How to Apply the Marie Kondo Phenomenon to Your Career

There’s not much room for debate. Marie Kondo is the Japanese organizing consultant who is transforming lives everywhere. With her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” Kondo has set the world on a mission to get their spaces in order. 

In the book she breaks down her two-pronged approach to cleaning. Step one: Physically touch your belongings, see if said belongings spark a sense of joy, and if they don’t, toss them. Step two: After you’ve done the dirty work and dumped those joyless items, put everything else back in place where it’s easy to see, grab, and put back again. 

It has brought countless people lasting results— to point, none of her customers are repeats. “In this book,” she writes in the Introduction, “I have summed up how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever.”

So we wanted to take her home tidying methods and apply them to work. Because WHY NOT? We want to change our relationship to work forever too! If she can work magic in the home, why can’t she work magic at the office?

Here are 4 KonMari methods that can be applied to your career. 

KonMari Method Lesson #1: Tackle Categories, Not Rooms

Tidying by category is Kondo’s first rule. She says to start with clothing then books and move on to items like documents and old photographs later. The reasoning is that things in like-categories tend to be spread throughout your house, not confined to one space. 

How to apply this at work: This will be similar to time-batching, or grouping like activities together. Set aside time the morning for email, time mid-morning for conference calls, and time in the afternoon for writing, creative ideas, and brainstorming. Sure, there will be the odd bits of “clutter” that popup during the day-- the email that needs a response while you’re in the midst of your creative jive, but batching helps you stay focused and on track. 

KonMari Method Lesson #2: Picking Up Each Item and Asking,“Does this spark joy?” 

For most of us minimalism isn’t our strong suit. But from those in power suits to track suits, everyone can get on board. 

In the book this method is applied in the literal sense to the home. The clothes that are shoved in the back corner of your closet that you need to lose ten pounds to wear. The pile of books you keep meaning to read. Just because you bought it, doesn’t mean you own it. In fact, if it doesn’t bring you joy, it’s owning you. 

"Just because you bought it, doesn’t mean you own it. In fact, if it doesn’t bring you joy, it’s owning you."

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How to apply this at work: The most obvious place you can start is your desk. You can apply the same method to stacks of papers, old receipts, empty bottles of Advil, and that half-eaten Snickers stashed in the back for a 2pm sugar craving. If your desk is surrounded by “joyless” items that you don’t need for work or taxes, toss them. 

Next. There are parts of all jobs that are joyless. From the startup founder who hates Quickbooks to the intern who can’t stand the tedium of stuffing gift bags. However, you can apply a minimalist mindset to your work by understanding what each piece of your work puzzle is contributing to the larger picture. There is a nugget of joy in each task. Even if it's just that at some point, it will be over. 

If you’re a freelancer (and can afford to turn down jobs, which, we know is not easy) ask yourself if this project or client will bring you joy and if what you’re contributing will bring joy to other people. 

KonMari Method Lesson #3: Put the Kibosh on Nostalgia

Many times through the book Kondo talks about nostalgia and hazardous sentimental attachments to our possessions. Whether it’s boxes of old photographs and birthday cards that lead us down a long and windy path of nostalgia and distraction while cleaning, to items we hold onto for no reason-- aka your grandmother’s boots you're keeping even though they’re two sizes too small. Talk about a tropical depression. The nostalgia hurricane is real and it's ruling your life.  Feeling strongly about stuff is OK but it can also be the enemy of tidy. Kondo says people keep things out of "fear for the future or attachment to the past.”

"Talk about a tropical depression. The nostalgia hurricane is real and it's ruling your life."

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How to apply this to work: It's not just stuff kids! We have nostalgia and emotional attachment to ideas. So, what should we do to make space for bigger and better creative thoughts? Kill your darlings. That’s right. The creative ideas that keep falling dead in the water. Every single of one of us has that “golden” idea that we can’t escape. The one we reposition and bring up in pitch meetings, the one we’re sure is going to hit with ONE client that simply never does. Accept that. Thank the idea for taking up space in your head and let it go. 

Also, those notebooks full of half-baked ideas and sparks (ahem duds) of genius you jotted down and have never looked through— toss them. We know you’re saving them for that one time you’re going to need to reference a page scribbled on in 2007, but just say goodbye. If ideas are really that great, they’ll stick around. You don’t need to create a physical library of your own brain. 

KonMari Method Lesson #4: Simplifying and Letting Go Feels Good, So GOOD

Yes! Getting rid of clutter and freeing up your home space feels great. You feel lighter, more free, and less emotionally tied to STUFF! When it comes to closets specifically the Marie Kondo method creates space between stuff. Your clothes have SPACE GLORIOUS SPACE to live and breathe! Dressing all of the sudden becomes easier when you can SEE everything! Decision making is easier when you love everything and therefore you become more efficient with your time! Exclamations abound!! (For real, this is happy, joyous stuff.)

How to apply this to work: You don’t have to do anything here! Once you start letting go of the clutter on your desk and in your head, you will free up space for the next steps. You’ll be giving your career the breathing room it needs to expand. It will also help you become more clear on what projects to say yes to, and which projects to turn down. 

You’ll feel relief instead of anxiety. Joy instead of job. 

What are some ways you can apply this method to work? Share in the comments below!