It has been two years since we bought our house, ready to start a family. When we moved out of our apartment, we threw out what felt like an entire truck full of stuff, ready to start a new, decluttered life in the suburbs. The move taught me that your dream life doesn’t always match up with the home you see before you. It has been two years since my husband and I started seeking medical help with our fertility issues. It took until three months ago to finally get pregnant. As we waited for a baby, junk started to accumulate again. The guest room that might have been the nursery became my younger brother’s room after he moved in following a family emergency. We began to feel like the need for a nursery wasn’t anywhere in our near future. So when those two little pink lines showed up, we weren’t entirely sure where to begin. We were desperately in need of instruction. Naturally, as a pregnant person, I turned to Marie Kondo’s “life-changing” tidying up methods.
As if destined entirely for us, on January 1, Netflix launched the show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo just as our house was beginning to resemble the junkyard from Labyrinth. Marie Kondo’s belief in drawers of t-shirts folded in thirds like tacos, each visible without rifling through a pile, felt like a breath of fresh air, but like one of those breaths you take when you’re at the top of a giant cliff about to jump into deep water. I was excited, but incredibly anxious. In the episode “Making Room For Baby,” the story of Mario and Clarissa, a young couple preparing for the birth of their first child, really hit home. Much like Mario, my husband is sentimental nearly to a fault, and holds a special place in his heart for many items in our house — especially clothing that he hasn’t once worn in the 10 years that we have been together.
“I don’t know if Mario is there yet,” says Clarissa as Mario sits surrounded by stuff that “just needs a place,” according to him. “It’s a little frustrating because we have a set timeline where we’re going to be expecting a baby in, what, five months?” Clarissa’s words echoed in my head as I tried to wrap my brain around just how much our lives, home, and space would be changing in less than six month’s time — a thought that, once considered, got pushed to the back in favor of pregnancy announcements and sonogram photos. We had been planning for this all along, hadn’t we?
After the piles begin to shift, and you see how much you are getting rid of, you begin to experience the immense weight of the changes that are about to transpire.
I tried to channel Marie Kondo as I pulled each item from the closet in our office into piles and asked my husband “does this spark joy?” To be honest, he was not as inspired with the process as I was, and I had to gently remind him many times why it was that we were doing this. One thing that replayed in my head during the entire cleanout was when Mario was having a difficult time parting ways with the mailbox that had been attached to their house when he first purchased it. These are the types of items that are very special to my husband, also, and one of the many things that I love about him — his beautiful and sentimental soul. But at the same time, we need to make room for the very special person to come, for the memories that will be made as a family.
In the episode, Marie quietly and sincerely asks Mario, “This is something you want to keep in your life going forward?" I don’t know that this specific phrase helped my husband, but this attitude definitely helped me to practice a bit more patience and kindness when attempting to clean out an entire room, and in turn, helped him to say goodbye to many unnecessary items. There were some agonizing moments as we both held in our hands items from our more carefree days. We allowed ourselves to explore those moments of joy, and made space in our garage to neatly organize these memories, making them easier to access when we felt the need to relive them.
Marie Kondo’s “KonMari” method is comprised of five categories, with steps and instructions in between. The entire process of making piles and pulling out every single item is not only physically exhausting when you’re 12 weeks pregnant, but it is emotionally draining to go through all of these items one by one. It seemed simple enough: Does it spark joy? No? Toss. But after the piles begin to shift, and you see how much you are getting rid of, you begin to experience the immense weight of the changes that are about to transpire. It becomes not about what you are getting rid of, but why and to what purpose. We were no longer metaphorically letting go of our former “trying” selves, but physically stepping into the role of parents.
As an expectant mother, you experience far more physically than your partner, and this act of physically making space for our baby truly created an experience for my partner to know that this is our baby. Whereas I can feel flutters of movement while baby occupies a space inside of me, here my partner and I, together as expectant parents, decide where our baby will grow outside of this body, and how.
Later in the episode following our fellow expecting parents, Mario seems to have gotten on board the KonMari train. “Obviously, we’re transitioning to parenthood, and to have this approach of tidying things up will ultimately be part of our everyday kind of habits,” he says. “That’s kind of the life I want to lead when, you know, when my son gets here.”
I think this is the point where the KonMari method actually holds the most power, because as a mother, one of my biggest takeaways from Tidying Up was not the placement of items, but of habits. Clutter happens (even to Marie Kondo), things pile up, but there is always opportunity to stop and refocus on the joy of it all. As I look at becoming a parent, I want to feel not just that my life is in order, but that I treasure the important things. My family has been through a lot this year, and my husband and I have waited a long time for this baby, so the space we have created to welcome this little person in is about much more than the storage arrangements. Our house will go from disorganized with two people to bursting with four.
The office is now empty, and ready to be filled with so much love — and yes, probably more clutter, but taking the lessons we learned from the KonMari method, I truly believe that we will improve. And as we meet our baby and, I assume, find there is a whole world we don’t know about, we’ll adjust accordingly and attempt to handle all of it — in thirds.