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How Can I Help my Family Declutter for Spring? 

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You might not believe this, but spring will return. It will! It has to! As the light changes and the days get longer, we start to feel a little less like binge-watching Netflix in sweatpants all day and a little more restless and energetic.

Every spring, my to-do list is suddenly ridiculously long. Full of renewed hope and ambition, I write down every step of every spring cleaning project I've ever wanted to do, and set the absurd expectation that I will accomplish all of it on top of my regularly scheduled life. Not surprisingly, it never works. Ever. I believe this is called "self-sabotage."

This spring, however, will be different! This spring, we can all calmly and logically declutter our lives with the help of our new best friend, Marie Kondo. You've already heard of her. Maybe you read her No.1 New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Maybe you know that Kondo was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2015. Or maybe you, like me, have recently discovered her hit Netflix show, "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo."

What's so brilliant about Kondo's approach? It's actually about feeling and expressing gratitude. Her trademarked KonMari Method encourages tidying by category, not by location. "Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service — then let them go," Kondo writes on her website.

In a 2015 New York Times interview, Kondo told writer KJ Dell'Antonia, "Tidying is a skill that everyone, even a little child can achieve, and it takes practice for most people, young, old and in-between." Kondo goes on, "The basic rule of tidying is that you should focus on tidying up your own things first. Once you have completely finished, you can assist your children or spouse to tidy their clothes."

No parent will be surprised to hear that Kondo says the best way to teach kids to tidy up — and by extension to appreciate, express gratitude for, and learn to let go of — the things they have in their lives, is to lead by example.

So while it's still cold and dark outside, go ahead and catch up on the first season of "Tidying Up." When that springtime restlessness hits, you'll feel empowered and ready to decide which of those 37 concert T-shirts you've held onto for the last decade actually sparks joy. With a little luck, you'll inspire your kids to do the same with that totally out-of-control stuffed-animal collection.

In this monthly column, comedian, writer and mom Autumn Spencer answers tricky parenting questions. Have a question for Autumn? Send it to ideas@kidsvt.com.

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