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How to Work From Home Using the KonMari Method

Regardless of the work you're doing, it's important to create an environment that keeps you focused and productive. Follow these simple tips from the famous Japanese life organizer, Marie Kondo, to keep your workplace and work life organized.

As more and more office workers transition to a home office setup and take control over their workplace environment, many of them are turning to a variety of organizing methodologies to help de-clutter their space and clear their minds. By creating workspaces that promote less distraction, higher self-esteem, and more efficient navigation, home office workers are cultivating environments that help them stay happy and productive. Perhaps the most popular guiding methodology is the KonMari Method, which was conceived by Marie Kondo and made famous by her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In the book, Kondo details how one simple question— “Does this spark joy?”—can help us to determine whether or not an object should remain in our living space. She also details a straightforward but comprehensive process for organizing and arranging those possessions that we have lovingly decided to keep.
Kondo’s most recent book, Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life, co-written with psychologist Scott Sonenshein, takes several of the core concepts of the KonMari Method and applies them to the context of the modern workspace. In the book, Kondo and Sonenshein guide the reader through core principles that can help an office worker foster a space that truly sparks joy and promotes productivity, whether at home or a conventional office space. Below are a few of the core concepts from the book that will help you lead a healthier, happier work life.

A de-cluttered workspace increases productivity

Any worker would agree that a more organized office is conducive to a less distracted, more productive workday. How to actually manifest that workspace, though, presents another question entirely. Maybe your desk is covered with miscellaneous paperwork that you think will require your attention at some point in time; or perhaps you have a variety of work-related objects that you no longer need but don’t want to throw away. Referencing various studies that demonstrate how clutter impedes initiative, Kondo and Sonenshein teach us how to confront our arbitrary material attachments and consciously tackle the messes that stand in our way.
The first and most critical step is whittling down our office to only the most essential objects—those things that we need to have in order to continue being productive through the day. All extraneous or less essential objects should either be discarded or stowed into organized, accessible compartments.
In the vain of the KonMari Method, Kondo and Sonenshein also recommend that workers add a single object to their work environment that sparks joy within—Kondo, for one, keeps “a crystal or small vase of fresh flowers on [her] desk.” This helps keep her grounded through the day, and gives her a small reprieve from the tasks at hand without totally pulling her out of the workspace.

Apply KonMari concepts to your virtual world

Many of us have already done a pretty thorough job at de-cluttering our physical work environment, while still neglecting to clean up our desktop. In Joy at Work, the authors explain how a disorganized computer can be almost as distracting as a cluttered desk. By taking the time to carefully categorize the files on your computer, where so much of your attention resides throughout the day, it’s possible to ensure that all aspects of your work lifefrom your material surroundings to the virtual fulcrumgive you a sense of control and groundedness.
Perhaps the area in which this resonates most with office workers is emails. In an interview with GQ, Kondo explains that “the typical office worker spends about half their day sorting through emails and most people believe emails keep them from getting essential work done.” She suggests creating folders in which every essential email can be placed, and devoting one or two blocks of time during the day specifically to organizing emails. The KonMari method can be further applied by deleting all of the emails that you don’t need, instead of absentmindedly holding onto unessential correspondences. In order to achieve this virtual organization, Kondo and Sonenshein lay out a series of questions in the book that help workers determine which emails should go into the appropriate folder, and which emails should be placed in the trash.

Optimize your work environment

While the concept of “sparking joy” has proven the catchiest concept from Kondo’s work, it’s not the only criterion that should be used to curate a healthy work environment. In fact, most objects in a workspace, such as a desk or a chair, will not inherently spark joy, but that doesn’t make those objects any less necessary for achieving your goals and leading a productive work life. Unsurprisingly, functionality is a vital standard to determine whether or not an object deserves to take up space in your home office.
With that in mind, there are plenty of objects that don’t spark joy and, quite frankly, aren’t all that functional. Using that rickety dining room chair, for instance, as your office chair may seem financially prudent in the short-term, but in the long-term could cause serious mental and physical ailments, thereby impacting your performance at work. So unless that dining room chair is an old heirloom that you associate with a beloved relative, you might want to part ways with it and find another, more functional piece to sit on for hours each day.
Through the study of ergonomics, we have learned how the right office furniture can support our physical and emotional health, keeping us productive throughout the day and sparking a sense of joy as we work more efficiently and effectively. By promoting healthier posture, ergonomic office chairs and standing desks can be vital pieces in a de-cluttered home office and a work life that promotes healthy habits.

The importance of ritual

Kondo and Sonenshein aren’t only concerned with our physical and virtual surroundings—they also lay out a number of day-to-day routines that can help establish a sense of purpose during the workday. In this short summary of tips for working from home, Marie Kondo outlines a few of her own go-to rituals which have helped her work better. She recommends:
  • Signaling the start of your day to get you in the right working mood;
  • Taking breaks, and recognizing the difference between urgent vs. important tasks;
  • Channeling gratitude, especially to your colleagues, by taking some time to simply catch up with your team on things that aren't work-related.
If you haven’t already, we recommend you give the KonMari method a try to bring more intention and purpose to your workday!

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