NEW YORK -- Not even Marie Kondo can follow all her rules for tidying all the time.
"Of course, when things get very busy, I need to let go of some of my standards and methods, and I think that's a completely natural thing," the decluttering guru, Netflix realty star and mother of two told The Associated Press.
The soft-spoken Kondo was tight-lipped on exactly what she lets slide, besides leaving her house slippers in the middle of the floor occasionally, but one thing's for sure: When it comes to Kondo, the emphasis is on busy these days.
Kondo has amassed an empire by urging the world to decide if their belongings "spark joy" and has expanded her reach yet again with her debut children's picture book, "Kiki & Jax: The Life-Changing Magic of Friendship," co-written and illustrated by Salina Yoon.
For grown-ups who fight chaos on the job, she has partnered with organizational psychologist Scott Sonenshein on a new book due out in April, "Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional life," aimed at sorting out desks, schedules and inboxes.
Kondo and the first season of her Netflix series, "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo," were nominated for two Emmys this year, with no wins. While discussions are underway for a second season, she has slowly gone about dispensing advice on a broader range of lifestyle topics, from knowing when a relationship no longer sparks joy to making the perfect bento box for kids.
Later this month on her website, Konmari.com, she'll start selling some of the things that spark her own joy at home but are made by others, such as her favorite incense and rice cooker. And in the last year, she has expanded her network of KonMari-certified consultants to about 300 in more than 30 countries.
With Kondo's Netflix show came a move to Los Angeles with her husband and daughters, ages 4 and 3. It was her second time living in the United States — the first was a stint in San Francisco. The families she helped on Netflix were all in the Los Angeles area, including Wendy and Ron Akiyama.
She said the empty nesters posed the greatest challenge during the eight-episode season with their mountain of clothes, out-of-control Christmas decorations and boxes stuffed with thousands of baseball cards.
"There was so much stuff," Kondo said through a translator during a recent interview. "I've tidied up a lot of messy homes in Japan, but they tended to be quite small. On this American scale, and especially the amount of things in the garage, it was quite shocking."
For now, Kondo is promoting her picture book. The story of Kiki, a squirrel with a hoarding problem, and Jax, a meticulous owl who loves to sort, is a sweet extension of the best-seller that led to her global influence, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."
Kiki's inability to find anything at home gets in the way of their friendship. Jax presents Kiki with a scrapbook of their bond and helps her disorganized friend put his home in order. They sort piles of stuff to donate, recycle or throw away, using Kondo's method of folding clothes and stacking them upright in his drawers.
"After I became a mother, I wanted to teach my children how to tidy," the 35-year-old Kondo said. "I was wondering how could I make that process more fun? The picture book seemed like the perfect idea."
She credits Yoon for the idea of the characters. Kondo had Yoon draw in some of her daughters' favorite toys — a pink ukulele painted with flowers and a stuffed donkey.
Is it easier to follow the KonMari method of tidying if one was raised in a tidy household?
"Of course, it's important to have a tidy home, but there's no need for it to be completely perfect or absolutely organized," Kondo said. "What's more important is that the children get to see their parents tidying."
Kondo had no children when she first set out to conquer the world of tidying. That triggered some parents who chided her for having no real idea just how big a mess kids can make and how disorganized harried parents can become.
"I think my standard for tidying definitely changed after I had children," she said. "Before, I think my ideal was a perfectly organized home, but naturally children do tend to make a mess, and I'm also limited in time as well. It can be quite exhausting as all mothers know. I think I've become much more forgiving of myself."