I should be able to figure this out. Every other category has remained under control in my house – clothes, books, even sentimental items. I’m clear and ruthless with my discarding of everything that doesn’t spark major joy. Bye bye whole boxes of school papers from elementary school.

But my kids’ room? I fail. It gets re-cluttered every time. 

I gotta keep trying. I dove in hard and deep on Tuesday morning. I took every single item out of their room except the beds and book shelf. 

An empty shelf, full of possibilities.

Empty room!

I’ve done this before. Every time we’ve Airbnb’d our house to go on a long trip I’ve completely emptied their room. And yet the stuff comes back two fold!

Have you ever noticed that kids (and everyone) are more calm and focused in a tidy space? Princeton University Neuroscience Institute agrees. Clutter and chaos restricts the brain’s ability to focus.

This is definitely true for me. When I sit down to write, plan a class or cook. I need my mise en place, everything in its proper place! So let’s get to it.


Step One: Empty the space.

Take every single dang thing out.

Step Two: Assess the situation.

It’s bad.

I know this step well from my KonMari training. When you see all your clothes piled up together for the first time, it’s shocking. They all say, “I can’t believe I have this much stuff!” Yep.

I took in the 14 board games, 100’s of books, 1000’s of LEGOS and LOL doll shoes and accessories. If you don’t know what a LOL doll is, count yourself lucky. Loose playing cards, rocket ships, cars, one pirate ship, one Yeti mountain, Ninja Turtles and countless other action figures – Black Panther, Spiderman, on and on. I counted 27 stuffed animals on Pippa’s bed!

All the stuff!

How did this happen?

Christmas, Easter, Kindergarden graduation, birthdays, COVID. We have a big family and many generous friends. I’m not an ingrate but when you live in 700 square feet you have to be brutally exclusive about what comes in and I haven’t been.

Step Three: Take a breath and dive in.

Just like I do with other categories, pick up every item and decide, do you need this? Does it spark joy? Does it fit? Are there pieces missing? Yes? Out.

Give yourself the gift on completely emptying a room. It gets you thinking of all the possibilities of what the room could be. Move the furniture to a different spot. Then, put back only what you really love or what is absolutely necessary.

There will probably be A LOT of excess.

So many books.

And so many toys.

After three solid days of work (we are in COVID times after all) I moved a whole box of books out for donation, four out of fourteen board games with missing pieces and two partial decks of cards into the trash. Two bags of toys and stuffed animals to be donated. We also got down on hands and knees to clean and scrub the floor, the corners and walls.

Pippa cleaning her book shelf.










I am vowing to be better about what comes in from now on – for reals. We straight up have too many bodies and things in too small a space. Alan bought this house as a single man more than twenty years ago and it’s meant for two people comfortably – not four! But my job is to keep our possessions at bay with the following criteria.

Every item must be:

A- Useful or necessary, like dishes, toothbrushes, screwdrivers, the couch, paperwork we have to keep, lamps, etc.

B-  Something we absolutely love, like my green elephant teapot from Bali with the bamboo handle or Pippa’s LOL Dream House or Shepard’s Star Wars Lightsaber collection from Disneyland.

My beautiful teapot.

Looking at the pile, most things didn’t fit into either of those categories. They were gifts or hand-me-downs we felt obligated to keep, books they never touched, toys from Happy Meals. Clutter accumulates way easier than it stays like a Goodnight Moon room. For my sanity and my kids’ focus and calm, I will be vigilant from now on.

Ta Da! See finished product below. Not bad, right? Let’s see if we can keep it this time.







Let’s Be Friends