5 Marie Kondo Tips for Your Work and Life
By John Millen
Think of clutter.
Have you ever felt bogged down by your possessions? Your endless to-do lists? Your job or relationships?
We all have. That’s because clutter is everywhere in our lives: in our minds, in our digital distractions, in our businesses, and, of course, in our homes.
The clutter in our homes is where Marie Kondo makes her impact. If you’re not familiar with Kondo, she’s a Japanese organizer and author of the worldwide bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, which has nearly 34,000 mostly positive reviews on Amazon.
Kondo also has a book applying these principles to work called Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life.
Kondo's books and her Netflix series have prompted a mass decluttering of homes in the United States. Perhaps even your home.
She has been credited with a huge increase in donations of discarded goods to Goodwill, Volunteers of America, and other sites, dubbed "The Marie Kondo Effect."
The popularity of Kondo stems from her unique approach, which I believe can be applied to any aspect of our lives and businesses. Here are five of Kondo's key tips:
1. Clear clutter to change your life
Don't think of clearing clutter as an end in itself. It's a way of creating change in your life and your work. As Kondo writes, “Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order… It allows you to confront the issues that are really important.”
This is true in business as well. When we clear away the clutter, we have the opportunity to focus on the few priorities that matter.
2. Focus on a specific area all at once
Don’t go room-by-room. In other words, take all of your clothing from anywhere in the house into one location, as I explain below. The same applies to clearing your business clutter. Attack all of a specific category at once.
3. Make it a sprint
Don’t make “tidying” a life-long project. Get each segment done quickly to create momentum and then move on to the next when you have the time.
And here is Kondo’s differentiating concept:
4. Shift your mindset
Don’t focus on what to get rid of. Instead, think about what gives you positive feelings.
Specifically, Kondo says to hold an object and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If the answer is “no,” let it go.
If you’re a natural skeptic, as I can be, “sparking joy” might put you off. So, let me share that I asked for and received Kondo’s book as a Christmas gift a few years ago. I used her method to clean out the clothes in my closet. It worked very well!
All of the clothes went onto the bed and, instead of thinking, “I might wear this someday,” I asked, “Do I love this?” That Hawaiian shirt? Gone. Old suits? Gone. Ill-fitting pants? Gone. And on down the line. I was left with clothes that I love and wear all the time.
It’s a great mind shift, and a concept that can apply to anything. I view it as an easy, practical way to apply the Pareto Principle, commonly called the 80/20 rule. Focus on the 20 percent that has the most impact.
I’ve gone on to apply Kondo’s principles in my business. This is my 20th year as a consultant, and I had accumulated a lot of paper files, electronic files, equipment, and other items that were bogging me down. The question is not, “will I use this someday?” but, “do I really value this? Will I use it regularly?”
I’ve also done this with my business relationships. I’ve stopped a couple of partnerships that I didn’t love and “fired” two toxic clients.
5. Take action: Do they bring you joy?
Regardless of whether you buy Marie Kondo's book or watch her Netflix series I urge you to consider her principles in your life and business.
Ask yourself about your possessions, relationships and work, “Do these bring me joy?”
Hopefully they do, but the larger question is what can we do when relationships don’t bring us joy?
The reality is that difficult relationships in business and in life can’t all be avoided. Whether pleasant and straightforward, or complex and uncomfortable, we typically can’t or won’t easily discard them.
This is where the Kondo “shift your mindset” principle can be applied. Can you minimize your interactions with difficult people, keeping them cordial and focused?
In the same way, why not spend more time with those who are positive and energize you?
This will improve your outlook and offset those who drain you. Or maybe clearing the air between you and someone else will move your relationship to the positive end of the spectrum.
I hope you’ll consider applying Kondo’s principles to clarifying your work, possessions and relationships.
After all, life’s too short to be lost in clutter.
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Photo Credit: Netflix