“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” made Marie and her method a household name, but building her business has been a behind-the-scenes collaboration with her partner, Takumi Kawahara.
Marie and Takumi met in front of an elevator at a speaking event when they were both 21-years old. Their relationship as confidants evolved over time, and they married several years later as Marie’s tidying career was taking off. Takumi quit his job to help Marie expand her work and became part of KonMari Media, Inc., where he helps keep the company running.
Part of what makes their partnership thrive is the combination of Marie’s quiet introspection and attention to detail alongside Takumi’s larger-than-life personality. Friendly, funny and bursting with joy, Takumi not only puts people at ease but truly embodies the KonMari philosophy.
Just as we asked Marie to reflect on motherhood, we wanted to hear Takumi’s take on fatherhood and family — his other big collaboration with Marie.
Which parts of parenting come most easily to you? What parts are more challenging?
Luckily, I feel like most aspects of parenting come naturally to me. I’m full of love and affection for my children — it just flows out of me.
What’s challenging is to see them inherit behaviors that I’m still working on — like worrying too much about what others think of them.
What’s something about parenting that you wish someone told you beforehand?
Tidy your house before you have kids. I’m married to Marie, so of course, our house was tidy before we became parents. But, we weren’t fully prepared for the mess and disorder that comes with kids. Once you become a parent, your schedule goes out the window — things like tidying can become a low priority.
The beauty of the KonMari Method™ is that you give everything a home. Since Marie and I had already established where all of our possessions belonged, tidying up at the end of the day as new, sleep-deprived parents was easy.
Another piece of advice: Think about how you were raised and remember your own childhood – the way your parents treated you when you were growing up will have a big impact on how you treat your kids. Talk about it with your partner; discuss what you did and didn’t like about your own upbringing.
“My own father taught me answers aren't in a textbook – they're out in the world. He encouraged me to pursue what made me different from others.”
How do you balance work and so many other responsibilities and time with your kids?
To be honest, I can’t. I feel like I struggle constantly with creating time to work. But we communicate with each other and always find time to support each other.
Describe parenting in three words.
Love, love and love.
Is there anything that’s surprised you about fatherhood?
The feeling that your child is so dear — so much a part of you.
What’s the best gift your children have given you?
The gift of being continually surprised. Parenting keeps me on my toes.
Who’s tidier? You or your kids?
How do you celebrate Father’s Day? Any special rituals or traditions you’ve created as a family – or ones that have carried over from celebrating this holiday in Japan?
Typically, Mother’s Day is a bigger deal in Japan than Father’s Day, but we’ll celebrate with a special family dinner. I’m secretly hoping my kids will hand-make cards for me again this year, which is what I’ve helped them make for Marie in the past.
What’s the best advice your dad ever gave you?
Don’t study too much. The answers are not in a textbook – they’re out in the world. Be street smart. Play, read manga. Do what makes you different from others.
What’s your favorite activity to do with them?
When they were younger, we loved playing hide-and-seek. They got really great at coming up with inventive spots, like a shelf in the back of a closet behind the clothes. One of my daughters would come out on her own and say, “I lost.” I cherish those little memories. These days, we play soccer. They’re surprisingly good at it already.
What’s it like to speak two languages with them?
It can be surprising sometimes. They use phrases that would be considered disrespectful in Japan, like, “You’re silly, dad!” that are actually signs of affection in English. One of my daughters has always liked to shorten certain Japanese phrases and incorporate them into her English sentences — I know I’m biased, but I think that’s pretty clever.
Which of your characteristics do you see reflected in your children?
My eldest daughter is diligent, my second daughter is bright and my son is shy and charming.
What’s the best lesson your kids have taught you?
To enjoy life is to be interested in everything — to be absorbed in every minute of it.