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Office hacks 101: KonMari your worklife

Japanese organising guru Marie Kondo’s best-selling books and hit Netflix show teach people how to tidy up and find joy in their homes. But can her super popular KonMari Method also help you tidy up your worklife?

Lissu Moulton

If you’re new to Marie Kondo, here’s what you need to know: Most of us have waaaay too much stuff. And much of that stuff does not “spark joy,” a phrase Kondo came up with to help us figure out what we want to keep versus what we just don’t want to get rid of. Living – and working – among all that clutter is holding us back. Cleaning it all up can help propel us forward.

The act of KonMari-ing is literally throwing everything you own into a big pile and going through it all by category and in this order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items, and sentimental items.

Hold each item in your hands and ask yourself if it sparks joy. Things that don’t should be politely thanked for their service and tossed, recycled, or given away. Things that do make you happy should be put away in a neat and orderly fashion.

Believe it or not, you can also KonMari your worklife (and no, you cannot use it to get rid of that co-worker who doesn’t spark joy in your life).

Karin Socci is one 245 certified KonMari consultants and just five certified KonMari masters in the world, which means she’s completed over 500 tidying sessions with over 50 clients. She’s also the co-host of the Spark Joy podcast.

According to Socci, there are two big things at play when it comes to KonMari-ing your worklife. One is taking stock of whether the work you do actually sparks joy. The other is decluttering your work environment – both physical and digital.

Attitude of gratitude

When helping people declutter their homes, Marie Kondo starts every session by cheerfully greeting the house and thanking it for its service. The same goes for KonMari-ing your office.

Before you roll your eyes and turn the page, think about it for a second! Your office has done a lot for you. It’s where you nailed that big project, grew your business, found friends, and perhaps even love.

“When you go through your office, your desk, or your emails, you don’t just clean up, you really start to ask important questions about yourself and your career,” Socci says. Thanking the devices, furniture, and objects that have been part of your success helps you reflect on what you’ve accomplished, where you’re going, and – most importantly – whether the work you do truly makes you happy. If the answer is “no,” you might want to think about saying “arigato” and moving on to something new.

That’s exactly what happened for Socci, whose background is in clinical psychotherapy and health care finance. After KonMari-ing her home and getting rid of half of everything she owned in preparation for a move, Socci was so inspired she changed her entire career path.

“When I was a clinical psychotherapist and I was sitting across from my clients, I knew I was helping them, but I didn’t get to see the tangible results,” Socci says. When she helps people declutter their home, she gets to see the results up close. “It’s a hugely emotional process for people,” she says.

But what if your biggest mess isn’t in your home or office but in the digital realm?

Mountains of digital clutter

Clara Johansson is one of two certified KonMari consultants in Sweden and the owner of her own Stockholm-based tidying business, SolClara. In addition to helping people tidy their homes and offices, she’s helped countless people tackle the Mt. Everest-sized mountains of clutter in their devices. “If you let the digital word control you,” she says, “it will.”

If you’re like most people, Johansson says, it’s more than likely that the tens of thousands of emails in your inbox, all those random files on your desktop, and the 926 Slack channels you’re in are not sparking joy in your life. Shocking, isn’t it?

When using KonMari to tidy up your digital clutter, follow the same general rules as you would when KonMari-ing the physical spaces in your life. For starters, it’s important to tidy as quickly and completely as possible.

“Don’t think ‘I’ll work on it when I have some extra time. Commit yourself to tidying and concentrate,” Johansson says. The focus, she says, should be on “what’s valuable to you and on what you want to keep in your life.”

Declutter by category, starting with email and files. Digital categories include emails, documents and files, contacts, messaging channels, social media feeds, and more. For most of us, email is “the big one.”

Most people have an email inbox stuffed with thousands of emails, Johansson notes. Most of them, she says, do not spark joy and as such should be deleted.

When tidying your email – or your digital files – only two categories are needed: those that make you happy or are important and irreplaceable, and those that require your attention and action. The rest can be thanked for their service, digitally crumpled up, and tossed into the virtual bin.

“There’s literally no better feeling than starting your workday with an empty email inbox,” Johansson says.

Five X Konmari-ing your worklife

  1. Declutter and go through everything before organising.
  2. Assign a place for everything you keep.
  3. Keep your desk clean and clutter-free.
  4. Add some personal items to your office that make you happy.
  5. Take time to digital declutter – start with your inbox.

Text Lissu Moulton
Illustration Eija Vehviläinen

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