Tidying Toys with Children

The greatest gift you can give to your children are the roots of responsibility
and the wings of independence. – Denis Waitley

One of the biggest complaints I receive from parents is how their kids’ stuff have taken over their homes. And when it comes to clean up time, children often whine about there being too many things to put away! So how do we handle this endless battle?

First of all, we need to take responsibility and look at our own parenting styles. The two major types are Authoritarian and Permissive. Each one creates different problems when trying to get our children to clean up. If you are an authoritarian parent, you may have tried to threaten your children to clean up or you’ll throw their toys away. This results in having frustrated and angry children and probably yourself too. If you are a permissive parent letting the children figure it out without guidence, or do the clean up for them, you end up feeling burnt out and resentful.

Children need routine, boundaries, predictability and structure to thrive. That’s why they behave differently when they are at school. So how do we bring that same practice into our homes?

From my experience as a profession organizer, a certified parenting instructor, and a mom of 2 young boys, I have some insights and tips that I hope will help you to teach your children the life skill of tidying.


Let’s first understand the problems and the bad habits or values we are teaching our children:

1. Too much coming in
On average, every child of school age will receive 18-25 gifts at their birthday party. You add that to the holiday gifts from relatives, souvenirs, party favors, toys as rewards, and you may end up with as many as 30-50 more toys EACH YEAR PER CHILD. Yikes!

2. Not enough going out
It’s hard to let go of toys. Families save them for the siblings, while continuing to acquire new ones. It’s hard too for the grown ups to let go also because of how much money was spent, or how much trouble it was to find that “must-have” toys.

Certain toys have sentimental values, although only a rare few are truly special.  Most items are kept out of guilt because they were gifts from a family members. The fear of not wanting to upset our children (or the gift-givers) if we want to downsize their collection have created some sneaky parents too.

3. Items that encourages poor values
Many toys with loud noises and flashing lights are designed to attract attention, but most don’t allow for deeper, more imaginative play. (This is true even for some toys that claim to be educational) As a result, children get bored quickly and want new toy to ease that desire for stimulation.

“Collect-them-all” type of toy is another example that entices children to believe more is better, newer is better. This is a parent’s nightmare to keep track of every piece, and needing to replace the ones that go missing.


Believe it or not, children are quite reasonable if something is explained in a way that they can understand. If all they see is your frustration and anger, then they will do as told only to avoid punishment, or fear of upsetting you. Cleaning up becomes about control, and pleasing someone else, which doesn’t really teach them anything about being responsible and independent.

The most effective way to gain cooperation from your children is by being respectful of one another, use creative and playful ways to present the problem, and share the responsibility of coming up with a solution.

Here are some tips to help you:

• Using the KonMari method, start by setting up a special time to declutter with your children when they are well rested and fed. To add some fun factor for the younger children, you can assign them job titles such as a manager or interior decorator. You may even have them put on an apron or hard hat to get into character.  Also, take a before photo of the clutter so you can reflect on it afterwards.

• Offer an experience or fun activity as motivation to getting the job done. Make sure you never offer sweet treats or more toys. Quality time and creating fun memories and closeness is always the best reward. Try giving them a coupon for extra 15 minutes of playtime with them, or watch their favorite show together.

• Set goals with your children so they are aware of the expectations. Show them the problem (too many toys to fit in the container or shelf, the mess covered surfaces are unusable and the items get lost or stepped on). Allow your children make their own observations so they see the affects of the mess.

Next, ask them to envision a cleaned up space, where they can play with their favorite toys and games. Let them use their imagination and come up with ways to use the space to have even more fun.

• Provide your answer to the problem using the KonMari method by saying: “This is what I was thinking…let’s keep only what makes you really really happy, then give those toys a comfortable home to live in (box or a shelf) when not being played with. Your toys will “take a break” until you are ready to play with them again.” Then ask your children for their input if they have any other ideas. Work together to come up with a reasonable solution that you can all agree on, then execute the plan.

• If your children can’t decide or have trouble letting go because suddenly everything is their favorite, remind them of the problem and the vision again. Ask them to think hard about which ones they really can’t part with. Or imagine how the unplayed items feel when they don’t get a turn to be played with. Explain that donating them will give the items another life to be loved and used.

• Any toys that are not chosen to be kept, damaged, or have missing parts should be thanked for the joy they brought, and properly recycled or discarded (see below for Happen’s Toy Lab that will give broken toys a new life). Any toys that can be given to a friend, make sure you do it ASAP, and allow your child to do the giving.

• When the work is done. Praise your child’s specific action. Find out what they are most proud of. Ask them how they feel in their cleaned up space. Take an after photo and compare it to the before photo. The visual will help them see what they have accomplished, also remind them of the experience.

Additional tips:

• Use a weekly chore chart to establish good clean up habits. Continue to only reward with quality time together.

• Don’t rush to replace lost toys. It’s a learning opportunity to talk to your child about responsibilities and dealing with loss. Kids are very resilient and with your love and support, they can get over anything.

• To limit what comes in to your home in the future, ask family members to purchase lessons or membership to museums and zoos as gifts. For birthday parties, either ask guests to not bring a present, or donate to a children’s organization, museum, or animal sanctuary that you can visit with your child. Give them experiences and memories that they can carry everywhere, share freely, and remember how much they are loved.


Here are some feel-good organizations that will give gently used toys and clothing a new purpose:

Happen’s Toy Lab is a one-of-a-kind, wacky laboratory where kids and adults can create their own toys using their minds and imaginations along with our collection of recycled toy parts all of which were donated by the community.

SAFE provides comfort to children in traumatic or emergency situations through donations of stuffed animals, blankets, books, children’s clothes, and baby items.

There’s of course the Goodwill and Salvation Army. However, I prefer to check with your local shelter and crisis  centers first.


As parents, our job is to teach our children to be responsible, respectful, adaptable, empathetic, and socially responsible. Let’s switch our perspective on our children’s clutter and offer them the opportunity to practice these life skills through tidying.


Before & After: Miscellaneous Cabinet

We all have a cabinet or two with stuff we don’t want to deal with. These are the “homeless” items, usually shoved away in a space that rarely see the light of day. It’s especially hard when your storage space is limited and the miscellaneous items all end up in there together. Things that may have been useful at one point get lost in the mix and often forgotten. This is what happened with a cabinet in this Before & After. My client had a sense of what was inside, but the thought of going through it was anxiety producing.

As always we started out by removing everything from the cabinet. It helps to start sorting them by categories as you see fit. What we found in this cabinet were boxed cards, tape, envelopes, check books, tax documents and other paper, stuffed cat toys and a Scrabble game, some photo slides, and a couple random items. And since majority of the items fall under the office/paper supply category, it made sense to use this space for this purpose.

BEFORE: Miscellaneous Cabinet


What took the most time was looking through every piece of paper and decide if it needs to be kept, shred, or recycled. The kept paper went into a file folder (which my client already had) and then clearly labeled. The greeting cards were sorted by occasion. The only things we removed were the stuffed animal toys to be kept in another closet that had towels for her cats.

Keep items made from the same material together. Paper with paper, fabric with fabric, electronics with electronics. This will not only make it easier to organize, it will speed up the time when you are looking for something.


After my client finished deciding what she wanted to keep, the rest were put back. The paper and files on the left, cards in the middle, the photo slides that don’t need as much access went in the back. The check books, tapes, and envelopes were placed in the front. In 3 hours, all the item became visible and the cabinet turned into a functional storage space.



Often clients are surprised they have more of something than they realized. In this case it was the number of greeting cards she owned. Since the images and sentiments on the cards do spark joy for her, we kept most of them. And now that they are easier to get to, she can start sending the cards and reduce her collection.

Hope you enjoyed this transformation. Are you ready to turn one of your cluttered cabinet into a functional one that sparks joy?

Before & After: Closet with Deep Shelves

In many of the older homes I’ve visited, most of them have deep closets with shelves that are difficult to keep organized. Anything placed in the back of the shelf is often forgotten because it’s hard to see or reach, and taking anything out usually ends up in a mess.

This was the problem for my client in this week’s Before & After. And why newer constructions and remodeling projects have either switched to adding pull-out drawers, or shelves that are 12-14 inches deep. (Although, there are benefits to having the deep shelves. When organized properly, you can keep out of season clothing in the back and rotate them as needed.)

my client did use a few pull-out containers. She also had some of the shirts rolled up and “filed”away. The upper shelves were hard to maintain without a physical boundary, and the division of the type of clothing within each space was unclear.


This is where the KonMari Method is the most effective. For anyone who has felt discouraged after organizing their closet, only for it to be messy again after a short time, it is possible to keep your closet tidy.

We started out by emptying out every shelf and container and created a mountain of clothes on the bed. This is the most overwhelming part of the process, to see the volume of what you have accumulated. To ease into the process, I asked my client to pick out 3 of her favorite items that definitely sparks joy for her. It’s important to pay attention to your gut reaction. You will notice that clothes you love makes you feel happy and light.

Repeat the joy-checking process for what you’ll keep. I like to put them in subcategories for long, short sleeve, or by material (cotton, wool). This will make it easier when it comes time to put everything back. When we pick up an item we don’t wish to keep, make sure you understand why you no longer need it in your life. Thanking it before discarding is to help you recognize the purpose fulfilled by the item, even if it’s just to let you know “don’t buy this again.”

As you hone your joy-checking skills, you will start to notice a pattern in the style or color of what you keep. These are important insights to your personal style, and will help you in your future purchasing decisions.

During our session, we took a little break to reflect on our progress. Sometimes our clothes paint of picture of our journey of the person we once were, the person we are now or want to become. What was the purpose of each item? Does it still serve that purpose? Does a special dress bring back positive or negative emotions? Or it’s simply about fashion and what you’d like to see yourself wearing more of? Focus on creating a closet full of clothes that makes you feel confident, comfortable, and beautiful. One that feels like YOU!

Once my client has decided on what to keep, it was time to fold them following the KonMari method as shown in this video. Folding and filing your clothes so they can stand up on their own means you can pull out the one you need without messing up the rest of the drawer. We used only the existing baskets my client owned and lined them up by height. We placed the most frequently worn clothing at eye level, and made one of the containers for working out clothes for easy access. Everything is visible and easily accessible.



Don’t buy any container until you have completed tidying each category. You may discover you can use what you already own to hold everything you’re keeping. Or you will learn your personal style from tidying, then decide to purchase containers that sparks joy.



This closet now has room to breathe.


One for sweaters, one for cotton long sleeves.

One basket for pants and skirts, another for short sleeve tops.


I never get tired of seeing the organized clothes all lined up, and the joy on my clients’ faces. Getting ready in the morning has just become a little more fun.



Start Your Dream Life in 2018

“The question of what you want to own is actually
the question of how you want to live your life.” – Marie Kondo. 

Home, it’s the one place that accepts you for who you are. You can kick off your shoes, walk around in your underwear, and show your every emotion without holding back. Your home holds all the things that rejuvenates you, so you can confidently go out and face the world. So how does your home support your ideal lifestyle? Is your home like a museum filled with artifacts of who you once were? Or does it nurture the person you are now, and the person you’re becoming?

Many people like to clean out their homes at the end of the year. However, clutter doesn’t just come in the form of your possessions. A toxic relationship, bad habits, and traumatic memories takes up space in our minds and cause much stress and anxiety. As we reflect on this year’s memories, we can apply the KonMari method used to tidying to our memories as well. Cherish the things and thoughts we love, and learn from our mistakes and let go.

This year, instead of focusing on just one New Year’s resolution, try to imagine your ideal life as a whole. Think about what brings you joy and what’s important in your life that you want more of. If it’s changes you wish you make in the new year, for example if you want to lose weight, then picture yourself putting healthy food and fresh vegetables in your fridge. Imagine yourself enjoying a work out to a video in your living room, on a yoga mat you love. Thinking about quitting smoking or drinking? Is the source of these habits due to stress from your job? Envision yourself responding differently to a frustrating situation, maybe you are doing something relaxing to combat the negative emotions. If you are looking for a romantic relationship? Imagine hanging out in your home on a Friday night, what does the living room look like? Are there candles? Cuddling under a chenille blanket while watching a movie? Even if there’s no love interest yet, you can still make your home inviting so there’s no last minute panic when you happen to meet the right person.

Having a vision of your ideal life is the most important step before doing any decluttering. To reconnect with yourself, you might want to ask the following questions:

What positive traits do I want people to know about me?

How do I cultivate my playful side?

Where do I find inspirations?

What area do I want to grow?

What did I enjoy doing as a child? Do I still enjoy those things?

If money was no object, what is my ideal work environment? Or where would I want to live?

Write down your answers or picture yourself in those moments. Envision as much detail as possible. Where you are, what you are doing, what’s around you? Who you are with? This is your happy place, your joyful life. They are just thoughts, so don’t be afraid to let your imagination go as long as you are being truthful to what sparks joy for you.

Now look around your home. Does it support your vision? Can you spot what doesn’t fit into that ideal? Has the piano you loved playing become a place to stack paper? Does your kitchen counter have room for baking with your children like you did as a child with your family? Is there clutter covering up the beautiful wood table? Is your home tidy so you can invite friends over without feeling self-conscious?

When you envision the whole picture, you can begin to take action. Starting with your possessions, keep only the things that have meaning to you, things that add joy and support your needs. When you can be honest with yourself, and not hold on to things or thoughts due to fear or guilt, your home will begin to love you back. You will save time, money, and energy that you can put towards more of what you love.

Take a look at all the before and after images on my website. When I started with these clients, there was always some skepticism knowing they’ve lived with the clutter for years. The surprise comes after about 5 hours of work, the part of their home they once wanted to avoid has become a welcoming sight. The closets inspired them to dress in clothes that makes them feel confident and comfortable. The kitchens inspired them to start cooking again. And each person gained insights about themselves and gained a sense of happiness and freedom. When they simplified their spaces, they made room for joy.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading my blog. It’s part of my vision to be able to help change people’s lives while doing something I’m passionate about. I wish you all a very joyful new year.  May your home to be a reflection of your happiness, and a positive source of energy. Enjoy living as your authentic self in 2018 and years to come.

Before & After: Bookshelf

How I came across Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was finding it on someone’s stoop, left for passerby to pick up. Now I know whoever left that book (for me) has realized that the book has fulfilled its purpose in their home. I imagine they had followed the KonMari method and said “Thank You” before discarding it. And magically, it came to me at the right moment and changed my life.

Books are very difficult for many people to let go. It’s as if we are throwing away knowledge, or might disappoint whoever recommended the book to us, especially if we haven’t read it. There’s the fear of what if I need to reference it again. Or the guilt of not able to find time to finish or even open it.

According to Marie Kondo, timing is everything. And the time to read a book is right when you get it. Think about your favorite books, were you excited to open it and couldn’t put it down? And the ones you were not so sure about from the start, tried many times to read, but easily got distracted and lost interest?

In this week’s Before & After, my client was motivated by having a donation pick up in a couple weeks to go through her books.

Before: Bookshelf


It turns out she had more difficulties discarding books than she expected because many of them had sentimental values to her. This is very common because people like giving books as gifts. However, the purpose of a book is to be read, or even just a cover that you enjoy to look at. If a gift book doesn’t bring you joy, it’s time to say thank you to the book for teaching you that’s not the kind of book you like to read. And in your heart, thank the person for being thoughtful before donating the book to give it to someone you know will really enjoy it.

After: Bookshelf


We tidy books the same way we do with clothing. Take everything off the shelf and pick up the book one by one. The key is to not open the books, which clouds your judgement. You want to just hold the book and allow your quiet mind to feel whether it sparks joy for you. For the books that you bought but never read and feel bad about, if you haven’t made time to read it by now, that “someday” will never come. From Kondo’s experience, she said the information will come back to you when you need it. It sounds a bit out there, but I’ve got to believe it based on my experience with her book.

When placing your books back, I like lining them up by size. If they are in different categories, then I start out with the tallest book of that category again. I have always been fascinated that somehow the spines just look prettier, and often like in this After image, the colors just creates a nice gradation. Don’t they look more inviting?

How about creating a bookshelf of only the books you love?



Before & After: Clothes Drawer and Closet

Most of us don’t realize the volume of how much clothes we own. One of the key step when tidying using the KonMari Method is to take everything out of the drawers and closet and create a mountain. And very often my clients will find many items they’ve forgotten they had, many still with the labels on. Or they are surprised by how many items they’ve purchased without really knowing why they bought them in the first place.

In this Before & After, my client didn’t have messy drawers. However by laying her tee shirts one on top of the other, she couldn’t see the ones on the bottom. Also, they took up a few different drawers without clearly defining what belongs where.

We started out by removing everything from the drawers and made a big pile. It was daunting to see 6 drawers of clothes all together from a client who declutters periodically but haven’t used the “Spark Joy” KonMari Method. Usually this first step is when clients start to feel anxious and freeze up. One trick to ease into decluttering is by asking them to pick up 3 items that they really love and definitely want to keep. We set those aside in the keep pile in subcategories (ex: long or short sleeves, tank tops or sweaters). Repeat the step and find more and more items to keep.


Not a messy drawer, but the clothes took up space and difficult to see everything.


Sorting the keep pile by sub category

During your tidying, think out loud and talk about the item as you contemplate whether or not to keep it. Pay close attention to what you are feeling as you touch the fabric. Sometimes you’ll sigh, or say to yourself “why did I buy this?” or just simply “I don’t know”. These are the times when we naturally start to come up with reasons why you should keep it. Maybe it’s never been worn or still in great condition. However, is that reason enough to keep it if you never wear it? If you start to say, I can just wear it around the house, but do you already have clothes for that purpose that you love?

Your closet should hold all the clothes that makes you feel good about yourself. Focus on the vision of your ideal life, then ask yourself if the item in question fits into that vision. (Always start with a vision before tidying, read about it here.) Do you feel guilty for not wanting to keep it? Where does the guilt come from? Every item deserves the time and thoughts to determine whether it stays or goes. By meticulously going through each piece, your decision will affect your behavior the next time you make a purchase. And you will not bring in any more items that has any negative feelings attached to them.

Take a look at the finished drawer. I showed my client how to fold the KonMari way. We went from 6 drawers down to 3, separated by the subcategories.  “It’s so pretty!” my client reacted. And not only that, the newly organized drawers will also make getting ready and finding what she wants to wear easier and faster.


Tops are in top drawer, pants and shorts in the bottom drawer


Pajamas, lounge wear, and bedding

Next we moved on to her closet. We repeated the step by taking everything out, removing the clothes from their hangers. Why? Because you want to touch the fabric and check to see how you feel and not just look at it on the hanger. This also gives you the opportunity to sort your hangers and group them by color or type. A simple change by having uniformity in the hangers can make the closet look more organized.


Again, my client was surprised by the amount of clothes she had or have forgotten. However this time with more confidence in her decision making, she was able to conquer the mountain of clothes much faster. Then we hung them back in the closet, putting the longest dresses on the left and shorter shirts and skirts on the right. This KonMari tip creates a visual baseline that leads your eyes up. Like in a line chart, going up brings positive feelings. From a practical stand point, this also opens up the space under the shorter items for more storage.


Once you have tidied your clothes, you may find new combinations for outfits you never thought of before. You may realize one style or color you love that you will look for when shopping for clothes next time. You will definitely save money by avoiding what doesn’t feel or look good on you. Tidying your clothes isn’t just about organization, it allows you to walk out the door with confidence in the clothes you love. And the comfy clothes that waits for you to come home and relax in at the end of the day.

Do you have any clothes you know you don’t want to keep but have trouble getting rid of? Share your story and I’ll be happy to give you some advice.

Make Room for Joy

You feeling ready to start tidying. Do you roll up your sleeves and get right to it? Not so fast. To successfully achieve the organized space you want, you first need to envision your goal. Picture your ideal lifestyle. What can you make more room for in your life? How do you create a home that supports who you are today or who you want to become?

When I tried this myself, I envisioned a well it a place to sit and relax with a cup of tea. A cup of finger citrus tea in my favorite ceramic cup given to me from a good friend to be specific.  I pictured my bedroom to be a tranquil escape with a calming color bedding bedding. And a kitchen that has pretty plates to hold favorite dish on an open shelving.

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Your home should be the one place you can truly relax and free be yourself. It is the place that rejuvenates you and gives comfort after a long day of taking care of life’s responsibilities. We long for taking a vacation to get away from our daily stress, but how about creating a respite right at home? Think of decluttering as making room for more positive energy in your life. Allow your vision to become the motivation behind your decluttering decisions.

Begin by asking yourself some of these questions and answer them with vivid details:

What are my favorite things to do at home when I am free?

Who do I enjoy spending time with in my home?

What are my hobbies?

Is there something new I’d like to try?

Express yourself by making a collage, a list, create a Pinterest board, or write a story. Include as much details as possible so it’s exactly how you see it. When you are done, take a look and ask yourself “why” with each answer. For example, why do I want a place to sit and drink my tea? Because I want to have some quiet time. Why? Because I function better when I have some peace and quiet. Why? Because when I don’t have some time to myself, I feel frazzled and I lose my patience with my children. Why? Because I want the time with my children to be filled with laughter. By repeatedly asking why, you connect with your emotions. It wasn’t just about having tea, it’s so that I can have a moment to decompress from the busy day so I can enjoy more of what I love. Now that I know the deeper reason, with that goal in mind, I am ready to start tidying.

To be honest, in all of my years of organizing, I didn’t do this step until I read The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. Without a goal in mind, I repeatedly organized the same space that got messy again and again. Without imagining my ideal lifestyle, I was only shuffling things around without actually thinking if they still served a purpose in my life. Meanwhile the number of junk drawers grew, and so did my level of stress. Taking this step has allowed me to create a home that reflects the vision of my ideal life. And I now get to enjoy it every day.