So hopefully we’ve all had a few lazy hours over the holiday break to get caught up on our Netflix binge watching. A new series about “tidying up” showed up on my must-watch list. The show is an episodic how-to in the very clean world of a Japanese organizing consultant and world-renowned author, Marie Kondo. She is known for creating the “KonMari” method of organizing which is a technique where one gathers all of their belongings, one category at a time, then holds each item in their hands and decides if that item “sparks joy”. If it does, then the item finds a special place in the user’s home or space. If not, she encourages you to “thank” the item for what it has given to you and to delicately part with it — either by donation or disposal.
At first, it seemed a little too holistic for me. “How can my sweatpants, a necessity, spark joy?” “Do my salad plates spark joy; are salad plates capable of creating a spark of joy?” I had a lot of questions. Over the first season of episodes, I started to see how small daily organizing can add up to a more consistently tidy surrounding, and ultimately with more tidy headspace, less stress, less fatigue. I’m starting to buy into this since many days I feel like the Marie Kondo of my client’s spaces.
When we are invited into our clients’ work environments, we often have to be critical of the choices they’ve made and offer them a new way to work. Decluttering is an easy way to spruce up a workspace. Most clients get stuck in the pattern of hoarding paper/boxes/things that they feel like they need to keep. They call us because they think they’ve outgrown their space when really a little bit of “tidying” might help.
So practice what you preach, right? As the New Year began, what a better way to spark joy in my workspace than to tidy up a bit. Hopefully, you can learn from my experience. Here are a few steps I went through in my journey from workspace hoarder to calculated storer:
1. Don’t try to do too much too fast.
One thing I like about the show is it occurs over weeks and months with weekly check ins. It’s realistic for how we live today. Would I love to take a whole week and just clean up? Sure…but it’s not practical. I have to be billable. I have client requests all the time, but if I can find an hour a week or so to work on this, maybe it won’t feel so daunting.
2. Sort and file by categories.
In my case, I sort by clients or projects. One archival box at a time, I took out all the contents and then sorted through them. Maybe I didn’t ask if each element sparked joy, but I did ask “Do I need this?” “If so, can I scan it or store it digitally?” That simple task of a mindful and calculated purge cut down my clutter significantly. If you are a natural hoarder (like I am), throwing anything away can feel crippling (especially at work). As workplace designers, we should make t-shirts that say “scan, save, purge, repeat”. Going paperless is such an easy thing that we encourage clients to undertake. We tell everyone regardless of their end goals to move to a digital scanning system. It’s safer, more accessible and creates a less costly real estate footprint.
3. Makes items easy to find.
Marie has a folding method for everything…even underwear. Whatever she is folding, she makes small rectangles that stand upright in drawers or baskets so you can easily see everything. Why shouldn’t I have a filing method that mirrors her same organizational principles? So I did just that, all of my documents, folders, and binders are upright (not in piles) so that I can easily find them. Doesn’t seem like groundbreaking research, but when you are a piler like I am, it’s a whole different way to live.
I’m in the “maintaining” stage now. Having a spring cleaning is a great routine; but if you maintain the method of mindful purging and dutiful organizing, you shouldn’t have to annually take on a monster task of tidying. My challenge, especially as I get busier and busier, will be to maintain the weekly tidying and not let it get overwhelming. It’s not an easy task. Some days I might not feel like rolling my underwear…umm…drawing sets.