Tidying Up My Parenting Style – the Marie Kondo way

By Jennifer McCallum

With all the hype around the Netflix series “Tidying Up” with Marie Kondo, I have been wondering how I can do this with my parenting style…you know, to tidy it up a wee bit! It does feel a bit out of control and messy right now!

How did I do this?

First I thought about the times when parenting is messy and how that would be a good place to start. And, because it is all a bit messy, just like Marie Kondo, I started with pulling everything out and putting it on the table to decide what to keep and what to give away.

I know what you are thinking – clearing out my undie drawer sounds a lot easier. Well, you aren’t wrong. This part was really difficult for me as I had to lay it all out for my entire family to see. All my mistakes, all my embarrassments, all my lack of knowledge at each parenting stage, all my wins that I wouldn’t normally brag about…but felt that I needed a few positives to make myself look at least like an average parent, all my wrong answers, all my bad decisions. All of it, just metaphorically weighing the table down until I see the legs start to buckle.

As I work to push all my parenting mess back onto a collapsing table, I think, “Wow, there is a lot of stuff here.” And then I wonder how I let it get this way. OK, no peeking into my junk drawer and pointing fingers at my habitual collection of stuff.


I thought the easiest way (Marie Kondo style) was to sort out and categorize each parenting item. That way I could get a real good look at each item…will I give it away or keep it or change it up completely?

After much deliberation I decided to make 7 piles:

  1. Myself – How I feel about myself
  2. Family – How my family feels about me and our relationships
  3. Partner – How is my relationship with my partner (because we all know this affects our parenting even if we don’t want to admit it)
  4. Challenges – Times when I get frustrated and feel defeated
  5. Successes – Times when I feel like I have it all together – this was a very small pile, but after closer examination was bigger than I ever imagined
  6. Other Stuff – Other things in my life that bring me joy – because a parent is not my only title – but these other things help me become a better parent
  7. Future – My hope for what our future relationships look like within our family.
  8. What the rest of the world thinks about my parenting.

Follow along with me for the next 7 days as I tackle each one of these piles, Marie Kondo style!

Do your piles look any different?

Ah…that felt so good to put a line through that last point. For so many years I think I parented the way that I thought I SHOULD parent. I was doing what everyone else was doing, juggling it all and making it look easy…but this was not living my happiest life. This was living a lie that the world impressed on me to be the truth. I think part of my parenting style came from what I thought was true and on closer inspection, it may have worked for generations before, and it may work for generations after, but it didn’t work for me. I had to blaze my own path and that is why I crossed out #8. Come on, will you do this with me? And please, please write them all down and cross out #8 too. It’s like a huge weight just lifted off the table and the legs that were about to collapse suddenly become stronger.

Let’s take a closer look at each one and see how we can reduce the clutter.

#1 – Myself. How do I feel about myself?

“This exact moment does not define who I am meant to be.”

It may have been a bad day when I did this so the MYSELF pile was looking a bit deflated. I like that word because I can picture a ball that is flat on one side – maybe a hear a slight hiss of air coming out of a hole on the other side – and it just looks sad, deflated, spent, unsure, and unable to roll along as usual. But, it also looks a lot different on other days when it is fully inflated and life is good; days when I feel great about myself and spend the day patting myself on the back for a job well done.

But this doesn’t help my exercise of tidying up! I had to figure out how to tidy this area of my parenting life up and tidy it for good.

I felt the best way to really tidy up “MYSELF’ was to make 2 smaller piles and really examine them closely:

  • What I believe to be real
  • What is real

Real or Unreal?


Now, I already said it was a bad day and usually when I am having a bad day, I let a lot of limiting beliefs, others ideas of who I am, and a general feeling of unsettlement, lead my thoughts about myself. For me, unsettlement comes from a place of not being happy with the way my day is going and on closer inspection it is more a lack of gratitude for what is going right. I think it was Tony Robbins that said, Where focus goes, energy flows.  This couldn’t be any more true in my life. When I focus on the bad, that is my day. But when I focus on the good, like a beautiful sunrise this morning, that is where my focus goes. Where is your focus today? I decided to tidy up this area by focusing on the positive, finding something beautiful in each moment, and releasing negative thoughts.

Confidence is attractive:

The new Amy Schumer movie, “I Feel Pretty” is a great example of what confidence can do. It can make you do things that you wouldn’t normally when you are feeling unsure about yourself. I love this movie because it is a prime example to show that beauty is on the inside and the worlds perception of us, starts with how we feel about ourselves. We are all going to have bad days when we don’t feel great – that’s only normal, but if you have more down days than up, you may want to borrow a few ideas here that have helped me. I have devised a list of items that give me confidence and remind me who I am, without letting my negative self-talk enter my mind.

  • get outside (fresh air works wonders on the brain)
  • call a friend (I have my sisters on stand-by whenever I need a quick pick-me-up)
  • laugh at myself
  • write a list of things that I am great at
  • write a list of things I am grateful for
  • meditation (or a quick nap) or both

I would suggest you write out your list of things you are great at when you are having a great day. Then keep adding to it when you think of new things you rock at! You may need to keep a notebook handy.

Tidying up “MYSELF” is constant. I think I can get rid of a lot of negative self-talk and limiting beliefs. I also decided that this year is my year of 90% confidence, 10% skill! But let’s keep that just between us…shhhh:)

Would you add anything to this list?

#2 Family – How my family feels about me and our relationships

I have four kids and I think all four would give you a different answer on any given day about how they feel about our relationship. And that is the thing about relationships, they are complicated and they take a lot of work to remain healthy and positive.

I love my kids with my entire heart and when something isn’t going well it is an actual physical pain in my heart. Isn’t the body amazing – to have so much love and attachment to someone that you hurt physically when things are not going well. Messy, right?

The other thing about relationships is that there are a lot of other factors that have to be taken into consideration when you feel emotions for another person. When the kids are young, simply taking time and playing with Lego on the floor could make you their favourite person in the world. But ending a bedtime story early could mean you get uninvited to their birthday party (the most important thing in their young life). As they grow there are hormones, friends, school, social media, and other things that determine how they feel about someone else. The unconditional love from childhood, although still there, is masked by external forces. By the time the kids are grown, it is much easier to find joy in the relationships that were once complicated and clouded with all the forces beyond their control throughout the teenage years.

So, having said that as more of a blanket reassurance, “This too shall pass”, my relationship with my kids is and always will be something that I give my full attention and effort toward but is not always perfect.

What I have decided to tidy up in this area is to take more time with each one of my kids, individually, to focus on exactly what they need from me. The tough part is really listening and then following through on what they need. This is not a quick process but one I am committed to.

Relationships are never tidy, but good ones are worth the time and effort.

#3 Partner – How is my relationship with my partner (because we all know this affects our parenting even if we don’t want to admit it)

Who here likes rollercoaster rides? Not this girl. And our kids don’t like it either. I can tell you without a doubt that when things are not going well between my husband and I, the kids feel it. They act out, become distant, and are generally not happy. That is why it is so important that we get our sh$t together sooner than later…tidy it up!

When it comes to disagreements you would laugh when you hear us. If I had the foresight to know we would argue about the exact same thing for 26 years, I could have recorded the first argument and then just pressed play when it came up again. Can you picture it…oh…this again, let me press play, grab a glass of wine, sit back and wait for it to play out…then we can get right to the making up stage! But, that brilliant idea just came to me now so I’ll be ready the next time we need to address the same issue that we know is going to come up again!

The 5 Love Languages

It was recently suggested to us that we read “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. I read it immediately and it was like a lightening bolt of awareness. I felt like Gary was talking specifically about our relationship. In the past I was embarrassed to talk to people and admit that we didn’t always see eye to eye on everything. But, having read a book that has been read millions of times, I realize we are not unique.

The thing is, both of us were constantly speaking the wrong love language to each other. Check out the languages below and think about what your love language is…then, because we are all about tidying up our relationship today – TELL YOUR PARTNER!!! Don’t guess that they know what your language is and don’t guess at theirs. Once you both read the book, have a good conversation about what shows love to each of you…and then SHOW LOVE THAT WAY!

If you are just starting out in your marriage or you have been in a relationship for many years, you will find great value in understanding your partners’ love language and speaking it to them to show them how much they are loved!

What’s your language of love?

  1. Words of affirmation – using words to build up the other person. “Thanks for taking out the garbage.” Not – “It’s about time you took the garbage out. The flies were going to carry it out for you.”
  2. Gifts – a gift says, “He was thinking about me. Look what he got for me.
  3. Acts of Service – Doing something for your spouse that you know they would like. Cooking a meal, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, are all acts of service.
  4. Quality time – by which I mean, giving your spouse your undivided attention.
    Taking a walk together or sitting on the couch with the TV off – talking and listening.
  5. Physical touch – holding hands, hugging, kissing, sexual intercourse, are all expressions of love.
  6. Out of these five, each of you has a primary love language. which speaks more deeply to you than all the others.

Discovering each other’s language and speaking it regularly is the best way to keep love alive in a marriage. I can see a lot of joy in that – thank you for the push to tidy up Marie Kondo!!!

Oh…and if you are anything like my hubby and I – get ready to record your next argument and vow to do better – for both of you and your kids.

#4 – Challenges – Times when I get frustrated and feel defeated

Like Marie Kondo in Tidying Up, I want to only keep around the things that bring me joy…but where is the joy in challenges you ask? Great question!

I think the joy comes in the moments after we have been through a challenge. After we have made our mistakes, learned how to handle a situation better, received some good advice, or let go of what we cannot control.

Our challenges are all unique depending on the ages of our children. I have four kids 20, 17, 13, and 13. Most of the challenges I have are avoidable, but not all. Taking into consideration the ages, emotions, and all the other things going on in my life and in their life, challenges are sometimes an inevitable part of our day.

Here are the times when I have the most challenges and feel the most defeated:


Getting up in the morning, getting to the bus on time, getting to bed at a reasonable hour…these are the times that most families need a bit of tidying up. When the kids were younger, we used Chore Charts. As they got older we relied more on our weekly Family Meetings to address anything that was on our mind. If you want to know more about Family Meetings, you are welcome to sign up for my “7 Days to Peace” free video series.


This one has hijacked my love of parenting many times. I expect so much and forget that my kids are only human – just like me. We make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes. If I am to tidy up this area I would work on releasing some of the expectations and find more forgiveness for both myself and my kids.


Kids need them just as much as we do. When you have so much love for your kids, you would do almost anything for them. What I have learned throughout my 20 years of being a mom, is that we all need boundaries and, as hard as it is to implement, protecting those boundaries is so important to the well-being of everyone involved. I will tidy up this area by making sure that boundaries are voiced and adhered to. You may call these rules, discipline, consequences…they are where you draw the line, what is acceptable, and what is not.


Being a parent does not mean that we should avoid our own self-care. Until recently, I thought the kids should always see me busy doing something…cooking meals, laundry, driving them to their sporting events, etc. But what they really need to see me do is taking care of me. How are they ever going to know how to take care of themselves without a role-model that is not afraid to do the same. This does not mean that we should not do for others – our kids need to see us care for others too. But what it does mean is that we should not feel guilty about taking a few minutes to ourselves every day. If it means locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes or going out to a yoga class, you can’t afford not to do what makes you a better parent in the long run! And if what you are doing for yourself is finding joy – you are really Tidying Up!

#5 – Successes – Times when I feel like I have it all together – this was a very small pile, but after closer examination was bigger than I ever imagined

I think that generally speaking, parents are very hard on themselves. I know I am for sure. The hardest part of parenting, for me, is letting go when the kids are ready for me to let go. The success in these inevitable moments, are the times when I let go and the kids are capable and responsible to take that step as well.

So, the question is: How do we raise our kids to become capable and responsible?

As a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, I have a few ideas that can help.

  1. Family Meetings can clear up a lot of disagreements before they even start and give the parents and kids a safe place to feel heard allowing them to feel capable of making decisions and finding solutions to whatever is on their mind
  2. Spend time with your kids every day without electronics
  3. Listen to your kids at all ages – but especially when they are teens – they are telling you what you need to know
  4. Watch the words you use when you talk to your kids – they are what you tell them they are
  5. Give them chores and responsibilities
  6. Set rules
  7. Let them make mistakes

I love each one of my kids and I love watching them grow into young adults. Success for me is knowing my kids are happy with their life, they are living their best life, and they are following their own path. OK, so here is the hard part – their own path may not be the same path I took, or it may not be the path that I think is best for them.

Let’s pause there for a moment.

My kids are not me – they are not my husband – they are not our friends kids or their friends. They are individuals.


If the path that our kids are taking is hurting themselves or hurting someone else, that becomes a problem. Sometimes you need to go back a few steps and try to figure out what is missing. Is it rebellion, is it peer pressure, is it a sense of entitlement, or is it the normal process of growing up. If the base of all your parenting is love, this too shall pass.

I do love some of the challenges we are faced with as parents – the times when we need to talk about solutions and question where we could have done something different. I also love the success that comes from learning – and oh boy, have I had my fair share of learning!

Success as a parent is as diverse as the parent themselves. For me, I want my kids to be happy. They are not all grown up yet, but I am hopeful that they have the base needed to rock this life! In order to tidy up this area of my parenting, I am going to celebrate the successes no matter how small. Parenting is not easy, and being a kid is not easy too but if we can acknowledge and celebrate our successes we just may strive for more of them (and if there is ice cream cake with it, even better!)

What does success mean to you as a parent?

#6 – Extracurricular – Other things in my life that bring me joy – because a parent is not my only title – but these other things help me become a better parent

As my kids are all growing up, it is more and more evident that I have a responsibility to show them how to take care of my whole self. What I mean by that is, that being a parent is not my only title. I am also a friend, a sister, a wife, a colleague, a confidant, a business owner, and someone who takes care of my mental and physical health.

Tidying up this area is really getting back to basics. Remembering what brings me joy beyond my family.

I have to admit that there are a few things that I added in the past year, and others that I let go of. As my kids have grown, so have I. I find joy in different activities and love to surround myself with more positivity. So, I choose fewer situations that are not joyful and happily jump at the chance to engage in moments that light me up and make me want to be a better person.

Also, I joined a mastermind last year with a group of amazing women. I love business and I could talk about it day and night. These women are the same. We connect about business, life, family, and hope for an exciting future. This is what I want to do more of in 2019.

My sisters are my rocks. They love me for who I am and each of us will drop whatever we are doing to spend time together. They bring me joy and I thank the Lord everyday that they are in my life.

One thing that I have let slip as of late is my physical health. I hear this a lot from women around my age that are busy raising kids and working. Unfortunately, I can’t get rid of everything that doesn’t bring me joy…I need to keep the treadmill around because some days it is the only exercise I get – in the winter anyway!

Taking care of my mental health has been high on my priority list this year. I try to do something each day that is really just for me…read a book, take a nap, stretch, watch Netflix, have a glass of wine…something that reminds me that I am a whole person.

I also send out a daily inspiration emails to other parents. This helps me remember that I am not alone. It also reminds me to be grateful that I can do something with my work that makes a difference to someone. If I know that what I am writing can start someone’s day off with a smile – this brings me joy! All tidy!

What things bring you joy and make you feel like the whole, fabulous, person that you are?

#7 – Future – My hope for what our future relationships look like within our family.

I have the sweetest kids on earth (not a competition, I am sure yours are great too) and a wonderful husband. Whatever the future holds I hope that each of the kids follow their joy in life and are happy, contributing, kind, and generous adults.

I have a lot of hope for the future and I can’t wait to see what is next!

Thanks for coming on this journey with me. I hope that you are a part of my future too. Much love to you!



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