Digital clutter is real and can appear in many forms — from your crowded inbox to the hundreds of files scattered on your desktop screen to full phone storage. The problem with digital disorganization is it not only slows down your devices but also slows you down.
On average, more than 50 percent of office professionals spend more time searching for files than on work. Let’s not forget lots of information crowding a device also triggers anxiety and overwhelms users, similar to traditional messes.
The good news is you can use Marie Kondo’s KonMari method to transform your workplace, making your work life easier and more productive.
Wait, what is the KonMari method?
The KonMari method is a sensible, effective approach to tidying up. Yes, tidying up.
But what makes it groundbreaking is it ensures you never relapse again to clutter. This is because instead of discarding unnecessary items, you focus on keeping items that have a purpose and spark joy.
The 6 core principles of the KonMari method
Before we discuss the KonMari method for digital tidying, let’s familiarize you with the fundamentals.
1. Commit yourself to tidying up
The KonMari method isn’t a quick fix. It’s the chance to reset your whole life — but only if you commit to following its principles.
Make the intention to tidy up by committing to put in the required time and effort. Have a clear vision and a can-do attitude so you feel motivated to tidy up your belongings in one go.
Of course, the effort is well worth it in the end, but you cannot experience the joy of being surrounded by the objects you truly like without putting yourself on the path to establishing your ideal lifestyle.
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
Visualization is a crucial aspect of KonMari. Think about your ideal space — what kind of space you want to live in and how you want to live in it. When you have a clear vision and goal in mind, you’re more likely to succeed. Plus, you’ll feel inclined to put in the effort to create your vision.
Envisioning your best life and completing the tidying process represents a turning point in your life, where you take active measures to live the ideal lifestyle you want.
3. Finish discarding first
As mentioned, the KonMari method focuses on things you want to keep. Things you cherish and bring you joy. You have to let go of everything else with gratitude.
Discarding unnecessary items is an important part of the process that gives you the opportunity to learn from your past experiences. When you let go of an item you‘ve never used, it teaches you how something like that has no purpose in your life.
This affects how you live and acquire new things moving forward.
Another benefit of discarding is it gives you a better idea of how much actually needs to be stored. After removing unnecessary items, you can turn your energy and attention to things that bring you joy.
4. Tidy by category, not by location
Traditionally, we tidy one shelf, closet or room at a time. While this does give results, it isn’t the right approach to organizing your lives. To tidy up completely, you have to tidy by category, not by location. So instead of living room, bedroom and kitchen, you’ll categorize by documents, books and miscellaneous.
You’re likely storing the same type of item in more places than one. When you tidy each space separately, you repeat the same work in many locations and can therefore never grasp the overall volume of each category of the item you own.
You end up getting locked in a never-ending cycle of tidying. For example, you may keep the extra sheets in your office if you don’t take into account the extras kept in the store room.
5. Follow the right order
Under the KonMari approach, the order in which you tidy is super important.
Marie recommends starting with (relatively) easy items and ending with the more challenging items. This allows you to hone your decision-making skills as you go — and by the end, choosing what to keep becomes simpler.
Here’s the ideal order:
- Komono (Miscellaneous items).
- Sentimental items.
Your energy and enthusiasm also increase as you move through each category and give you a deeper understanding of KonMari and, more importantly, of yourself.
6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy
The underlying principle of the KonMari method is that you can create the exact environment that makes you happy.
Compared to other tidying methods, you have the flexibility to operate based on your personal criteria. There is no “Discard everything you haven’t touched in X years” or “Get rid of something old when you buy something new.“
The KonMari method lets you make tidying decisions based on your feelings. Marie describes this feeling as “…a little thrill as if the cells in your body are slowly rising.“ When choosing between keeping and discarding an item, ask yourself: “Does this spark joy?“
The KonMari Method Checklist
Here’s a free KonMari decluttering checklist from Making Lemonade:
What are the benefits of adopting the KonMari method?
KonMari is a minimalism-inspired approach to increase efficiency and productivity. But it’s a value-driven process that helps fine-tune your decision-making skills.
The following are the benefits of KonMari-ing your space:
When your belongings are disorganized or misplaced, it triggers stress and anxiety hormones. This makes it difficult for you to focus on what needs to be prioritized.
On the contrary, freeing yourself from physical and digital clutter simultaneously declutters your thought process, lowering stress levels and easing anxiety. You can apply the KonMari principles to clean and tidy your space more effectively, improving your focus and mental health.
The secret to higher productivity is improved time management.
The KonMari method streamlines your daily living and working, helping you save time that would otherwise be wasted looking for misplaced things or searching for information to do their jobs.
According to a McKinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours each day, which totals 9.3 hours a week on average, searching and gathering information.
Unsurprisingly, productivity also dips.
With KonMari, you’ll know exactly where everything is and therefore spend less time worrying about and maintaining your belongings and data. You can focus and concentrate on doing things that matter, leading you to get more work done in a shorter span of time.
Greater sense of security
Disorganization negatively affects one’s sense of security. Messy and disorganized people tend to feel more anxious and stressed about seeing objects scattered or not arranged in the right way. Similarly, digital clutter also has a draining effect on the mind.
The KonMari method ensures all your stuff is successfully tidied up, giving you a healthy and productive environment to thrive.
Following the KonMari approach forces you to determine an object’s purpose and function.
Not only does this help you discard unnecessary items, but also prevents buying things you don’t need or have no use for. It trains you to think many times before deciding to buy something for a fleeting moment of pleasure.
Basically, with fewer belongings, you’ll have your maintenance costs. You can also earn money by selling things you want to get rid of — or cut expenses by avoiding paying late fees or renting out expensive storage space.
More dollars for you!
How to apply the KonMari method in your workspace
Here’s a cool fact: The KonMari method is based on the workplace organization method called 5S, which is made of the following five actions:
- Seiri (Sort): Organizing and tidying the workplace in a methodical, manageable manner.
- Seiton (Set in order): Giving items a designated place for storage.
- Seiso (Shine): Keeping the workplace clean, tidy and free of clutter.
- Seiketsu (Standardize): Using process management and process improvement methodologies to standardize the tidying process, so it’s easier, quicker and better as time passes.
- Shitsuke (Sustain): Repeating the process, again and again, to reap the benefits of a tidy and organized workplace continuously.
Mari applies these steps to her KonMari method — and you can too. Here are some tips to apply the principles of KonMari to the workplace:
Finalize your workplace vision
Before applying KonMari principles, you need a clear vision of what you want to get out of this exercise. You need actionable, well-defined goals.
At home, this can be cleaning your bedroom, so it doesn’t get dirty often and you can sleep peacefully.
At work, it can be cleaning to create a cleaner space for you to boost productivity. Once you know your vision, focus on keeping only those items you believe will help you achieve — or at least make you closer to achieving — that goal.
Remember, tidying up is a very individualized process. The items you decide to keep or discard should work for you.
Tidy your desk
You can’t have a clear mindset with hordes of paper, files and stationery scattered across your desk. That’s why your first step to digital KonMari is keeping your desk clean and well-organized.
Following Marie‘s methodology, you’ll tidy up working category by category. The good news is this isn’t as difficult as you would.
Divide your things into categories like books, papers, memos and other relevant classes. Then start by tidying up one category and move on to the next.
Keep things that actually have a purpose on your desk as well as those that you use frequently. Be sure to move in an orderly manner and not pick up things at random. It’ll help to save time and effort and actually get things done.
Prioritize things that “spark joy“
One of the trickier aspects of using Marie Kondo’s method at work is defining what “sparks joy.”
At home, you can always hold your favorite pair of jeans or a picture of your dog and know it’s important to you. But what are you supposed to feel looking at a PDF from Brenda from accounting or a stamp pad?
Focus on keeping things necessary for your work. If you cannot determine how you feel about using a particular item, consider if it’ll help you do your job better. If yes, keep it. If not, remove it.
Certain items may also spark negative feelings, whether it’s a scathing email from your boss or feedback from a co-worker. Instead of making impulsive decisions, explore why you’re feeling the discomfort, and then proceed accordingly.
Declutter your email, desktop & files
When you heard ‘digital clutter,’ it’s likely you thought about your inbox or desktop. That’s because they’re quite literally the center of your digital workplace, which also means you need to be extra diligent when tackling this category.
To start, use the following three filters when sorting out your messages and files:
- What do you need now?
- What is pending or you’re awaiting answers or further clarification?
- What do you need to keep for the long term?
This will help you guide your tidying process. It’s important to note that everything won’t fall into the three filters.
You’ll still need to use your discretion when tossing out or deleting files or messages. Alternatively, you can also archive digital files, so they’re out of your way.
As for your inbox, decide how many emails you want to keep, and make sure it doesn’t go beyond that number.
A good tip is to calendar your time, whether it’s one day in a week or 10 minutes every day, to get to inbox zero.
Organize your things pleasingly
Not everything in the workplace will bring you joy, but you still have to keep them to continue doing your job properly.
But all is not lost — you can still store your not-so-favorite things in your favorite containers, folders or boxes, so they don’t feel any of those negative feelings.
In addition to the aesthetic value, your storage areas should also be functional. Part of the reason our working space is messy is that it’s inconvenient to put things back where they belong. Avoid this problem by choosing seamless storage options you can easily put your things into and take out.
While you’re at it, also uncomplicate your filing systems to remove the hassle of figuring out which folder goes where.
Create your own digital KonMari checklist with Scribe
How does the idea of a digital KonMari checklist sound?
Here is a digital KonMari checklist template you can use to declutter and organize your virtual space:
Similar to this, you can create a custom digital KonMari checklist that works for you and your team, here's how.
- Sign up with Scribe for free and download the extension.
- To create a checklist, you’ll use the Pages feature that lets you create comprehensive documents and combine multiple Scribes. To create a new Page, click New on the top right-hand corner of your screen.
- From the listed options, select Create Page.
- Give your digital KonMari checklist a title. If you’re creating the document for your team, you can give it a more on-brand look by customizing the banner colors.
- Add the relevant text to your page and format it as needed. You can also add a Scribe demonstrating how to go about a process or adjust the filing system, so your team members know what needs to be done.
- Once you’re done, share the Page as a URL or send it via email to save later.
Or just download Scribe to duplicate our template and get started!
Be intentional going forward with KonMari
Once you grow familiar with the principles of the KonMari method, you’ll find how easy it is to apply to the various aspects of your life, including work.
Be sure the things and information you choose to keep have some intention behind it. This simple rule will help you differentiate items you need from those you don’t and hold yourself accountable to follow through with the tidying process.
Once you’ve implemented KonMari at work, you’ll find yourself enjoying the orderly presence of things that genuinely “spark joy“ in your life and improve your productivity.