Salina Yoon, San Diego mom and children’s book author who has sold 4.5 million copies worldwide, recently collaborated on a book with tidiness expert and Netflix star Marie Kondo. Their charming picture book teaches children that an organized space makes playtime easier. Even better, it empowers kids to take part in the process of de-cluttering.
In Kiki & Jax, the Life-Changing Magic of Friendship, Kiki’s clutter gets in the way of lots of things, but most importantly, her friendship. Jax helps Kiki to embrace tidying—making space not only for her possessions, but for the things that matter most in life.
“We hope that this story instills the value of prioritizing people over things and inspires children to tidy for fun—and for a space to play,” says Yoon.
Yoon began her career at a small publishing house in Los Angeles. It was there, working as art director, that she fell in love with the magic of children’s books. When she relocated to San Diego to marry local artist Christopher Polentz, Yoon didn’t apply for another publishing job. Instead, she chose to pursue writing and illustrating on her own.
Yoon developed an innovative style for her children’s books, favoring interactive elements like flaps, tabs and wheels. Her early creations were designed with babies and toddlers in mind. It wasn’t until her own sons outgrew board books that she began to look closely at picture books.
“Not only did I enjoy reading them to my kids, I was inspired to write and illustrate one of my own,” says Yoon. “In fact, the first story I wrote, Penguin and Pinecone, A Friendship Story, was inspired by my son.”
Yoon’s popular Penguin series has grown to include six books. They’ve been published worldwide in multiple languages, earning an international fanbase that happens to include the children of Marie Kondo—bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Kondo’s unique tidying philosophy (known as the KonMari method) is centered in mindfulness and gratitude. She invites her readers to declutter by keeping only items that spark joy. When Kondo started planning a children’s book, her publisher suggested she choose a collaborator. She immediately reached out to Yoon, citing her family’s love for Penguin and Pinecone.
“She told me how moved she was by the story and how much she adored the art,” says Yoon. “Needless to say, I was incredibly honored to be asked and I said yes!”
Tips for Tidy Living
As a mom of teen boys, Yoon understands how tough it can be to make organization a priority. To make things easier, she maintains a few house rules for tidiness. The boys are expected to wash their own dishes after use, return shoes to the shoe rack and leave common rooms as tidy as they found them. However, she grants much more freedom when it comes to their own rooms.
“My goal is for them to want to do it for themselves,” she says. “One son has adopted this, but the other has not. I’m patient.”
Yoon’s best advice is to lead by example. She believes that when parents commit to keeping a tidy house, children grow accustomed to the calm created by that environment. They will crave it, even while they’re busy making messes.
“I grew up in a very tidy household, even though I didn’t do much cleaning myself,” she says. “My mother was Marie Kondo-ing our house even before Marie Kondo-ing was a thing!”
Yoon and Kondo’s book is an invaluable resource for parents hoping to teach kids why and how to tidy. My own children were so inspired by Kiki and Jax that they immediately emptied their toy bin to “joy check” the items inside. Be still, my neat-freak heart!
Download a free printable KonMari folding craft for kids and learn more about Salina Yoon’s books at www.salinayoon.com.
Laundry Game for Kids
Salina Yoon shares her laundry game to get the kids involved in doing laundry. You’ll need a stack of blank index cards. On each one, alternate writing silly instructions and simple folding tasks. Some examples include:
- Fold one shirt
- Fold three pairs of socks
- Skip a turn
- Twirl three times
- Walk with a folded towel on your head
Mix up the cards and take turns pulling them out of a basket, one at a time. Soon, laundry time will be a fun family game. The kids’ folding technique doesn’t need to be perfect, as long as they’re trying and learning.
Anne Malinoski is a contributing writer and mother of two boys. She is a self-proclaimed clean freak.