The KonMari Method: A Useful Way of Visually Organizing for Individuals with ASD
Marie Kondo’s Netflix show Tidying Up has become a sensation. Her organizational method, KonMari, has inspired people to rethink how they organize their homes and workspace. Kondo asks people to hold the things in their hands and ask themselves, “Does this spark joy?” If it no longer does or is not useful in your life, she encourages you to part with it.
After watching the show, it got me thinking – could this method of organization help my two young adults with autism gain further independence? I know both of children are categorical and systematic thinkers and KonMari seemed to support this way of thinking. I decided to tackle a few rooms to see if there would be any changes in their lives.
The KonMari method has 5 categories for organizing:
- Komono (Miscellaneous like CD’s, kitchen items, toys, electrical etc.)
- Sentimental Items (photos, memories, letters)
Finding items in drawers and putting outfits together is challenging for both of my children. To start, I took everything out of the drawers and put them into categories such as sleepwear, socks and underthings, pants, t-shirts, and sweaters. Each child has unique things they like to wear – for my son it’s sweatpants and white undershirts when relaxing at home; for my daughter it is t-shirts and leggings. I assigned a drawer just for sweatpants and swimming trunks for Marc for easier accessibility.
The folding method was new to me. Have a look at the link to see how it’s done. It’s a very simple way to fold, easier than the way I was using to stack clothes, and you can see what the clothes are in the drawers because they are in a little packet standing up. These little packets create a great visual as you can see all the colours/items at once. For smaller items like socks and underwear, we used SKUBB boxes from IKEA to keep things divided in sections. I can now ask my son to go into his drawer and get a blue t-shirt because he knows what drawer it is in and he can see the colour right away.
This can be taken a step further by giving visual or text instructions on what to team together for an outfit. For example, you can have a card that says jeans and one with a grey t-shirt. You could make the cards with photos using the items you have or just colours with text (colour grey with the word t-shirt underneath). Use these cards the night before to put the next morning’s outfits together to avoid the stress of having to find and sort things during the morning rush. It can become part of the evening routine.
I have already noticed greater independence in dressing for both children because they can find what they need quickly. Neither of them was very good at lifting up stacks of clothes to find something. They found this to be difficult to motor plan and overwhelming to search through things. They also understand the system of how things are grouped in a drawer and can see the divided sections. It makes sense.
We have a lot of books in our house of all different topics. My son, Marc, became an avid reader a few years ago. In order to help him expand his interests and ability to choose, the books were reorganized by topics such as celebrity biographies, ocean liners, British history, memoirs, music, art etc. By showing Marc how the books were organized, I noticed he was choosing a wider selection of books from different topics. If he was reading about the Titanic and the band that played on deck was discussed, he would then go to the music section next and pick out a book on a band.
Many books are one time reads so when Marc is done with them, we collect them and trade them at a second hand bookstore. He can then choose more books and use his book credits to pay for them. This keeps the book collection manageable and new topics coming into the house for little to no cost.
The kids don’t have a lot of papers coming into the house, but they do collect certain things. Marc likes to save the programs from concerts and arts events that he attends. He shares them with classmates at university and uses them as talking points to tell people what he has done on the weekend. I keep them in a designated drawer for a period of time, but once they have served their purpose, they are recycled.
My daughter, Julia, is taking a first aid course. She keeps all of her course materials in one folder on her bookshelf. She knows where it is and can identify it by colour. Once the course is over, we’ll put those papers in a binder for first aid reference and label the spine for easy accessibility.
My husband and I are both musicians so we have a lot of CD’s in the house that we’ve collected over the years. Marc loves to listen to music; however, the CD’s were not organized well. I bought Marc an inexpensive CD stand from IKEA and displayed the CD’s by genre – soundtracks, string quartets, guitar, symphonies, choral music etc. He listens to a wider variety of music with this new system as he can find what he wants quickly.
Julia has a home baking program twice a week. The kitchen implement drawer was a nightmare. I bought 3 different bins and groups things by measuring, stirring, and small implements like a lemon juicer. The spices were put into two bins A – L and M – Z. The baking supplies cupboard was grouped by flours, sugars, additives (vanilla, chocolate chips, baking powder, raisins etc.). Finding things to bake with is now a breeze and Julia can manage most of it on her own when it comes to gathering ingredients for a recipe.
All of us collect things that bring us joy. Marc still loves to collect Thomas trains so we keep those all in a separate basket. He often takes a “series” with him in his backpack like diesel engines or trucks. He can find what he needs easily in the big basket. His Disney Cars are all grouped together in one bag as well as his plane collection. He likes to rotate the things he brings with him during his outings so these can be found quickly.
Julia collects things like Disney Peek-a-Boo Pooh Bear. I try to keep items like these in clear plastic freezer bags so they can be seen and stay as a group. She would know if one was missing in an instant which can spike anxiety.
Little Things That Are Life Changing
While these systems did take time to get into place, they have reduced anxiety, cut down on how long it takes to get ready to go out, and have given Marc and Julia a greater sense of independence and choice. By eliminating clutter and chaos, all of us feel calmer and can easily find what we want. Creating a visual system that makes sense and works in your life will reduce the stress that happens when you can’t find items and the time it takes to get organized to do a task. Having an organizational system will also create predictability which also lessens anxiety. It really has been worth the effort.
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