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How to Help Your Kids do the Marie Kondo To Care for Others

Since the 2014 release of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, author Marie Kondo has helped declutter millions of closets, kitchens, and spaces -- big and small. Here are three Kondo-inspired steps -- in Primerrily style! -- to help your kids get in on the “tidy” trend and show care for others. . . in tangible ways they can understand and remember.

Braving Target with three kids under four years of age and the goal of going home without buying any toys for them -- only for other kids, 2020

1. Ask your kids to give away a toy before they receive more toys -- and model this action to your kids first.

Show them some clothes or dishware you no longer wear or need. Explain you are giving this away so that another family can have quality items to wear and to cook their food. Then share that, sadly, some parents don’t have these things for themselves or their kids. This is why many families -- like yours -- donate gently used goods so they can provide for other families when they are in need. Then ask your kids to find some toys that they haven’t played with in a long time, share a good memory or two they had with those toys, and think about how kind it will be to let another kid have those experiences. As they give you a skeptical stare, tell them to think of a new toy they are excited to receive. Ask them about the fun things they might do and the new memories they may have with that new toy. At that point, let them know if they want to open that on Christmas Day or a Hanukkah night, it’s best they put their old toys in the giveaway bag along with mama and daddy’s things. (If your kids are especially empathetic, they may be worried that your family may experience some of the hardships you explained, so it can help to assure your kids that they are safe and provided for.)

Next, bring your kids with you to your favorite donation drop-off location. Talk to them about how the people who run “the donation station” serve people in need through sorting, organizing, distributing, etc. Have your kids carry a bag of goods to the front door. Tell them how proud you are to see them giving to others, clearing out space in their room and cleansing space in their hearts. Remind them that you are excited to fill it with more good things to come.


2. Contact your local Salvation Army to ask about sponsoring children and adults in need

Each year, we select a tag -- one for each of our children -- from the Salvation Army Christmas tree at our church. The tag bears the name of a child, his/her age, clothes and shoe sizes, and gift desires. We make sure that the age and gender of the child match that of our children -- we find that this makes the experience and lesson more relatable, and understandable as a result. I explain to my kids that some mamas and daddies in our town aren’t able to give their kids some of the things they need or want. We are thankful that mama and daddy have jobs to provide for our family, and we show that gratitude by helping others who need our help.

Then, I take a deep breath, and take my kids to Target. I tell them they are not allowed to leave the store with a toy for themselves; their jobs are to select clothes and toys out only for their Salvation Army friends. As we shop the aisles, we imagine what our sponsored kids are like and what sorts of things might make them smile; we set a budget, we compare options, and I guide my children in the actions of doing for others as they would have mama do unto them.

Braving Target with toddlers, 2018 and 2019

Before we donate the clothes and toys we picked, we arrange them around the Christmas tree, and send them off with a little blessing. This ritual is easier for some kids than others, as this year's photo progression below attests. On Christmas day, before our family opens presents, we say a prayer. Among the people for whom we thank God and ask blessing, we speak our Salvation Army children by name and talk about the fun they, too, are about to have as they open the presents we selected. Of course, moments later our kids’ unwrapping madness ensues, but I feel good knowing my bunch paused and thought about other kids’ very different circumstances just a few miles away.

I reassured my daughter that it was mama’s joy to give her good things. I also gently reminded her that it was also my job as her mama to teach her good values like hard work, gratitude, and patience -- and the only way to learn patience was to practice it.

Lest you think my family is perfect, allow me to correct your misperception. My four-year-old made it until the end of the shopping expedition when she had a complete melt-down because she couldn’t take home Elsa’s pop up adventure toy. I told her she could work to earn it or she could ask for it as a Christmas present, but she could not get the gift today. Today was about Giovanna, her 6-year-old friend who needed our care. She continued to cry. I reassured my daughter that it was mama’s joy to give her good things. I also gently reminded her that it was also my job as her mama to teach her good values like hard work, gratitude, and patience -- and the only way to learn patience was to practice it. To be honest, the melt-down didn’t get much easier, but I stayed the course so that hopefully she will stay the course when she gets older. May my struggle today be her gifts of delaying gratification for higher pursuits tomorrow.


3. Take your kids to the grocery store -- and get a quarter ready

Chances are, the next time you visit the grocery, you’ll hear that familiar December sound -- the ringing of the Salvation Army bell. Ringing the bell to raise money for the homeless is a tradition my family and I enjoy, and I can’t tell you how much it encourages the Salvation Army bell ringer (not to mention those in need) when you drop a coin into the bucket. The uptick in jingle bells ringing evokes a truly joyous feeling. For a moment, strangers feel like neighbors. This trip also serves as another conversation you can have with your kids. To enhance the experience, bring along this classic favorite, The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need. Read why we think it's so great here. When your kids see the Salvation Army Bell Ringer, open to the page where the Bear family sings songs with the band collecting money for the needy. Talk about making a book come to life!

Whether it’s Marie Kondo, the Salvation Army, or the Berenstain Bears, inspiration and opportunity can exist anywhere and everywhere. Share with us at how and where you get your inspiration to make this season one of giving, gifting, sharing, and reflecting!


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