If you haven't been introduced to Marie Kondo's tidying series on Netflix, let me give you the basics. Essentially, working by item category (clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous and sentimental), you go through your stuff, see what you've got, get rid of whatever doesn't spark joy for you, and then organize what's left. The approach, known as the KonMari method, has become wildly popular, not just because it gets effective results, but also because it helps people think about their lives and what has meaning for them.
But can it work in the office? After all, having everything make you happy is a tall order for rooms workers have half-seriously described as soul-sucking.
Bringing the KonMari method to your workspace is totally doable. The key is to center everything around the vision for the business. Your vision should invigorate you, so if you clean and organize with that idea in clear focus, you should be able to create an environment that leaves you significantly happier.
Here's what to ask yourself more specifically.
What individual processes or pieces of equipment are most frustrating?
This kind of frustration often happens because needs and staff change as a company scales, or because there hasn't been a proper analysis of where the business' inefficiencies and vulnerabilities are. And sometimes the budget is understandably an issue, too.
Get worker input and see if there are new, cost-effective models or editions of software that could streamline common jobs, and make sure there are no unnecessary duplications eating up physical or digital space. Be able to identify clearly how the new standard or tool relates to what you're trying to accomplish--what is its purpose? The function should make you happy for its ability to move you forward toward your end goal, even if the product itself is basic.
How can I make this personal?
Research indicates that being able to personalize your work area creates a good buffer against issues that can create mental and emotional exhaustion (e.g., poor privacy). So maybe you can't get rid of your stapler, per se, but maybe you can buy a polka dot one. Make sure your items, including sentimental ones, remind you of why you are in the company to begin with and what you want for yourself and others. They shouldn't be there simply to impress. Personalizing your things in this way helps you remember that you can bring your full, real self into what you're doing, integrating your style and philosophies into everyday business practice.
What do I need to work on immediately?
While you might have a few projects going on at the same time, the goal here is to eliminate visual and spatial distractions from the task immediately at hand. Visualize and set up your space the way you need it to do the upcoming job, and then put away whatever you're not using for later. This way, you can center yourself mentally and physically on what you're doing.
What's past, present or future?
You might be required to keep certain items for contractual or regulatory reasons. But ideally, every piece of paper, every tool, every structure, should reflect what you currently want or need, or what you have a place for down the road. Ask yourself where the item can take you, and if it doesn't align with where you want to go, discard it.
Where can I go digital?
Digitalization doesn't just clean up your space. It also can reduce security risks, speed collaboration and offer mobile data access. Have clear policies about when to shred documents and what's acceptable to print, and make recycling bins easy to access. Ditch any books and manuals you're not regularly referencing and then build an e-library to replace the rest.
An important emphasis here from Kondo is that professionals tend to get stuck in the idea that learning materials somehow are sacred. They keep seminar notes just in case, for example, or they fill shelves with development or business books they mean to read. But if you haven't internalized those notes by now, when will you? Can you honestly say that all the time and money you spent to attend made a difference? And the best time to read a book that intrigues you is as soon as you encounter it.
Where does it physically (and philosophically) fit?
Kondo insists that, at the end of sorting, everything should be easy to see and access. Think about balanced aesthetic appeal, whether others can find what they need quickly and the amount of physical wear and tear on your body that's required for you to interact with those items where they are. Then ask yourself if, based on the way you've organized yourself, others can make sense of who you are and what the brand of your business is.
As a final thought, remember that your business vision can change over time. That's OK! It just means that you should approach KonMari-ing your office as an evolving, continuous process. As long as you are intentional to whatever changes you make, and as long as you understand that the question of whether something sparks joy can apply just as well to the non-material in your life as it does to the material, you're doing it right.