The life-changing magic of KonMari decluttering at work
With her book The Life changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo has attracted a cult of loyal joy-sparkers. These followers ruthlessly clear their lives of unnecessary clutter, say goodbye to items that no longer spark joy, and turn chaos into order.
In a world increasingly full of stuff, it’s refreshing to rid your life of clutter, shedding painful reminders along with things you simply no longer need or want. While Kondo focusses on the benefits of doing this at home, why wouldn’t KonMari-ing your desk do just as much for your mental peace at work?
Benefits of KonMari-ing at the office
While you can’t declutter a colleague or remove a joy-killing boss, there are benefits to taking to your workspace with a metaphorical broom.
Just like getting rid of clutter around the home, removing extra stuff from your desk helps to clear the mind. It reduces stress, because tidying your physical environment ends up creating brain space too.
Going through everything in your desk also gives you a chance to dispose of those things you don’t need any more – outdated information, dead files, old stationery, business cards and project folders. This helps you see how your job has evolved and gives you perspective.
Step back and ask yourself, “Is this the role I signed up for?” Is it heading in the direction you want it to? Is there still value for you in this job? Taking the time to look backwards at your physical belongings allows you to assess if you’re still in the best place for now. It’s like looking at a pair of pants you’ve pushed to the back of your wardrobe and not worn for two years – will you wear them now? Do these pants still fit you, your life and wardrobe? Or, is it time for a change?
How to KonMari at work
Marie Kondo, in general, divides her possessions into five categories: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items and sentimental items. Then she piles everything from each category together, and picks up each thing one by one.
When you pick up the item, decide if it ‘sparks joy’. Put it away if you’re keeping it, and discard it if you’re not.
It’s simply deciding if something is worth keeping in your space.
Have a plan
Why are you doing this? What do you want to achieve? It might simply be creating a clean space so you can focus at work. It might be because you’ve changed roles and you’re wanting to let go of paperwork that’s no longer relevant. Whatever your reason, figure it out.
It’s easy to say you’ll keep the carved figurine a much-loved friend gave you. It’s harder to assess a stapler or software manual.
For functional items, ask yourself when was the last time you used them? If you use that staple remover every day, keep it. If you never use it and prefer to wreck your nails instead, put it back in the stationery cupboard.
Paperwork, too, becomes easy to assess. A training manual for software that’s been phased out? Rubbish. Meeting minutes from last year? Gone.
While this sounds a bit fluffy (especially at work), Marie says you need to thank an item for its service before throwing it in the bin or donate pile. That pile of notes from last year’s strategy session, that cup of paperclips, thumbtacks and staples, that very dead pot plant – they were once instrumental to your success. Being grateful for that will help you feel better about saying goodbye.
Check out your computer filing too
Don’t forget the soft copy. If you open up your PC and are confronted with a sea of files strewn across your desktop, this is what you need to do. Look at each file. Do you need it? If not, in the trash. If you do, find a logical place to store it (that isn’t floating on your desktop).
You may need to create a logical file structure first, but ten minutes now will save a world of digital clutter in the future. Once that desktop is done, move onto your emails.
Are you one of those people with hundreds of emails in your inbox? Create a storage system, and go through those emails in your inbox one by one. Delete, or move to a folder. If you find yourself deleting a bunch of junk mail, unsubscribe from the mailing list at the same time. If you haven’t opened their emails for the past six months, goodbye. It’s amazing how much better you feel with an inbox that has empty space you can see.
Add something that makes you feel good
Have something on your desk that brings happiness. It might be a photo, a drawing your child created, a figurine… something in your space that helps you centre and draw strength on bad days.
Store your work pleasingly
Now that you know what you own and how you want to arrange it, have it displayed attractively. Buy some nice storage or stationery to make your desk ‘yours’, but keep functionality in mind. If you make it more difficult to file things in the appropriate spaces, you’ll simply end up not doing it. You’ll go back to your messy ways again in no time.
Remember the Marie Kondo pairing rules: pens and pencils go together. Books sit side by side with other books. Tissues and Panadol hang out together. This ensures everything is easy to find when you need it.
Move forward with good intentions
Once you’ve culled all the extra stuff from your life, stored everything in a logical way, and added things that make you feel good, you have the biggest step of all: changing your behaviour to match.
When emails come in, action them, file them, or unsubscribe immediately and delete them. When paper lands on your desk, file it in the correct spot. Once you’ve typed up the minutes from the meeting, throw out the notes.
It’s so easy to fall back into previous behaviour, so make an intentional choice to go forward with changed habits. It’s a surprisingly simple way to ensure your space always sparks joy, even on tough days.