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An organized desk.

Clean house guru Marie Kondo inspired readers to find more joy by owning less with her 2014 guide, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Now, her minimalist methods have sparked a cult-like following thanks to a Netflix reality series that showcases success stories and total life transformations. Her approach typically targets the home, but in a season ripe for spring cleaning, changemakers looking to freshen up their office can apply the same strategies to their work as well.

Cut clutter

Major projects and pressing deadlines can make for admittedly messy workspaces. Piles of papers, Post-Its, and folders might be easily accessible atop your desk. However, research supports the idea that clear, chaos-free environments improve productivity.

Tucking documents away in desk drawers using the “out of sight, out of mind” approach might be tempting, but employing the KonMari method ensures every item serves a purpose and has a specific home, too. Sure, it takes time and effort on the front end. But if you employ a standard archiving system, locating that hard copy report from 2015 for a grant proposal deadline will be a stress-free breeze.

The KonMari method

Tidying up can create spaces that inspire creativity, encourage productivity, and even increase on-the-job happiness. The KonMari method converts learn to keep only what they love and focus on items that insight joy rather than take up physical (and emotional) space. The results are noticeable: a more beautiful, supportive environment, and a surprisingly happier existence.

Typical tidying-up approaches tackle clutter using a space-by-space strategy. The KonMari method suggests a slightly different tactic—one that utilizes five specific categories to make combating mess more manageable. Rather than moving from room to room, or from desktops to drawers, those embarking on a clean streak work their way through a list of categories, instead.

Five categories

Changemakers looking to change up their workspace should follow the five category KonMari approach, which includes sifting through clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous items, and mementos. Disciples of Marie Kondo agree the specific order is essential to the art of sparking joy, so getting rid of extra office sweaters or stale workout clothes before moving on to books and papers is a big part of successful space transformation.

Before deciding whether to keep or discard an item, ask yourself whether it truly sparks joy (or, at work, whether it is necessary to the job). Items that bring happiness should be held; anything that doesn't should be cast aside.

Making it work at work

Abiding by cleanup categories is a big part of the KonMari method, but its no-fuss rules are also an essential part of the tidying-up process. Before embarking on a workspace transformation, changemakers must commit to the journey. They should spend some time imagining how their ideal desk would look and feel.

Things should be thrown away before organizing what’s left and each category must be completed before the next is tackled. According to KonMari, everything should have its place. Having aesthetically pleasing storage containers, trays, and files for important documents will therefore make things extra easy to access.

"Does it spark joy?"

Most importantly, this tidying-up process is about sparking joy. So items that make you happy—like a plant that’s about to bloom or a picture from last year’s beach vacation—should always be front and center. Their positive vibes will increase your morale and maybe even bump up productivity.

Coworkers and collaborators will be more likely to stop by your beautiful new space for face-to-face conversations, which means employing Marie Kondo’s approach can also contribute a culture of collaboration, too.

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Jill Nawrocki profile image

Jill Nawrocki

Jill Nawrocki is a Licensed Social Worker and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer living in Brooklyn. She is an ultra runner, freelance writer and social justice warrior with a background in program management, direct practice, mindfulness and advocacy.

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